Born in 1822 in Monument Street, Devonport, Edwin Alonso Pearn was educated first at the New School in that street, and then at Mr Southwood’s, George Street, Devonport. Leaving school, he was apprenticed to Messrs. Dabb, Rundle and Brown, of Plymouth, wholesale drapers. After serving his apprenticeship, he remained with the same firm for many years as a traveller, and severed his connection with them about thirty years later. He became a partner in the Exeter firm of Norris Kendall, and co. drapers and woollen warehousemen.
Thrifty in habits; most painstakingly in business and prudent with his investments, he acquired a large fortune, and in 1873, retiring from business he purchased off the late Mr W Luscombe, with many of its beautiful pictures and much of its statuary, the mansion of Compton Leigh, near Plymouth.
There he lived in simple and somewhat unconventional fashion, enjoying the company of friends he made in his business, and doing numerous deeds of unrecorded charity. He died on the 10th December 1893, four days after his 71st birthday.
It was for his unostentatious charity that Mr Pearn was so well known and respected in Plymouth. His benefactions were entirely unrestricted as to sect and creed. Although not a Roman Catholic, he took a warm interest in the work of the Little Sisters of the Poor, and when their buildings were erected at Hartley, he defrayed the cost of laying out the grounds and provided the necessary shrubs.
The deed of benevolence, however, which with his name will be remembered was his gift of a Convalescent Home to the South Devon and East Cornwall Hospital. For many years he had taken a deep and practical interest in the Hospital, and early in 1892 he had made known to the governors of that institution his desire to build at his own expense, and endow, a home where patients in the convalescent stage after a serious illness might more rapidly and easily recuperate their energies. Accordingly he transferred to Trustees his house at Compton and the estate in which it stood, and provide the money wherewith to build a home, and also the fund for its endowment.
The House was opened in 1895 and served as a Convalescent Home for 108 years before its closure in 2003.
The House has been sold but the grounds still include a ‘Care Centre’ and Almshouses. The ‘Convalescent Home Trust’ has been renamed the ‘Charitable Trust’ and continues to pursue Alonso Pearn’s charitable aims.
The Trustees at Pearn Charitable Trust
Mr I D Rawlings
Dr Nicholas Ring
Mrs G Biddulph
Mr Brian Fisher
Mr Nigel Smith
Mrs M Clinton