Torre Abbey hostess celebrates turning 100

Torbay Weekly

Betty Lee, a former resident of Torre Abbey, is celebrating her 100th birthday with family and friends.
Betty reached the fabulous milestone last week and a family party is planned for the end of June, when a topic of discussion will undoubtedly include the time Betty and her husband Phillip spent looking after Torre Abbey.
Phillip, who is sadly no longer with us, was curator of the Abbey for almost four decades and the couple raised a family in those unique surroundings.
“It was a fabulous experience to live in Torre Abbey, I remember staying there with them for about three months when I was 12 years-old,” said niece Morgan Williams. “It was fantastic, but definitely haunted, some strange things at night.
“Betty’s husband Phillip was a cross between the curator and caretaker of Torre Abbey, he basically took care of everything around the place.
“The old loving room they had is now an exhibition hall, the same with their bedroom. As you come in through the front gate and you see the clocktower, the room up to the right was their kitchen, which has also been converted into an exhibition hall.
“It’s very strange for me to walk through the Abbey now.
“Betty and Phillip loved meeting the visitors, and made some good friends through Torre Abbey. Phillip particularly loved the old paintings and artefacts.”
A lifelong resident of Torbay, Betty grew up in St Marychurch and moved into Torre Abbey with Phillip in the aftermath of the Second World War.
“Betty was born in Torquay, her parents had a house in Compton Place, St Marychurch,” added Morgan.  
“She went to school locally, although she did suffer from allergies in her younger years and had to attend a special school, with most of her lessons taught outside.
“Betty married Phillip and they moved into Torre Abbey in 1947, staying there for more than 37 years. They raised their three sons, Martin, Vernon and Rovert, in the Abbey.
“I spent many happy days at Torre Abbey, we had Christmases there and it was truly fantastic.
“Phillip worked in the Abbey and Betty was basically a housewife for many years before she started working at Torre Primary School in her later years.”
Betty now lives in a care home in Babbacombe and, while the past 18 months of a Covid world has been difficult for all the residents, she has thankfully remained safe and well.
After adjusting to the changing circumstances of limited visitation and no contact, Betty can now welcome family and friends again.
“Phillip sadly died around eight or nine years ago, but Betty is doing alright,” said Morgan. “She’s living in a care home and I saw her last week, on her actual birthday.
“Her mind is still sharp and she is very happy at the home. Thankfully, I don’t think the past year has had too much impact on Betty because they keep them very sequestered in the home.
“It was only recently that we were allowed to go in and see her. She didn’t really understand things at first because they have been kept closed off.”
It is now all about the big birthday party, with people travelling from various locations to celebrate with Betty, with a very special birthday message sure to be a talking point.
“The plan is to hold a party to celebrate Betty’s birthday with 30 guests from all over the country at the Babbacombe Bay Café,” said Morgan.
“Betty is worried she won’t recognise some people but it will be great to see everybody
“She was absolutely delighted to receive a card from the Queen on her birthday, that was very special for her.
“Betty is an amazing woman and enjoyed a terrific life.”
Congratulations Betty, have a wonderful party and happy birthday from all of us in Torbay.