A History of the County of Shropshire: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1973.
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31. HOSIER'S ALMSHOUSES, LUDLOW
These almshouses were founded by John Hosier, a Ludlow draper, who acquired their site in 1462. (fn. 1) They were in existence by 1482, (fn. 2) having presumably been built in Hosier's lifetime. In 1486 his executors conveyed lands in Ludlow, Overton (in Richard's Castle), Hopton Wafers, Cleobury North, and Ayntree (in Stanton Lacy) worth £9 13s. 4d. a year, with a sum of money and a silver cup together worth £20, to the Palmers' Guild as a permanent endowment. (fn. 3) Admission to the almshouses was restricted to brethren of the guild and inmates were to be nominated and removed by the Guild's warden and council. One of the inmates was appointed bellman. He was to receive 2s. a year, his duty being to summon the inmates to prayer in the almshouse chapel at 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily. A chamber in the almshouses was reserved for the priest of Hosier's chantry. (fn. 4)
In 1551 the almshouses were said to contain 33 chambers, each with a chimney, and the inmates were receiving doles of 4d. a week. (fn. 5) Their endowments, together with those of the Palmers' Guild, were transferred in the following year to Ludlow corporation (fn. 6) and they were administered by the borough council until 1806, when this function was delegated to a small committee. (fn. 7)
In 1591, when inmates were forbidden to receive lodgers, and the almshouse doors were ordered to be locked at 9 p.m. and opened at 6 a.m., admission was restricted to aged and impotent poor who had spent their youth in the town, (fn. 8) but in 1593 the council was empowered to waive the residence qualification should there by insufficient native poor to fill the house. (fn. 9) General inspections of the almshouses, in order to remove children and other intruders and to check the qualifications of the inmates, were ordered in 1594, (fn. 10) 1670, (fn. 11) 1694, (fn. 12) and 1732. (fn. 13) In the early 19th century admission was restricted to parishioners of Ludlow, preference being given to decayed tradesmen and widows. (fn. 14) A chaplain was being employed to say morning prayers in the almshouses by 1580 (fn. 15) and a succession of such chaplains was appointed between 1611 and the 1640s. (fn. 16) By 1748 it had become customary for one or both of the town beadles to be granted a chamber there (fn. 17) and by 1820 the head beadle was performing the functions formerly exercised by the bellman; he was also responsible for distributing weekly and occasional payments to the inmates. (fn. 18)
Inmates received weekly payments of 4d. apiece until the early 18th century. Fee-farm rents totalling £33 6s. 8d., formerly paid by Ludlow corporation to the Crown and acquired before 1649 by Richard Tomline, then M.P. for Ludlow, were settled to the use of the town's poor in 1652. (fn. 19) In 1716 part of this sum was appropriated to cover an existing additional weekly payment of 4d. to each inmate. (fn. 20) The rate of weekly pay was raised to 1s. in 1753, (fn. 21) to 1s. 4d. in 1772, (fn. 22) to 1s. 6d. in 1786, (fn. 23) and to 2s. 6d. in 1804. (fn. 24) The last was considered insufficient in 1818 (fn. 25) and by 1828 six of the 33 inmates were receiving an additional shilling a week. (fn. 26)
By 1820 each inmate was also in receipt of various occasional payments totalling about 12s. 6d. a year. (fn. 27) The sums of 10s. at Christmas and 5s. on Good Friday, granted to the inmates by William Foxe and his wife Jane in 1542 and 1554, (fn. 28) continued to be paid by the corporation until the 1640s, as was a further 6s. 8d. given by Richard Rogers, c. 1601, to be distributed on Good Friday. These payments were discontinued during the Civil War and were not revived. (fn. 29) A reversionary interest in an annual rent charge of £10, granted to the use of the almshouses by James Walker in 1625, (fn. 30) was later considered to be merged in the general endowment for weekly pay. (fn. 31) The following persons made benefactions to provide occasional payments to inmates before 1820: (fn. 32)
Thomas Candland (by will proved 1617). 4d. apiece on Ash Wednesday. (fn. 33)
Thomas Pingle (by will of 1640). 16s. on 25 March; (fn. 34) lost by 1820.
