Hitchin. Holy Saviour or St Saviour
Rev George Gainsford, helped by his wife, showed a great deal of energy and resourcefulness. His first curacy was in Hitchin, and he returned later in his career. He felt the deprived area between Hitchin and the station needed church support, so he paid for Holy Saviour Church to be built. Consecration took place in 1965.
Finance and Building
But there were more needs to be met. Almshouses and orphanages would be a benefit. They would be costly. Land opposite the church was given to the clergy and churchwardens in 1868. There was space for 24 almshouses. One idea was that people could pay for an almshouse in someone’s memory. Maybe a memorial plaque could be added. They would cost £70 – 80 each. The donor would retain the right of appointment for life. Building would commence as soon as three had been donated. By Christmas 1868 the first had been donated, along with other promises of donations.
Another fundraising activity was to hold bazaar, well publicised in the local press. While one of the papers thought such activity was a bit tawdry, it did realise that that it was a good means of raising money. As it said, it may be a bad means to a good end. One 2 day event in Oct 1869 raised £335. This was no small church hall affair; the Town Hall was the venue. The money raised would pay for 4 almshouses.
Rev G Gainsford made a proposition in the case of Carter’s almshouse. If the charity property were sold, he would be willing to spend the whole of the purchase money in building almshouses upon the site already given by him, on condition that the property should then vest in the trustees of his charity. It is not clear if this actually took place, as Carter’s charity continued for some time after the almshouse was demolished.
By 1872 6 almshouses had been built and occupied. Further buildings were erected over the year, including one costing nearly £200 in memory of Mrs Gainsford.
According to Victoria County History, in 1879 the founder transferred to the official trustees a sum of £1,000 consols for the support and maintenance of the institution, which was subsequently augmented by gifts of Francis A. D. Radcliffe, Mrs. A. E. Moreton and Mrs. Burbidge and others. The endowment fund then consisted of £1,307 16s. 1d. consols, producing £32 13s 8d yearly. In about 1879 the funds were transferred to the Charity Commission’s official trustees.
Residents would be aged persons of both sexes, married or unmarried. They would be at least sixty years of age, of good character, and communicants of the church, but they need not necessarily belong to Hitchin. However, 58 year old Sarah Yelling died there in 1885. She had lived in the almshouse for 3 years. She suffered from asthma, but sadly accidentally overdosed on her medication. A sadder case is William Spragg. He suffered from debilitating headaches till he took his own life.
The buildings are still in use as social housing. They were adopted by the Howard Cottage Homes, and it appears they are now run by First Garden City Homes. The almshouses were affiliated to the Almshouse Association in a list supplied in 2019.
One minor note. Victoria County History notes the church was built at the cost of the late Rev Gainsford. George Gainsford’s son was also called George, but death dates have not yet been clarified. But the most likely answer is that he was cited as ‘the late’ as he died before the publication date of the Victoria County History entry.
Radcliffe Road, Hitchin
Georef: 519026 229612
Grid ref: 51o 57′ 09″N 0o 16′ 10″W
OS 25” map Hertfordshire XII.1
The Victoria County History of the County of Hertford, ed William Page
Issued Archibald Constable & Co. 1912. Reprint by Dawsons of Pall Mall 1971 ISBN 0 7129 0477 8
This publication been digitised by British History Online (BHO) and is available online at http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/herts/vol3/pp12-21
Documents held at HALS
These are all in the Hawkins family title deeds collection 1837 -1932
DE/Ha/B593 (1872) invoice from William Onslow Times to Revd George Gainsford for legal work undertaken in 1869
DE/Ha/B594 (1879) Papers concerning the transfer by the Revd George Gainsford to the Charity Commission’s official trustees
DE/Ha/B595 (1882) Papers concerning the augmentation of the endowment funds of St Saviour’s almshouses and orphanage in the care of the Charity Commission’s official trustees
DE/Ha/B596 (1885) Papers concerning the augmentation of the endowment funds of St Saviour’s almshouses and orphanage in the care of the charity commission’s official trustees
DE/Ha/B597 (1892) Papers concerning the augmentation with 100 of the endowment funds of St Saviour’s almshouses and orphanage, the funds being in the care of the charity commission’s official trustees of charitable funds
DE/Ha/B599 (1909) Papers concerning the augmentation by 50 of the endowment funds of St Saviour’s almshouses and orphanage, the funds being in the care of the Charity Commission’s official trustees of charitable funds
DE/Ha/B600 (1932) Letters received by the Revd George Bernard Gainsford concerning an application by Miss Wilshere for the admission of an unnamed woman to an almshouse
Websites accessed Oct 2022
https://www.fgch.co.uk First Garden Cities Homes
https://ehive.com/collections/4308/objects/355015/biography-of-the-two-reverend-gainsfords-1829-1933 Biographies of both Rev Gainfords
https://northhertsmuseum.org/north-hertfordshire-museum/collections/object-details/326554/ Notes about St Saviour’s church
Newspapers can be accessed on the British Newspaper Archive website
Hertfordshire Express 26 Dec 1868 page 2 col 7 First proposals for almshouses
Hertfordshire Express 02 Oct 1869 page 2 col 1 Bazaar publicity
Hertfordshire Express 23 Oct 1869 page 2 col 1 Bazaar publicity
Hertfordshire Express 30 Oct 1869 page 3 cols 1, 2 Bazaar report
Hertfordshire Express 25 May 1872 page 3 col 4 Six almshouses built
Hertford Mercury 21 June 1873 page 5 col 6 Orphanage opened. Bishop visited almshouses
Herts & Cambs Reporter 24 Feb 1882 page 5 col 4 Suicide of William Sprang
Herts & Cambs Reporter 15 May 1885 page 5 col 4 Sarah Yelling died – accidental medicine overdose
Hertford Mercury 16 May 1885 page 5 col 5 Sarah Yelling died – accidental medicine overdose
Herts & Cambs Reporter 11 Feb 1910 page 8 col 1 New almshouse in memory of Mrs Gainsford