Rickmansworth. Beresford or Parish

Colin Wilson

The Beresford almshouses in Bury Lane. April 2017
Colin Wilson
The central garden and entrances of the Beresford almshouses in Bury Lane. April 2017
Colin Wilson
The datestone on one of the gables on the Beresford almshouses in Bury Lane. April 2017
Colin Wilson

The English Civil War was a lucrative time for John Beresford, who made his money selling gunpowder. He erected 2 dwellings ‘at the town’s end’ for 4 destitute people of Rickmansworth in 1657 (or possibly 1653). Following his death (in 1663?) they were transferred to the parish in 1686, but there was no endowment. The Churchwardens had the power of appointing residents. William Ford (1681) and Lady Ann Franklin (1708) (Cussans incorrectly dates this 1798) provided bequests for repairs and some payments respectively.

By 1807 the buildings were derelict and unfit to live in so were demolished and replacements built a little further back from the road. The local cage was nearby and in use until 1864. It was then used as the wash-house for the almshouses.

The buildings were again in a state of disrepair by about 1890, and Rickmansworth had expanded. The local police needed a larger site, so the almshouses were purchased and new ones built nearby in Bury Lane, next to the ford. The police station building at 177 High Street is now a William Hill betting shop.

A number of newspaper articles from the 1890s detail the discussions about selling the old site and the construction of the new buildings. The site was sold to the Council for £400. Lord Ebury gave the land in Bury Lane, and the sale of some consols raised further £195 15s. Messrs. Gurney and Swannell drew up the plans for 6 new almshouses, but other sources suggest there were only 4, and this is confirmed by the OS map. Other sources refer to 10 almswomen, but these sources are about Rickmansworth, hence include the Fotherley almshouses. Each almshouse would contain a spacious and lofty bedroom, living room and wash-house. The work was carried out by Mr. T. Holland, whose tender was £596 15s. Trustees were appointed from the parishes of Chorleywood, Croxley Green, Mill End and West Hyde. When Rickmansworth was divided, one dwelling was kept for the use of a Chorleywood resident.

References in the newspapers suggest the residents were female, while the governing documents specify ‘persons’.

These buildings still exist and are in use as almshouses or social housing, managed by Home Group Ltd. They were still affiliated to the Almshouse Association in 2016. The Beresford Charity is linked with the Rickmansworth Almshouse Charities ref 229341. While Ford’s charity continues, the Franklin and Fellows charities have ceased.

There are a few other references in the newspapers.
in 1877 the Rickmansworth Philanthropic Society was wound up. The residual funds were distributed between 12 poor people and the 11 almshouse women.
One case of attempted fraud was a woman who said she could obtain grants for the residents if they could pay a small sum up front. Fortunately she did not succeed. This was at the time the premises were being moved but the same ploy was tried with the Fotherley almshouse residents so was probably a
co-incidence. Some things never change.
In 1889 Eliza Green, a widow, 71 years old, was found dead in bed by the side of one of her granddaughters, who usually slept with her. The old lady went to bed on the previous Sunday night in her usual health. An inquest was deemed unnecessary as she was known to suffer from heart disease and that was the primary cause of death. Judging by the age the grand-daughter would have been a younger woman rather than a child. Whether she was treated as an extra almswoman, allowed to live there, or acted as a carer is unknown.

And, of course, in 1892/3 there were teas at the Vicarage, by kind invitation of the Rev. A. E. and Mrs. Northey. The latter event was in celebration of wedding of the Duke of York and Princess May.

One extra comment needs to be made. John Fotherley also built almshouses in Rickmansworth, and there seem to be cases of confusion between the two. Beresford’s almshouse were variously known as Beresford, Church or Parish. Fotherley’s were referred to as Fotherley or Manor. Even so, it is not always clear which is referred to as the reference is to the Rickmansworth almshouses.


177 High Street, Rickmansworth
Georef:      505781 194469
Grid ref:    51o 38.21″N  0o 28′ 23″W

Bury Lane, Rickmansworth
Georef:      505935 194359
Gridref:      51o 38′ 18″N  0o 27′ 15″W

OS 25” map Hertfordshire XLIII.8 (Rickmansworth Urban) Revised: 1896 Published: 1898 shows almshouses (Fotherley) and police station sites, also almshouses in Bury Lane


Neither Chauncy or Clutterbuck mention these almshouses

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 Book of Chorleywood and Chenies by G E Ray,
pub Barracuda Books Ltd 1983 ISBN 0 86023 184 4.

