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THE DEDDINGTON ALMSHOUSES

 

C19th.CENTURY, BUILDING THE ALMSHOUSES

Land enclosures in Bloxham (1802) and in Deddington (1808) added to Deddington’s existing charitable income and by 1818 the Feoffees owned, in addition, “some small closes, 7 cottages, the Town Hall and 3 butchers stalls beneath it, the whole estate yielding a clear income of c. £140 a year” according to the Victoria County History.
New Feoffees were appointed at this time and, with cash in hand, they set about building actual homes for the parish poor.
The Almshouse

 

Land was bought in Church Street and the familiar almshouses were built on the site of two existing cottages at a cost of £653. There are no details of building materials but the houses must have looked very much as they do today. The work was finished in 1822 and provided lodging for eight people.

 

RULES AND REGULATIONS

The Commission on Charities’ Report of 1824 gives details of the benefits accruing to the Almshouse inmates: “for each of the (4) men a hat and greatcoat; for each of the (4) women a bonnet and cloak, of uniform colour.’ Each almshouse contained “two besteads, with flock beds, four chairs, one table, a grate and a set of fire irons.” Clothing and furnishings were the property of the Feoffees and were, presumably handed down to each new inhabitant. The inmates had to be Deddington parishioners “of fair and honest name or fame” and “regularly, decently and devoutly attend divine service at the church, and not elsewhere.” (In 1842 Revd Cotton Risley mentions in his Diary that he has given “the sacrament to all the old women at the Almshouses.”)
In 1856 the Court of Chantry document relating to the management of the Deddington Charity Estates (to which the Feoffees had become affiliated, changing their title to Trustees) spells out the terms and conditions of almshouse living. There are still to be 8 inmates, four male and four female, “preference being always given to those candidates who shall not within twelve months of their election have been an inmate of a workhouse or have been place on the permanent List for outdoor relief.”  The document continues: “The trustees shall out of… the charity property pay to each of the men in the almshouses the sum of Four shillings a week… to women… the sum of Three shillings a week.” A medical attendant was provided to supply treatment and medicine for a sum “not exceeding Ten pounds per annum.” The inmates could be removed for “immorality, drunkenness quarrelsome behaviour, breech of rules.” (See VCH.) The term “inmate” to describe the almspeople seems well-chosen.  The Chantry document faithfully reflected the mores of the time and there clings to its dictates the faint sense that poverty should be alleviated but not condoned. (The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 enshrined the unsubtle moral dimension by providing workhouses for the “deserving poor” and houses of correction for the “undeserving poor”.)

 

C20TH – MINUTE BOOK

The next continuous account of the Almshouses is the Trustees Minute Book (1906 -88). In the first half of the century a Visiting Committee (elected by the Trustees) inspected the Almshouses regularly. Most of their reports concern structural repairs and maintenance.

 

TENANTS

Not surprisingly, given the age of new tenants, their election regularly occupies the Committee. Notices were posted around the parish advertising vacancies and later, the names of those elected were also posted.  While names are mentioned in the minutes every few years, references to individuals are rare and to tensions between Trustees and tenants even rarer. At the beginning of the century there are one or two personal stories.   In 1911 a Mrs Checkley, matron, is sacked with a week’s notice. A Mrs Erdway (?) takes her place as matron at an extra payment of 2/- a week. In 1912 an inmate’s daughter writes that she cannot allow her mother to go into the Almshouses “as she could not get her furniture into the house.” (This problem was later solved – how, we are not told.)  In 1913 one tenant is taken to task for carrying on a second-hand clothing business from his cottage. His conduct is later considered “unsatisfactory” and he is evicted. Some years later another tenant is accused of emptying his slops into the road outside the Houses. Whether the behaviour of all other tenants later in the century was “satisfactory” or whether the Trustees decided, in future, not to minute personal disagreements, is open to speculation.

 

