The city of Cambridge: Almshouses

A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 3, the City and University of Cambridge. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1959.

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'The city of Cambridge: Almshouses', in A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 3, the City and University of Cambridge, ed. J P C Roach( London, 1959), British History Online [accessed 23 July 2024].

'The city of Cambridge: Almshouses', in A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 3, the City and University of Cambridge. Edited by J P C Roach( London, 1959), British History Online, accessed July 23, 2024,

"The city of Cambridge: Almshouses". A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 3, the City and University of Cambridge. Ed. J P C Roach(London, 1959), , British History Online. Web. 23 July 2024.


The history of the hospital of St. Anthony and St. Eligius, which was founded in 1361 and became an almshouse, has been told elsewhere. (fn. 98)

King's College almshouses were founded by Margaret Fawkener some time before 1473, at which date Henry Clyff was the sole survivor of her feoffees. The foundation was originally intended for men as well as women, but Margaret Fawkener had provided little or nothing for them beyond housing and bedding. Presumably the inmates relied for their other needs on charitable gifts. In 1473 Clyff made over the enfeoffment to John Hogekyns, a fellow of King's College, who managed the almshouses until 1504 or 1505 when he handed them over to the College. The almshouses in School Lane, probably the original site, were purchased by the University in 1756–7 and demolished. By this date all the beneficiaries were women. A building belonging to the College, in Queens' Lane between the back gate of the 'Bull' and the corner of Old King's Lane, was fitted up as new almshouses. The almshouses were rebuilt about 1823, probably on the same site. By this time the almswomen were receiving £4 a year each from the College and the leavings of the scholars' tables. These payments were increased and the right to the leavings eventually commuted for a further money payment. Some time after 1876 the almshouses themselves disappeared and the pensions of the almswomen were increased correspondingly. The rate was fixed in 1892 at 12s. weekly. These payments came to serve as pensions for old servants of King's College, and when regular pensions were introduced for all servants the alms payments were allowed to die out. No new almswomen were appointed after 1919, and the last one received her last payment in 1928. (fn. 99)

Queens' College almshouses were founded by Andrew Dockett, President of the College, by his will proved in 1485. They stood in Smallbridges (now Silver) Street (fn. 1) and the number of almswomen inhabiting them increased from three at Dockett's death to eight in 1676. The endowment was increased by later legacies from Presidents and others. In 1836 the almshouses, whose site had been sold to St. Catharine's, were rebuilt in Queens' Lane. One of the new houses was sold to King's and the rest were demolished in 1911. To replace them and the allowances which Queens' had made to the inmates, the College thereafter paid weekly pensions of 8s. to eight women.

Caius College almshouses were founded about 1475 by Richard Ely. They stood in St. Michael's (now Trinity) Lane, and were for three poor people appointed by the College. (fn. 2) The endowment was enlarged by Stephen Perse, and the ground and buildings were sold to Trinity College in 1864 for £200, lecture rooms being erected on the site. In 1865 the almshouses were rebuilt in St. Paul's Road, and in 1955 were numbered 11, 12, and 13 in that road.

Matthew Stokys (d. 1591), Esquire Bedell, founded three almshouses in King Street for six poor spinsters. (fn. 3) The endowment appears to have been lost by 1665, but the University paid a small stipend to the inmates from 1696 until the almshouses were sold in 1860. The proceeds of sale went to the almshouses of St. Anthony and St. Eligius.

Stephen Perse (d. 1615) founded several important charities including almshouses for six single persons who were to come from certain parishes in Cambridge. The almspeople received allowances from the endowments he left to Caius in trust for all his charities. (fn. 4) The original almshouses built under Perse's will on the corner of Downing Street and Free School Lane were sold to the University in 1884 and new ones were built in Newnham Road.

Knight and Mortlock's almshouses were founded by will of Elizabeth Knight (proved 1647). Legacies from Elizabeth Knight's kinsmen increased the stipends of the two widows and four spinsters who were inmates. The almshouses were rebuilt in 1818 by Alderman William Mortlock who also, apparently, looked after the charity generally and prevailed on the Corporation as trustees to administer it in accordance with the trusts. Between 1880 and 1883 the charity property at the corner of Jesus Lane and King Street was rebuilt and the almshouses were moved from the Jesus Lane to the King Street side. These almshouses, together with those of St. Anthony and St. Eligius, are now managed by the Municipal Charities, and in 1951 the inmates of both received £156 3s. 11d. altogether, which came partly from the funds of other charities managed by the same trustees.

