Inside the home of Joan Edwards… complete with bare walls, no heating and uncarpeted floors

August 15, 2013 | by | 0 Comments
Joan Edwards from Bristol who bequeathed a sum of £520,000 to the government at the time of her death

Joan Edwards from Bristol who bequeathed a sum of £520,000 to the government at the time of her death

This is the first glimpse inside the council house of the “last Victorian” Joan Edwards – complete with bare walls, no heating and uncarpeted floors.

Frugal Miss Edwards, 90, left more than £500,000 in her will to the ‘Government’ – which was controversially taken by the coalition parties.

But despite her wealth Joan lived in the modest council home in Bristol where she was born and raised.

Friends say she still washed in a tin bath and lived mainly off vegetables she grew in a small plot in the garden.

Local people dubbed her ‘the last Victorian’ because she lived such a strict and pious life – wearing a plain outfit and a hat with a feather in.

She would yell at noisy children playing outside her home – which she once had the chance to buy for £2,000 but declined the council’s offer.

Joan also would not allow Bristol City Council to put in new windows or kitchen,

The new occupants, Louise and Jason Jones, said the local authority had to revamp the property before they could move in last March.

Mrs Jones said: “We have heard about her. She still had all the cladding in the bedroom and the wooden beams.

“The council said she refused to allow them to do the kitchen, put central heating in or touch the windows.”

Neighbour Patrick Dunleavy, 71, said walking into the former nurse’s home was like stepping back in time.

He said: “I used to call her the last Victorian. She was very strict. There would be kids playing in the street and she would come out and tell them off.

“She would also dress in a very old fashioned way with laced up boots and a hat with a feather in it. She certainly wasn’t trendy.”

Mr Dunleavy, who lives opposite and had known Miss Edwards for 40 years, added: “Walking into her house was like going back in time.

“She had no central heating, an old gas stove and boiler. In her bathroom there was a big standalone cast iron bath.

This is the first glimpse inside the council house of the "last Victorian" Joan Edwards

This is the first glimpse inside the council house of the “last Victorian” Joan Edwards

Joan's house had bare walls, no heating and uncarpeted floors

Joan’s house had bare walls, no heating and uncarpeted floors

“She had a small electric heater in her bedroom and a slightly bigger one in the lounge, where there was also a Welsh dresser. That was about it.

“It seemed like the house had hardly been touched since the day it was first built.

“She must have used coal as well, because she asked me one day if I knew anybody who would want it.

“She had a vegetable patch in the garden that I would help with, although she didn’t use that as much as she got older.

“Considering how much money she had, you would have thought she could have lived more comfortably.”

Frugal Miss Edwards, 90, refused to have central heating or double glazing installed in her three-bed semi and grew vegetables in her tiny garden

Frugal Miss Edwards, 90, refused to have central heating or double glazing installed in her three-bed semi and grew vegetables in her tiny garden

The walls were kept bare and Miss Edwards refused to have new windows installed

The walls were kept bare and Miss Edwards refused to have new windows installed

Even though the council has revamped the house which she lived in since 1931, it still has some of the original fittings including wooden beams and floorboards.

Neighbours in Acton Road said the “churchgoing and highly intelligent” lady turned down the chance to buy her £160,000 house for just £2,000 under the right-to-buy scheme.

Miss Edwards estate has been at the centre of a political storm after the Conservatives and Lib Dems shared her £519,999 bequest between them as a party donation.

But after a backlash, leaders handed the cash over to the treasury.

Her friend, Joan Seville, 85, said she thought Miss Edwards had been a Conservative, and had made her money buying and selling shares.

The house in Acton Road in Bristol, where Miss Edwards had lived since the 1930s

The house in Acton Road in Bristol, where Miss Edwards had lived since the 1930s

When she wrote her will in 2001, Labour were in power, having just won their second term in a landslide victory.

Labour Bristol East MP Kerry McCarthy said: “It seems to me utterly inconceivable that a bequest to ‘the Government of the day’ could be interpreted as a donation to the Tories and Lib Dems to spend on electioneering.

“I want to know what questions were asked when the money came in, and whether the parties were involved in any discussions with the executors beforehand as to how the money was to be split – a conversation that surely should have rung alarm bells.

“I can only assume that greed blinded them to the questions that should have been asked.

“Joan was obviously a very private person and would no doubt be horrified by all this attention, but now that her legacy is in the public domain, I think that rather than it just being swallowed up in the Treasury coffers, it would be a decent gesture to use at least part of her legacy to fund something close to her heart, such as the excellent new birth centre down the road at Cossham hospital, training for nurses at nearby UWE or replacing some of the 681 nurses that North Bristol trust has lost since 2010.”

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