St Albans. Richard Raynshaw

Colin Wilson

Raynshaw's almshouse as seen from Upper Dagnall Street. The former Vine is beyond. Jan 2017
Colin Wilson
Raynshaw's almshouse, Spicer Street. Jan 2017
Colin Wilson
The datestone above the main door of Raynshaw's almshouse. Jan 2017
Colin Wilson
OS 25" map Hertfordshire XXXIV.11 pub 1898
Courtesy of Hertfordshire Archives & Local Studies

Just 11 years into the reign of ‘Good Queen Bess’, with its religious and political tensions, Richard Raynshaw wrote his will. A serjeant at arms to Queen Elizabeth I, he lived at The Vine. Three poor widows lived next door. In his will he left The Vine to his widow and others for life, then to the Corporation, on condition that they would support the widows from the income of The Vine. It appears that it wasn’t always used as an inn, and for a while it may be that part of the almshouse was used for that purpose under Mr Wildbore.

There is a query about location. The almshouses were originally on the corner of Spicer Street and Dagnal Street, to the north of The Vine. But there are documents from 1691 and 1691 suggesting the almshouses were to the south of The Vine, which was on the corner.

Repairs and Rebuilding
Mr WIldbore had a lease on The Vine since 1811 at a peppercorn rent on condition he carried out repairs. This lease expired in 1833. Mr Buckingham obtained the lease for £34 a year, until 1840, after which Mr Jennings took on the lease till 1847.

In 1846 the trustees of Lathbery’s charity lent just over £40, the balance of their accounts in hand, to Raynshaw’s, hence the almshouses were rebuilt.

Fast forward to 1889, there was correspondence with the Holyhead Road Commissioners, who wanted to purchase part of the Raynshaw Almshouses to construct a new road and erect an embankment. The part the Commissioners wanted to purchase was valued at £303, but it seems the plan came to nothing. In the same year, William Hale, a carpenter, desired permission to repair Raynshaw’s Almshouses in Spicer Street, free of charge, and was given leave.

However, by 1897, the year of Victoria’s diamond jubilee, we find that more repairs and improvements were needed. The Jubilee Commemoration Fund authorised £150, with a further £75 provide by Raynshaw’s trustees. As if it wasn’t obvious to any homeowner, it was pointed out that routine maintenance would be needed in the years to come otherwise major repairs would be needed in the near future. A stitch in time….  The dwellings were fitted with modern appliances. Separate sculleries and wash-houses and water supplies, for instance, were added, along with other work. By about 1900 the ‘Vine’ public-house was let for 14 years for £65. The almshouses contained ten rooms and were occupied by poor persons rent-free.

There are documents held at HALS about repairs and improvements in about 1958. Baths were fitted, along with Sadia water heaters. This involved resiting a door in a matchboard partition. The kitchen and WC areas were remodelled, requiring resiting brick walls. Damp was a bit of a problem. It seems that exterior rendering had breached the damp course, but in addition the damp course did not go right through the wall. Nowadays there are no decorative pendants and arches at the eaves level. The ones there were fixed to the soffits, which in turn were only held to the rafters with a couple of thin nails. The surveyor wondered how they had stayed up so long; they could fall at any time. Some of this work was paid for by local and exchequer grants.

Residents and Nominations
There were originally three residents. They had to have lived in the ancient the town of St. Albans, as it existed as a borough in 1569, for at least 2 years and be of good character. They each had a weekly payment of 6d. The residents increased to ten over the years, presumably following the 1846 rebuilding. The current provision (2021) is for eight.

The right of nomination was with the mayor and burgesses, in consultation with the vicar of the Abbey. This led to occasional discord. One anomaly till about 1873 was that almshouses in the Abbey parish nominated almspeople in St Peter’s and vice versa. This was amicably resolved between the charities.

The Raynshaw and Lathbery charities continue, being registered with the Charity Commission and the Almshouse Association. The link is that Lathbery did not provide almshouses but half the funds were designated to support almshouses. The reserves are still subject to market risks. The 2021 accounts report that a tenant became insolvent, the rents due amounting to a bad debt. Currently (2021) the charities are preparing to become a Charitable Incorporated Organisation.

Many people have the idea that Victorians had short lives. This is based on the misunderstanding of average life. Examples from Ryanshaw’s almshouse include Sophia Webster 87, Henry Oldaker 75, Ann Sale 77, Christian Grizzle 85, Mary Marston 75 Emma Haggar 84, Elizabeth Wheeler 82 and Sarah Dawson 83. It hardly needs to be said that a number of these would have been frail in their latter days.