Storey's almshouses were founded probably soon after 1729 under the will of Edward Storey (d. between 1692 and 1712). They comprised three houses in Northampton Street for four widows of clergymen and houses adjoining them in Rowley's Yard for two widows and four spinsters from certain Cambridge parishes. The charity was endowed with considerable landed estates and its endowment was increased by later legacies. In 1843 the clergy widows' almshouses were rebuilt in Mount Pleasant. They were let from 1921 and the income from that part of the charity was used to pay pensions to the widows of clergymen: in 1952 £3,175 was divided between 54 widows. The widows' and maidens' almshouses were also rebuilt in 1843, in Shelly Row. Much of the charity's property has now been sold: its income from rents and stocks was over £9,800 in 1952. Since 1891 the surplus has been given to pensioners with the same qualifications as the almspeople.

The Cambridge Victoria Friendly Societies Institution (fn. 5) was established in 1837 to provide homes for elderly members. The present main building in Victoria Road was begun in 1841 and four dwellings were added in front in 1887. A legacy of 1895 was used to build four more, called Miller's almshouses, opposite the 1887 ones. A house was added on each side of the gate under a legacy of 1927. One of these has been used since 1931 by a nurse. In 1937 six new dwellings were built.

The Royal Albert Benevolent Society was established in 1846 (fn. 6) for the same purpose. Its income has also been increased by legacies. In 1888 there were 22 inmates and in 1952 there were 33.

Stephen Mansfield in 1891 founded four almshouses in South Terrace, giving the adjoining houses as endowment. In 1951 rather more than the income of £170 was spent on repairs.

Waters's almshouses were founded in 1914 by Mrs. Adelaide Waters. They stand in Seymour Street and are for six inmates, married couples counting as one, from certain Cambridge parishes.

There are also two parish almshouses in Cambridge. Jackenett's almshouses were founded by Thomas Jackenett in 1473 for the parish of St. Mary the Great. Since 1899 they have also been available for the poor of contiguous parishes. Until 1788 the almshouses stood on the site adjoining the churchyard where Jackenett had built them. Then in very bad repair, they were replaced by the present buildings in King Street, which were enlarged in 1832. As late as 1668 the upper floor of the building was let out to provide an income according to Jackenett's instructions. This source of income was replaced by later legacies and, in the early 19th century, by help from the parish rates. At that time the almspeople, all women, were chosen by the ratepayers and there were hotly contested elections with many candidates. In 1952 £122 12s. from various parish charities was given to the eight almspeople.

Wray's almshouses in King Street were established in 1634 under the will of Henry Wray (dated 1628). They were for four widows and four widowers of Holy Trinity parish. The income from stock and land was nearly £1,600 in 1951.


  • 97. Except where otherwise stated this section is based upon 31st Rep. Com. Char. [103], pp. 11–16, 48, 50–62, 69–72, H.C. (1837–8), xxiv, and Char. Com. files.
  • 98. See V.C.H. Cambs. ii. 303–8.
  • 99. K.C. Mun. A. 1362; Willis and Clark, Archit. Hist. iv. 27, cf. iii. 69. K.C. Mun. Congregation Bk. 7 June 1756; Ledger Bk. x. 45; Congregation Bk. 27 Oct. 1823, 28 Jan. 1828, 17 Feb. 1840, 9 Dec. 1856, 28 Feb. 1859, 20 May 1861. Valuable assistance in compiling this section has been rendered by Mr. John Saltmarsh.
  • 1. W. G. Searle, Hist. Queens' Coll. (C.A.S. Publ. 1867), 57, 68.
  • 2. Cooper, Annals, i. 384; iii. 99; John Venn, Biog. Hist. of Gonville and Caius Coll. iii. 262; Kelly's Dir. Camb. (1955).
  • 3. Cooper, Annals, ii. 508–10.
  • 4. Ibid. 93–101.
  • 5. [Anon.] Story of Camb. Victoria Friendly Soc. Inst. 1837–1937 (copy consulted in Char. Com. files).
  • 6. Cooper, Annals, iv. 679.