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Meet the thrifty man behind big hospital legacy

PUBLISHED: 09:50 15 January 2016 | UPDATED: 09:50 15 January 2016

Charles Dewing who left a legacy of £342,000 to North Walsham Memorial Hospital, but nothing was known about him until his family came forward. Copy picture of Charles with his BP tanker when he was a driver for British Petroleum. 

Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Charles Dewing who left a legacy of £342,000 to North Walsham Memorial Hospital, but nothing was known about him until his family came forward. Copy picture of Charles with his BP tanker when he was a driver for British Petroleum. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Archant Norfolk 2016

A thrifty pensioner who shopped in the bargain basement aisles and rarely bought anything new for himself is behind one of the biggest bequests left to a North Norfolk hospital, it has emerged.

Charles Dewing who left a legacy of £342,000 to North Walsham Memorial Hospital, but nothing was known about him until his family came forward. Pictured are his nieces Linda Dewing, Elizabeth Gray and Sallyann Dewing looking at pictures of Charles through his lifetime. 

Picture: MARK BULLIMORECharles Dewing who left a legacy of £342,000 to North Walsham Memorial Hospital, but nothing was known about him until his family came forward. Pictured are his nieces Linda Dewing, Elizabeth Gray and Sallyann Dewing looking at pictures of Charles through his lifetime. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Charles Oliver Dewing left his entire estate, worth more than £342,000, to North Walsham and District War Memorial Hospital following his death, aged 82, in April 2011.

However, he wasn’t always known for being so generous with his money.

His niece, Elizabeth Gray, who lives in Briggate, explained: “He (Charles) wouldn’t buy anything full price if he could get it cheaper.

“Even in his last two years when he lived on his own (following the death of his wife Barbara) I would go there and he would say: ‘Look how much my shopping bill cost me this week’. He would have bought bread that was going out of date and all the dented cans because they were only nine pence a tin; he didn’t spend anything.

“Barbara paid for new cars for them.” And she added: “They hoarded everything.”

Last week we reported that Charles’ legacy, which included the sale of his bungalow in Kendall Close, North Walsham, is being used to improve life for staff and patients at North Walsham and District War Memorial Hospital with the building of two new meeting rooms.

But little was known about him - until now.

Recalling fond memories of her uncle with her sisters Sally and Linda Dewing this week, Mrs Gray, who was born at the hospital and had her first child there before the maternity unit closed, said: “He was a bit of a gentle giant really. He was one of seven children but there are no brothers or sisters left now; my father Brian was the last one to go.”

Charles began his working life delivering paraffin to farms across Norfolk before being called up to serve in the war. On his return, he worked as a tanker driver delivering fuel before going on to run his own garage, in partnership with a pal, in Norwich.

However, the petrol price war in 1975 evenutally led to a change in career, with Charles setting up his own chimney sweep business, which he later passed on to a nephew, before retiring.

Mrs Gray said: “He was quite an age when he met his wife, Barbara, they were both in their 40s and married in April 1970. Because they were that age they decided they were probably too old to have children.

“The reason they left the money to the hospital was they didn’t have any children of their own and mainly because Barbara’s mother, Mable, was cared for in the hospital in her last days and so was Charles’ mother, Olive.

“Our mum, Margaret, worked up there as well for over 20 years and it was just their wish that the money was to be left to benefit the patients.

“They made their will back in 1987, that was probably around about the time that Barbara lost her mother.”

With the new hospital expansion due for completion at the end of April, Mrs Gray revealed she and her family are pleased her uncle’s wishes are being respected and, she added, she hopes it will provide a lasting legacy for future generations.

“Even our own mother and father each saw their last days in North Walsham Cottage Hospital,” she said. “And, when we were there, we experienced how limited the space was.”

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