History of Dorward House

On the 18th June, 1838, the foundation stone of Dorward House was laid. William Dorward a local business man wrote to the Town Council in February,1838, offering to build a "House of Refuge" for the poor and destitute men, women and children of Montrose and Ferryden with a donation of £10,000. William Dorward was the son of a hawker and had experienced hardship in his early life giving him sympathy for the poor and this was the source of his generous action. He was a self made man and he and his brother had a draper's business at 210 High Street Montrose. It is said the crews of the Baltic Brigs were among his best customers. It is estimated that his donations to the town were approximately £50,000 and when he died on the 1st July, 1848 he left a further £14,131 to the house which bore his name. The tombstone over his grave, opposite the centre gate of the old churchyard at the "Kirkie Steps" identifies him as a great benefactor to Montrose.

The house was completed in June 1839 to provide accommodation for one hundred residents. The Board of twenty four Trustees appointed by Mr Dorward had been charged to ensure the house was built within one year at a cost of no more than £2,000. We are told they underspent by 2/9d (14p). The orders for Dorward House are laid down by Acts of Parliament and by Royal Consent and have been adapted to meet today's requirements.

The Trustees appointed a Superintendent and a Matron to oversee the house at a salary of £60 per year paid quarterly. The trust was to be independent and not to be confused with the "Poor's House" (although some people did so). Adults and children were to be admitted from the Pauper's Roll and no distinction was to be made of legitimacy or religion which was advanced thinking for those days.

The first residents were admitted on the 1st July 1839 and there were 20 orphans or deserted children and a few aged adults admitted from the Pauper's Roll of Montrose District Council and the sum of £468.13d was agreed for the care of 70 residents for 1 year.

The inhabitants of Dorward House were expected to work. The men in the garden, the piggery and take care of the poultry. The women worked in the kitchen, the laundry and knitted.

The children attended White's Free School and the headmaster was paid £10 per annum for educating the children from the house. When they were old enough the girls went into service and the boys to the mill or to local tradesmen.

Work also carried out at Dorward House was the picking of Oakum, the fluffy cotton wool type material obtained from cutting up and teasing out old ropes which was a particularly dirty, hand breaking and unpleasant task. Oakum was stuffed into the joints of wooden ships before being covered with tar. It was sold by the House to the Rope and Sale Company and Birnie's shipyard. Because of this unpleasant task some people refused to come to Dorward House. William Dorward was confused by this and offered incentives such as £100 per annum for Sunday clothes for the residents and £30 for tea, sugar and cordials.

Over the years there have been many improvements to Dorward House.

  • 1886 - The single bathroom was replaced by 2 bathrooms and separate toilets – 1 for men and 1 for women.
  • 1902 - Hot water pipes, radiators and more toilets were installed.

There were many disputes between the Trustees of Dorward house and the Parish Council and in 1910 it was agreed that Dorward House would abolish the pauper status and advertise for boarders as finances were difficult.

  • 1929 to 1950 - Provision of electric light, dormitories divided into cubicles, children separated from adults. The kitchen was refurbished and a gas cooker purchased. Many legacies were received and one of £1,000 was used to build 2 sun parlours on the east and west corners of the house. These were built by R pert & Sons for £725.

In 1950 legislation changed and the house was registered as a Home for Older People. In 1971 as numbers had reduced there were forty three residents paying a Board rate of £10 per week. In 1972 the first coffee morning was held raising £235.66p for the Comfort Fund.

From 1975 onwards the Board of Trustees further improved the house by installing a new kitchen, new laundry, and upgrading bedrooms for single occupancy. Four assisted bathrooms and 11 toilets were added. Telephones and call system upgraded and improved decoration throughout.

Over the years new legislation has been introduced and in 2000 the Care Standards Act was introduced which meant that Trustees now had to consider the demands of the new National Care Standards e.g. single occupancy for all residents, which was no problem as previous Trustees had made this happen but the standard of en suite facilities in all rooms had still to be met.

In 2005 the Board of Trustees entered into many discussions and took advice from professional and financial advisers and decided to take this opportunity to move the care provision into the 21st Century and proceed with the necessary renovation and new build at Dorward House.

In August 2005 the plans were launched at a Dorward House Garden Party and at Montrose Highland Games.

The plan was to renovate the main house to create 28 en suite rooms, redesign 1 sitting room – to create a new surgery and visitors' room and total upgrading and redecoration throughout. A 4 place respite unit would be created by extending at the back of the house including a small dining /sitting room with staffing accommodation above. Also a new build of a self- contained, dementia friendly high dependency unit for the specialist care of 8 people with dementia and a training/meeting room. This unit gave direct access to an enclosed, specially designed dementia friendly garden area

The project was funded by capital funds, sale of assets, grants and fundraising. The support of the local community was exceptional with £218,000 raised. A very generous legacy completed the project and the total cost was £2.3 million (just about the amount first donated by William Dorward).

This renovation required the residents to move out of their home but they were willing to do this as long as they could stay together with their own staff group. Carnegie House became available and residents and staff moved there on the 14th January 2007 and returned to the “new" Dorward House on 15th April 2008. The Official Opening was on Sunday 3rd August 2008 by The Lord Lieutenant, Mrs Georgiana Osborne and The Earl of Dalhousie.

  • 2013 - The maintenance of the beautiful house and the provision of quality care which meets the ever changing needs and wishes of residents is very important to the Management, Staff and Trustees of Dorward House and all are committed to continuing to provide such care.

This short history was composed using information from a book by Messrs. Coull and Johns, written in 1988 for the 150th Anniversary of Dorward House from an article by Gable Ender, Forbes Inglis and from recent information notes.

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