Ware. Roberts

Colin Wilson

Buildings on the site of Roberts' almshouses, Ware. Jan 2017
Colin Wilson
OS 25" map Hertfordshire XXIX.8 1923 showing the Ware almshouses
Courtesy of Hertfordshire Archives & Local Studies

Three milch (milking) cows which had to be replaced must be one of the strangest endowments for an almshouse, though 4 acres of land, the Widows Mead, was included. They were the gift of Sir William Roberts. Salmon refers to them in his history of 1728. There is a further feoffement dating from 1788, cited by Victoria County History. An 1818 document at HALS records the transfer to new feoffes (trustees). This document notes that the almshouses were previously administered separately from the town rents.

The almshouses were situated in Mill Lane (now Priory Street). 3 were for widows, the other 4 for poor people. The Council increased the number to eight at some time, at their charge.

The almshouses in Mill Lane were more sought after than others in the town as they included financial provision. There was a large turnout for meetings to discuss elections, which could be lively. There was a payment, however. The widows had to give Sir William or his descendents a pair of gloves each New Year’s Day – another unusual stipulation

Perman records some issues in the Mill Lane almshouses. It is not specified if they were to do with the Roberts or the other Mill Lane group.  There were instances where residents had to be admonished for allowing their children to live with them. This may seem harsh nowadays, but how old the children were is not specified so that may be a factor. However, if we note that the widows would be over 55, any children born before they were about 40 would be of working age in those days.

The Priory Street almshouses were sold in 1940 for a retired persons’ housing trust. Hence their original purpose continues to some extent.

It’s not yet clear who Sir William Roberts was. Sir William and his family hailed from Wilsdon (now Willesden in North London). That raises the question of what links they may have had to Ware. Victoria County History records the Roberts family burials in Willesden church, including a stained glass window with coat of arms and a list of family members. Sir William Roberts (1605–1662) was a lawyer who lived at Neasden House at Willesden in Middlesex, and was a Member of Parliament. The year before his death he became 1st baronet. He is recorded as making some provision for the poor in the Willesden, Norfolk and Donnington areas. His successor was also William Roberts. He lived from 1638 – 1688. He appears to have been careless with money and sold much property to pay his debts. His will makes substantial provision for paying off debts. He would be less likely to have founded any almshouses. His son was also William, who died in 1698. There is no mention of any link to Ware for any of these persons.


Mill Lane (now Priory Street), Ware
Georef:    535508 214405
Grid ref:  51o 48’ 33”N  00o 02’ 09”W
OS 25″ map Hertfordshire XXIX.8 1923


History of Hertfordshire by J E Cussans
Page 158
Originally published Stephen Austin & Sons 1870-81. Republished E P Publishing in collaboration with Hertfordshire County Library 1972

The Victoria County History of the County of Hertford Ed William Page
Vol 3  p396
Issued Archibald Constable & Co 1912. Reprint by Dawsons of Pall Mall 1971 (ISBN 0 7129 0477 8)
This publication is available online at http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/herts/vol3/pp380-397

600 Years of Charity, by David Perman
Page 26
Pub Rockingham Press for Ware Museum 1991ISBN 0 9517045 6


The History of Hertfordshire, by N Salmon
Page 248
London 1728

Documents held at HALS

DE/We/4/11  1935 – 1940 Records of the Ware Charity Estates (1365 – 1978)
Draft conveyance of 6 Kibes Lane to the Urban District Council… (1935 – 1940)
With correspondence, agreement for sale of Priory Street Almshouses and site to the U.D.C., 1940

Websites accessed Dec 2023




This page was added on 23/12/2023.

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