THE chairman of east Cleveland’s historic almshouses has stood down after almost quarter of a century as a trustee.

Peter Sotheran spent 16 years as the chairman of the management board, which almost exactly matches the time served by Sir William Turner as the original 'Governor' of the almshouses.

A group of 40 residents, trustees, guests and former trustees attended a farewell party to Mr Sotheran who helped to oversee the rebuilding of the trust after it was close to bankruptcy in 1990.

Trustees of the almshouses are obliged to retire at the end of the year when they have their 70th birthday but he decided to call it a day at the start of the summer instead.

Mr Sotheran, who was awarded the MBE in 2006 in recognition of his services to the almshouses, led the board through a £1.4m scheme to completely restore the 335 year Grade-1 listed building.

He said: “That was a major challenge with production, design and management meetings several times each week for almost 20 months when I was also running a family business. We would not have achieved all that we have without the loyal support of my wife Sue.

Lesley Beer, who now chairs the board of trustees, paid tribute to his hard work and dedication to fundraising.

She said: “We receive no statutory funding from the government or any of the national heritage or lottery organisations, so we must always pay our own way.”

Mrs Beer presented a set of engraved glassware as a token of the thanks of the trustees and residents of the almshouses.

Mr Sotheran said one of the highlights during his 24-year association with the charity was the celebration of the 300th anniversary of the death of Sir William Turner, who founded the almshouses in 1676 and died in 1692.

The retired businessman also ran the 'Classics at Kirkleatham' concert series that he introduced at the almshouses in 1999. That series has come to an end but two new series have been introduced to replace it.

“There is an audience spread across East Cleveland who relied on the Kirkleatham concerts to bring the best of classical music to the area. I look forward to meeting many old friends at the new venues in Redcar and Stokesley,” said Mr Sotheran.

The concerts continue each month, starting in September, at the 'Tuned In' centre in Redcar and at the Stokesley Methodist Church.