Coordinator: Anne Langley
Over sixty researchers contributed to the FACHRS almshouse project throughout the British Isles. They used sources ranging from old manuscripts and maps through censuses and trade directories to databases and the internet. They collected old pictures of almshouses and took photographs of surviving almshouse buildings.
Spreading the word
Several of our researchers have already published their findings in books, articles, exhibitions and papers at conferences. We are working on a substantial book (hopefully to be published in 2015) with the provisional title of: New Perspectives on Philanthropy: the British Almshouse 1500-1914. Some preliminary work has also been done on a gazetteer of almshouses to record more of the information that has been discovered. Completing this gazetteer and making it available on the Internet will be a priority once the book has been published.
Some interesting findings
The rules governing almshouses were strict and tell us a great deal about society's attitudes in the past. Early almshouses were intended as a 'passport to paradise' for the donor, requiring the alms people to attend church regularly to pray for the founder's soul.
The architecture of almshouses varies from venerable 'hospitals' to modest rows of cottages, including many splendid and interesting buildings. Some almshouses were causes of controversy, as described by Anthony Trollope in The Warden. Occasional personal accounts - or even an inventory - survive for almshouses, giving us an insight into the lives of the occupants.
The researchers enjoyed taking part in this project and there has been considerable interest from other historians and the general public in their findings. As always, there is more still to be done!
Spreading the word
Several of our researchers published their findings in books, articles, exhibitions and papers at conferences and work is ongoing on a gazetteer of almshouses to record more of the information that has been discovered.
The main outcome has been a major book The British Almshouse: new perspectives on philanthropy ca 1400-1914. ISBN: 978-0-9548180-2-9 which is available from our online shop.