Aldbury. Church Houses
‘There are no documents extant showing the origin of this charity [Poor’s Land and Houses Charity]; but there were formerly certain tenements called Church Houses adjoining the churchyard, which were some forty years ago thrown into the churchyard; there are still four tenements in the village street occupied by poor persons who are in receipt of parish relief’. This extract is from Victoria County History.
Historic England mentions a charity dating to the fifteenth century or earlier. The Britainexpress website cites almshouses dating from Tudor times but unfortunately does not quote the sources. W O Wittering adds that they were probably for 4 people, and were demolished about 1866.
There is a comment on the Historic England website that the group of almshouses including Glad’s Cottage was built on the site of the Town House, but this could not refer to these almshouses. The dates do not match as the almshouses were demolished in about 1886 while Glad’s Cottage was built in the late 17th century, and they do not adjoin the churchyard. The Victoria County History extract quoted above implies two separate groups of dwellings.
According to Jean Davis, much of the churchwardens’ time was spent on the upkeep of the poors’ houses, but the occupants were chosen by the Vestry. The origin of the Town House or Widows’ House is obscure. The earliest mention of charity is in the Glebe Terrier for 1763, so may be recent to that date. It refers to a ‘house for the use of widows that are helpless’. In 1805 3 tenements were donated, which could be the Glad’s Cottage group. Hence it appears these comments do not refer to the Church Houses.
Clutterbuck and Cussans do not record these almshouses, nor does Salmon who wrote in about 1777. While Cussans mentions almshouses in Aldbury, he would be referring to the 4 tenements commonly known as Glad’s Cottage and the associated buildings, which existed in his time, to which VCH refers. The words he uses indicate he is talking about contemporary provision, but the Church Houses had been demolished by the time he was writing.
That, unfortunately, is about all that can be said for now.
While the site of the almshouses is unknown, the location of the church will provide an approximate location.
Georef: 496350 212507
Grid ref: 51o 48’ 10”N 0o 36’ 16”W
History of Hertfordshire, by John Edwin Cussans
vol 3 p39
Originally published Stephen Austin & Sons 1870-81
Republished E P Publishing in collaboration with Hertfordshire County Library 1972
Aldbury the Open Village by & pub Jean Davis
1987 ISBN 0 9512688 0
The Victoria County History of the County of Hertford, Ed William Page
Vol 2 p148
Issued Archibald Constable & Co 1908. Reprint by Dawsons of Pall Mall 1971 (ISBN 0 7129 0476 X}
Available online at https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/herts/vol2/pp143-148
A History of Hertfordshire describing the County and its Ancient Monuments, by N Salmon
pub London 1778
The Almshouses of Hertfordshire, by W O Wittering.
Article in Hertfordshire Countryside 29 (187) Nov 1974 p20
https://www.britainexpress.com/counties/herts/az/aldbury.htm mentions the Town House from Tudor times. Site accessed May 2020
https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1342213 about Glad’s Cottage
Site accessed May 2020