A Short History of Charles May House

Charles May House, formerly St. Mary’s Cottage was the home of the May family. For many years Olive May was active in work for housing for older people through the organisation which manages the Balkerne Gardens complex.

When St. Mary’s Cottage became vacant through the deaths of Olive May (d. 03/01/1976) and her two brothers, Edward Sims May (d.11/12/1977) and Ernest Hooper May (d.11/10/1973) , the surviving brother, Charles Lewis and his wife Doreen, were anxious that it should be used for old people’s accommodation. It was their wish that this should be accomplished through the Ogilvie Trust, a Quaker Trust which was already providing almshouse accommodation in Suffolk. They therefore offered to sell the house to the Ogilvie Trust in 1979/1980, at a price well below market value, for this purpose.

The Ogilvie Trust engaged an architect and plans were drawn up to extend the rear of the house to provide sheltered flats; registration was secured as a Housing Association to enable the Trust to obtain funding from the Housing Corporation (now the Homes & Communities Agency). To the Trustees dismay they learned that Colchester Borough Council would not support the proposal. The Council at the time were fearful that large housing associations would come into Colchester and had introduced a ruling that they would only approve schemes of local housing associations. They refused to recognise the Ogilvie Trust as local because its work was in Suffolk and the trustees were not local. Fortunately this ruling was later abolished.

The Ogilvie Trust then approached Christian Action (Colchester Quaker) Housing Association Ltd (CAHA) to ask that the scheme should go ahead in their name. This was agreed provided that no expense was incurred by them, and Derek Crosfield, Director of Christian Action undertook the work personally at no cost.

So as to ensure that the housing scheme was as they desired, Doreen and Lewis May asked that a covenant should be made which sets out that the property should only be used for sheltered housing for older people, with the overall management falling to a joint committee of the two bodies (Ogilvie Trust & CAHA). It was agreed from the outset that the day to day management should be carried out by Ogilvie Trust’s General Manager. Doreen May served as a member of the joint committee and Derek Crosfield was appointed Chairman of the joint committee in November 1983.

In October 1985 discussions commenced between Ivan Gillings, the then General Manager of the Ogilvie Trust and Derek Crosfield together with senior staff members of CAHA concerning a proposal that Christian Action hand over ownership of Charles May House to the Ogilvie Trust, as had been originally intended. Whilst confessing to mixed feelings about the proposal, having invested a lot of time and effort in the development stages, the CAHA recognised the need for the Ogilvie Trust to consider a coherent future for Charles May House and their adjacent property, Estella House.

After lengthy delays, involving discussions between the Charity Commission and the Housing Corporation, resolution was finally reached and the conveyance of Charles May House by Christian Action (Colchester Quaker) Housing Association Ltd to the Trustees of Ogilvie Trust No. 1 Deed was signed on 19th November 1987.

Doreen and Lewis lived in the nearby property ‘High Trees’ which was formerly the stables of St. Mary’s Cottage. Sadly, Lewis May died whilst the building work was underway. His widow, Doreen became a Trustee of the Ogilvie Trust on 19th August 1982 and served both as a joint committee member until it’s dissolution and as a full Trustee. She retired on 26th November 1992 and remained a loyal friend and generous benefactor to Ogilvie Trust and the residents of Charles May House and the nearby Estella House. She died on 11th April 2010.