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Colin Bryant Collection - Courtesy of Rushden Museum
c1950s before extensions to the farm cottages

Almshouses in Wellingborough Road The two storey almshouses
c2008 Almshouses were originally four cottages.
Made into two cottages in 1948, and extended in 2015.
The two farm workers houses built about the same time
have been sold and extended.

Almshouses are charitable housing provided to enable people (typically elderly people who can no longer work to earn enough to pay rent) to live in a particular community. They are often targeted at the poor 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. They were established form the 10th century in Britain.

An almshouse is mentioned at Rushden in 1595 although there are no details of it. In 1883 four almshouses, which still exist, were built in the Wellingborough Road to the memory of Frederick Maitland Sartoris by his father.  

Rushden Almshouses c1912

Extracted from the Obituary of Mrs Sartoris 1913
Inmates of the Almhouses; Mountjoy, Packwood, Streather and Robinson......
Obituary - Mrs Eliza Chettle 1918

Rushden Echo & Argus, 13th February 1948, transcribed by Kay Collins

Almshouses Given to Town
The Sartoris almshouses in Wellingborough Road, Rushden, have been presented to the town by the trustees and were accepted with thanks at Wednesday’s meeting of the Urban Council.

It was reported that the solicitors to the trustees had offered to convey to the Council, as a gift, the houses erected by the late Mr. F. U. Sartoris in memory of his son, Maitland, together with the benefit of a trust fund, comprising £366 of securities, for the maintenance of the property.

The trustees were prepared to transfer the property unconditionally and leave the Council free to exercise its discretion in the selection of tenants.

This would enable the Council to deal with the houses as part of its ordinary housing estates, although it would no doubt be desired, when selecting tenants, to have regard to the objects for which the houses were originally provided.

Subject to what the Ministry of Health may say, the offer was accepted with thanks.

Extract from Council Meeting 14th September 1951
Subject to Government approval it was agreed to accept the tender of Messrs. F. and R. Windsor, at £2,021, for the improvement of the Wellingborough Road almshouses.
The Rushden Echo and Argus, 15th February, 1952, transcribed by Jim Hollis

Almshouses go Modern
Rushden’s 19th century almshouses – occupied continuously since 1883 by elderly widows – are being modernised. A block of four cottages, standing back from the Wellingborough Road, they were erected by the Sartoris family of Rushden Hall in memory of one of their sons.

When they were built, Mrs. Ellen Pettet, who has occupied No. 32 for the past 15 years, was a girl of 12. At 81 she is now the senior resident and can recall many of the interesting phases of the old days before the cottages became the responsibility of the Urban Council.

The rent, a sum of one penny per week, used to be collected annually by “old Mrs. Sartoris” herself. Invariably after collecting the 4s. 4d. Mrs. Sartoris would hand two shillings back to her tenant. A bedstead, all bed linen, curtains and mats used to be provided together with coal. Groceries were a frequent gift.

Mrs. Pettet was provided with a bedstead when she moved in, and until a few years ago, when the Rotary Club provided electricity, oil lamps would be the only means of lighting the one bed-sitting room and minute kitchen.

When the question of repairs came before the Council recently members were of the opinion that the houses ought to be brought up to present day standards and, accordingly, structural alterations and re-decoration at a cost of £2,000 is being carried out.

Moved out
As the builders moved in, so Mrs. Pettet and her neighbours – Mrs. F. Lowe and Mrs. Kate Knight – moved out. They left all their worldly possessions in the centre of their only room; the aspidistras flourishing on the window sills, and the original photographs of the cottages (presented by the Sartoris family and handed down from tenant to tenant) hanging on the walls. All three are now with relatives in various parts of the town.

“I didn’t want to leave. I love my home and I’m longing to go back,” Mrs. Pettet told us, at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Ida Hester, 16, Station Road.

When Mrs. Pettet and her neighbours move back in about three months’ time they are due for a pleasant surprise. In addition to the re-decorated bed-sitting room they will find they have an improved kitchen with a larder, cooker, fuel store, and perhaps best of all, a bathroom and indoor W.C. There will be a constant supply of hot water and radiators in the kitchen and bathroom. The bath will be one of the latest special types suitable for old people.

Re-roofing and plastering will have been carried out; the walls thickened and the leaded light windows removed and replaced by new ones of similar attractive style.

But still remaining will be the plaque bearing the words: “In Dei Gloriam – These almshouses were erected to the memory of Fredk. Maitland Sartoris of Rushden Hall by his father and mother, 1883.”

And the fourth cottage will be standing empty – it has been unoccupied since its last tenant died about a year ago.

1955 Rent Slashed Part of the ‘Spotlight on Rushden’ series

Nene Valley News, 6th June 2015

Historic Rushden almshouses transformed

Four historic almshouses dating back to 1883 in the heart of Rushden have been brought back into use and refurbished to make them fit for 21st century living by East Northamptonshire Council and Spire Homes.

Beginning in December last year, the refurbishment has transformed the four former bedsits into two spacious one-bedroom bungalows that are specially equipped for older people. Located on Wellingborough Road, the almshouses had previously undergone a refurbishment in the 1950s but were in need of extensive work inside and out.

The work has seen both the internal and external parts of the buildings completely revamped, whilst the properties' unique characteristics and period charm have been maintained.

The refurbishment has ensured the bungalows are specially equipped to make life easy for their older residents. On top of installing brand new kitchens, extra insulation, new roofs and doors, to bring the almshouses up to a high quality, residents will also benefit from having wet rooms instead of bathrooms, and all steps, both inside and outside of the properties, have been removed to reduce the risk of trips and falls. Pathways have also been extended and repaved with ramps installed at the back doors.

In total, over £115,000 has been invested by East Northamptonshire Council and Spire Homes to transform the almshouses.

"This project has been a careful balance of retaining the unique features of these almshouses whilst significantly improving them for residents," said John Farrar, Chairman of Spire Homes. "They are a fantastic example of how we can adapt homes for the changing needs of our tenants, as we're seeing more older people in need of secure, affordable housing that is suitable for their needs. It's also worth noting that the team has been careful to reuse materials where they can, like the roof tiles and boilers, to reduce the environmental impact of the improvement work and to make this refurbishment even more cost-effective."

Cllr Gill Mercer, Chairman of East Northamptonshire Council added: "These almshouses have a significant heritage within Rushden so we were really pleased to be able to provide funding for their refurbishment. We're delighted with the results achieved by Spire Homes, Longhurst Group and R G Gill & Son. The design of the refurbishment will definitely improve the quality of life for older residents."

Thrift Cottages were also almshouses, a row of seven cottages - they stood behind these.

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