Alexander and Margaret Ogilvie

The founder of the Ogilvie Charities was Mrs Margaret Ogilvie of Sizewell, Suffolk. Margaret and her husband Alexander were committed to helping people in need – “the afflicted, sick and weary” as she calls them in a letter she wrote to one of the first trustees. Margaret worked tirelessly on various charitable projects; fully supported by her husband.

The Ogilvie Children’s Home

Alexander Ogilvie was born in Scotland in 1812. He moved to London and worked as a partner in a firm engaged in building railways. He was a director of various other companies including the New Russia Company. In 1841 Alexander and Margaret married and in 1859 they purchased Sizewell Hall. They extended the house and added to its land until it extended to over 2,000 acres.

Margaret managed the estates with great care; she was very good with money and keenly interested in the welfare of the tenants. Alexander maintained a house in Fitzroy Square, London where he lived from Tuesday until Friday each week, joining Margaret in Sizewell at the weekends. Alexander was apparently reticent and reserved. He began the day with fifteen minutes Bible reading before breakfast and like Margaret he was extremely industrious, both in his business career and in works for the public good.

The Ogilvies had eight children and when the fifth child, Douglas died in 1873 at the age of twenty they founded a children’s convalescent home in his memory.

Shipwrecks were common near Sizewell and Margaret maintained a “wreck house” on the coast with a stock of bedding and clothes for mariners in distress.

Alexander Ogilvie died in 1886 leaving a very large fortune. Margaret continued her charitable works, and in 1887 she established a trust that is the origin of today’s Ogilvie Charities. She decided that the trustees should be members of the Society of Friends. She was not a member but felt that Friends would carry out her wishes with integrity and would not require conformity to any religious principles as the price of receiving aid. Margaret was a very determined person. There is a story that she wished to purchase a property that the owner would not sell so she erected a sign opposite reading “Site for Fever Hospital” in the hope of persuading him.

Margaret caught pneumonia in Cley, Norfolk while on her annual driving tour and was too ill to be moved for several weeks. When she returned to Sizewell she needed to be wheeled in a bath chair and she finally died three years later in 1908.

At this time the trust was responsible for several buildings including the Wreck House, The Almshouses, The Ogilvie Homes (then called the Ogilvie Homes for Incurables), the Children’s Convalescent Home and The Mens’ Convalescent Home. The trust was very well endowed financially, both for maintaining and improving the trust properties and for making grants. The deeds authorised payments to people from various groups including governesses, widows “not in affluence”, people in “straightened circumstances”, shipwrecked mariners and the poor of Ipswich and Leiston.

It was decided that the Children’s Convalescent Home was unsuitable, partly because of inadequate water and drainage and a new site was found in Clacton. This was developed as “The Ogilvie School of Recovery” which was a pioneering venture, combining education with convalescence. The School was transferred to Essex County Council in 1956.

Today, The Ogilvie Homes and Almshouses form a direct link to Margaret and Alexander, together of course with the trust deeds and endowment funds with which she gave effect to their shared desire to help those in need. The Ogilvie’s home, Sizewell Hall became a boarding school and is now a Christian conference centre