Ann Sale’s case is of interest. She could do nothing for herself and was a bit eccentric, but a girl by the name of Ellen Higden had visited her twice a day for the past three weeks to wait on her. She would light the fire and get meals. One Tuesday she was told she would not be needed till Thursday, but there was a roll and some uncooked mutton in the house. When she returned on Thursday she found Ann dead in front of the fire. She was not burned; she was just lying down in a comfortable position. Another resident, Mrs Elmer, said she used to get her bread at the church service, and fetch water for another almswoman. This shows some mutual support among residents, but the coroner suggested that the Charity should find some way of providing daily visits. As the doctor put it, ‘it’s no good providing food if people can’t cook it’. This was in 1879.

But 13 years later, in 1892, Ann Mildman died following a fit, setting fire to her room. The coroner once more suggested the Charity should have someone to supervise the residents, as was done at The Union workhouse.

While the charity continues, The Vine closed in 1932. The almshouses are listed by Historic England ref 1103066.


21, 23 and 25 Spicer Street, St Albans
Georef:    514498 207282
Grid ref:   51 45′ 10″N 0 20′ 34″W
OS 25″ map Hertfordshire XXXIV.11 pub 1898


The Victoria County History of the County of Hertford, ed William Page
Vol 2 p512
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

Documents held at HALS

SBR/4629/5   Date: 1930
Records of the Borough of St Albans (1353 – 1991)
Fire Brigade Scrapbook (1883 – 1975) page 5
Newspaper cuttings including Raynshaws Almshouses

SBR/4508/161: File E/3/7/161   (1958 – 1959)
Housing; Improvement Grants; Raynshaw’s Almshouses, Spicer Street

DE/X1042/14/3 date 1900
Articles: ‘The Raynshaw Charity, copy of the Will’, Richard Raynshaw, St Albans 1569 for the provision of almshouse, (Herts Advertiser) 2 Jun 1900

Websites accessed Aug 2022 is worth browsing for further information

Historic England

Charity Commission
Lathberye The Raynshawe Almshouses, Spicer Street. A ‘home for honest poor persons’ by David Lasky. Did not seem to be available by Aug 2022

Newspapers can be viewed on-line at Also see the document BNA Newespapers list for various transcripts

Herts Advertiser June 2 1900 Transcript of Raynshaw’s will

Herts Advertiser 07 Apr 1900 page 8 col 6 original provision and £150 raised for restoration

Herts Advertiser 26 May 1900 page 5 col 6 and Herts Advertiser 16 June 1900 page 6 col 4 Original provision and new leases

Herts Advertiser 02 Jun 1900 page 2 col 3. Transcript of Raynshaw’s will

Hertford Mercury 27 Jun 1846 page 2 col 2 and Herts Advertiser 31 August 1889 page 6 col 4 Lease to Wildbore and Buckingham

Herts Advertiser 14 Sep 1889 page 6 col 6 Holyhead Road Commissioners

Herts Advertiser 20 Jul 1889 page 3 William Hale, carpenter, given permission to repair Raynshaw’s Almshouses

Herts Advertiser 03 Jul 1897 page 5 col 4 Useful article about detailed condition of the almshouses

Herts Advertiser 11 Jun 1898 page 6 col 2 The ancient almshouses of the city should be repaired….

Herts Advertiser 06 Jul 1901 page 5 col 5 Modernisation of almshouses

Herts Advertiser 07 Dec 1872 page 5 col 6; Herts Advertiser 19 April 1873 page 5 col 5; Herts Advertiser 07 December 1872 page 5; Herts Advertiser 19 April 1873 page 5 Changes to rights of nomination.

Herts Advertiser 17 Sep 1898 page 5 col 4 Obituary of Bejamin Agutter age 89, local trustee

Herts Advertiser 03 Jan 1880 page 5 col 5 and Herts Advertiser 07 January 1893 page 5 Gifts from Misses Wells and others

Herts Advertiser 28 Sept 1889 page 2, 3 Widow Pitte appointed to the Ranshaw’s Almshouses.

Herts Advertiser 01 Aug 1868 page 8 col 5 Mrs Sophia Webster died aged 87

Hertford  Mercury 27 Jul 1844 page 3 col 5 Mrs. Christian Grizzle died aged 85

Herts Advertiser 19 Jul 1873 page 8 Henry Oldaker died aged 75.

Herts Advertiser 05 Apr 1879 page 6 col 2 Death of Ann Sale

Herts Advertiser 10 Jul 1880 page 6 col 2 Inquest on Mary Marston age 75

Herts Advertiser 15 Nov 1884 page 8 James Haggar died aged 84.

Herts Advertiser 22 Feb 1890 page 8 Martha Crouch died aged 79.

Herts Advertiser 03 Dec 1892 page 5 col 5 Inquest concerning the death of Ann Mildman

Herts Advertiser 28 Apr 1894 page 8 col 7 Elizabeth Wheeler died aged 82.

This page was added on 14/08/2022.

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