The Trust was set up in 2008 to honour the life and work of one of Britain’s greatest comedians. Originally, it was based in “Wavering Down” house in Cross, Somerset, where Frankie lived with his manager and partner, Dennis Heymer for some 20 years. Dennis was the first President of the Trust, and later Dame June Whitfield gladly took over this post and, following her sad death, her great friend, Joanna Lumley is now our current President.
Also, just before the Trust was set up, we had the pleasure of the company of David Walliams and Rafe Spall at “Wavering Down” house as they came to talk to Dennis in preparation for their TV drama “Rather You Than Me” which treated the relationship between Frankie and Dennis. David is a fervent admirer of Frankie’s work and both he and Rafe were delighted to become Patrons of the Trust. Furthermore, Griff Rhys Jones, who admires and worked with Frankie, agreed to become Patron as well.
Going back a few years around 2003, Dennis and his carer and partner, Chris Byrne, organised Open Days when the public could visit the house and gardens which had hardly changed since Frankie’s death in 1992. Also, very successful charity events were held in the gardens and land around the house, attracting such talent as “The Wurzels”, Tim Pitman, an Abba tribute band, “Bjorn Belief” and Don the Whistler. They even organised an “Up Pompeii!” Roman evening and held several Royal events to commemorate the Queen’s birthday.
All their efforts raised a lot of money which was distributed to local groups and individuals who required funding. In fact, so much money was being raised that it became necessary to create a charitable Trust in line with the Charity Commission’s rules. It is reckoned that approximately £100,000 was raised in the years 2003 – 2010.
However, following the death of Dennis Heymer and the sale of “Wavering Down” house, the Trust had lost base as well as the support of Dennis and Chris who was to die in September 2017. Hence, the Trustees decided to create a Community Hub in Loxton, a few miles from “Wavering Down” house, and to change the status of the Charity to a Charitable Incorporated Organisation as our activities will involve more than raising and distributing money: the Trust is creating a cafe and restaurant, and eventually an activities’ centre with a mini-bus, and providing lots of help and support for the local community.
The new Trust is more simply called “The Frankie Howerd OBE Trust” and its registered charity number is now 1188630.