REPAIRS AND MAINTENANCE

In 1906 the Almshouses were 84 years old. Necessary repairs, estimates, delays in execution of work and subsequent questioning of bills frequently take up committee time. Perhaps the most interesting strand to follow is the slow evolution from a nineteenth century concept of adequate accommodation to the standards that prevailed towards the end of the twentieth century.
In 1912 “two new besteads” are ordered. There is no indication of how long the previous beds have been passed on from occupant to occupant.  In January 1914 the Committee considers “some means of warming the bedrooms in times of sickness,”  - a humane moment. Unfortunately the idea is debated without conclusion for the next three years. In 1917 the idea is again “postponed until the next half-yearly meeting”.  The minutes for this meeting contain no reference to heated bedrooms.
Hand in hand with the task of upgrading accommodation go ever-increasing bills. In 1926 repairs need to be done to the Almshouse forecourt.   Three tenders are obtained:  Hopcraft & Son: £25.14.9. Parker & Son: £21.2.6. Mr. Sykes: £14.15.0. Perhaps unwisely the job is given Mr. Sykes. Three years later there is still trouble over the non-completion of this work to the Trustees’ satisfaction.
In 1932 a change from gas to electricity is proposed and in 1937 the Committee considers new lavatories, to be attached to the new sewer in Church Street. (The minutes rarely make specific mention of when a proposal becomes a fait accompli.)
During WW2 the Ministry of Supply removed the iron railings in front of the Almshouses. Although this was a contribution to the ‘war effort’, the Committee registers a protest (a nice example of the philosophic point: general versus individual good) and in 1943 proposes a protective wooden fence instead.
Modernisation progresses slowly.   In 1944 the Trustees consider an estimate from the Wessex Electricity Company for £26.6.0 for installing ‘two lights and one power plug in each house”, the Charity to pay “the first quarter’s account for light consumed by the inmates and that the current for power be not connected to the meter for the present.” In 1945 a motion is carried “that the current for power be not provided for the inmates for the present and that the Charity pay all accounts for lighting.”
New ranges for two cottages are proposed in 1946 at a cost of £7.15.0.
The next updates in comfort come in 1953.  The Visiting Committee suggests a patent floor covering for the living rooms and, at a later stage, redecoration of the living rooms and adequate food storage.  P.R. Alcock supplies an estimate for patent magnesium flooring at a cost of £94.12.0. (Compare the cost of this with the forecourt work of 1926.)
A year later there is a surprising entry in the minutes. There is reference to the Charity Commission’s Order of 1917 (!) which stated that the Almspeople receive “not less than 4/- a week and not more 6/-.”  Full payment was “not to be paid in any case where the Almsperson was in receipt of an Old Age Pension or other secured income.”  A current occupant, William Plant, in the absence of any pension, is therefore granted “the maximum payment of 6/- a week.”  It seems extraordinary that there should have been no payment increase for almost forty years, given the evidence of rapidly rising costs elsewhere.
As the century progresses control of the Almshouses is subject to more and more external forces. Fire Insurance has to be increased in 1954 to £2,000 and in 1959 Banbury Rural District Council agrees to allow a 20% reduction in the Almshouse rates. The Trustees’ obligations grow ever more burdensome.
For the next eight years the Minutes are noticeably skimpier, but we do learn that in 1961 “the flushing systems in the lavatories required overhaul” and in 1963 urgent repair work was needed on “water taps… chimneys, windows and doors.”
In 1964 there is mention of a donation from Deddington Horticultural Society of a “curtain for end front door of the Almshouses.” The Deddington Nursing Association, on its demise, had donated £200 to the Charity in 1951 and these gifts are perhaps indicative of the ever-increasing role that individual fundraising was to play in the years ahead – not only in Deddington but in the world!
In 1965 the Trustees note “sudden heavy increases” in bills received from the Southern Electricity Board (the quaintly named Wessex Electricity Company having presumably been consigned to literary history). This is caused by inmates having installed electric cookers and heaters. The Trustees decide that, in future, inmates will pay for their own electricity but that the Trustees will make a quarterly allowance of £1.50 to each inmate.  (Note that the word “inmate” is still used to describe the almspeople.)

 

