Ashwell. Moss Cottage Homes
George Moss dedicated these almshouses to the memory of his mother, Frances, who had died in 1838, 66 years previously, at the age of just 37. George, a native of Ashwell, was only 13 years old at the time and it seems he left Ashwell soon after. By the time he erected the homes he was 80 years of age and had become a Freeman of London. He died in September 1909.
Moss had made a number of charitable donations in the past, but wanted to leave a more enduring gift. Following advice from his friends Mr and Mrs Bowman, he decided on an almshouse. He wanted it to be regarded as a haven of rest rather than a charitable institution.
Building started in 1904. A photo held at the Ashwell Museum shows the laying of the foundation stone, and the Herts Reporter carried an extended account. The building was completed in March 1905, Once more the Herts Reporter covered the event. The building cost was £3000. Victoria County History cites an indenture dated July 1905, adding that there was an endowment of £2000 worth of LNWR railway stocks, augmented by £800 two years later by Frederika Bowman. However, a report in the Royston Crow says this extra £800 was given by Moss in NW railway stocks. David Short says that a trust was set up, and that 8 dwellings were available. There may be some doubt about this number, as VCH cites six dwellings, and the OS map seems to show six. Part way through the construction a water certificate was granted, provided the steps to the spring were repaired.
The stones on the gables are a date stone and a dedication stone. The stone on the front wall commemorates the laying of the foundation stone. There is a Centenary stone built into the side wall. A sealed bottle containing various documents was placed inside the foundation stone.
One document inside the foundation stone stated the beneficiaries were to be aged or inform persons of not less than 60 years of age, who had been Ashwell residents for a considerable time and were of good character. According to Victoria County History, the beneficiaries were aged and infirm persons, and the inmates were either married couples (each married couple counting as one inmate), single women or widows. The first six residents were widows. The stone on the building mentions aged residents. However, the Charity Commission website specifies they were originally set up for widows of Ashwell. The more recent stipulations are for aged or infirm persons who are inhabitants of the parish of Ashwell, with a preference for widows. There is a further clause allowing people not connected with Ashwell, but only with the permission of the Commissioners.
Moss himself dealt with the administration until Charity Commission registration was obtained. After that, organisation was in the hands of trustees. Three were 3 ex officio, 4 were appointed by Ashwell Parish Council, and there were 6 co-operative members, appointed for life. One of these was Moss himself.
Victoria County History says that in the beginning each single resident or married couple received 5s a week. A 1905 article in the Royston Crow explains. the situation. Mr Moss said that if the poor relief was reduced to less than half what the residents received before, he would have the right to evict them at a week’s notice. Thus the parish would have to fund them. He pointed out that the residents were weekly tenants, liable to pay for repairs and rates. They lived rent free, with a pension of 3s 6d. The resolution was that the poor relief would be reduced to 1s 6d, bringing the weekly payment up to 5s, plus £1 for coal for the remaining half year. Moss’ premise was that he wanted to add a facility, but did not intend to reduce payments by the local authorities.
As at 2017, the homes were affiliated with the Almshouse Association. They are also registered with the Charity Commission, ref 238956. The financial history shows a steady income, with expenses varying. This is, of course, only to be expected if repairs, maintenance and improvements are taken into account. The governing scheme dated 1979 has been altered a few times in 2006, 2007, 2018 and 2019.
Hodwell, Ashwell. Note that Hodwell is a road name, not a place.
OS 25” map Hertfordshire IV.9 rev 1921, pub 1924 annotates the location. Earlier maps show there were no buildings on the site.
Georef: 526903 239757
Grid ref: 52o 02′ 31″N 0o 09′ 05″W
Hertfordshire – a Caring County? Ed Stephen King and Gillian Gear
p136-40 Article by David Short ‘Pensions for the Care of the Elderly in Ashwell 1670 – 1770’
pub Hertfordshire University Press 2013 ISBN 978-1-909291-12-6
The Victoria County History of the County of Hertford. Ed William Page
Vol 3 p209
Issued Archibald Constable & Co 1912. Reprint by Dawsons of Pall Mall 1971 (ISBN 0 7129 0477 8)
Available online at http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/herts/vol3/pp199-209
Newspaper articles. All are from Herts Reporter and Royston Crow. These issues can be viewed on-line on the British Newspaper Archive website at https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk
Friday 08 July 1904 page 8. This contains an extended report about the foundation stone laying ceremony.
Friday 16 December 1904 page 7 col 2. A water certificate was granted.
Friday 10 February 1905 page 6 col 1Friday 13 January 1905 page 8 col 2
Friday 17 March 1905 page:8 cols 3 & 4. This is a useful article about the opening, including photos of the building and Moss.
Friday 24 March 1905 page 5 col 3. General note about charities
Friday 07 July 1905 page 5 col 4. The stone-laying.
Friday 08 September 1905 page 5 col 6. Copies of rules and regulations can be obtained.
Friday 29 December 1905 page 8 col 2
Friday 23 March 1906 page 5 col 5. The Chairman then read the statement of accounts.
Friday 08 March 1907 page 8 col 2. The statements of the affairs of the Moss Cottage Homes, which were not gone into in detail, were passed as read.
Friday 02 August 1907 page 8. There was a meeting of the Trustees of the Moss Cottage Homes at the Homes on Tuesday, when Mr. George Moss, the founder, was present.
Friday 20 December 1907 page 5 col 4. Mr. George Moss, the benefactor to whom Ashwell owes this worthy institution, has made a further increase of £800 to the endowment of the homes.
Friday 20 December 1907 page 8 col 1. A further sum of £800 had been invested in North Western shares as an additional endowment to augment the payments to the inmates from 3s 6d to 5s per week.
Friday 13 March 1908 page 8. Mentions a meeting was held.
Friday 24 April 1908 page 8. Mentions a meeting was held.
Friday 25 September 1908 page 8 col 3. A meeting of the trustees of the Moss Cottage Homes was held.
Friday 18 June 1909 page 8 The annual meeting of the Trustees of the Moss Cottage Homes was held.
Friday 03 September 1909 page 5 col 3. The death of George Moss.
Friday 31 December 1909 page 8. He was also a representative Trustee of the Moss Cottage Homes for the Parish Council.
Friday 22 April 1910 page 8 col 3. Trustees appointed.