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A Collection of Transcriptions and Historical Accounts


Bedwell, 1631, called certain benefactions "Charitable Intendments", because "they were rather purposed, than done, or not done to continue for any long time". He continues, "Notwithstanding for the good intent, or well meaning, of the authors, it were pity they should be buried in silence."


In early times, a house on Page Green, with land belonging, "being no small quantity", was given for the maintenance of a free school. Bedwell could not find out what became of the benefaction.


According to an inscription on a slab in the Parish Church, one Thomas Billington, who died in 1536, was a "benefactor to the parish", but what his gift was, and what became of it, remain a mystery.


So badly kept were the records, and so corrupt the managers of the Tottenham charities in earlier times, that Lord Colerane compiled a history of the parish about 1705 with the purpose of leaving a record to prevent, if possible, further loss on the then existing charities. This history was first made public in 1790. Colerane wrote with experience of Tottenham, that "formerly was a written tablet set up to specify certain charitable donations, but of a sudden, (nobody taking notice of it) it was gone, and so conveyed away as never to be recovered again; not without a just suspect of its having been removed to serve a sinister end, upon the alienation of an estate that was liable to pay formerly a greater gift to the poor than it doth at present."


Colerane considered a proper register should be kept of the charities, and suggested - in order to prevent further corruptions - that persons be allowed to make copies from the register as a check "upon the casual loss or defacement of the original in the parish".


Bedwell, 1631, mentions almshouses near the Church, built by Mr. Phesant; evidently this charity was not carried out in a proper manner, for Lord Colerane complains that one of the houses was made an "alehouse to the scandal of the parish". Colerane insinuates that as the vestry was ruled by farmers, they did, when there was the "least surmise of a family becoming chargeable to the town", do anything to "save their own purses one penny by it".


Colerane draws attention to another abuse of a charity or gift - the "misapplication of the room over porch at Tottenham Church, which chamber was intended, like those on the sides of the Temple at Jerusalem, either for a school or schoolmaster, but for a long time been made a sorry tenement, and a needy householder taken out of a cottage, put into it before they wanted a habitation; so that they were not thrown upon the parish, but got in by some odd countenance for some private ends, which the whole town might have suffered by, and been sorry for. If any epidemical sickness had befallen this family, besides other casualties, (as of fire), and the uncleanness of such company still about the porch; how might the parish have paid for such a saving project as this? and have wished that room had never been so furnished". The writer then shows from a sanitary point the bad condition of the room and surroundings, - the room was not built for any such purpose as housing a whole family.


As an illustration how badly the parish estates were managed, Colerane mentions "a house in the Street, not far from the White Hart ..... which belongs to the parish, and pays per annum but 20s."


There was a Mr. Wm. Dalby, a fishmonger, of London, who died in 1594. This gentleman left a legacy valued at 10 a year, for certain barrels of herrings to be distributed at the beginning of Lent to "the poorer sort of this parish". Although Bedwell in 1631 said this gift had been discontinued for many years, and "is likely to come to nothing", we find that the Barkham family, who came into the property formerly belonging to Mr. Dalby, entered into a compromise on the matter by paying 2 2s. a year, but the herrings were not forthcoming.


Quite a number of benefactions have been made for the distribution of bread to the poor of Tottenham; here are some of the principal:-


Sanchez - who founded the almshouses known by his name - also left 100, the interest of which was to provide two dozen loaves of bread "for the poor of Tottenham, as his gift every Sunday for ever".


Bedwell tells of Mr. Thomas Wheeler, of Wood Green, leaving by will, dated June 29, 1611, a sum of money that "every Sunday after my burial for ever, there be twelve pence bestowed in bread", and the same to be given at the discretion of the vicar and churchwardens "to so many of the poorest in the same parish, and especially of Wood Green, as they shall have penny loaves for twelve pence, together with the advantage". If the heirs of the testators were at fault, the vicar and churchwardens to "enter and distrain upon the lands, from thence to bear, lead, drive, and carry away until they shall be satisfied the same".


Mrs. Skinner, in 1759, left the interest on 100 for clothing for the poor. Richard Toll, in 1767, left the interest on 100 for bread for the poor.


