Tag Archives: Almshouses

The Almshouses of Lee – The Boone’s Almshouses

A while ago Running Past looked at the two Boone’s Chapels on Lee High Road. Both remain, but the better known one is a Grade I building opposite the western end of Old Road.
Both had almshouses attached to them, with the second chapel being built when the original almshouses were re-provided close to what is now the junction of Lampmead and Lee High Roads.
Christopher Boone was a wool merchant who lived at Lee Place which was located in the area currently bordered by Bankwell Road, Old Road and Lee High Road’s Market Terrace. The site for the almshouses on Lee High Road between Boone’s Chapel and Brandram Road was given to Masters and Wardens of the Merchant Taylors’ Company in a deed of 1683. They were known as Boone’s Almshouses and predated the beautiful ones behind, known as Merchant Taylors Almshouses by 140 years.
He built his four almshouses for the poor here on the north side of Lee High Road, three shared by 6 residents, the fourth a school for 12 poor children of the parish.
In order to qualify for a place, prospective residents had to undergo a number of religious tests, which included reciting the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostles Creed and the Ten Commandments by heart. Any failure to do so within 2 months could lead to expulsion, and the residents were expected to attend chapel services. There were many similarities with rules applied to residents of Trinity Hospital in Greenwich, which was partially funded by the College Farms in Lee and Lewisham.
In the 1871 census, the almshouses were all shared between in No 1, there was a couple and a seemingly unrelated widower; No 2 was home to 3 single women and at No 3 was a husband and wife, along with a 70 year old servant Alice Simms. There was a separate household which wasn’t numbered, this may have meant that the school was no more – this was another couple with a servant who was 70. Whilst the servants were listed, they were probably providing some form of care to other residents either in their almshouse or more generally in the scheme.
Most were local and had been born in Lee or neighbouring parishes. Given the changes in the area that the railways had brought, this is perhaps surprising but no doubt reflected an allocations policy that gave preference to those with some form of local connection.
All were good ages for the era – all 69 or older and with an average age of 75.
It isn’t clear what led to the decision to move the almshouses; the homes were 250 years old and maybe hadn’t stood the test of time. The new almshouses were 250 metres up Lee High Road on land that had been part of the estate of the late Georgian Lee House. The estate was bounded by Lee High Road, the Quaggy, what is now Aislibie Road and Old Road.
The owner, James Halliburton Young, who lived at Cedar House next door originally seems to have tried to sell the estate as a single lot in the early 1870s. However, this seem to have failed and instead he sold off a narrow tract of land along Lee High Road in several lots, while at least two were for housing but the two plots nearest to Lee Green were allocated to the Bible Christian Chapel and Boone’s Chapel and Almshouses.
The only sign of the first incarnation of the Boone’s Almshouses is the very weathered looking red brick wall that replaced them – eroded both by the elements and World War Two shrapnel.
The second version of the almshouses were designed by the same architect as the chapel, Edward Blakeway I’Anson and in a similar Gothic style (1).
1881 was the first census after move to what is now the corner of Lampmead – a local connection still seemed important, in an age where migration due to the railways was common, most were from no further than Kent. Two of the occupants were the same as a decade before of the corner of Brandram Road – including Alice Sims who at 80 was still carrying out the duties as a servant.  Unlike a decade earlier no one was sharing their home, five of the almshouses were home to couples.
When the 1939 Register was compiled, of the 12 almshouses. three were empty. The occupants were all single people with six women three men the oldest 93, with a care; the youngest 60 with an average just shy of 79 with no couples.
As we saw when we looked at the two Boone’s Chapels, the congregation on the second version of the chapel dispersed in the early 1950s. The almshouses lasted slightly longer as a going concern but they too were replaced at Belmont Park in 1963, something we’ll return to in the next post.
However, this isn’t the end of the story. The almshouses, along with the church, were acquired around 1975 by was was to become the ‘Assemblies of God Emmanuel Pentecostal Church.’ While the almshouses were locally listed in 2012, sadly, this didn’t offer them much protection (as was the case with the gas holders at Bell Green) and the church demolished them without planning permission, seemingly to provide extra car parking for worshippers. One almshouse does remain though; it is not immediately recognisable, with its red brick painted ‘brilliant’ white. The inappropriate look pails into insignificance when compared with the painting of the formerly elegant Kentish ragstone church next door a very bright grey and cream by the Lee New Testament Church of God (just visible above).
In the final instalment of Lee’s almshouses we’ll look at both the Merchant Taylor’s Almshouses of 1826 and their 20th and 21st century replacements.
  1. Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner (1983) The Buildings of England – London 2: South p426


  1. The census and related information comes from Find My Past (subscription required)
  2. The black and white photograph of the 1875 variant of the almshouse is part of the collection of Lewisham Archives, it remains their copyright and is used with their permission
  3. The photograph of the original Boone’s Chapel and almshouses is from The Proceedings of the Lewisham Antiquarian Society 1908 on a Creative Commons
  4. The photograph of the almshouses being demolished is via the Newsshopper, 24 February 2014



Housing ‘Poor Men’ in Greenwich

Trinity Hospital claims to be the oldest building in Greenwich; built in 1613, it pre-dates Inigo Jones Queen’s House by three years.  The benefactor was Henry Howard, Earl of Northampton and the Hospital, which is an almshouse, was built to provide shelter for 20 ‘Poor Men’ plus a warden.


The Hospital has a slightly monastic feel with a small cloistered courtyard, the original rooms were little more than cells but the 21 rooms were converted into one bedroom flats following a refurbishment in 2008.


The building itself had a makeover in 1812 with changes to the clock tower and the front stuccoed and capped with a castellated parapet.  Apparently the original south facing elevation was retained – this wasn’t accessible when I visited, although the pleasant garden which it looks out onto was – it is crossed by the meridian.


The building is somewhat dwarfed by the adjacent Greenwich Power station, although a little less so than when the latter was built in the early 1900s, as following objections from the Observatory the chimneys were lowered by around 20 metres.


Of the original 20 ‘Poor Men’ (plus a warden) 8 came from Shotesham in Norfolk, where the Earl of Northampton was born, and 12 from Greenwich.

The hospital was not open to everyone, there were strict guidelines about the suitability of ‘Poor Men’ to live there, including being at least 56 years old, not being a beggar, drunkard or ‘whore hunter’ and an ability to recite the Lord’s Prayer unaided.


While the environment is now a little more relaxed, the original ‘Poor Men’ lived a very regimented lifestyle,

6 am (8 am in winter): rise, dress and say prayers.

9 am: service in the chapel (or St Alfege Church, presumably the medieval one rather than that designed by Hawksmoor, on Wednesday and Friday).

Until 11 am: Free time (although they were expected to do gardening and housework)

11 am: Lunch in the hall

3 pm: Church or chapel service, followed by ‘free time’ (‘weekly correction’ on Saturday).

6 pm: Supper in the hall.

9 pm: Retire to bed

There were also a series of ‘orders’ about acceptable behaviour issued by the Warden many of which were displayed in the cloisters when I visited – ranging in subject from forbidding the ‘Poor Men’ from going to ale houses and the like, wiping feet and when gates should be closed.


Interestingly, the ‘Poor Men’ had a voice in key changes at the Hospital – 10 of them (along with two Senior Wardens from the Mercers Company) needed to agree to any decision involving use of the seal in relation to ‘any lease, grant or other writing whatsoever concerning the estate of the hospital.’

Trinity Hospital is only open once a year, as part of London Open House, and for the last few years just on the Saturday, it is well worth a visit though.