MODERNISATION

Up to this point most of the work on the Almshouses had been largely remedial. A degree of modernisation had been achieved but it becomes clear that a major overhaul is required if the houses are to reach acceptable modern standards.
In 1966 architects are employed to inspect the Almshouses “and make suggestions as to the repairs required, having regard to the limited funds available for upkeep of structure.” This first estimate is for £269.10.
For the next three years repair work goes ahead but restructuring appears to be on hold. Then in 1970 Betty Hill presents architectural drawings to the Committee. These provide for a small kitchen and lavatory for each cottage, better staircases, heating etc. 
The Trustees subsequently decide to join the National Association of Almshouses and over the next three years an NAA architect, Christopher Rayson ARIBA, makes three visits to Deddington to outline his scheme for modernisation. In 1971 he indicates that the cost will be around £7,500. In 1973, this has risen to £13,000 and on his final visit in 1974 Rayson reviews his figure again. The sum needed is now £17,400. The Trustees comment dismally that this is a “very large sum in view of the Estates’ lack of capital.”  But there is a divine intervention. The minutes of August 1974 contain a report that the late Mrs M.E. Thomas of Chapel Square, Deddington, had left her estate to the Trustees, “in their absolute discretion towards maintenance, repair, decoration or re-decoration, renovation, improvement, building or re-building of the Almshouses.” In other words, the Trustees are free to use the money as they wish, initially reckoned to be around £11,000. Bingo!
This legacy introduces a period of intense activity – and increasing bureaucracy. Architects and local building firms are approached for advice and estimates. There are questions about mortgage repayments, arguments over work done, or not done, vandalism during the re-building, when ninety leaded light windows are broken and, subsequently, a lengthy and litigious correspondence over who is responsible for making good the damage. Weekly rent payments are questioned in the light of new amenities and the DHSS is asked for advice. Trustees resign.
Finally in 1976 the make-over is complete. A cutting (from the Banbury Guardian?) is pasted into the Minute Book, headed, “Legacy aids facelift.” The homes “now boast full central heating, kitchen, bathroom, sitting room and bedroom.” Des res indeed.
The nineteenth century Trustees would not have recognised the world in which the current Trustees had to operate. Intervention from outside bodies continues to increase. Cherwell District Council, the DHSS, the NAA, banks and insurance companies now all have their say in the management of the Almshouses. It’s a fascinating microcosm of the vast social and financial changes taking place in the UK at that time.
From 1976 until 1988 when the Minute Book entries end (during which time typed minutes replace hand-written ones) there are few direct references to the Almshouses.
In May, 1976 the Banbury DHHS is consulted and “it was agreed that the weekly contribution of each almsperson (finally, not “inmate”) would be £7, made up of £6.82 rent and 18p for rates.” Heating, lighting and cooking costs are extra. Very soon one or two tenants are in difficulties over payment.
In 1977 insurance is raised to £48,000, “to overcome the problem of inflation in future.”
In spite of the make-over, it was found necessary to replace the front doors and Franklins of Deddington undertake the work at a cost of £801.41.  In 1980 it is decided that the old doors shall either be sold or given away. Does anyone in the village possess an almshouse door?

 

CONCLUSION

From 1982 to 1988 there are no specific references to the Almshouses in the Minute Book - perhaps a good point at which to end this brief history.

Kristin Thompson
September 2010


Bibliography:
Victoria  History of the County of Oxford, Vol.XI, ed. A. Crossley (London: Institute of Historical Research. 1983)
Early Victorian Squarson  The Diaries of William  Cotton Risley Vicar of Deddington 1835-1848  Extracts: Geoffrey Smedley-Stevenson.  Banbury Historical Society  Vol. 29  2007
A History of Deddington Oxfordshire H.M. Colvin S.P.C.K. 1973

Acknowledgement:
Leah Calcutt and the current Trustees of Deddington Charity Estates for the loan of their Minute Book  (1906 - 88)


 

The Official record of the Almshouses as a Listed Building

 

SP4631 DEDDINGTON CHURCH STREET
(South side)
8/159 Nos. 1 to 4 (consecutive)
08/12/55 Almshouses (formerly listed as Almshouses)

GVII
Row of four almshouses. 1818. Marlstone ashlar; Welsh slate roof with brick stacks. Single unit plans. Gothic style. Two storeys. Symmetrical front with storey band has a central recessed passage entry flanked by pairs of cottages with adjoining doors, each with a lattice glazed two light casement at each floor. All openings have chamfered pointed arched stone surrounds and the windows have ‘Y’ tracery echoed in the door panels. Roof has projecting eaves. Gable stacks and central double stack have plinths and octagonal shafts with projecting caps. Interiors not inspected.

(Buildings of England: Oxfordshire: p572; VCH: Oxfordshire: Vol XI, p87)


Listing NGR : SP4674031664


243883

The Almshouse
 


 

Known Inmates of The Almshouses in Deddington

Compiled by Michael Allbrook

Occupants of Almshouses have traditionally been known as inmates, so we continue with that tradition in this website.  The current term used is residents.

 The Inmates as recorded in the census of 1841

William Parsons      72        Almsman                     died 1848
James Vincent  73        Almsman                     died in 1841 or 1843
       
Edward Sweetman   74        Almsman                     died 1849
William Welch 76        Almsman                     died 1850
       
Ann Manning      80        Almswoman                died 1848
Mary Sepious or Lefs.. or ? 76        Almswoman                died ?
       