In 1768, Mr. William Wood left a turnpike bill for 100, payable by the Trustees of the High Road from Shoreditch to Enfield; the interest to be given for bread for the poor every Sunday after morning service at the Church.


Some of the above sums - with other legacies - were invested in the old South-Sea Annuities in 1786, together amounting to 740 stock; but the parish estate requiring considerable repair, 340 of this stock was sold for the purpose. This action caused some comment.


John Ardesoif, of cock-fighting fame, left in 1789 100 for bread. Mrs. Tyler, 1802, left 50, the dividends to be applied for the weekly distribution of bread to parishioners on Sunday mornings. In 1816, Mr. Richard Patmore left the interest on 100 for bread for the poor, at the discretion of the vicar and churchwardens. In 1817, Charles Saunders left 300 for bread for inmates of Pound Almshouses. In 1818 Elizabeth Saunders left 222 for bread. John Field in 1820 left for bread and coals 1,000. William Wallis, in 1825, bequeathed 100, the interest to be applied to the poor for ever, under the name of William Wallis's Bread Charity. In 1833, Richard Mountford, and Daniel Silver, each left 100 for bread. In 1844, for bread and clothes, Thomas Barber bequeathed 500. The last legacy to the parish appears to have been made by Sarah and Mary Dawson in 1881 - 90 to the Pound Almshouses.


Robinson wrote in 1840 there was no specific distribution made to the poor in respect to any of the charities up to that date; but there was a weekly distribution of bread, consisting of sixty-six 3d. loaves, which were given away every Sunday morning at the Church, to the poor parishioners attending service there, whose names were comprised in a list which was kept by the vicar and churchwardens.


The total cost of bread at this time was 42 18s.; this deducted from the actual receipts from the charities in the hands of the vicar and churchwardens, and parish trustees responsible to the vestry, left a residue of 167, which remained in the general parish funds, and was applied to the general expenditure of the parish, "without any appropriation to purposes of charity". (Robinson).


The parish estates were managed by trustees appointed in 1725, but the parishioners some years before 1830 could not find any of the trustees, or their heirs alive, or anyone responsible for the management of the funds, so they got up a petition, and new trustees were appointed May 27, 1830. One of the duties of the new trustees was that an account of all distribution and general expenditure of the charity funds should be kept and submitted to the parish in vestry assembled in April in each year. How the trustees carried out their duties will be seen from the following paragraph from Robinson's History, 1840:-


The writer, after referring to the Coombes' Croft, and other properties, says, "In fact no specific application is made of the rents of either of these properties to charitable uses. No separate account is kept of this or any other of the charitable estates or funds in the parish, but the produce of the whole is carried to the general parish account, and is no otherwise applied to charity than so far as it may be accounted for in a weekly distribution of bread. It seems that this and other estates derived from charitable benefactions, ..... have long since been considered not as property appropriated to certain charitable purposes, but as the common property of the parish belonging to the general parish fund, and applicable to general parochial purposes. The consequence is, that the greater part of the charitable funds in this parish remains unapplied in the manner directed by the donors."


At the end of 1876 the Trustees of the Charity Estates had in hand a balance of 279, after having paid the weekly allowances to those entitled to such. It was resolved that 150 be distributed in sums of 10s. to deserving persons decided upon by the trustees and overseers.


Some interest and discussion took place in connection with the working of the trustees of the Tottenham charities in 1894. It was then stated that the total annual amount under the control of the trustees was about 1,500, about 300 of which was for educational purposes. There was an annual distribution near Christmas of about 300, in gifts of 10s. to deserving poor; - even then information was difficult to obtain.


In 1896 a scheme was adopted, and approved by the Charity Commissioners, whereby the whole of the Tottenham parochial charities were placed under the control of a popularly elected body; the order for this was dated Feb. 28, 1896. Under this scheme the administration of the charities was divided into two branches; one for Tottenham, and the other for Wood Green, each having a separate body of trustees. An estate committee was appointed, consisting of four Tottenham and two Wood Green trustees. The almshouses and inmates had to be maintained, after which the residue was to be divided into three parts:- two to Tottenham branch and one to Wood Green. The estate committee had power, with the consent of the Charity Commissioners, to pull down and re-build almshouses, or sell the same. Their other powers are too numerous to be given here.


