Cheshunt. King James Compensation

Colin Wilson

Turners Hill almshouses 1908
Photograph by A Whitford Anderson. Courtesy of Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies ref DE/X1042/2/7
Turners Hill almshouses; view from north. Early 20th century
From Jack Edwards collection. Courtesy of Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies ref DE/Je/2/123
Turners Hill almshouse; view from south. Sep 2016
Colin Wilson
OS 25" map XLI.8 1882
Courtesy of Hertfordshire Archives & Local Studies

It’s hard to say no to a king. James I preferred Theobalds Palace to his own at Hatfield, so arranged for a swap with Lord Cecil in 1607. He then enclosed more of Cheshunt to enlarge his hunting lands.

Foundation and Buildings
In compensation he paid the sum of £500 to the poor of the parish. £180 of this was used to build 10 almshouses at Turners Hill. The balance of £320 allowed for the purchase of Curtis’ Farm at Nazeing, the income providing an endowment. This was in 1620 or 1624 – the sources vary.

Victoria County History recorded them as being plain erections of brick of one storey, with mullioned windows, and appear to have been a good deal restored. There is no inscription on them. A 1910 article reported that the original doors and door frames remained. New roofs were needed following damage by a Zeppelin in 1916. The buildings were modernised in the 1960s.

Note that only the first 10 dwellings (starting from the south) are the King James Compensation or Ancient Almshouses.

Pre Foundation References
Some references are of interest in that they date from before the almshouses. They raise the question about what they actually refer to. Elizabeth Friend, by will dated 17th Sep 1562, settled an annual rent-charge of 6s 8d on a house in Crossbrook Street. Carr mentions an incident from 1598. Robert Dewhurst, of Grays Inn, by a deed dated 31st December 1612, endowed the almshouses with £13 per annum. It is possible they referred to the Spital almshouses at Waltham Cross.

Provision for the residents appears quite generous. Robert Dewhurst gave 6 pence apiece to ten poor persons residing in the almshouse, to be paid weekly in good wholesome wheatenbread, and five chaldrons of sea coal for fuel to be paid yearly in ten parts to be equally divided among them.

It may be of interest to know that In 1797 the rent from the lease of the farmland in Nazeing and income from other charities was able to provide the 10 widows with 4 guineas every quarter, half a cauldron of coal a year and 6d a week each in bread.

Further endowments in wills have been recorded.
1670 Dame Jane Micoe gave £100 for the upkeep of the almshouses. This was used to purchase land which was then let.
1725 Joseph Alcock gave £4 yearly to be distributed equally among forty poor men and women, 10s. to the inmates of the ten almshouses, and 10s. to the vicar for a sermon on the Sunday before Christmas. These sums are paid out of a house in the High Street.
1780 Sarah Gwilt gave £900 Three per Cent Consols for the benefit of the inmates of the Almshouses.
1799 Samuel Brookland gave £2000 for the poor of the almshouses. His niece Frances Leeson gave £400 stocks for the poor in the almshouses. This was later exchanged for other stocks.
1814 Elizabeth Auber gave £500 in Navy stocks, later exchanged for 3% Consols, for the poor of the almshouses and the Spital.
1880 Dr. William Buchanan, by deed, gave £105, converted to Local Loans 3 per cent. Stock. The annual dividends were used to purchase gowns for distribution on the first Monday in October to the widows at Turner’s Hill almshouses

Beaumont Charity Takeover
The almshouses came under the auspices of the Beaumont Charity in 1859. Some provisions were approved by Charity Commission sealed 19 Jun 1874. They are now part of the Turners Hill almshouses.

Some of the conditions following takeover were they shall, at each quarter in every year, pay four pounds, four shillings (variable depending on the net income derivable from the property) to each of the poor widows for the time being in the Almshouse and Spittle Houses respectively. All poor widows residing in the parish of Cheshunt, of the age of sixty years and upwards, being of good character, shall be eligible for admission to the Almshouses. Up to ten could live there rent free. Trustees had to be local to Cheshunt.

Living Conditions
Of course, matters did not always run smoothly. The Sessions Rolls record issues. In 1670 the residents had received only 12s. each a year instead of £10 between them (just over half of what they should have received). Repairs were needed by 1681. Six local residents were presented to the Sessions for not paying their part of the rates.

