Hilary Livingstone has been a trustee of the Eleanor Hirst Trust since 2016.

Hilary was born and brought up in Huddersfield. She is a retired civil servant, having worked at several government departments starting at the Department of Employment, now the Department of Work and Pensions, where she was a Benefit Office Manager working all over West Yorkshire.

After five years she joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office latterly dealing with administration of Embassies/High Commissions in South Asia and Afghanistan.

Hilary moved down to live in Buckinghamshire where she was employed by Buckinghamshire County Council Social Services as their Court of Protection Receiver managing the Receivership Department dealing with clients who, because of mental incapacity, were unable to look after their own financial affairs. These clients were often victims of financial abuse, so Hilary worked closely with local police and solicitors.

After a varied and successful career, Hilary retired to Wilshaw with her husband, Ian, in 2011.

Becoming a trustee for the Eleanor Hirst Trust has been a fulfilling role. Hilary was aware of the historical significance of almshouses prior to joining the Trust and felt compelled to get involved in such a community led housing model that supports local people in housing need.

The Eleanor Hirst Trust owns six Grade II listed almshouses in the village of Wilshaw, West Yorkshire. At present there are 10 residents in six two bedroomed almshouses.

The almshouses are dated 1871, by John Kirk of Huddersfield, for Eleanor Hirst of Wilshaw. They are built in beautiful hammer dressed stone with pitched slate roofs with gable copings and barge boards, and tall stone stacks to each gable. They are all two storeys.

At the first floor level there is a central round arched plaque inscribed:

“A.D. 1871. These almshouses were erected by Eleanor Hirst the beloved wife of Joseph Hirst of this place, in loving remembrance of Mary, their deeply lamented and only child whose love and sympathy for the poor when living. These houses are intended for the aged and destitute a fitting memorial to an affectionate daughter who was always ready to add comfort to those in want and declining years.”

Hilary mentions that she was asked by a previous trustee, who was retiring, to join the board and she felt it was such a compelling and worthwhile cause that she couldn’t say no!

The almshouses that Hilary supports are for the poor and elderly of the local area. This criteria was defined in the Will of Eleanor Hirst.
As a trustee Hilary works closely with the chair to enable the smooth running of matters relating to the almshouses. Usually this involves maintenance and day to day running of the almshouses as well as making sure the residents have whatever they need. Hilary comments,

“I have close contact with the residents, which is lovely. They ring when they have a problem which we address as soon as we can.”

From a pastoral side the trustees are always informed if anyone goes into hospital or has health issues etc. Hilary continues,

“We always make sure there is a bunch of flowers from the trustees in times of trouble, which is appreciated. It’s the personal touch that I love about being a trustee of an almshouse charity. You get to know the residents and hear all their fascinating stories and histories. ”

The challenges that the trustees face are making sure repairs etc., to the almshouses are carried out in a timely manner to alleviate any concern and worry for the residents. This is a priority.

Hilary mentions that her motivation for being a trustee is making sure the residents are happy and identifies the key benefits of almshouse living as having a community spirit that is integral to the health of residents. She comments,

“Some of the residents have been with us for many years. They say they enjoy the social discourse ‘up the avenue’ and are very happy in their little community.”