The history of almshouses stretches back to medieval times when religious orders cared for the poor and needy. In Georgian and Victoria times they became more urban in character. Wealthy philanthropists began to endow almshouses in their local area, usually in groups of 6-12 dwellings.
West Bromwich Almshouses
The Spon Lane Trust Almshouses, Silvester Court, Herbert Street
The block of 11 Almshouses, is one of the oldest buildings in Herbert Street, West Bromwich. Ann Murdock (nee Silvester) was a pawnbroker in Paradise Street for many decades until she retired and moved to Handsworth.
*In a deed dated 1869, Ann Murdock of Handsworth settled the land in trust and erected 11 dwellings and a boardroom for trustee’s meetings.
Each almshouse was to be occupied by a poor woman, though a husband and wife or two women could share one; no inmate was to be under sixty. The foundation deed provided that future trustees should always include representatives of the Methodist and Congregational churches and of Holy Trinity Church. Wesleyan services were held at the almshouses from the time of their foundation until at least 1918.
John Pugh provided money for a second block of almshouses which were built in 1888. Other financial gifts to the charity were made over the years and in the 1960’s over a quarter of the average annual income was derived from grants made by other charitable foundations including the George and Thomas Henry Salter Trust, Baron Davenport’s Trust and the West Bromwich Charity.
*(Sandwell Community History & Archives)
The Akrill Homes, Old Meeting Street.
Built in memory of Charles Akrill, a West Bromwich Ironfounder, who was twice Mayor of the Borough. By will proved in 1913 Elizabeth Akrill left £9000 for the foundation of almshouses in memory of her husband Charles. Her executors were to invest up to £2000 to endow the charity; the rest was to be used to buy a site and to build the alms-houses, a house for a matron, and a hall for religious services and social gatherings.
In 1917 the executors acquired part of the Oakwood estate in Old Meeting Street and the homes were built in 1932. In 1933 the executors settled the land and homes in trust for poor people of West Bromwich over 60 not receiving poor relief, who had lived in West Bromwich for at least five years. Each home might be occupied by one or two people. A married couple might be given a home when only one of the partners was qualified and at the trustees’ discretion a widow or spinster might share one with an unqualified female relative or friend.
The homes, the hall and the matron’s residence are of brick with stone dressings. They occupy three sides of a planted quadrangle lying open towards Old Meeting Street. Each of the twelve homes is a three room semi-detached bungalow with its own back garden.
(A History of the County of Stafford Vol 17)
see also www.almshouses.org
Today the buildings still provide affordable house for the elderly.