St Ippolytts. Thomas Bibsworth
It seems there was some sort of almshouse provision near St Ippolytts church for over 300 years, from about 1612 till 1934.
The Original Grant
Thomas Bibsworth gave 3 acres and 4 roods for the poor in 1612. This land was later exchanged for land at Bowstead Common, on the north side of the Hitchin to Stevenage turnpike road. There was a house, occupied at the time by Robert Tristram but later used as a poor house, along with 11/2 acres of land. Of this land 1 acre was let out for a guinea per year.
The phrase ‘for the use of the poor’ usually meant that a property was let and the income used to support poor people. This may be the original case for Bibsworth’s gift. The extra issue is that the phrase ‘poor house’ sometimes refers to an almshouse, sometimes to a workhouse.
It seems there were also three cottages adjoining the churchyard. The above was conveyed to John Spencer and others as trustees. The deed was renewed in 1656. By then there were no trustees, so the churchwardens and overseers of the poor took charge. Payments could be made at the discretion of the trustees, who did not have to regard the legal place of settlement as a factor.
The Enclosure map award of 1818 refers to plot 185 as a workhouse, and plot 186 as a croft. A Commissioners’ history specifically says the four cottages were for the poor to live in rent free, suggesting an almshouse. Maybe the house originally occupied by Mr Tristram was later used as a poor house, while the cottages were almshouses, or vice versa. This matter is discussed below under The Almshouses 1863 – 1934.
The three cottages adjoining the churchyard (by then 200 years old) were pulled down in 1818 and replaced with four cottages. The cost was borne by the parish, for the poor to live in rent free.
A letter from the vicar, Rev. Lax, to Clutterbuck in 1821 provided the information that the cottages adjoined the south side of the churchyard, with an endowment of 11/2 acres. By that time Lax had been the vicar for 20 years so no doubt knew the area well.
Clutterbuck said there were two almshouses. He cites, ‘Some person or persons now unknown gave two almshouses and four acres of land contiguous thereto to this Parish. These almshouses are situated on the south side of, and adjoining to, the churchyard. Part of this land was exchanged upon the Inclosure of this parish in the year 1811, for a field of about two acres and an half, abutting on the north side of the turnpike road leading from Hitchin to Stevenage’. He was writing only a few years after the rebuilding, yet implies the cottages had been used as almshouses for some time before that.
The 1818 enclosure map shows more buildings than the 1922 OS map.
Sale of property 1863
By about 1860 the churchyard needed extending. In April 1862 a formal offer was made for the property formerly used as a workhouse (note the description). By then burials had taken place right up to the side of the building. The offer for the house was made as an extra, but if it was refused the buildings would become derelict and unfit for sale. The site was shown on the parish map Inclosure Awards as plots 185 – 186. Four dwellings were still shown on the 1922 OS map, next to where the lych gate is now sited.
Some property was sold in 1863 and 1866. The land was sold to Mrs Amos and Joseph Lucas for a total of £645, following an independent valuation. The money was invested in 3% consolidated stocks and Mrs Amos gave the land to the church.
Four buildings were still shown on the 1922 (pub 1924) OS map, Hertfordshire XII.6, next to where the lych gate now stands.
The almshouses 1863 – 1934
In the introduction to the Memorial Inscriptions book about Ippollits, Daphne Rance provides the information about the later history. The path from the lychgate to the kissing gate marks the boundary of the original graveyard. Two ancient houses from Thomas Bibsworth stood close to its left hand side. Both were divided. One provided cottages for the deserving poor, the other was a workhouse. The workhouse part was demolished in 1863. The other was left, leaving the residents surrounded by the (extended) churchyard – some view. These cottages were vacated and demolished by 1934. This clarifies the issue raised earlier in this article about the almshouse and the workhouse. There were buildings for almshouses and the workhouse, and the two were divided to make four. Clutterbuck only referred to two dwellings as he was concerned with charitable trusts, not workhouse provision.
The charity was removed from the Charity Commission register in August 2005 as the funds were exhausted. The reference number was 207525.
South side of the churchyard (before the extension). The 1884 6″ OS map seems to place the building on the south side of the present path (see https://maps.nls.uk/view/102343280). Note the paths did change over time, and the present lych gate was built around 1860.
OS gridref: 51o 55′ 46″N 0o 15′ 33″W
Geo ref: 519806 227090
OS map Hertfordshire X11.6, 1896 (pub 1898)
See https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/side-by-side/#zoom=18&lat=51.9297&lon=-0.2591&layers=168&right=BingHyb which compares old and modern maps
OS map XII.6 (Hitchin Urban; Ippollitts; Wymondley) revised: 1922, published: 1924
This map can be viewed on-line at https://maps.nls.uk/view/104199574. (Site accessed May 2019)
The History & Antiquities of the County of Hertford, by Robert Clutterbuck
Vol 3 p66
Printed by and for John Bowyer Nichols, 25 Parliament Street, London, 1827
Monumental Inscriptions vol 17 St ippollitts, compiled by Jean Laidlaw
Publiushed by Hertfordshire Family History Society 1988
CP83/25/1 Bundle of papers including a typed history by the Charity Commission (dated 1937), sale documents and a letter to Clutterbuck. This bundle is held at HALS
Thomas Bibsworth’s will ref 2HR76 and statement of assets ref 9HW28. Copies held at HALS
1818 Enclosure map and award. Held at HALS refs QS/E44 and QS/E45
Charity Commission website http://apps.charitycommission.gov.uk/Showcharity/RegisterOfCharities/RemovedCharityMain.aspx?RegisteredCharityNumber=207525&SubsidiaryNumber=0, accessed Nov 2018