Almshouse

Almshouse

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Almshouses are charitable
Charitable organization
A charitable organization is a type of non-profit organization . It differs from other types of NPOs in that it centers on philanthropic goals A charitable organization is a type of non-profit organization (NPO). It differs from other types of NPOs in that it centers on philanthropic goals A...

 housing
Public housing
Public housing is a form of housing tenure in which the property is owned by a government authority, which may be central or local. Social housing is an umbrella term referring to rental housing which may be owned and managed by the state, by non-profit organizations, or by a combination of the...

 provided to enable people (typically elderly people who can no longer work to earn enough to pay rent
Renting
Renting is an agreement where a payment is made for the temporary use of a good, service or property owned by another. A gross lease is when the tenant pays a flat rental amount and the landlord pays for all property charges regularly incurred by the ownership from landowners...

) to live in a particular community
Community
The term community has two distinct meanings:*a group of interacting people, possibly living in close proximity, and often refers to a group that shares some common values, and is attributed with social cohesion within a shared geographical location, generally in social units larger than a household...

. They are often targeted at the poor
Poverty
Poverty is the lack of a certain amount of material possessions or money. Absolute poverty or destitution is inability to afford basic human needs, which commonly includes clean and fresh water, nutrition, health care, education, clothing and shelter. About 1.7 billion people are estimated to live...

 of a locality, at those from certain forms of previous employment, or their widows, and are generally maintained by a charity or the trustees of a bequest.

European


Many almshouses were European Christian
Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 institutions though some are secular http://www.ancestraldeeds.co.uk/index.php?p=1_23. Alms
Alms
Alms or almsgiving is a religious rite which, in general, involves giving materially to another as an act of religious virtue.It exists in a number of religions. In Philippine Regions, alms are given as charity to benefit the poor. In Buddhism, alms are given by lay people to monks and nuns to...

 are, in the Christian
Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 tradition, money or services donated to support the poor and indigent. Almshouses were established from the 10th century in Britain, to provide a place of residence for poor, old and distressed folk. The first recorded almshouse was founded in York
York
York is a walled city, situated at the confluence of the Rivers Ouse and Foss in North Yorkshire, England. The city has a rich heritage and has provided the backdrop to major political events throughout much of its two millennia of existence...

 by King Athelstan
Athelstan of England
Athelstan , called the Glorious, was the King of England from 924 or 925 to 939. He was the son of King Edward the Elder, grandson of Alfred the Great and nephew of Æthelflæd of Mercia...

; the oldest still in existence is the Hospital of St. Cross
Hospital of St Cross
The Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty is a medieval almshouse in Winchester, England, founded between 1133 and 1136. It is the oldest charitable institution in the United Kingdom...

 in Winchester
Winchester
Winchester is a historic cathedral city and former capital city of England. It is the county town of Hampshire, in South East England. The city lies at the heart of the wider City of Winchester, a local government district, and is located at the western end of the South Downs, along the course of...

, dating to about 1132. In the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

, the majority of European hospital
Hospital
A hospital is a health care institution providing patient treatment by specialized staff and equipment. Hospitals often, but not always, provide for inpatient care or longer-term patient stays....

s functioned as almshouses.

Continuity


Almshouses have been created throughout the period since the 10th century, up to the present day. Many of the medieval almshouses in England were established with the aim of benefiting the soul of the founder or their family, and they usually incorporated a chapel. As a result, most were regarded as chantries and were dissolved during the Reformation
Reformation
- Movements :* Protestant Reformation, an attempt by Martin Luther to reform the Roman Catholic Church that resulted in a schism, and grew into a wider movement...

, under an act of 1547. Religion is less important now than it was in Mediaeval times and the Christian side of almshouses no longer applies to all voluntary sector
Voluntary sector
The voluntary sector or community sector is the sphere of social activity undertaken by organizations that are for non-profit and non-governmental. This sector is also called the third sector, in reference to the public sector and the private sector...

 housing, some maintain a Christian tradition. There is no strict delineation between almshouses and other forms of sheltered housing
Sheltered housing
Sheltered housing is a British English term covering a wide range of rented housing for older and/or disabled or other vulnerable people. Most commonly it refers to grouped housing such as a block or "scheme" of flats or bungalows with a scheme manager or "officer"; traditionally the manager has...

, although almshouses will tend to be characterised by their charitable status and by the aim of supporting the continued independence of their residents.

Physical form



In physical form, and owing in part to the antiquity of their formation, almshouses are often very dated buildings comprising multiple small terraced houses or apartments, and providing accommodation for small numbers of residents; some 2,600 almshouses continue to be operated in the UK, providing 30,000 dwellings for 36,000 people. In the Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

, a number of hofje
Hofje
A hofje is a Dutch word for a courtyard with almshouses around it. They have existed since the Middle Ages.A hofje provided housing for elderly people . They were privately funded, and served as a form of social security...

s
are still functioning as accommodation for elderly people (mostly women). The economics of almshouses takes the form of the provision of subsidised accommodation, often integrated with social care resources such as wardens. The basis for modern civil almshouses and workhouses came into being in 1597 when the English Poor Laws were enacted. These institutions underwent various population, program, and name changes, but by 1900 the elderly made up 85 percent of the population in these institutions (Day 2009).

See also

  • Poorhouse
    Poorhouse
    A poorhouse or workhouse was a government-run facility in the past for the support and housing of dependent or needy persons, typically run by a local government entity such as a county or municipality....

  • List of British almshouses
  • Blockley Almshouse
    Blockley Almshouse
    The Blockley Almshouse, later known as Philadelphia General Hospital, was a charity hospital and poorhouse located in West Philadelphia. It originally opened in 1732/33 in a different part of the city as the Philadelphia Almshouse...

  • Carroll County Almshouse and Farm
    Carroll County Almshouse and Farm
    Carroll County Almshouse and Farm, also known as the Carroll County Farm Museum, is a historic farm complex located at Westminster, Carroll County, Maryland. It consists of a complex of 15 buildings including the main house and dependencies. The 30-room brick main house was originally designed and...

    , Westminster, Maryland
    Westminster, Maryland
    Westminster is a city in northern Maryland, United States. It is the seat of Carroll County. The city's population was 18,590 at the 2010 census. Westminster is an outlying community within the Baltimore-Towson, MD MSA, which is part of a greater Washington-Baltimore-Northern Virginia, DC-MD-VA-WV...


Further reading

  • Heath, Sidney
    Sidney Heath
    Sidney Heath was a notable English landscape artist, illustrator and author of books on local topography, history and architecture. He specialised in drawings of old buildings....

    . Old English houses of alms: a pictorial record with architectural and historical notes (London: F. Griffiths, 1910).
  • Rothman, David J. (Ed.). "The Almshouse Experience", in series Poverty U.S.A.: The Historical Record (Arno Press, 1971). ISBN 0-405-03092-4
  • Caffrey, Helen. Almshouses in the West Riding of Yorkshire 1600-1900 (Kings Lynn: Heritage, 2006). ISBN 1-905223-21-8

External links