In about 2019 an acquaintance had a sister living in the almshouses. She thought they were comfortable and well looked after. With our rose-tinted glasses we have the idea of elderly people living peacefully and comfortably. But it was not always so, and that applies to other almshouses as well. Some were little more than hovels; some residents had little or no provision. See the articles about Hertford Haggar, Hoddesdon Spital and Hitchin Carter for examples.

As far as the Turners Hill almshouses are concerned, the conditions were not at all good in the late 19th century. In 1875. Dr Garlike, the medical office of health handed a report to the Local Board of Health. His attention had previously been drawn to the state of the almshouses. The sanitary inspector also carried out an investigation.

The single rooms, used for all purposes, were on average about 14ft by 13ft, and about 9ft high. There were two small cupboards next to the fireplace. The two small windows did not open so there was no ventilation, the doors did not fit (in one case there is  a space two inches wide between the door and the sill), the walls were very damp, the brickwork crumbling and dropping into the room. The chimneys allowed most of the heat to pass up them. They had been partially blocked up at the bottom, so that rain and snow settled on the ledge inside and soaked through into the room.

A woman named Ward, nearly 93, was bedridden, and had a nurse all the time. The two occupied the one small room night and day during the whole four years.

The trustees proposed building a wall outside, leaving the cottages as they were to allow ventilation by opening the door. Dr Garlike advised having ventilators and opening windows. The sanitary inspector noted that a drain at the back would alleviate the dampness.


Georef:      535910 202390
Gridref:     51o 42′ 14″   0o 02′ 05″W
OS 25” map Hertfordshire XLI.8 pub 1914 annotates the almshouses


Notes and Extracts from the Sessions Rolls
Vol 1 1581- 1698 pp 24 – 7 para 311
Hertford County Records. Pub C E Longmore, Clerk of the Peace Office 1905
A copy is held at Cheshunt library.

History of Hertfordshire
Originally published Stephen Austin & Sons 1870-81
Republished E P Publishing in collaboration with Hertfordshire County Library 1972
A copy is held at Cheshunt library

Historic Cheshunt, by Percy Charles Archer
Pages 161 and 173-5
Pub Cheshunt Press c1923

Cheshunt, Past and Present, by Edwin MacLeod Carr
Note p 23 re 1598 incident
c1911 (transcribed by Rooke 1955). A copy is held at Cheshunt Library

The History & Antiquities of the County of Hertford, by Robert Clutterbuck
Vol 2 p122 details of foundation and benefactions for Turners Hill
Printed by and for John Bowyer Nichols, 25 Parliament Street, London 1827

History of Hertfordshire, by John Edwin Cussans
Originally published Stephen Austin & Sons 1870-81
Republished E P Publishing in collaboration with Hertfordshire County Library 1972

Cheshunt in Hertfordshire, by Jack Edwards
Pages 28 and 104
Pub Broxbourne Borough Council 2nd ed 1974

Waltham Cross Past, by Jack Edwards.
Pub by author 1980.

Cheshunt: its People Past and Present, by Dave Field
Page 75
Pub Gaillet Press 2000 ISBN 0 9522408 2 3

The Victoria County History of the County of Hertford, ed William Page
Vol 3
Issued Archibald Constable & Co. 1912. Reprint by Dawsons of Pall Mall 1971 ISBN 0 7129 0477 8)
This publication can be viewed online at

An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Hertfordshire
Originally published by His Majesty’s Stationery Office, London, 1910.
This publication can be viewed on-line at

The History of Hertfordshire, by N Salmon

An Historical Atlas of Hertfordshire, ed David Short
Hertfordshire Publications 2011 ISBN 978-9-9542189-6-6

The Almshouses of Hertfordshire, by W O Wittering
Article in Hertfordshire Countryside  29 (187) Nov 1974

Documents held at HALS

D/EDs/4/8 Beaumont Charity Scheme collection of documents. Includes newspaper cuttings about Dr Garlike

D/P29/25/19 Collection of various charity documents. Includes one document listing bequests to almshouses (most are land or shares). Includes 1799 bequest of £2000 by Samuel Brookland. This collection also has a schedule of papers including admission records.

DE/Je/2/123 has photo mid 20th century, in Jack Edwards collection.

Websites accessed Oct 2021 may be Jane Mico’s will. It refers to Gloucestershire  and to an almshouse to be built for the poor of London, but notes that her brother lived in Cheshunt. includes a brief history and a line drawing.

This page was added on 17/10/2021.

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