Ann Smith (grant of 1809). £50, invested in stock to provide coals. (fn. 35) In 1820 the annual interest of £2 10s. 8d. was distributed in money.
Following the Municipal Corporations Act (1835) management of Hosier's Almshouses, the grammar school, and the appointment and remuneration of the preacher and assistant were transferred from the borough to a separate body of Municipal Charity Trustees in 1837. (fn. 36) Protracted lawsuits over the division of the charity estate from that belonging to the borough were settled in 1846, when 1,052 acres were assigned to the charity trustees, together with some £6,000 in respect of arrears, repairs, and legal costs. (fn. 37) Management of the grammar school was transferred to a separate body of governors in 1876. (fn. 38) A Scheme of 1914 went some way towards separating the ecclesiastical functions of the Municipal Charity Trustees from those concerned with the almshouses by creating a body of Ecclesiastical Trustees, (fn. 39) but the latter was not provided with a separate endowment until 1956. (fn. 40)
Under a Scheme of 1848 the 33 inmates of the almshouses were required to have been resident in Ludlow for 10 years and to be of good repute. (fn. 41) Stipends of 7s. a week were assigned to them and in every third year they were to be given dark blue cloaks or coats. Inmates were expected to attend church daily, but this does not appear to have been enforced and in later Schemes attendance at church was left to the discretion of the trustees. A warden and matron, usually a married couple, were regularly appointed after 1852. (fn. 42) A proposal in 1877 to use the surplus income of the Municipal Charities to enlarge the almshouses by purchasing two adjoining houses and increasing the number of inmates to 42 (fn. 43) was abandoned. Under a Scheme of 1881 the trustees were empowered to provide medical attendance and to apply two-thirds of the surplus income to provide pensions of up to 10s. a week to persons living outside the almshouses. Like the inmates these were to have a 10-year residence qualification and preference was to be given to those 'reduced by misfortune from better circumstances'. By 1895, when additional gifts totalling £3,150 had been bequeathed to the almshouses, the Municipal Charities had an annual income of £1,532, of which nearly £700 was spent on the almshouses. In 1921 the trustees were empowered to appoint a salaried warden and to pay supplementary stipends of up to 5s. 6d. a week to inmates under 70 years of age. The number of inmates was limited to 24 in 1956, when their stipends were discontinued, and since that date no further recipients of out-pension have been nominated. In 1961 the almshouses had an annual income of £963.
The original almshouse building was in need of extensive repair by 1732, when a petition from 9 inmates pointed out that, owing to the collapse of partitions between the chambers, and the poor condition of floors, they were in 'manifest danger of their lives'. (fn. 44) An order of 1740 requiring inmates to reside under threat of stopping their pay (fn. 45) suggests that some of them had found safer accommodation elsewhere. Estimates for rebuilding the almshouses were obtained in 1756 (fn. 46) when the architect William Baker was paid for drawing a plan. (fn. 47) In 1758 the building was taken down and rebuilt on the same site, (fn. 48) the architect then employed being T. F. Pritchard. (fn. 49) The impressive three-storied building faces east across the churchyard and consists of a central range of seven bays flanked by projecting wings, each of two bays. The front and side walls are of red brick with a stone cornice and wood casement windows. The three central bays are set forward and surmounted by a pediment containing a large cartouche with the arms of Ludlow corporation. Above the central doorway is a round-headed niche with eared architrave, and a tablet at second-floor level bears a Latin inscription recording the rebuilding. It was evidently possible to economize on the rear elevation which is largely hidden by surrounding buildings; the wall is of stone rubble, perhaps re-used material, and the old-fashioned mullioned and transomed windows have lead glazing. Iron railings to the fore-court were erected shortly before 1820 (fn. 50) and removed c. 1968. (fn. 51) Plumbers' work carried out in 1857 (fn. 52) included dated rainwaterheads on the east front. Each inmate of the almshouses occupies a single room of which there were originally 11 on each floor. Access is from corridors at the rear running the full length of the building and by newel stairs from cellar to attics in the two wings. Bathrooms were inserted in the north wing when the almshouses were modernized in 1959 (fn. 53) and part of the south wing has been adapted as a flat for the matron.