As noted in the life of William Rolleston, the Almshouses were built in 1712, some 40 years after his death. They appear to have been built on Mosley land because we have an indenture of 1727 in which the Trustees at that time were Sir John Every of Egginton, Christopher Roulston of Watnall, Rowland Cotton of Etwall, Ralph Adderley of Coton and George Buckley of Burton upon Trent.
The indenture records the Trustee’s purchase -
… for and in consideration of the full and just sum of Ten Pounds of lawful money of Great Britain in hand paid to the said Sir Oswald … forever sell that piece or parcel of ground situate … where upon the Almshouse now stands containing half an acre or thereabouts …
The boundaries are given as Towne Street to the east, separated by a brick wall; Mosley land to the west, separated by a quick sett hedge; William Buxton’s orchard and garden to the north and Humphrey Carter’s land to the south, probably the present cottages at 14/16 Burnside.
Records of the first 100 years of the almshouses are poor, possibly because the Parish Chest, kept in St Mary’s Church, was broken into in 1808 and the deeds removed. The Trustees subsequently asked Sir Oswald Mosley to take charge of the records
Today the Almshouse frontage shows the six original houses of the Charity but the site has not remained unchanged. We know that two additional houses were built in 1750 and a further two in 1808 bringing the total to ten. As illustrated, old maps show these as pairs of dwellings at right angles at each end of the site.
Originally thatched, the roofing was replaced by slate in 1833 and then tile by 1893.
The original accommodation would have been at the most basic level. In 1856 the Trustees resolved that “a night chair and bed pan be provided for the use of the inmates”. In the same year they ordered fireplaces with flues for the bedrooms and grates with side ovens for the living rooms.
In 1892 the present six almshouses underwent a major renovation, largely funded by the Misses Higgott. After this, the end houses, believed to have been of much inferior quality, were demolished.
In spite of this work, conditions remained primitive. As late as 1936 mains water was laid on, sinks installed and offensive privies converted to W C’s.
The last major renovation was in 1966. At that time the houses had no bathroom, a lean-to kitchen with a cold water tap, a living room with coal-fired range and a winding staircase to the bedroom. Two, outdoor W C’s were shared between the six properties.
The 1966 renovations included removal of the lean-to’s and replacement with flat-roofed kitchen and bathroom extensions. This was all at a total cost of £8,110 however, for comparison, this was equivalent to the purchase of two 3-bedroomed houses in the village at that time.
It is time, again, to consider renewal and modernisation. The properties require new damp-proofing, insulation, central heating, upgrading and re-roofing of the extensions. The Trustees face major challenges in achieving these aims in these financially straightened times.
Historically, admission to the almshouses was highly regulated and the behaviour of the inhabitants strictly controlled, especially religious observance. In 1820 it was “ordered that the inhabitants of the Almshouses do attend the Church Service regularly whenever it is performed and that seats shall be provided for them at the expense of the Charity”
Residents had to have no means of support and could not take lodgers or have any trade. Almspeople received a modest stipend and other assistance. In 1800 residents were receiving 3 shillings a week in their first year, 4 shillings thereafter and £1 10s a year for coal and clothing.
In the early 20th century the situation changed with the introduction of the old age pension and declining income from the Charity’s old investments. In the 1930′s the trustees started to charge a maintenance contribution on an approved scale, a system that continues today.
Charity Book records show that the almshouses have always made a valued contribution to the local community with residents living to relatively advanced ages. The churchyard contains a gravestone erected by the Trustees to Thomas Hampson who died in 1814 aged 101.
VILLAGE CENTRE 1879: The plan shows the 10 almshouses at that time with the Mosley gas works situated immediately behind them (later removed to Station Road).