Memorial VI: The Almshouses at the Hall

Pages 47-48

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. With the Church of St. Martin's came the original endowment for Almshouses the gift of Oteswich, in 1404–5, comprising, according to Stowe (himself "a loving Brother" of the Company), not only the advowson of St. Martin, but also houses adjacent, "to be appropriated in perpetual alms to be employed upon their poor brethren and sisters." " Adjoining unto the West end of the parish church," continues Stowe, "the Master and Wardens builded about a proper quadrant or squared court, seven almshouses, wherein they placed seven almsmen of that Company, and their wives (if they had wives). Each of these of old time had 14d. the week, but now of later time their stipend by the said Master and Wardens hath been augmented to the sum of 26s. the quarter, which is Five pounds 4s. the year to each of them, besides coals: more to each of them 20s. the year by gift of Walter Fish, some time Master of that Company and Taylor to Her Majesty." (fn. 1)

2. The Almshouses were built in 1414, and benefactions were soon after made in favour of these objects. In 1432, Sutton directed the rents of his estate (devised to the Company) to be distributed "to the relief and sustentation of the poor brothers and sisters of the Fraternity, in their Almshouses near the Hall, to pray devoutly for his soul and other souls": and the religious nature of the original foundation is further evidenced by the 4th Ordinance of Henry VII., which declares the advantages, and prescribes the duties " of a whole Brother that desireth to be an almsman of the Fraternity," thus:—

". . . Everiche of the said almesmen that hereafter shalbe admytted into the saide almes shall make promys atte his first admyssion unto the Maister and Wardeins than beyng that he aslong as he shall contynue in almes shalbe personally present in the said Churche of Saint Martyn there serving God and all his seintes and kepying all Dyvyne service seid and songen there Wekely and praiyng every daye for the prosperous and noble estate of the Kyng our soverainge lord Henry the vijth, chief & first foundoure of the said fraternitee of Saint John Baptist of Merchaunt Taillors of London, and for the good estate of the Maister, Wardens, brethren, sisters, and of all the benefactours of the same fraternitee beyng abyve, and for the soule of the moste excellent Pryncesse Elizabeth, late Quene and Wyf to oure said soveraigne lorde, the soules of all the brethren and sisters of the said fraternitee late deceased, and all Christian soules."

3. Frequent mention was made of these houses on the Court Minutes (fn. 2) until they were partially destroyed by the Fire of London. Upon survey of the destruction made by the fire, the Court of 12th October 1666 "thought fit that the Almshouses near the Hall be covered and kept wind tide and water tide in such manner as the Master and Wardens shall appoint," and shortly afterwards—viz., in 1667—the site was let on building lease, and in 1668 the seven almsmen (who were of the Livery) petitioned the Court, and received a commuted allowance of 5l. per annum each for rent. As each died no other almsman was appointed upon the old Foundation.


  • 1. Stowe's "Survey," pp. 181–2.
  • 2. "Upon the humble petition of the Almsmen of the Livery, granted that a sufficient penthouse shalbe made at the Companies chardg and sett up over their heads where they usually sitt in the streetes neere their Dore to th'end they may sitt dry and warme, in cold and foule weather."—[17th June 1612.] The Company availed themselves of the New River water for the Almshouses in 1618— "A Motion being made at this Courte by our Mr in the behalfe of the Almsmen of the Livery wch dwell in the Company's Almshouses neere unto theire Hall for the taking in of the new river water for the ease and benefitt of the poore men, and sweete keeping of the said house, the same was well liked and thought fitt by this Cote to be pformed, and therefore ordered and agreed that Mr Middleton shalbe dealt withall for the same, &c."—[8th May 1618.] "A Committee appointed to view the Companies Almeshouses neere the hall and to consider whether it be needfull to have those houses new builded or not, and if they shall find the same fitt to be new builded and thereby any increase of Almshouses should or might convenientlie be added. Then they are further to consider what the charge thereof will be and how the same may be raised."—[14th February 1626.]