The Hertfordshire Constabulary in Rickmansworth, by Godfrey Cornwall 
Article in Rickmansworth Historian. No 3 Spring 1962
Copy held at Rickmansworth museum

The Victoria County History of the County of Hertford ed. William Page
Vol 2 p386
Issued Archibald Constable & Co 1908. Reprint by Dawsons of Pall Mall 1971 (ISBN 0 7129 0476 X)
Available online at http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/herts/vol2/pp371-386

John Beresford’s will can probably be found at https://www.ancestry.co.uk/imageviewer/collections/5111/images/40611_310534-00528?treeid=&personid=&rc=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=AYK17&_phstart=successSource&pId=907065 . It is very hard to read

Ann Franklin’s will can be viewed at https://www.ancestry.co.uk/imageviewer/collections/5111/images/40611_310728-00544?treeid=&personid=&rc=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=AYK15&_phstart=successSource&pId=776507

Rickmansworth’s Police Station 1897-1952. 177, High Street by Andy Wiseman. Article dated 2014. https://www.hertspastpolicing.org.uk/content/police-history/other/rickmansworths_second_police_station_1897-1952 Site accessed Aug 2020

Charity Commission (site accessed Aug 2020) https://apps.charitycommission.gov.uk/Showcharity/RegisterOfCharities/Subsidiaries.aspx?RegisteredCharityNumber=229341&SubsidiaryNumber=0

Newspaper articles can be viewed on the British Newspaper Archive website at https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/

Herts Advertiser 3 Mar 1877 page 7 col6 records the dissolution of the Rickmansworth Philanthropic Society.
Watford Observer Saturday 30 April 1892 Page: 5. Fellows said that there were proposals that the wretched almshouses should purchased by the county, and the site utilised for Police Station.  Lord Ebury said that he would give site for new almshouses
Watford Observer Saturday 25 June 1892 Page: 4. The aged residents of the Church and Manorial Almshouses were entertained to a substantial tea at the Vicarage.
Herts Advertiser Saturday 08 July 1893 Page: 8 The Vicar, the Rev. A. E. Northey and his wife entertained the old ladies residing in the almshouses to tea at the Vicarage [Celebration of wedding of Duke of York and Princess May]
Herts Advertiser Saturday 23 July 1892 Page: 7. An agreement entered into for the purchase of the property known the Beresford or Church Almshouses at Rickmansworth
Herts Advertiser Saturday 14 January 1893 Page: 8 The plans for the restoration of the Rickmansworth almshouses, were submitted by Mr. H. Fellows,and they were approved by the Board, subject to various …
Watford Observer Saturday 14 January 1893 Page: 2 col 6 …who had given a piece more land. After a little discussion the plans were passed.
Watford Observer Saturday 21 January 1893 Page: 6. Plans were passed for the erection of new almshouses Bury Lane. Lord Ebury has given the land upon which they will erected. Each almshouse will contain spacious and lofty bedroom, living room, wash-house …
Herts Advertiser Saturday 21 January 1893 Page: 6 a set of plans and drawings completed by Messrs. Gurney and Swannell, of Rickmansworth, were submitted to the Rural Sanitary Authority for the erection of six new almshouses in Bury Lane, and were passed …
Herts Advertiser Saturday 28 January 1893 Page: 6 The Charity Commissioners had sanctioned the sale by the Almshouse Trustees.
Watford Observer Saturday 28 January 1893 Page: 3 The Charity Commissioners have sanctioned the sale by the Almshouse trustees
Watford Observer Saturday 28 April 1894 Page: 6
Watford Observer Saturday 05 May 1894 Page: 4 Refers to the Charity of William Ford; and the Charity of Lady Ann Franklyn
Herts Advertiser Saturday 23 June 1894 Page: 7 Four new almshouses are now In course of erection at the side of the stream Bury Lane. The work is being carried out by Mr. T. Holland.
Watford Observer Saturday 21 July 1894 Page: 3 The County Council, about two years since, authorized the purchase of this property for a sum of £4OO.
Herts Advertiser Saturday 21 July 1894 Page: 2 The Finance Committee reported that about two years since the Council authorised the purchase of the Church Almshouses at Rickmansworth, for sum of £4OO
Watford Observer Saturday 02 February 1895 Page: 6 The Standing Joint Committee reported that the conveyance of the almshouses Rickmansworth had been completed.
Herts Advertiser Saturday 02 March 1895 Page: 7 The next business was to appoint four representative trustees of the Beresford or Parish Almshouses,.viz.: one resident Chorley Wood, one Croxley Green, one Mill End, and one in West Hyde.
Herts Advertiser Saturday 30 March 1895 Page: 4 Mr. Holland’s tender
Watford Observer Saturday 05 March 1898 Page: 3 The Clerk related that the meeting had appoint four new representative trustees of the Beresford or Parish Almshouses for ecclesiastical parishes of Chorleywood, Croxley Green, Mill End and West Hyde
Herts Advertiser Saturday 05 March 1898 Page: 2 The appointment of charity trustees of the Beresford or Parish Almshouses for the Ecclesiastical parishes of Chorleywood, Croxley Green, Mill End and West Hyde, was made, when the Rev. Cecil Hughes …
Herts Advertiser Saturday 11 March 1899 Page: 4 col 7. There are ten almshouses. This would include both Fotherley and Beresford almshouses.
Watford Observer Saturday 29 November 1902 Page: 8
Herts Advertiser Saturday 23 February 1889 Page: 5 col 6 Eliza Green was found dead in bed by the side of one of her granddaughters
Watford Observer Saturday 10 November 1894 Page: 6 col 2 The old lady residents of the Parish and Manorial Almshouses one day during last week had a strange lady visitor, who under the pretence of getting them all some extra grant, asked them to advance small sums of money for that object, but the lady visitor was unsuccessful.

This page was added on 15/08/2020.

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