About Almshouses (HT)
As told by Jean Guiver, a resident of the Almshouses. 2018
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The Rochford Almshouses owe their existence to Lord Richard Rich of Rochford Hall. In his will of 1567, Lord Rich left £60 for their construction to house some of the poor people of Rochford. Unfortunately, the £60 was not set aside and their construction didn’t start until around 1600. Indeed, by 1617, they had only been partially completed according to the will of the Earl of Warwick, Lord Rich’s grandson.
The houses were kept repaired by owners of Rochford Hall and the parish looked after the people, since the other provisions and benefits set out in Lord Rich’s will also did not materialise! Different charities were set up over the years to manage them, one stating that the six one-roomed houses with a large garden were for the use of six poor people for ever, five of whom should be aged, poor, lame or feeble and the sixth an ancient woman, fit and able to look after the others!
These charities were consolidated in 1922 into a single charity that still exists as a charitable trust today in Rochford. The main purpose of the trust then and now is to provide indoor relief for the distressed. Those that were either too ill or old to work, were able to obtain access to the Almshouse. It was not for the general unemployed or unemployable who, if necessary, would need to seek refuge in the Workhouse. The Almshouse occupants were given a small monthly income, supplemented with 3 tons of coal a year, a dress or suit a year or a greatcoat every five years. The single-storey brick building housed 6 individual rooms with porches, which are now 6 self-contained bedsit flats.
The first recorded Almshouse was founded by King Athelstan in York in the 10th century and the oldest still in existence today is St Oswald Hospital in Worcester, built in 990. Thirty percent of the Almshouses still in use today occupy listed buildings. Almshouses were founded within communities so that the residents would be close to local amenities.
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