halesworth

A history of Halesworth, Suffolk, UK, through the ages.

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Volume 3



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Steeple End Almshouses

The most practical way of helping the poor of Halesworth was by the provision of accommodation.

As early as the 1530's there were two almshouses on the site of the present terrace, but the donor is unknown. But it was with the generosity of William Carey that this gift is generally associated. He was a Gentleman, living in Halesworth having according to his will 'the messuage and tenement where in I now inhabit in Halesworth', although his brother and other members of the family lived at Woodbridge. His will of 1686 established the Almshouses, and he relied on his friend Sir Henry Bedingfield to supervise the arrangements. William Carey was most careful in describing how the Almshouses should be built.

'(My) Executors shall purchase a small parcel of ground of the Lord's waste in Halesworth, at the south entrance into the Towne nere where the Lord's pound now standeth, and there upon erect a house for the poore, to conteyn twelve roomes, besides garretts, foure yards and a half square (4.15m x 4.14m) and eight foot high (2.46m) all to be bricke from the foundation to the roofe, two to be tiled gabell endes with double chimneys, and two chimneys of equal distance betweene each; foure fire hearths supplyes twelve roomes; one pump or well in the middle behind the house comon to all'.

Carey's will continues ...

'This I intend for ever a habitation for twelve or more aged poore single woemen and single men, of honest and good reputation, coming to divine service. And where of such that number be wanting, I will it to be supplied by poore widdowes without children at the discretion of the Church Wardens for the time being. Every person that shall inhabit in the poore's house shall ware a badge of silver as thicke as a halfe a crowne and broader than a crowne, with my coats of arms and an inscription on the rim'.

So the Almshouses were built and provided accommodation for as many as fourteen widows in 1855, and up until the post-war period, when the provision of bungalows and sheltered accommodation by the local authorities superseded their function, they played an important part in the welfare of Halesworth. Then they housed the Library and Museum on the ground floor, and an Art Gallery on the first floor. A glimpse of the regulations show that the authorities frowned on smoking in the Almshouses. However, when workmen were undertaking repairs prior to the use by the Library etc., a secret hiding place was found in a wooden mantelpiece which contained an envelope postmarked 1850 and addressed to one of the inmates of the Almshouse.

It contained a clay pipe, wire pipe cleaner, sulphur matches, and some tobacco remains, making it obvious that at least one widow enjoyed a quiet smoke when nobody was around.

A further group of homes was built on the edge of the churchyard, just to the south of the arboretum. It was probably on the site of the former 'Chantry House' which stood in the Reformation times as a home for the Chantry Priest. It is known as the 'Crabtree Memorial Homes' and was erected in 1859 by John Crabtree, who was Lord of the Halesworth Manor, in memory his wife. The house was built to house four poor widows, who initially were also given five shillings (25p) a week for their support. As the house was built around the time that Gothic House had been 'Gothicised', similar Tudor window mouldings were used, and fretted barge boards helped to let it match in with its illustrious neighbour. Over a ground floor window is a text from Proverbs, Chapter 10, verse 7 'The memory of the just is blessed'. This memorial home was in use up to 1994, when it was put up for sale by the Unappropriated Charities Committee.


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