Broxbourne. Parish almshouse
1 or 2 tenements were erected before or during the reign of James I (working back from the ‘time out of mind’ comment). After they burnt down around 1660, the site was waste land for about 65 years, except for a period when it was used as an orchard, until the site was assigned to Laetitia Monson so she could build her almshouse on the same site. A site of just over 20 metres square (less than three tennis courts) may seem small for an orchard, but one technique of the period was to train fruit trees against a wall or along a trellis to maximise the crop and to make harvesting easier (this was known as the espalier method). This, of course, is conjecture.
The only information so far found about this almshouse is from references to Monson’s almshouse, where the original grant of land to Laetitia Monson is recorded in the Broxbourne vestry register 1688-1741, and there is a further reference in Laetitia Monson’s will. Both documents are held at HALS. Transcriptions of both these documents can be found appended to the entry concerning Laetitia Monson’s almshouse
The Broxbourne vestry register 1688-1741 is held at HALS, ref D/P21/1/1. A record at the end includes ‘………Whereas time out of mind there was a little tenement or two standing over against The Bull Inn in Broxborne aforesaid which was made use of as a Town House or almshouse belonging to the said parish which by some accident or other was burnt downe and the ground thereof hath lain wasted and useless for above three score years only John Howard of this parish / as he says himself / held the ground a little while and paid five shillings a year to the Overseers of the Poor for the time being for their use and that no person since hath made any use thereof but the same hath lain waste, which said piece of ground doth contain near half a rood and is called the Town Orchard abutting towards the East on the Church Field the West side thereof contains in length sixty foot little more or less the East side contains in length sixty four foot little more or less the South side thereof contains in length sixty two foot little more or less and the North side thereof contains in length seventy eight foot little more or less and at the north east corner there is an outlet that contains four and twenty foot in length and eight foot in breadth little more or less……..’.
Laetitia Monson’s will confirms this information, but does not add to it.