The working of this scheme evidently has not given entire satisfaction. In 1914, the "Weekly Herald", in order to arouse more interest in the matter of administration, gave an epitome of the scheme, with a list of the benefactions, as given in a statement issued by the trustees soon after the scheme was adopted. One part of the article runs, "It will be noticed that the majority of the trustees were appointed by the District Councils, but we are not aware there is ever a report from them on the subject. They hold office as the representatives of the whole community, and scarcely anybody knows it. There are certain matters in the scheme upon which it might be well to have a little enlightenment."


It was announced at the end of 1914, that the Tottenham Parochial Charities' trustees decided to divide a balance of 200 between a number of churches in the parish for disbursement among the poor; by this method, deserving parishioners not attending a place of worship had small chance of getting anything.


Mr. E. Crowne was, in 1896, appointed clerk to the trustees; at his death, Mr. C.E. Burrows was appointed to the position by the trustees, - this appointment was severely criticised by the District Councillors - because they were not consulted; Mr. Burrows died in 1916, when Mr. W.E. Windsor was appointed.



The following researched at Tottenham Archives






The site of Fullers cottages was sold for 2,575 in 1865. According to HG Hawkes, there were originally some 50 charities in Shoreditch, but only four were still in existence when the new site was developed, consisted of Fullers, Porters & Walters ( 1525/1658 ), Harwar ( 1702 ) and Hackney ( 1833 ), and which became The United Charities of St.Leonard Shoreditch.


From the records of the 1844 Tithe Map : The land which was purchased for Fuller's Cottages in Wood Green, in the Parish of Tottenham, Middlesex was owned by James Forester, parcel 2018, as part of a property of some 100 acres known as Barnfield, and was tithed at 10 per year. The land was originally occupied by a farmer by the name of Frederick Ansembring.


According to some historians, Shoreditch is named after the Soerditches ( The Lords of the Manor of Edward III ), however, other origins quoted are that it is named after the wide ditch, or open sewer, which ran through Old Street. The first recorded reference is in 1148, as "Soreditch" [ Old English scora + dic, scora is only found in place names, so the meaning is obscure ]; then Sorresdic 1183, Sordig, Soreditch 1204, Schoresdich 1221, Shoredich 1235 and Soresdich 1242; the meaning ascribed by Oxford is "Ditch leading to the shore ( of the Thames )". Much could be written of the history of Shoreditch, and has been, but it is worth noting that Shoreditch was an area used by the Romans as a burial ground, and later used for the open burials of the Plague. This is an area of ghosts, but also of the origins of the theatre - for it was in 1574 that James Burbage formed the Queen's Servants, a theatre group, and opened in his and the nation's first Theatre in 1576 named, with great originality, as "The Theatre" followed by "The Custom" in 1577, and then "The Fortune Theatre" in 1580 at Clerkenwell. "The Theatre" was pulled down, after an argument as to ownership, re-erected at Blackfriars and called "The Playhouse", moved to Southwark to become "The Globe" in 1599. James Burbage and his son Richard are both buried at St. Leonard's Church, which was founded in 900 - rebuilt 1736-40 by George Dane the Elder, but seriously damaged by bombing, during World War II; remarkably, the portico and fine steeple had remained intact.


Shoreditch was well populated with charities and almshouses, possibly the highest density anywhere in London. There were a number of good-hearted people, with well filled pockets, who wanted to help the poor and needy of their parishes; even today there are some 117 almshouses still in the business of giving care to the needy. Amongst these people are the mediaeval Guilds or associations of master craftsmen, who regulated standards and practices, and who continued the charitable functions and religious bearing of the 12th century guilds. The 14th century saw the incorporation of the 12 leading Guilds by Royal Charter, being Mercers, Grocers, Drapers, Fishmongers, Goldsmiths, Merchant Taylors, Skinners, Habersashers, Salters, Ironmongers, Vintners and Clothworkers.


