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Hereford City Heritage

The Mayor’s Chain

Hereford’s Almshouses

Almshouses have existed for well over a thousand years. The earliest were founded by the Church/monasteries. Later almshouses were built with the donations of land or money left by the wealthy in their wills. They were generally intended to house the needy of the parish - the poor, the sick and the elderly.

Hereford has over twenty groups of almshouses. Many are administered by the Municipal Charities, established in 1886, by the Board of Charity Commissioners for England and Wales. The almshouses branch of the Municipal Charities is administered by twelve trustees, four of which are appointed by the City Council. Among thoses managed in this way are the Saint Giles’, the Williams’, the Trinity, the Lazarus Hospital and the Price’s Hospital. All now operate as a form of sheltered housing for the elderly.

Other notable surviving institutions (2010) include Coningsby Hospital in Widemarsh Street, Aubrey’s Almshouses in Berrington Street and Saint Ethelbert’s Hospital in Castle Street.

Among those which fell into disuse or have been demolished for redevelopment schemes were St Anthony’s, the Weavers’ Almshouses, Symonds Hospital, Traherne’s, saint Martin’s and the Trinity Almshouses. Of these the most important was Trinity Almshouses which stood between Commercial Street and Maylord Street - the site adloined the furniture shop of Chadds.

AUBREY’S ALMSHOUSES

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this picturesque timber-framed group of six dwellings for “poor widows and single women of good character” stands in Berrington Street. They were founded by a Mrs Mary Price, in 1630 when she bought a property there called Wroughthall which possessed an orchard and several adjoining houses. Mrs Price died in 1638 and for 40 years the charity was managed by her executor, a Mr Charles Booth, and later by a Mr Elfe. It acquired its present name when a grand-daughter of Mr Elfe married Harcourt Aubrey, a wealthy landowner from Clehonger.

CONINGSBY HOSPITAL

One of the best known of Hereford’s almshouses and deserving of a separate section to describe it. It stands in Widemarsh Street. The site was formally occupied by a house of the Knights of St John of Jerusalem. The almshouses were founded by Sir Thomas Coningsby of Hampton Court, Herefordshire, in 1614. Here he built twelve cottages with stone from parts of the existing structure as well as from the adjoining Blackfriar’s Abbey. This reigious house had fallen into disrepair following the dissolution of the monasteries, in 1536, by Henry Vlll and had subsequently passed by inheritance to coningsby’s wife, Phillippa.

The hospital was intended as a refuge for eleven “worn out” soldiers or mariners.The twelfth cottage was occupied by a man placed in charge of the pensioners and given the rank of Corporal. There was also a chaplain to administer to the pensioners spititual needs who, Coningsby stipulated, had to be from Oxford University. They received free food, fuel, clothing and a small weekly allowance which was paid on Monday mornings after prayers. a un iform was provided which they were required to wear. It consisted of a ginger ‘fiston’ suit, a hat with a white and red border, a military style jerkin, a ‘Monaco’ or Spanish-style cap and a sword “ for when he goeth abroad”. The ensemble was completed by “ a seemly gowne of redd cloth reaching bdowne to the ankle, lined likewise with redd baise”. The twelve men were known as the Coningsby Servitors.

The Coningsby Hospital is still in use, although no longer a charity. Pensioners are entitled to wear the uniform and are chosen by interview. They must still be of good character and be retired servicemen or women or their surviving spouses. the Chapel is still in use as a place of worship and the old dining hall serves as a medieval museum.

JOHNSON’S HOSPITAL

In Commercial Road - it was founded and endowed in 1863 by widow of Mr Leaonard Johnson, a builder and the City surveyor and, for many years, a member of Hereford Town Council. it consists of six dwellings, reserved for those widows whose husbands died in Price’s, Williams’ or Giles’ Hospitals in the City. Each inmate receives five shillings a week.

THE LAZARUS HOSPITAL

This is otherwise known as ‘Sick Man’s Hospital’ and was originally for six poor women, but two other houses were added - so eight inmates now who each receive six shillings a week. the Lazarus is situated in Whitecross Road, and was founded for the maintenance of twelve poor people. It was built to house a religious order but was used as an almshouse for over 300 years. Its origins go back before the 16th century although the earliest endowments date from 1595, which suggests that the qalmshouses emerged following the suppression of the reliious order which occupied the site.

