This almshouse at Weston was the last of three erected by Henricus Octavus Roe, a maltster. His will notes that he lived in Weston. The other two almshouses were at Stotfold in 1835 and Baldock in 1838. Roe himself died in 1854 at the good age of 93, hence his almshouses were built when he was between 74 and 79 years old.
His death notice in the County Press Nov 1854 said, ‘On the 4th inst, at his residence in Weston, near Baldock, H O Roe Esq, in his 93rd year; a gentleman remarkable for his bountiful charity and the large benefactions he bestowed in his lifetime; whilst his loss is already felt by many recipients of his bounty. It is believed that he will be found, by his will, to have established still larger claims upon the gratitude and respect of the community’.
A Herts & Cambs Reporter article from 1908 carried the following anecdote. ‘There is a curious tradition current regarding the donor. It is to the effect that, disguised as a beggar, he visited the villages in the neighbourhood and duly noting the treatment meted out to him in each, he set forth certain charitable bequests, viz., to a place that gave him lodging, almshouses; to one that gave him a raiment, a sum for clothing the poor; to another that caused him to be whipped, money to purchase whips, and so forth. I have not seen the testator’s will, but I confess to grave doubts regarding the truth of the story’. There are similar anecdotes about John Rand, of Holwell.
It was erected in 1840, at the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign. The endowment stone records they were for two married couples or four widows. The criteria were those most frequent at church and had to be over 50 years old.
Vyse says that they are semi-detached dwellings in an isolated setting on the periphery of the village. Indeed it is a bit isolated at the end of a narrow lane, but it’s not too far from the village and less than 400 yards from the church along the public footpath.
Victoria County History cites the building date as 1841, and calls them Church Almshouses. It adds that the endowment consisted of £519 15s. 7d. consols, which produced £12 19s. 8d. a year. Roe’s will states that his property had to be converted to cash and distributed among a number of named charities and people.
Cussans, writing in 1871, makes no mention of these almshouses but does mention the one at Baldock.
The building is now privately owned, and thanks are due to the residents for permission to take the photographs.
Georef: 526392 230151
Grid ref: 51o 57′ 20″N 0o 09′ 44″W
OS 25” map Hertfordshire XII.4 Surveyed: 1877, Published: 1880 annotates the site
The Victoria County History of the County of Hertford. Ed William Page
Vol 3 p177
Issued Archibald Constable & Co. 1912. Reprint by Dawsons of Pall Mall 1971 ISBN 0 7129 0477 8
Available online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/herts/vol3/pp171-177
Victorian Almshouses in Hertfordshire. By James A Vyse,
A Building Conservation thesis for A A Building Conservation course 1982 – 4
A copy is held at HALS
Charity Commission (accessed Feb 2021)
H O Roe’s will can be viewed on-line (as at Feb 2021) at https://www.ancestry.co.uk/imageviewer/collections/5111/images/40611_311562-00098?treeid=&personid=&rc=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=uVY24&_phstart=successSource&pId=692181
County Press 14 Nov 1854 page 3 col 7 includes a death notice for H O Roe, died 4 Nov age 93.
Herts & Cambs Reporter 06 Nov 1908 page 3 col 6 has a brief reference