Cottage Homes

George Thomas Cock, who had worked as a Bank Manager at South Molton, bequeathed in his Will dated 31st December 1902, the piece of land known as Lamaton's Close, in order that homes could be built for poor people who were residents of South Molton. The bequest was subject to the life interests of his wife and sister, and on their deaths the residuary of his estate was to be converted into money and the necessary amount spent on building suitable homes on the site. He requested that a stone memorial should be erected on the front of the building stating that "These Cottage Homes were founded in 19- - by George Thomas Cock and Bridget Mary his wife, natives of the Town".

The remaining monies were to be paid into a fund to be administered by the South Molton Cottage Homes Committee. He instructed that the committee should consist of the Mayor or Deputy Mayor, the Vicar and Churchwardens of the parish church and the Manager of the National Provincial Bank of England, South Molton. George Cock asked that the trustees choose the place and time of presentation and that the vicar should be present in order to open the proceedings with a prayer to "Almighty God for his blessing, and that a short address should be given on the benefits of not roving about for situations....."

It was to be almost 30 years before the life beneficiaries died and the cottages built. The Mayor, Mr. Attree Powell, laid the foundation stone on The 28th January 1931. Eight bungalow type cottages were built, described at the time as "a very pleasantly situated site adjoining the Alswear Road on the outskirts of the town......they form a most picturesque block of the bungalow type, having an aspect that will be a delight to their occupants, whose comfort has been studied in every detail. Semi-circular, they have a carriage drive approach through stylish oak gates of special design and an ornamental archway supported by oak beams......Immediately fronting the archway is a circular drive surrounded by stone masonry built to radius and terminated with masonry piers supporting stone vases on bases. The centre path leads to a seat with commands a full view of the whole of the grounds and houses. It is set on a paved floor of stone. On the right are drying places approached by stone paths giving access from different points of the buildings. The grounds are fenced in with English oak posts and wire. To each pair of cottages there is a sun porch with oak beams and pillars."

Four of the cottages had one bedroom and four had two bedrooms, all had a spacious living room. Four of the homes were for married couples and the other four for single people. Married couples were not eligible if they had a joint income of more than £20 a year, or if the husband was less than 60 and the wife then 50 years old. One of them had to have lived in the town for an aggregate time of at least 20 years. Widows, widowers, spinsters and bachelors over the age of 60 were eligible on the condition that they had resided in the town for 20 years. A clause in the Trust stated that "the Trustees shall pay each individual and married couple a sum not exceeding 15s 0d per week."

The Mayor of South Molton, Mr. Attree Powell, performed the opening ceremony in July  1931 in the presence of a large crowd of townspeople. The Rev. H. Scott offered prayers and the Mayor unveiled the memorial tablet after which he was presented with a silver cigarette box. In his speech the Mayor commented that the terms laid down by the donors were not onerous and that Mr. Cock's chief object had been to benefit those who had in their young days been thrifty. He added that "In these days of heavy taxation, it is only the few who can make such gifts as these, and this should make us all the more thankful that the donors have chosen to benefit those of the town of their birth. We have hitherto regarded Hugh Squier, a Westminster silk mercer, a native of South Molton, as the greatest benefactor to our town for educational purposes and town improvements, and we can now with pride refer to George Thomas Cock and his wife as great benefactors in the cause of the social life and well-being of some of our poorer inhabitants". The Mayor then handed over the keys to the successful applicants.

The opening ceremony had been preceded by a luncheon attended by the Mayor and members of the Trust Committee. The band of H.M. Black Watch Regiment, together with pipers and dancers, provided entertainment in the form of afternoon and evening concerts as a "musical treat" for the townspeople. The concerts were held in the market with free admission to everyone.

The Cottage Homes are still administered as a charity with a committee made up as instructed by the benefactors. Members of the committee make an annual inspection of the properties and ensure that they are kept in good repair. The bungalows have all been modernised and have had central heating and bathrooms installed. When a bungalow becomes vacant, the committee advertise for applicants who have resided in the town for a number of years, members of the committee then choose a suitable tenant. The residents pay a subsidised rent but no longer receive a weekly payment from the Trust. In the mid-1970's, the Council built bed-sitters for the elderly, together with a flat for a Warden, on ground close to the bungalows. This complex was named "Lamaton Park". The residents of the Cottage Homes are now linked to the Warden controlled Lamaton Park scheme.

Sources of Information:

Charity Commission Report for the Parish of South Molton, dated March 1909

Western Morning News dated 23rd July 1931

Claude Squire, South Molton Town Councillor

Researched and written by Shirley Bray 1999

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