Westmill. T T Greg or Pilgrims Close
Westmill is a particularly attractive village, located a few miles south of Buntingford. The view towards the village pump, an iconic view of an English village, has frequently been photographed. There is a delightful watercolour dating from about 1940 held at the Victoria and Albert Museum. In the background is a row of cottages – the village almshouses – along with the village hall, post office, and the church tower in the background. The road is known as Pilgrim’s Close.
The building itself dates back to the 18th or 19th century. A search through the owners and occupiers in the 1838/42 Westmill tithe map provides no further information about provision for the poor. Neither Cussans nor Victoria County History mention the almshouses, even though VCH obtained information about the village from (the later) T. T. Greg himself. The relevant volume was published in 1912.
Some sources note that Coles was purchased by Thomas Tylston Greg, a West Indian planter, in the late 18th century. However, he was not a planter; he was an innovative farmer in the Westmill area. While he did inherit holdings in Dominica, the income was payable to his aunt for her lifetime, and he later sold the holdings to his brother. Moreover, he had no involvement with the almshouses. The date of the building and having the same name as a later person could lead to confusion. This may account for the 18th century date in Historical Atlas of Hertfordshire.
Another Thomas Tylston Greg (born 1858 at Wilmslow, Cheshire) married Mary Hope in 1895. The 1911 census shows they lived at Westmill. The Oxford list of Oriel College alumni records a Thomas Greg as coming from Handsforth (Cheshire). Graduating in 1881, he became a barrister at the Inner Temple the following year. 1900 saw him admitted to the Company of Fishmongers where he was noted as a solicitor. Thomas died in 1920; Mary lived until 1949.
They bequeathed many amenities to the local people. The present charity is in the names of Thomas Greg and Mary Hope Greg. Mary dedicated the almshouse to the memory of her husband in 1929, as shown on the plaque on the cottages which includes the initials T T G and M G. The rest garden for the almshouses is now used as part the garden of the cottage attached to the Village Hall and a garden for the children attending the nursery school run from the Village Hall.
As far as the building is concerned, the original four dwellings were combined to make two. Hence two doors have numbers and letterboxes; the other two have neither. They were modernised in 1929 and improved further at various times. The building was grade 2 listed by Historic England in 1984, ref 1102238.
The building is still used as an almshouse. The 2020 accounts reveal that a tenant who had lived in the almshouse for ten years moved out and a new tenant was being sought with the necessary Westmill connections. One feature about renting the Charity’s properties is that many are let at below market rates to reflect their charitable origins.
The organisation is listed as affiliated to the Almshouse Association and registered with the Charity Commission, ref 232669. While the charity is T & M Greg, the almshouse section is in the name of Mary Hope Greg; a linked charity also in her name has the object of providing a rest garden for almspeople.
The chairman as at 2021 was Lady Julia Carter, of Coles, maintaining the link with Coles.
It was also reported in the accounts that discussions were under way with the Almshouse Association and the Charity Commission so that the various aspects of the charity could be modified to reflect modern needs.
My thanks are due to Julia Carter and Stephen Willson (trustees) who kindly clarified information in the original article and provided further information.
1 and 4 Pilgrims Close, Westmill
Georef: 536859 227106
Gridref: 51o 55′ 33″N 0o 00′ 41″W
OS 25” map Hertfordshire XIV.9. The buildings are shown but not annotated as almshouses.
Westmill: the Story of a Hertfordshire Parish, by G Ewing
Preface and pp 121, 128 and 179
Pub Courier & Co, Tunbridge Wells
An Historical Atlas of Hertfordshire, ed David Short
Hertfordshire Publications 2011 ISBN 978-9-9542189-6-6
Items held at HALS
DE/X1024/1/161/43 Photograph of memorial for Thomas and Margaret Greg in Westmill church, April 2005.
DE/X1024/1/161/45 Photograph of memorial for Thomas and Mary Greg in Westmill church, April 2005.
DE/X1025/2/97/1 Postcard: view of Westmill (nd [1900 -1922]).
DE/Sm/P5 and DE/Sm/P6 are 1825 maps of Westmill. Not examined at the time of writing.
DSA4/114/1 is the 1842 tithe map
DE/X1025/1/120/2 nd [c1935]. Slide mount records ‘West Mill. Herts. H Rose’. Part of the almshouses can be seen to the left of the image.
Websites accessed Sep 2021
Charity Commission https://register-of-charities.charitycommission.gov.uk/charity-search/-/charity-details/232669
https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1102238 is Pilgrims Close
https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/results/?searchType=NHLE+Simple&search=1295943 is Church Cottages, (formerly the poor house?)
http://www.hundredparishes.org.uk/FreshFiles/PDFs/WESTMILL.pdf Dated c2011
Victoria and Albert Museum https://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O596853/the-village-green-westmill-watercolour-hawkins/
Watercolour held at V&A. c1940, by Hawkins
https://www.ancestry.co.uk/family-tree/person/tree/77790778/person/120163067883/facts?_phsrc=uVY64&_phstart=successSource has details of Thomas Tylston Greg’s life (1858 – 1920)
https://www.ancestry.co.uk/imageviewer/collections/8942/images/RDUK1500_0001-0573?pId=90722 Oriel College, Oxford alumni BA 1881, MA 1886, barrister at law Inner Temple 1882