Memorial CXVIX: Almshouses at Sion College (1647)

Pages 373-376

Memorials of the Guild of Merchant Taylors of the Fraternity of St. John the Baptist in the City of London. Originally published by Harrison, London, 1875.

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1. These were founded by Dr. Thomas White, Vicar of St. Dunstan's in the West, and one of the Canons Residentiary of St. Paul's Church. (fn. 1) The College is situate at London Wall, near Cripplegate, and occupies the site of Elsyngspitell Hospital, (fn. 2) adjoining to St. Alphage Church. The Almshouses consist of 20 distinct rooms for 10 men and 10 women, 8 of which are to be filled upon the nomination of the Company.

2. The Charity was established by a decree of the Court of Chancery in 1647, which is thus referred to in the Court Minutes of the 12th January in that year (p. 275):—

"Whereas Docter Thomas White, late Viccar of St. Dunstan's in the West, by his will, dated 20th Feby 1622, gave certain allowances for the erecting of a Colledge for the Clerks of this City now called Syon Colledge, and for the maintenance of Twenty Almsmen and women there, vizt. to each of them 6l. a peece p. ann. and by his said will ordered That the said Twenty Almsfolk should be chosen, vizt. Six out of St. Dunstan's parish, ffour out of the City of Bristow, Two out of St. Gregory's Parish by Pauls, and Eight out of this Company: (fn. 3) Wh course and order being accordingly observed for a time was of late endeavourd to bee anulled by the late Governor of the said Colledge, who refused to receive any more poore into the places void as were puted from the places aforesaid, but those where and whome they thought good, contrary to the will of the said Doctor White. Whereupon a bill was exhibited into the Chancery for the Settlement of that guift according to the intention of Doctor White, and the cause proceeded to a hearing the last term and thereupon decreed that the said 20 poore should be chosen out of the parishes and places aforesaid to enjoy the said charitable devise according to the intent and Another entry of 6th December 1622, is to the effect that "our Master is requested to provide for Mr. Doctor White of Paules, to be sent him as a Company's gift so much sack and clarett wyne as by former presidents hath been provided." meaning of the devisor, and that as places fell void in the Colledge the said parishes and places should putt in proportionally according to the respective interests of either, and that each particular place and parish should beare their proportionable share of the charges in this suite according to the respective interests of either. The companies proportion thereof amounting to 36l. 6s. 8d., according to the report of Mr. Rich a Mr. of the Chancery to whome the same was referred. It is therefore ordered that in regard the same tendeth to the good and benefit of the poore of this Company the said sum of 36l. 6s. 8d. of the said charges disbursed shall be paid."

3. In consequence of the Charity Commissioners' Report in 1834 (fn. 4) the question of the proper application of the property came before the Master of the Rolls, who declared in 1836, that the rents of the property in the City of London, and the rents of the Farm and Manor at Bradwell, ought in the first place to be applied in maintaining and repairing the College and Almshouses, and in paying all rates and assessments in respect thereof, and that, subject thereto, the surplus of such rents belongs to the College, exclusive of the Almspeople; and that the rents of the Farms at Beaches and Tyler's Causeway, and the dividends arising from the stock in the funds accruing from the Reading, Sheppard, and Clement bequests, belong to the Almspeople, exclusive of the College.

4. The same Judge, on the 14th June 1837, decreed (inter alia) as follows:—

And let the annual sum of 15l. be paid to each Almsperson out of the income of the property declared applicable to their support by equal quarterly payments on the 25th day of March, the 24th of June, the 29th of September, and the 25th of December, except in case of a deficiency as hereinafter mentioned. And in case it shall happen at any time hereafter that the monies in hand belonging to the Almspeople shall not be sufficient to pay them the quarterly allowance of 3l. 15s., let the Governors reduce the allowance as much as may be requisite, but the same is to be without delay increased to the proper amount on receipt of sums necessary for the purpose.

And let the payment accruing due on the quarter in which any Almsperson may die, be, at the expiration of such quarter, paid to the relatives of the deceased, in case the Governors think proper.

And let the Almspeople continue to be chosen in the follow- ing manner, that is, 3 men and 3 women out of the parish of St. Dunstan, 1 man and 1 woman out of the parish of St. Gregory, 4 men and 4 women out of the Company of Merchant Taylors, and 2 men and 2 women out of Bristol.