The first almshouse in Shoreditch was that founded by John Fuller, in Old Street in 1591, demolished to clear the site in 1865; then there were the Allen Badger's Almshouses, built in Hoxton Street in 1698, to be demolished in 1873. Samuel Harwar's Almshouses built 1713 in Kingsland Road, were demolished in 1879; these were the Draper's Almshouses and a street which ran to the right of the home was re-named from Thomas Street to Harwar Street to commemorate the loss. The City and east London College occupies the site of what used to be Robert Aske's Almshouses ( The Haberdasher's Hospital School and Almshouses ) in Pitfield Street, largely demolished in 1873. The Goldsmith's Almshouses were built in 1705 in what is now known as Goldsmith's Row, to be demolished in 1889. The Ironmonger's Almshouses, built by Sir Robert Geffrye, in Kingsland Road, were built in the early 18th century, and following a brief period of disuse, became the Geffrye Museum from 1914. Others in Shoreditch are Lady Lumley's Almshouses in Sheperdess Walk, The Dutch Almshouses, The Weaver's Almshouses in Hoxton Street, The Framework Knitter's Almshouses in Kingsland Road, The New Shoreditch Almshouses, which were built in 1852 at St.Mary's Haggerston, but following WWII bomb damage, had to be demolished. Last but not least are the Hackney Road Almshouses and The Draper's Almshouses of Porter's and Walter's.


Before too long, it was clear that large re-building had to be undertaken; an acute housing problem developed in the early 19th century, with the rapid rise in industries and growing city populations. The byelaw system of 1835 effected improvements in sanitation and produced a stereo typed-housing. [ The Black Act ]. A series of Housing Acts were passed as the work of the Royal Commission of 1843. The turen Act of 1868 was extended by a series of Acts commonly known as the Artisans Dwellings Acts 1875 82, together with The Public Health Act 1875. A further Royal Commission on housing the poor was appointed in 1884 and completed in The Comprehensive Act of 1890. Shoreditch was to be the first area in London to be the subject of clearances and re-building as a result of the Housing and Working Class Act. The most striking of these schemes was on Crabtree Road, being the Columbia Market and Artisans Dwellings, next to the church of St.Michael's on Westminster Street ( re-named Baroness Road ). This was the first and largest public housing scheme ( which also included the market, sadly the only failure of the patron ) built by a private individual. It was provided by the generosity and care of Baroness Angela Burdett-Coutts, in 1859. She was the daughter of Sir Francis Burdett ( son-in-law of Thomas Coutts, the banker ), and she was a generous patron of the arts, a philanthropist, she built many churches and schools, and spent vast sums on improvements for the poor and for animal welfare. She died in 1906 at the age of 92. It was in this scene of development and improvements that the almshouses of Shoreditch were demolished and moved to Wood Green, making room for the new Town Hall ( built by C.A.Long in 1866 and enlarged in 1902 ) and a new Police station. There is no mention of Wood Green in the Domesday Book, but the name is first recorded as Wodegrene, in 1501, being from the Old English wudu grene, or Green Place near woodland. Speed's map of 1611 shows Ducsats ( or Duckets Farm of the Cole map of 1756 ) but there is no mention of Wood Green; in fact, the almshouses at Wood Green are near the site of the old hamlet of Round Abouts.




