Dr Charles Newton Lovely

The plaque is located at Kings Dwellings, King St, Exeter, EX1 1BJ

It reads:

DR C N LOVELY, 1864-1947, General Practitioner and Social Reformer, Founding Chairman of the, EXETER WORKMEN’S, DWELLINGS COMPANY, Which built over 500 homes in Exeter, Between 1926 and 1939, Including King’s Dwellings

The plaque was unveiled on Friday 1stFebruary 2019 by one of Dr Lovely’s grandsons, Mr Richard Holladay.

Courtesy of Richard Holladay

Dr Lovely first worked in Exeter as a resident medical officer at one of the Voluntary Aid hospitals in the city during the First World War. In 1920 he and his family moved permanently to Exeter, and he worked in general practice from his home in Magdalen Road. Through his work, Dr Lovely became concerned about poor state of housing in which many of his patients lived, especially in the west quarter of Exeter. Although Exeter City Council was carrying out a programme of slum-clearance, the new homes that it built were too expensive for some of the poorest people. Dr Lovely was determined to do something about this, and conceived the idea of establishing a philanthropic association to build homes to let at a lower rent while still providing a decent standard of accommodation. He persuaded others to join him, and in 1926 The Exeter Workmen’s Dwellings Association (later Company) Ltd was founded. Dr Lovely was its Chairman from the beginning until his retirement in 1936.

The Company built homes across the City, including in Looe Road, Clayton Road, Wykes Road, Fords Road, Mildmay Close and Beacon Avenue, as well as King Street. King’s Dwellings was completed by the EWDC in 1933, in King Street, at the top of Stepcote Hill, once the site of notorious slums. A grand opening ceremony for the flats took place on September 12th 1933, performed by Miss Violet Wills, a local philanthropist who was one of the directors of the EWDC.

By Courtesy of Exeter Memories

Dr Lovely was an active chairman of the Company, constantly campaigning for better housing, and against what he saw as bureaucracy and foot-dragging, particularly by the City Council. As well as his full time occupation as a GP, and his work for slum clearance, he worked as a prison doctor, was involved with the British Red Cross, and was a Divisional Surgeon with St John’s Ambulance.

After his retirement, the EWDC continued its work. In 1954 it gained charitable status and was renamed Exeter Housing Society. In 2008 it acquired its current name, Cornerstone Housing. Cornerstone has expanded its housing stock from the 550 plus units built by the EWDC to over 1300 today, with more being added each year. Some of its recent schemes have included rent-to-buy and shared ownership. It now has properties outside Exeter, in Teignbridge, Mid-Devon and East Devon.

Kings Dwellings was last upgraded in 2012. A new façade on the King St frontage has provided extra space for modern facilities, as well as giving it a less austere appearance. It still provides, as originally intended, homes that are convenient for people employed in the centre of the City.