Watford. Jubilee Retreat

Colin Wilson

The Jubilee years of 1887 and 1897 saw an outpouring of ideas for civil and charitable projects as a form of celebration. Some of these projects came to fruition. The Jubilee Retreat Almshouses at Watford was not one of them.

1887 was Victoria’s golden jubilee. It seems there were 4 viable options for Watford. The hospital could be endowed, the public library augmented, a recreation ground established, or some almshouses built.

At the time Watford’s population was in the region of 17,000. There were 5 almshouses, the Countess of Essex and Mary Bailey Smith being built only twelve and two years earlier respectively. Maybe the Drysalters almshouse should not be included as it was located in Watford but not really for Watford people. Some people thought more almshouses were needed; others thought there were enough already.

Watford Observer 09 April 1887 included details of funds raised so far. Dr Hood had given £105, Mr Grover had given land worth £150; promised donations and subscriptions amounted to £8 18s 6d. This made a grand total of £284 18s 6d.

Under the pen-name of A Looker-On, a letter was published in the Watford Observer April 1887 noting that ongoing funding was unlikely, and that other schemes would probably fare no better. The same issue carried a report about a meeting held to start the project. The Vicar’s suggestion was that it should be called The Jubilee Retreat with the governance based on that of the London Orphan Asylum. The estimate was £1000 for building plus £1200 as an endowment. The money reported in the earlier issue was but 8% of this.

P Hood was offered the position of president. He declined. While he had much experience from the Marylebone almshouses, he thought the establishment would be more successful if it was spread over a wider area than Watford, and he hoped the Earl of Essex would put his influence behind the scheme.

Watford Observer 4th June 1887 printed a letter from Charles Lovejoy (the secretary of the committee). The almshouses were to be erected on land given by Mr Grover so that aged and infirm tradespeople and inhabitants may live comfortably in their declining years. A donation of £5 5s would give a voting right for life; 10s 6d would give a one year vote. The constitution was to be based on Licenced Victuallers and Booksellers Retreats, London Orphan Asylum and Reveley Almshouses. There were twenty one members on the committee.

There doesn’t seem to be activity reported after that. A search for ‘Jubilee Retreat’ or ‘Retreat’ in Watford Observer for the next decade produced no responses. So we could say it was a scheme which was actively considered but in the end was not viable.

However, in 1888 there are reports that land was being sought near the Countess of Essex almshouses at Cassiobury, so maybe the recreation ground scheme came to pass instead of the almshouses, but this has neither been confirmed nor investigated for the purpose of this article.


These references from the Watford Observer can be viewed on-line at the British Newspaper Archive website
Saturday 09 April 1887 page 4 col 7
Saturday 16 April 1887 page 3 col 3
Saturday 16 April 1887 page 4 col 2
Saturday 23 April 1887 page 6 col 7
Saturday 04 June 1887 page 4 col 7

This page was added on 02/11/2020.

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