Jane Terry       82        Almswoman                died 1849

It would appear that she had family in the Almshouse Sarah age 22, John 1 and Hannah age 7

 

The Inmates as recorded in the census of 1851

Thomas Hopcraft   80 Mason                         died 1855
Thomas French    76 Weaver and      died 1855
   
James Hedges       80 Paper Maker    probably died in 1856
   
Thomas Haysbrook   79 Agricultural Labourer 
Surname not clear  
 
Ann Rymill (or Rymell)    64 Tailor’s widow died 1857
Elizabeth Bennett    66 Weaver’s widow          died 1867
 
Elizabeth Richardson 66 Draper’s Daughter      died 1859
Jane Parish     64 Blacksmith’s widow    died 1876 age 90

 

The Inmates as recorded in the census of 1861

Richard Williams   79 Cooper                        died 1870
Thomas Gibbs 86 Agricultural Labourer  died 1864
 
Thomas Churchill    80 Agricultural Labourer  died 1868
Richard Sessions   73 House Servant            died 1864
 
Ann Rymill (or Rymell)    74 Tailor’s widow             died 1857
Elizabeth Bennett    76 Weaver’s widow          died 1867
 
Sophia Emberlin    69 Paper Manufer’s widow died 1871 age 78
Jane Parish       74 Blacksmith’s widow    died 1876 age 90

 
 

The Inmates as recorded in the census of 1871

Hannah Turbitt 72 nothing recorded     died 1884 age 88
 
Jane Parish    85 nothing recorded     died 1876 age 90
   
John Cowley   89 nothing recorded     died 1876 age 91
William Satchel   72 nothing recorded     died 1876 age 78
 
Richard Bliss   79 nothing recorded     died 1883 age 90
Thomas Green   75 nothing recorded     died 1879 age 80


The Inmates as recorded in the census of 1881

Ann Woolgrove  73        Alms person                died 1890 age 83
Amelia Cowley  67 Alms person                died 1907 age 97
 
Hannah Turbit(t)    81        Widow slater  & plasterer 1890 age 83
 
Richard Gardner    76        Methodist Preacher    died 1885 age 79
Richard Wheeler   73        none stated                 died 1882 age 74
 
Richard Bliss   94        Agricultural Labourer died 1883 age 90
William Stilgoe    75        Agricultural Labourer died 1886 age 8

 The Inmates as recorded in the census of 1891

John Knibbs  84        Inmate of Almshouse died 1901 age 94
Charles Mason  60  Inmate of Almshouse died 1897 age 67
 
Augustus J E Lamb   64        Inmate of Almshouse 1903 age 73
 
Amelia Cowley    76        Inmate of Almshouse died 1907 age 9
 
Lydia Matthews   75        Inmate of Almshouse died 1896 age 80
Martha Bennett     69        Inmate of Almshouse

The Inmates as recorded in the census of 1901

Augustus J Ellis Lamb 71        Inmate of Almshouse  died 1903 age 73
 
Amelia Cowley  85        Inmate of Almshouse  died 1907 age 97
Martha Dale 67        Boarder                       died 1910 age 76       
 
Temperance Penn    72        Inmate of Almshouse  died 1911 age 81

Notes: 

Sophia Emberlin (in the 1861 census) was the last paper maker at the Mill which was situated in Paper Mill Lane

John Knibbs (in the 1891 census) is mentioned by Mary Vane Turner.  He was Ale Taster by appointment of Court Leet checking that the beer was of an acceptable standard and perhaps equally unusual was his role as Town Crier.

Census information is available in 1911 and will be added. 

The Minute Book of Deddington Charity Estates

However the Minute Book of Deddington Charity Estates 1906 – 1988 reveals more information about the inmates.  Strangely there is no record of when or why the inmates have left as a general rule.   The most obvious cause is their death but it is also possible that they moved into other accommodation.  The Workhouse, or more recently, a Nursing Home being options.

 

The Minute Book for the period January 1906- June 1988 records:

 12 Jan 1906    A vacancy exists

13 Jan 1908    Mrs Mary Ann Cowley  (share with Mrs Perrin) elected inmate: 18 Jan

1908.  Mary Ann Cowley was buried on 19 Jan 1912 aged 80 according to the Parish Records.

                        Mr Coggins  (share with Mr Penn) elected inmate: 18 Jan 1908

 9 Jan 1911      Elizabeth Ordway  age 62 elected inmate: 21 Jan 1911 also to be Matron

17 July 1911   Eliza Matthews  age 63 elected inmate: 22 Jul 1911 (share with Mrs Ordway)

8 Jan 1912      Mrs Ellen Clarke  age 72 elected inmate: 13 January 1912.  It was

later reported that Mrs Clarke did not take up this offer.  In fact she

was buried on 15 April 1912 aged 72 according to the Parish Records.

