Elstree. H H Gibbs or Lord Aldenham
These attractive Arts and Crafts style buildings were erected in 1883/4, replacing almshouses founded about 40 years earlier by George Byng. Vyse suggests they were built by George Byng of Wrotham Park, but this seems to be erroneous as these almshouses replaced Byng’s almshouse which were further down the hill. Admittedly he does include a question mark after the reference.
The buildings still existed in 2020, and were listed by Historic England in 1974 (ref 1174131). There may be references to them as the New Almshouses.
Henry Hucks Gibbs
Born in 1819, Henry Hucks Gibbs became Lord Aldenham in 1896 and died in 1907. IA partner in the family firm, he was also an MP, governor of the Bank of England and High Sheriff of Hertfordshire. He paid for a number of facilities in Elstree, in particular for repairs to St Nicholas church, a new school and three almshouses. Gibbs exchanged a site near the crossroads further south for the land on which Byng’s almshouses stood.
H H Gibbs set up the almshouses in 1884, with himself, the rector and churchwardens as trustees. All the trustees had to be members of the Church of England.
While Gibbs financed the building, there seems to have been no provision for its upkeep or maintaining the residents. It appears that the agreement was that the almshouses would be settled on the parish in the same way that the Byng almshouses had. In 1891 there was an agreement for taxes on the almshouses to be paid. In 1895 the Council was unwilling to sanction financial provision from the Nicholls Charity for repairs as they would have no say in how the money was spent. The widows’ money (2s 6d a week) was stopped for three weeks in 1895 as it was unclear if the Dole Charity money was available for those in receipt of parish relief. However the trustees did reinstate the payments. Coal was also stopped for a while. In 1897 there was a report that the residents were in a state of near starvation. A scheme was proposed to set up an endowment fund. The sting in the tail was that the Guardians would have to allow for such payments but probably reduce other payments to the residents. However two collections had been made at the church which could be used for repairs. By 1908 there were further reports about establishing an endowment fund, but even then the almshouses were totally unendowed.
A survey by Leslie Purver (held at Elstree Museum) notes that in 1935 Ms Woodward lived in 1, Alice Saltwell in 2, Edith Beech & Mrs Skinner in 3. In other words, there were 4 residents.
Ivy Randall lived in the almshouse from 1953 till at least 2003. She had been the cook at the nearby school, but by 1953 she had two hip replacements, and found the walk up the hill to be too difficult. There were objections to her being offered an almshouse because she was only 40 years old, but the bishop over-ruled them. She continued cooking meals at the rectory for the school children for another 20 years, retiring when she was 60. While her accommodation was modernised, she still used her aged gas cooker for 50 years.
In April 2020 the Elstree Almshouse charity was still listed with the Charity Commission ref 240528. The deed of appointment was dated the 20th March 1884 and there were schemes of the 27th October 1959 and the 30th January 1967. The Charitable objects were listed as almshouses for the poor of the parish. However the last accounts filed were in 2015. The 2015 accounts only showed about £1000 income, with spending of about £100. While a newspaper article records a resident in 2003, they were not listed by the Almshouse Association in 2016, and a studio flat was advertised for rent in early 2020. A resident in June 2020 confirmed the property was now privately owned.
3 New Road and 1 and 2 High Street, Elstree
Georef: 517846 195333
Gridref: 51o 38′ 41″N 0o 17′ 53″W
Elstree and Borehamwood Past, by Robert Bard page 80
Pub Historical Publications 2006 ISBN 1-905286-11-2
Victorian Almshouses in Hertfordshire, by James A Vyse
A Building Conservation thesis for A A Building Conservation course 1982 – 4
A copy is held at HALS
Charity Commission 240528
Site accessed May 2020
Site accessed May 2020
Includes details of Gibbs family and parliamentary career. Site accessed May 2020
Newspaper articles: These can be viewed on-line at British Newspaper Archive
Foundation and Management:
Barnet Press Saturday 09 November 1895 Page: 2 col 6
Barnet Press Saturday 02 February 1884 Page: 7
Barnet Press Saturday 12 October 1895 Page: 2 col 5
Barnet Press Saturday 19 October 1895 Page: 6 col 5
Barnet Press Saturday 22 May 1897 page: 6 Mentions the original tablet as well as the 1897 state of the residents and possible endowment
Barnet Press Saturday 17 August 1895 Page: 3
Barnet Press Saturday 21 April 1883 Page: 6
Hertford Mercury and Reformer Saturday 26 January 1884 Page: 6 col 6
Herts Advertiser Saturday 12 January 1884 Page: 8
Herts Advertiser Saturday 19 January 1884 Page: 5
Herts Advertiser Saturday 26 January 1884 Page: 7 col 1
Herts Advertiser Saturday 03 May 1884 Page: 2
Herts Advertiser Saturday 09 November 1895 Page: 8
Herts Advertiser Saturday 19 October 1895 Page: 6
1895 – 1897 Payments Issues
Barnet Press Saturday 10 August 1895 Page: 5 col 2
Barnet Press Saturday 15 June 1895 Page: 5 col 3
Barnet Press Saturday 06 April 1895 Page: 3 col 3
Barnet Press Saturday 31 October 1908 Page: 8
Herts Advertiser Saturday 11 April 1891 Page: 7
Herts Advertiser Saturday 04 June 1892 Page: 5
Herts Advertiser Saturday 10 August 1895 Page: 2, 3
Herts Advertiser Saturday 06 April 1895 Page: 4 col 7
Herts Advertiser Saturday 15 June 1895 Page: 6
Barnet Press Saturday 07 December 1895 Page: 3 col 4
Later Endowment Proposals
Herts Advertiser Saturday 22 May 1897 Page: 2 col 2
Herts Advertiser Saturday 29 March 1902 Page: 6 col 6
Barnet Press Saturday 22 August 1908 Page: 5
Borehamwood Times 19th May 2003. Article by Lorna Vicars. http://www.borehamwoodtimes.co.uk/news/298880.Ivy__s_queen_of_the_almshouses/ (site accessed Nov 2019; not available on BNA website)