And let not future Out-Pensioners be allowed, but let the Almspeople for Bristol be required to reside in the Almshouses belonging to the College.

And upon any vacancy occurring by the death or dismissal of any of the Almspeople, the Governors or their Secretary shall give immediate notice to the Minister, Churchwardens, or Overseer of the Poor of the parish from which such person was taken, or to the Corporation of Bristol, or Company of Merchant Taylors, respectively, as the case may require, in order that they may present two or more proper persons to the Governors, whe shall elect one of such persons to supply the vacancy.

And let the Candidates for such vacancy be Single Persons, Widowers or Widows; and the parties elected shall so continue during their occupation of the Almshouses.

And let none be chosen under the age of 50.

And let the Governors hold a Court for the supplying any vacancy within the quarter immediately succeeding that in which the vacancy may occur.

And let the persons elected receive the full allowance for the quarter in which they shall be chosen.

And let the accounts be audited once a year within one month of Easter, and a fair copy be made and entered in a Book, and signed by at least three of the Governors present at the Audit, including the Chairman.

And let the Rules and Regulations for the Government of Almspeople now practised, and in existence, remain in force.

And let the said Governors hereafter make such other necessary laws as occasion shall require for the government of the said Almspeople as is directed by the will of the said testator.

5. Rules for the government of the Almsfolk, made by the Governors, 23rd March 1846:—

The Almsfolk shall attend prayers in the College Hall every morning and evening at such hour as the President from time to time shall appoint.

They shall attend in the parish church whenever Divine Service shall be performed in it.

The Master of the Almsmen shall keep an account of all attendances of the Almsfolk, and deliver it to the President whenever it shall be required.

The Almsfolk shall not be out of their rooms, nor allow strangers to be in them, after 10 o'clock at night between LadyDay and Michaelmas, nor after 9 o'clock between Michaelmas and Lady-Day.

They shall not sleep out of their rooms, nor allow a stranger to sleep in them, without leave of the President.

If any offend against the above rules, or any of them, he or she so offending shall be admonished by the President, and after three admonitions, if the offence be repeated, shall be removed and expelled.

If any be a disturber of the peace, or offend by profane or bad language, by immorality, or by drunkenness, he or she so offending shall be brought before the Court, and at their discretion shall be either admonished, or removed and expelled.

6. Property in 1859, the proceeds of which belonged to the Almspeople:—

Per Annum.
£ s. d.
Beaches Farm, let to John Allen 360 0 0
Beaches Manor, of which the quit rents amount to 1 18 6
Beaches Wood and Coxal Wood yield about 97 0 0
Longfield, or Ten-acre Field, let to Rev. J. C. White 14 0 0
Land at Hadleigh, let to W. Benton 20 0 0
Land at Rayleigh, let to F. Belcham 12 0 0
Tyler's Causeway Farm, let to W. Bynoth 60 0 0
203l. 3s. 1d. Three per cent. Consols (being Sheppard's, Clement's, and Reading's bequests 6 2 0

The Governors of the College are required to keep this property in a good tenantable state of repair, and pay the expenses thereof out of its proceeds.

The rooms for the Almspeople were originally under the Library; ten of the rooms opened into the lane outside of the College. In 1845, these rooms were thrown together into one large space, which has since been made into two rooms, which have been let to Messrs. Freshfield and Berringer.

Two houses of ten rooms each, with suitable accommodation, were, in 1845, built for the Almspeople within the College, south of the Library, at a cost of 2,500l. In the Session of 1875 the Governors wisely propose to promote a Bill for the sale of the present site and the removal of the Almshouses, with their inmates, into a healthier district, unless pensions be adopted in lieu of Almshouses.


  • 1. Stowe, book i., p. 146.
  • 2. See p. 52, par. 9.
  • 3. I have not traced any special claim which the Company had upon this benefactor, but research brings to light two deeds,—the first, dated 28th June 1621, between the Doctor of the first part, the University of Oxford of the second part, and the Company of the third; and the other dated 14th August 1621, between the Doctor and the Company, constituting the Company (for a gift of five marks) the auditors of the University accounts every fifth year, in respect of an endowment for a Lectureship in Moral Philosophy in that University.
  • 4. July 19th; Part I., 29, p. 458.