You can’t always believe what’s written in stone. The dedication stone states these almshouses were erected by the great-grand-daughters of John Stallibrass, but according to Esther Dudding’s will, they were financed by her alone. Built in 1909 and renovated in 1980, they were still in use as almshouses when visited in 2017.
Who was John Stallibrass? There is a chest tomb in the churchyard to T Stallibrass, who died in 1827, so there is evidence of a family with that name in the area, but so far no information about John has come to light. It may not be easy tracing the family back through the female line.
The relevant documents at Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies are stored under the reference DP/13/25/25. A extract of Esther Dudding’s will is attached, which provides useful information about the endowment, management and rules to be followed, hence is not referred to in this section.
The extracts below, from other documents in the same collection, shed some light on lawyers. While the solicitor does follow the rules exactly, as evinced by checking on Mrs Osborne’s eligibility and the correspondence about the District Nurse, there is the lovely pencilled comment about special pleading comment where he’s trying to be as helpful as he can in the case of Mrs Seabrook’s eligibility. Much of the legal work for cash-strapped charities was carried out for free, but this does impact on lawyers’ ability to make a living. Even so, he was willing to arrange a service for a reduced fee.
Financial and Legal
23 Dec 1924 Trust securities are:
£353 16s.6d. Tasmania 4% stock 1940/1950
£362 New Zealand 4% stock 1943/63
£352 1s.2d. New South Wales 4% stock 1942/62
The solicitors were Ravenscroft, Woodward & Co., 15 John Street, Bedford Row London WC1
Letter to Rev Stubbs 05 Jan 1925
Asks to be relieved of the necessity of doing all the legal work himself as he is not allowed to make a charge for it (being a trustee), he is busy and has other similar unpaid jobs. (Elsewhere he does comment that the Charity does have enough funds to pay for legal advice).
Letter to Rev Stubbs 18 Feb 1925
Notes he was planning to hand over the work of transferring securities to another firm, but was able to continue provided he did not make personal profit from the trust. He was willing to employ his firm to act, deducting one third (which would have been his share). This would be cheaper than employing another solicitor who would make the full charge.
Letter to Rev Stubbs 16 Apr 1926
Notes Stubbs is leaving Barkway. It would be impossible for a solicitor to go from London to Barkway weekly to pay the old ladies, so he asks if there is someone in the village who could deal with payments if a cheque was sent. Otherwise it would be impossible to get receipts from the tenants if they were paid directly.
2 Aug 1924 Letter to J J Balding
[The situation referred to here was that a room had been vacant for some time, the district nurse needed somewhere to live, and it was suggested the spare room at the almshouse could be suitable]. The Charity Commission may have been willing to make an additional scheme if necessary. ‘I suppose it is impossible to get the vacant almshouses occupied by a suitable person. 5/- a week is the limit we are allowed to pay any occupant. I see no reason why we should not raise our payments to the full 5/- each………. I hardly think that the Charity Commissioners would allow the District Nurse to occupy the vacant almshouses. In considering a scheme they want to get as near to the original scheme as possible, and to allow a nurse to occupy one of the almshouses would be a very long way off from the original scheme. The great thing is to find someone to occupy the vacant almshouse’.
30 Jun 1925 Letter to Rev Stubbs
Part of text: ‘I think Mrs Seabrook is eligible if she is over sixty years of age. The condition says that she must have resided in Barkway, Reed or Anstey ‘for not less than two years preceding the time of her appointment’, but it does not say immediately preceding the time of her appointment, and therefore if she was born in Barkway and lived there till she was two years old that will be two years preceding the time of her appointment’. There is a pencil note saying ‘I admit! Special pleading’.
21 Jan 1937 Letter to Mr Webb-Brown
A Miss Osborne wished to be admitted but was in receipt of poor relief so it was felt she would be disqualified. The solicitor felt that the Trustees had to follow the regulations strictly in such matters.
15 Feb 1937 Letter to Mr Webb-Brown
Steps have been taken to investigate Miss Osborne’s case. She is now properly qualified so can be admitted.
Reminds trustees they can pay no more than 5/- a week.
The Charity Commission has some references.
The Stallibrass Almshouse Charity (ref 233285) was registered on April 27th 1964. The governing documents are a will of 20th Sept 1912, along with schemes dated 22nd April 1966 and 21st Sept 1987. Currently income usually exceeds expenditure, but it’s certainly not a wealthy foundation.
The Esther Dudding Charity for the Poor (ref 233284), also known as Stallibrass Almshouses, was registered on 7th May 1964 but removed on 22nd May 2013 due to amalgamation.
Address: 118 High Street, Barkway, Herts SG8 8EG
OS grid reference: 51o 51′ 59″N 0o 00′ 52″E
Georeference: 538372 235367