5 Sep 1912      William Bowerman  elected inmate: 10 Sep 1912 (share with David Whetton)

17 May 1915   Susannah Wyatt  age 71 elected inmate

26 May 1915   James Jarvis and David Whetton had been removed

                        William Bowerman  who had resigned from the Almshouses was re-elected as an inmate from 17 July 1915

17 Apr 1916    Edwin Lewis  age 76 elected inmate: 29 April 1916

                        John Williams  age 70 elected inmate: 29 April 1916

10 Jul 1916     William Bowerman  had died

31 Jul 1916     John Baylis  age 83 elected inmate: 5 Aug 1916

21 May 1916   Caroline Cowley  age 60 elected inmate: 26 May 1916

4 Feb 1917      John A French  age 70 elected inmate: 9 Feb 1917

 6 April 1920     Mary Jane Evins  elected inmate: 1 May 1920

                        Martha Sarah Evins  elected inmate: 1 May 1920

31 Jul 1922     William Woods  age 76 elected inmate: 12 August 1922

8 Sep 1924      John Sykes  age 72 did accept the offer even though he had applied

                        Annie Hicks  age 74 did accept the offer even though she had applied

                        Sarah Franklin  74

8 Nov 1926     Mrs Franklin had died on 8 Sep 1926

20 Dec 1926   Mary Jakeman  age 71 elected inmate: 1 Jan 1927

5 Aug 1927      William Bonham  age 68 elected inmate: 20 Aug 1927

 19 Jan 1931    William Wood was transferred to Woodstock Workhouse at his request and because of his illness on 31 Dec 1930

12 Aug 1931    William Cowley  age 74 elected inmate: 29 August 1931

17 Jul 1931     William Bonham  elected inmate: 16 June 1933 and after the house has been disinfected

14 Aug 1933    John Bliss  age 71 elected inmate: 19 Aug 1933

1 Apr 1935      Mrs Annie Sykes  age 71 elected inmate: 6 Apr 1935

20 Jan 1936    Mary Jakeman died on 21 Nov 1935.   Almshouse disinfected which

Subsequently became a regular part of the changeover process

23 Mar 1936    Charlotte Allen  age 65 elected inmate: 28 Mar 1936

18 Jan 1937    John Bliss  died on 22 Aug 1936

                        James Cowley  age 72 elected inmate: 20 Jan 1937

17 Jul 1939     William Cowley died 1 Feb 1939

                        John Miller  age 68 elected inmate:  29 Jul 1939

21 Jan 1939    Miss Charlotte Allen died

 7 Mar 1944      Miss Edith Alexandra Berridge  of Market Place elected inmate

27 Mar 1945    John Miller left Deddington

                        John Henry Vincent  of the Tchure elected inmate

6 May 1946     Mrs Sykes died on 6 April 1946

                        Mrs Clara Cross  of New Street elected inmate

18 Feb 1948    James Cowley died on 8 Dec 1947

                        John William Hopcraft  age 75 elected inmate

 7 Mar 1950     John Henry Vincent  died in Jan 1950

                        William Plant  elected inmate

24 May 1955   Miss Berridge  had died

                        Miss L Weaver  elected inmate

 2 Mar 1959      Mrs Plumbe  elected inmate

1 Mar 1960      Miss Rose Gilkes  elected inmate

 21 Jun 1961    William Plumb had died

                        Samuel Fox  elected inmate

12 Feb 1963    Samuel Fox had died

Martin Ramsey Sykes of Deddington  elected inmate

29 Jan 1964    Spencer Herbert Mason to be offered Almshouse

7 Aug 1970      Miss Weaver had vacated an Almshouse

                        Applications had been received from Mrs L P Vincent and Mrs A M Sykes but no decision by the Trustees is recorded

31 Aug 1973    Mr S H Mason had died

16 Dec 1975   Mrs Sheppard, widow of Hempton Road elected inmate

29 Jan 1973    Article in newspaper reports that the renovation is complete and two of

the Almshouses are again occupied.  The legacy was the gift of Mrs May Thomas of Chapel Square.

5 Feb 1976      Mrs E Clarke of Chalfont St Peter  elected inmate

                        Miss R C Smith of Therford, Banbury  elected inmate

12 Sep 1977    Mr G S Burton  elected inmate

24 Apr 1983    Mrs E Duggett    elected inmate

9 Jan 1984      Mrs D Pritchard    elected inmate

We have not entered details after 1988