It was the quiet of the rural surroundings that attracted a number of institutions to the area. The Fishmongers and Poulterer's Company built a two storey Tudor style almshouse to designs by Mel and William Webb for twelve married couples. Opened in 1850, the almshouses were demolished prior to 1958 for the construction of Wood Green Civic Centre. South of St. Michael's Church, the Printer's Almshouses were another two storey range designed by Webb for twelve couples and opened in 1856. In 1871 two new wings doubled the accommodation, further extended when in 1891 the Duchess of Albany opened a new block and became Wood Green's first recorded royal visitor. In the mid 1960s the almsfolk were moved out to Basildon and the almshouses demolished. Two other almshouses were to move in from crowded inner London locations. Fuller's almshouses acquired land in Nightingale Road in 1865 and were joined in the same road by Walters and Porters almshouses shortly after 1894, both having left behind sites in Shoreditch which were then redeveloped. The Royal Masonic Boys School acquired Lordship House in 1857 and built a new school there in 1865. After the school moved to Bushey in 1898 the buildings were used by the Home and Colonial Society as a training college. It served as local gas offices from the 1930s, named Woodall House after the Eastern Gas chairman. Haringey Council acquired it in 1974, using much of the site for housing but retaining the school buildings as a Crown Court, opened in 1989. Charitable benefactors seem to have seen the advantages of the area first, and in 1847 the foundation stone for the Fishmongers' & Poulterers' Institution was laid near to the church. These 12 almshouses for married couples were designed by Mee & Webb "an imposing edifice in the florid Tudor style" complete with a grandiose turreted gateway more befitting a public school. William Webb was also responsible for the design of the Printers' almshouses, opened in 1856 just south of the church and again in a Tudor style - always a favourite for such buildings - and subsequently enlarged. A decade later space was also made for John Fuller's almshouses in Nightingale Road. Meanwhile, in 1857, the Royal Masonic Institution had acquired the site of Lordship House and grounds in 1856 and opened a school for the sons of poor or deceased freemasons. A new building was opened in 1865, and soon accommodated over 200 pupils, but in 1898 the school moved out to Bushey; the Home & Colonial School Society then took over the site, establishing a training school for schoolmistresses. The building was later acquired by a gas company - who named it Woodall House after their chairman - and in 1989 was converted into a crown court.



Avenue House on Tottenham Green was acquired by the Evangelical Protestant Deaconesses' institution (later the Prince of Wales' general hospital) in 1868, when Elmslea was bought by the Drapers' Company of London for Thomas Corney's school in the same year, or when Suffolk Lodge became a priory for the Servite sisters in 1871. On part of the Elmslea Estate, facing Bruce Grove, the Drapers' Company built alms-houses in 1869 to replace those at Bow belonging to the Jolles, Pemel, and Edmanson trusts; most of the dwellings were assigned to Edmanson's charity for sail-makers from which the whole group became known as the Sailmakers' alms-houses. Alderman Staines' alms-houses were built in Beaufoy Road in 1868 on their removal from the Barbican, London. After the last three inmates had been pensioned off in 1899 the property was leased out by the trustees of the Cripplegate Foundation, who had taken over Staines' charity, until its acquisition by Haringey in 1965.



These almshouses, which were intended to form a refuge for aged and enfeebled printers, are situated at Church Hill, High Road. The buildings consist of a central block, with two wings, and there is a yard, or garden, in front. The centre and one wing were built at the expense of the printing trade; the other side, which is known as "Maria's Wing", was erected from a legacy left by a Mrs. Wright. The almshouses accommodate 32 printers and widows. Mr. Biggs, the founder of the "Family Herald", when he died in 1860, left 15,000, the interest of which was to be divided among 42 printers in pensions of 10 each. This is known as Biggs' Charity, and is managed by the council of the Printers' Corporation. An account of a visit to these almshouses is given in the "Sunday at Home" 1884. The foundation stone of the first building was laid June 11, 1849. On the stone and brass plate fixed over the coins deposited therein was the following inscription:- "Printers' Almshouses. This first stone was laid by Philip Henry Lord Viscount Mahon, M.P., on Monday June 11, 1849" - followed by the names of the treasurer, trustees, secretary and architect. The freehold ground cost 612, and the expense of the building about 1,800. In the evening after the stone-laying a meeting was held at the London Tavern, when about 300 ladies and gentlemen were present; at this meeting donations amounting to nearly 500 were promised; in addition to this Messrs. Clowes gave 105. In "Illustrated London News", June 21, 1856, appears an account of these almshouses, the inauguration having taken place the previous week. It is stated that "on the day preceding the opening of the almshouses, a neighbouring Quaker lady (an acquaintance of Elizabeth Fry), rapidly approaching three score and ten, visited the institution, and having inspected the building, presented each of the newly-elected inmates with five shillings, and directed them to send to her residence every other morning for a supply of new milk" . The subscriptions connected with the festival exceeded 670.



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