A CHARITY in Torquay, Devon, which provides homes for Christian missionaries on leave or in retirement is celebrating its centenary.
The Fairfield Trust charity was registered in 1974, but has been serving missionaries and workers since 1919. It was founded by the industrialist Alec Dick, who had unexpectedly inherited a large house in Torquay from his godmother four years previously.
“It was a surprise and slight embarrassment to him being the sole beneficiary of such a grand property,” a trustee of Fairfield, Richard Balfry, explained. “Alec was unsure exactly what to do with Fairfield, and was conscious that, while the property had been left to him, it was also meant to be enjoyed by other members of the family.”
Influenced by his devout mother, and his knowledge of the China Inland Mission and the Church of England Zenana Missionary Society, Mr Dick offered his home to missionaries returning to Torquay shortly after the First World War. Its services were suspended during the Second World War, when Fairfield became a temporary home for young evacuees.
Fairfield TrustFairfield West in 2019
“Fairfield employed domestic staff in those early days; so returning missionaries from China, South America, and elsewhere were sent a first-class train ticket, met at Torquay station by the butler with a horse-drawn carriage, and welcomed at the front door by the housekeeper,” Mr Balfry said. “How things have changed!”
Mr Dick’s son, Alex, inherited the property in 1963, which he and his wife, Valerie, began converting into flats for retired clergy and returning missionaries. In the 1970s, the couple bought and converted the adjoining property, now known as Fairfield West.
The properties were refurbished and extended in 2011 to offer 15 one-bedroom flats, communal areas, and a guest suite for visiting family and friends.
Today, the Trust continues to offer social housing for retired missionaries, clergy and their families, widows or widowers, many of whom are supported by the local council. Two flats have recently become available.