Almshouses Project

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, some examples of which are shown here. .

Spreading the word
The 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. Several of our researchers have also published findings in books, articles, exhibitions and papers at conferences.

Accessing the collected data We are in the process of putting the large amount of raw data onto the Members section of this website. This is an ongoing task for 2018, starting with counties in alphabetical order; do go and have a look because it offers a very valuable resource for all those interested in almshouses. Please note there are gaps in our coverage and the data for individual almshouses varies in quantity. (If you are not a member of FACHRS you can access this data by joining, and obtain all the other benefits of membership.)

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 and we hope that you will be inspired to help fill some of the gaps and publish your findings in appropriate ways.

Selected Bibliography about Almshouses divided into 'General books' (under author) and 'Local books' (under place).
General books

Bailey, B. Almshouses. Robert Hale, London, 1988.

Godfrey, W.H. The English Almshouse, Faber & Faber, London, 1955.

Goose, N., Caffrey, H. & Langley, A., The British Almshouse: new perspectives on philanthropy ca 1400-1914, FACHRS Publications, Milton Keynes, 2016.

Hallett, A. Almshouses, Shire Publications, Princes Risborough, 2004.

Heath, S. Old English Houses of Alms: a Pictorial Record with Architectural and Historical notes, Francis Griffiths, London, 1911.

Howson, B. Almshouses. A Social and architectural history. The History Press, Chalford, 2008.

Howson, B. Houses of noble poverty: a history of the English almshouse. Bellvue Books, Sunbury-on-Thames, 1993.

Nicholls, A. Almshouses in early Modern England: Charitable Housing in the Mixed Economy of Welfare 1550 - 1725, The Boydell Press, Woodbridge, 2017.

Orme, N. & Webster, M. The English Hospital 1070-1570. Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1995.

Prescott, E. The English Medieval Hospital 1050 - 1640, Seaby Publications, Melksham, 1992.

Raphael, M. F. The Romance of English Almshouses, Mills & Boon Ltd, London, 1926.

Local books

Canterbury: Hill, D. I. The Ancient Hospitals and Almshouses of Canterbury, Canterbury Archaeological Society, Canterbury, 2004.

Dorset: Cockburn, E. O. The Almshouses of Dorset. The Friary Press, Dorchester, 1970.

Lincolnshire: Crust, L. Lincolnshire Almshouses: nine centuries of charitable housing, Heritage Lincolnshire, Sleaford, 2002.

London: Berridge, C. The Almshouses of London, Ashford Press, Southampton, 1987.

Nottinghamshire: Earl, E. A. Nottinghamshire Almshouses from early times to 1919, self published, 2011.

Shropshire: Watts, S. Shropshire Almshouses, Logaston Press, Logaston, 2010.

Wiltshire: Thompson, S. Wiltshire Almshouses and their Founders, Hobnob Press, Warminster, 2016.

York: Smith, C. The Almshouses of York, Quack Books, York, 2010.

Yorkshire W Riding: Caffrey, H. Almshouses in the West Riding of Yorkshire 1600-1900, Heritage, King's Lynn, 2006.