LINGEN HOSPITAL

These were built for six poor widows. They are situated in Whitecross Road althbough the original buildings are no longer standing. It was founded by Mrs Jane Shelley, in 1609. In her will, dated 7th february, of that year, the lady left a house and gardens for the six poor widows. She also bequeathed 30 a year which was raised from her other properties in Kenchester and Haymonds Farm. This was divided between the six widows. A further sum, raised from other portions of her estate, was earmarked for repairs. the cottages were of one storey, each with an attic, walls of stone and a tiled roof. They were restored in 1801 and again in 1849. They were eventually demolished and replaced by six Bricknell Webb built at the rear of Bricknell Close. Each inmate receives 5 yearly.

PRICE’S ALMSHOUSES

These were founded in 1665 for twelve aged men, freemen of the City being preferred. They are to be found in Whitecross Road and are the result of a bequest by one William Price, a citizen and merchant of London. His will, of November 3rd 1604, states that...”being sick in body but perfect of memory do make and declare this, my present will....that out of moneys coming from the sale of said messuages, lands, tenements, etc., they shall procure and purchase sufficient corportion and licence of mortmain for the erection and establishing of an almshouse.” The project was not completed until 1665 but contained ten dwellings, a chapel and a short wing at each end containing additional cottages.

SAINT ETHELBERT’S HOSPITAL

This is in castle Street and consists of ten houses, each having 2 rooms and a garden. This most venerable of almshouses was founded in 1225 by one Canon Elyas. the original structure was built during the reign of Henry lll as a home for ten old and poor people and was financed by the sale of indulgences granted by the Bishops of Hereford, Coventry, salisbury and Ely.

The hospitalk was rebuilt in 1805 as a neat stone gothic building with fine gardens reaching to the remainder of the Castle Moat. It housed ten elderly women who were required gto attend morning and evening services at the Cathedral. One of their number was appointed ‘Portress’ and was charged with keeping a watchful eye on the others. The women were equipped with short capes and caps in which to attend the Cathedral where they had their own pew. Each received a loaf of bread a day and a penny on Sundays. The City also donated money raised from the stall charges at the Fair of St Denys. Today’s pensioners continue to receive a token sum of 75 pence each Christmas.

The Trustees of St Ethelbert’s are the Dean and Chapter of Hereford Cathedral. Houses are allocated to women of exceptional character who have given service to the church. There are now six houses converted to modern dwellings each furnished with emergency buttons with which to alert the Protress in the event of any mishap. Leases are being allowed to run out.

SAINT GILES’ HOSPITAL

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St Giles’ Hospital, in Saint Owen Street, was founded in 1290 for the use of the Friars Grisey, a fraternity of monks. It became the property of the Knights Templar and later passed to the Crown. King Richard ll donated it to the City for use as an almshouse for five poor men. Each was granted a small patch of garden and a suit of clothes every three years. They were bound to attend services twice a week at the nearby Saint Giles’ Chapel.

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This twelfth century round church made way for the building of 1662. Originally this 17th century chapel stood on the corner of Saint Owen Street but was removed in 1927 and rebuilt next to the almeshouses. In 1770 the almshouses themselves were entirely rebuilt over the site of a derelict medieval Synagogue. Built into the west wall of the terrace is a large, much worn, 12th century stone carving depicting Christ in Majesty, presumed to be part of the Romanesque tympanum of the original chapel.

SYMONDS HOSPITAL

These were in Widemarsh street and were founded in 1695 for 4 poor persons who received 10 shillings a quarter. They are just visible in a picture of the Widemarsh Toll Gate.

THE TRINITY (Kerry’s) HOSPITAL

These were founded in 1607 for 3 unmarried men and 13 widows, who form the body corporate by the name of ‘The Governor and poor of the Trinity Hospital in the City of Hereford’. They were erected in 1824, at a cost of 881.12s.8d, part of which was obtained by public subscription, 100 being given by the Corporation of the City, and a legacy of Thomas Russell esq., late Town Clerk, which amounted to 449.5s, free of duty. The weekly payment to inmates was 10 shillings besides some small payments called ‘Augmentation money’ amounting to 8.15s yearly plus a small allowance of coal and some clothing in winter. They were demolished when the Maylord Orchard development took place.

WILLIAMS’ HOSPITAL

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This stands adjacent to Saint Giles’ Hospital providing dwellings for six elderly men. It was founded in 1601 by Richard Williams, an attendant of Lord Cobhans. Williams also gave 1,000 for its upkeep and in 1675 the houses were substantially renovated. They were rebuilt in 1893 (720) and comprise six homes and gardens.

KERRY ALMSHOUSES

These were situated opposite the old County Prison, now the site of the bus station; They were established for a corporal (or head pensioner), tenother single men, and twelve widows in 1601.