A History of the County of Shropshire: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1973.
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25. THE HOSPITAL (later ALMSHOUSE) OF ST. GILES, LUDFORD
Scarcely anything is known of the leper hospital at Ludford. (fn. 1) One brother Adam of St. Giles is referred to in an early-13th-century grant to St. John's Hospital, Ludlow, (fn. 2) in 1267 letters of protection were obtained by the master and brethren of the hospital for lepers at Ludlow (fn. 3) (presumably Ludford was intended), and the leprous brethren of Ludford received a bequest from Henry of Burway in 1330. (fn. 4) In 1547, when the institution is next recorded, it had become an almshouse, known as 'St. Giles House', (fn. 5) and belonged to St. John's Hospital. (fn. 6) The latter had been lord of Ludford manor since the earlier 14th century (fn. 7) and was presumably responsible for this change. The almshouse apparently passed into the hands of William Foxe and his son Edmund in 1537, when they acquired St. John's Hospital. (fn. 8) It is thought to have stood on the site of the older, eastern, part of Ludford House, which was built by William Foxe or his son shortly after this date (fn. 9) and which was known as St. Giles House until the 17th century. (fn. 10)
The medieval almshouse having fallen into decay, a new one was built before the death of William Foxe in 1554. (fn. 11) This may have been completed before 1547, when small payments to its inmates were made by the Palmers' Guild. (fn. 12) Although the rebuilding is attributed to William Foxe on his memorial brass (fn. 13) it is possible that it was the work of his wife Jane. She made provision for an annual dole of 4d. to be paid to the six inmates of the almshouse in 1554, when she settled property in Corve Street and Linney on the bailiffs of Ludlow as an endowment for an obit in Ludlow church. (fn. 14) The bailiffs paid 3s. 4d. to the almshouse annually (fn. 15) until 1559, when Jane Foxe, who now claimed to have founded the almshouse, made an addition to her original endowment on condition that the bailiffs paid 6s. a year to the churchwardens of Ludford. (fn. 16) Part of this sum was to be used to maintain an obit there and for church repairs while the residue was to be applied to the almshouse. In her will, proved in 1567, Jane Foxe was careful to point out that St. Giles was not part of the St. John's Hospital estate and that the almshouse and its lands were vested in the inmates. (fn. 17) Annual payments of 9s. 4d. were made by Ludlow corporation until the mid 19th century and by the 17th century it seems to have been normal for the whole sum to be paid to the inmates of the almshouse. (fn. 18)
The almshouse was again rebuilt, c. 1672, by Sir Job Charlton of Ludford (fn. 19) and has subsequently been known as Sir Job Charlton's Hospital. By a trust deed of 1672 (fn. 20) Charlton directed that only such poor as had formerly laboured for their living should be eligible for admission and that there should be six inmates, both men and women, one of whom was to be warden. The right to nominate the warden was vested in Charlton and his descendants but the inmates were constituted a corporation with a common seal and with power to purchase lands. By a second deed of the same year (fn. 21) Charlton conveyed to the inmates the almshouse and 12 acres of land in Overton (in Richard's Castle), assigning three-thirteenths of the revenues to the warden and two-thirteenths to each other inmate. A house and 42 acres at Colebatch in Bishop's Castle were added to the endowment in 1675. (fn. 22)
The inmates were said to be receiving £3 a year apiece in 1767 (fn. 23) but by 1819 weekly payments of 3s. were being made to each of them and about £6 was spent annually on coal. (fn. 24) At the latter date the Colebatch property had been enlarged by exchange to 14 acres and an additional 43 acres had been allotted to the almshouse at the inclosure of commons in Colebatch. The almshouse then had an annual income of £63, part of which was derived from stocks bought with the proceeds of a sale of timber at Overton in 1809. (fn. 25) By the mid 19th century, when the estate was producing about £112 a year, the allowance to inmates had risen to 5s. a week. (fn. 26)
The office of warden, and with it the incorporation and the use of a common seal, lapsed in the course of the 18th century, the last instance of the seal's use being in 1718. (fn. 27) The almshouse was thereafter administered by the Charlton family and their descendants. Capt. R. J. B. Parkinson, the last representative of the Charlton family, sold the Ludford estate to H. E. Whitaker probably about 1917 and, following Parkinson's death in 1929, patronage of the almshouse was transferred to Whitaker in 1930. (fn. 28) Under a Scheme issued in the following year the incumbents of Ludford and Ludlow, representatives from Ludlow borough council and Ludford parish council, and two coopted members were constituted trustees, the right to nominate inmates being vested in H. E. Whitaker for life. Inmates were to receive weekly stipends of 6s. to 10s. at the discretion of the trustees. The endowment then included £3,779 stock and some 20 acres at Overton, the Colebatch estate having been sold in 1929.
The stipends appointed in 1931 proved too high. By 1950, when nearly £100 was expended annually on such stipends, expenditure on the almshouse exceeded its income and in the following year the trustees were empowered to reduce the stipends to 3s. a week, provided that the total weekly income of each inmate was not less than 6s. Portions of the Overton estate were sold in 1944 and 1962. By 1963 the almshouse endowment comprised 8 acres at Overton, then let for £35 a year, and £4,760 stock.
No major alteration has been made to the almshouse since it was built c. 1672. It stands to the north east of the churchyard, facing south, and is a symmetrically-planned rectangular building of 1½ story, built of limestone rubble. Notable features on the south front are three tall gabled dormers, an unmoulded continuous dripstone above the groundfloor doors and windows, and three wide casement windows on the ground floor, each of which lights two adjacent apartments. The ground floor windows and the dormers above have moulded wooden frames. Three projecting stone stacks on the north wall have panelled brick chimneys. The latter had been built by 1868 (fn. 29) but it is not known whether they formed part of the original plan. Each of the six apartments consists of a living room with corner fireplace and an unheated chamber over. They are divided by full timber-framed trusses and the ceiling beams are elaborately stopped at all joints.
There is a late-19th-century drawing of a circular seal, (fn. 30) presumably that used by the almshouse in the later 17th century. The device is a simple cross and the legend: