Aged Pilgrims' Friend Society

19 Ludgate Hill, Fleet Street, EC4M 7AE


The Aged Pilgrims' Friend Society was established on 12th April 1807 by a group of Christians led by James Bissett. They were concerned about the wretched living conditions of many poor elderly Christians, whose needs, including spiritual ones, were being neglected even by the churches.

The purpose of the Society was declared to be the provision of "permanent relief to the aged and infirm Christian poor of the age of sixty and above and whose income does not exceed five shillings per week".

At first the Society struggled to raise finds, but gradually won the respect and support of leading Christians of the day, such as Lord Shaftesbury and the highly influential preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon. William Wilberforce became the Society's vice-president until his death in 1833.

By 1825 some £15,000 had been raised and more than 800 elderly poor were receiving regular pensions. These were delivered in person to each individual, who was also given spiritual support and encouragement.

The Society however realized that an annual pension of five guineas (£5.25) was not sufficient for many pensioners living in inadequate housing. A fund-raising campaign began to raise money to build a "suitable asylum or almshouses" to accommodate some of the pensioners.

In 1833 a site in Southampton Street, Camberwell, was donated to the Society and, in 1837, the Society's first almshouses opened.

Aged Pilgrims' Asylum, Camberwell

 The second opened in 1871 in Hornsey Rise. The Society then had 160 places in its asylums for the elderly poor.

Aged Pilgrims' Asylum, Hornsey Rise

In 1874 the Society built almshouses in Gerrards Cross, which had 15 places.

Aged Pilgrims' Home, Gerrards Cross

 In 1879 another two almshouses opened, one in Stamford Hill, north London, and one in Brighton, Sussex.

 Aged Pilgrims' Home, Stamford Hill

 Aged Pilgrims' Asylum, Brighton

This had opened in 1879, originally with seven places, at Nos. 35-36 Egremont Place. Renamed Pilgrim Home, it closed in 2019 with 13 one-bedroom apartments.

The Society funded itself partly by a subscription system. In 1879 the cost of an annual subscription was three guineas (£3.15), which qualified the subscriber to nominate one person for an almshouse place. Those who subscribed 7 shillings (35p) or more were entitled to vote. It was intended to grant annual life pensions of 5, 7 and 10 guineas (£5.25, £7.35 and £10.50) to the aged Christian poor of both sexes, and of every Protestant denomination, who were eligible and approved by the committee.

With the introduction of the state pension in 1909, the Society's pension payments were phased out.

In the 1970s the Society was renamed Pilgrim Homes.


Current status

In April 2010 Pilgrim Homes was renamed the Pilgrims' Friend Society. Although it no longer has any almshouses in London, it continues to manage residential care homes and sheltered accommodation in other parts of England. The group now includes the Ernest Luff Home, the Redbourn Missionary Trust and Pilgrim Care.

N.B. Photographs obtained in May 2021

Aged Pilgrims HQ

The site of the Society's offices in the second half of the 19th century was at 85 Finsbury Pavement. The area has been much redeveloped and the street is now called Moorgate, with the postcode EC2Y 9AU.

Aged Pilgrims HQ Aged Pilgrims HQ

By the beginning of the 20th century the offices had moved to 19 Ludgate Hill.

References (Accessed 25th May 2021)

Fry H 1881 The Royal Guide to the London Charities for 1881-2. London, D. Bogue. p.345. (1) (2)

Last updated 25th May 2021

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