The philanthropic founder of Rose Calendars, George Rose has recently been cited by local historian Andrew Phillips, as “arguably Colchester’s most generous benefactor”, in articles written for the Essex County Standard and the Gazette.
George Rose was born in 1858 and began the calendar business in 1908, from premises in the grounds of The Peveril hotel on North Hill in Colchester. Originating from Buckinghamshire, he had moved to Colchester with his wife Elizabeth to establish a trade as an hotelier, having previously worked as a travelling salesman. The entrepreneur then began to trade in calendars to supplement his income, and created the business originally named Rose & Co. Before long, production had outgrown the original premises, and moved to a more suitable site across Colchester, in Kendall Road, where it was to be housed for the next 77 years.
Being located in this residential area of the town, George was obviously conscious of the need for affordable local housing for the elderly. In the 1930s he built and endowed 23 new almshouses, for the charities of Winsley & Kendall, which were established to create trusts for the building and maintenance of these valuable housing schemes. In addition, he donated sums of money to other worthy causes, including funding a ward at Essex County Hospital. His donations amounted to over £50,000 at the time, which is equivalent to about £2,500,000 in today’s money. He is famously noted for saying that he did not want to wait until he died for his money to do some good, and the model he created for a living bequest, is little heard of in today’s market.
Andrew Phillips rightly pointed out that George was not particularly rich, and for someone of his means, his generosity was extraordinary and has ensured that the charity is still able to house 100 residents in 80 housing units. Social housing is a current hot topic, as we see generations living longer, requiring continuing assistance with housing, while there is also high demand from different sectors of the community. Until very recently, residents of the almshouses received supplies of coal, with heating being a major expense for the elderly, and the trust continues a programme of regular updating and maintenance with new flats being built to replace some of the more unsuitable buildings.
Rose Calendars is now managed by fourth generation Michael Rose, and he is immensely proud of George Rose’s generosity, believing him to be a true legend of his time, ensuring generations have and will benefit for years to come.