Flamstead. Thomas Saunders
Architecturally this is one of the five most important Hertfordshire almshouses, and is one of those buildings you immediately recognise as an almshouse. It dates back to 1669, around 350 years ago. Thomas Saunders, of Beechwood, died in 1664. His son, also called Thomas, had the almshouses built in his memory. One of the datestones, now illegible, once read, ‘Sumus immortale sepulchrum Thomae Saunders de Beechwood’. The other has date details only, ‘Ano. Dni 1669’.
There was an endowment of £20, charged on the Beechwood Estate or the Gately grounds.
There seem to be little information about their history. A document dated 1762 held at HALS states the almshouses ‘lately built’ were for 4 poor widows. Victoria County History (1908) notes the four inmates received 8s a week. The residents were two poor widows and two poor widowers, who had to be of good character and resident in the ancient parish of Flamstead or within 2 miles of Beechwod. However, the Historic England listing says each single cell dwelling was for a poor married couple. The Charity Commission listing cites persons of good character.
The buildings were reconditioned in 1952.
A look at the Charity Commission website shows that income had decreased from around £13000 in the previous years to around £8000 in 2018/9. However, there was a surge in expenditure to £51000 in that year. Note this applies to both the Saunders and Sebright charities, so may not be a reflection on this building.
Few references have been found in local newspapers. Rev. Wells left the parish in 1884, but there is a reference that he took services for the almshouse residents who were unable to attend church. Mr and Mrs Bennett, of Cleverells Park (to the south west of Markyate), celebrated their silver wedding anniversary in 1892. As part of their celebrations they regaled the parish almshouse residents with meat and wine.
The building was grade II* listed in 1952 by Historic England, with a reference 1348459. The almshouses are affiliated to the Almshouse Association and registered with the Charity Commission ref 214233-2, linked with the Sebright Charity.
1 – 7 High Street, Flamstead
OS 25″ map XXVII.5, pub 1924, annotates the almshouses as Old Almshouses
Georef: 507838 214614
Grid ref: 51 49′ 12″N 0 26′ 13″W
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
The Victoria County History of the County of Hertford (4 vols). Ed William Page
(part of Victoria County History of the Counties of England Ed H Arthur Doubleday)
Vol 2 p201
Issued Archibald Constable & Co. 1908. Reprint by Dawsons of Pall Mall 1971 ISBN 0 7129 0476 X
This publication been digitised by British History Online (BHO) and is available online at http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/herts/vol2/pp193-201#p48
Documents held at HALS
18878 Copy of Thomas Saunders will 1688. Other copies are in the collection. This may contain information about the almhouses, but it was not possible to refer to it at the time of writing.
DE/Cm/1/24/37654 Humphrey Hulme according to uses expressed in the will of William Hulme of Flamstead, gent. Messuage at church end, orchard etc, on part of which an almshouse for four women ‘has been lately built’
DZ/119/3/368A ‘Saunders Alms Houses at Flamstead. A.D. 1669’
Drawing by Buckler, c1832
DE/X1042/2/23a and DE/X1042/2/23b Whitford Anderson photos
Charity Commission http://apps.charitycommission.gov.uk/Showcharity/RegisterOfCharities/CharityWithoutPartB.aspx?RegisteredCharityNumber=214233&SubsidiaryNumber=0 accessed Nov 2018
http://www.stalbanshistory.org/documents/1887.10a_jl_.pdf. Accessed Nov 2018, but no longer available by 2021
https://www.charitycheckout.co.uk/charity/the-saunders-and-sebright-charities/ includes a note about the objectives and beneficiaries.