Almshouses in SW postcode area

SW1 Westminster
  • Red Lion Almshouses, York Street (Petty France), SW1

SW1E Westminster
  • Emanuel Hospital

SW1H  Westminster
  • Butler's Almshouses, Little Chapel Street, SW1H 0PX

Before his death in 1659 the Revd James Palmer had persuaded Nicholas Butler to bequeath his property in order to increase the number of almshouses for the poor.

 Butler's Almshouses were founded in 1675 in Little Chapel Street, Tothill Fields, just to the north of Palmer's Almshouses (see below). The single-storey semi-detached buildings accommodated two poor elderly couples of good character, each of whom received a stipend of £12 a year. 

In the centre of the building was the inscription: This was founded and endowed anno 1675, by Mr. Nicholas Butler, who had done many other deeds of eminent charity for the poor of this parish: Regnat in aeternum Virtus Victorque triumphans, Secula cuncta vicit nescia sola mori. 

As plans were made for the redevelopment of the area, the Charity Commissioners introduced a scheme dated 11th July 1879 for Palmer's, Butler's and Emery Hill's Almshouses (see below) to be amalgamated as the United Westminster Almshouses on the site of Emery Hill's Almshouses. 

The almshouses closed in 1881, when the inhabitants were transferred to the new buildings in Rochester Row. 

Little Chapel Street became Caxton Street; the site of the almshouses is on the corner of Caxton Street and Palmer Street.

  • Henry VII's Almshouses, Victoria Street/Great Smith Street, SW1H

  • Kifford's Almshouses, Tothill Side, SW1

In 1656 the Revd James Palmer (1595-1659), vicar of St Bride's in Fleet Street and a philanthropist, established almshouses at Tothill side, at the western end of Westminster, adjacent to the burial ground for the parish of St Margaret. The 12 rooms provided accommodation for six poor elderly men and six poor elderly women of the parish of St Margaret's.

The almshouses occupied a strip of land at the northeast corner of Tothill Fields, a large area of waste ground with scattered market gardens that became marshy in wet weather. 

In the following year Palmer conveyed the estate of his farm at Ashampstead, Berkshire, to his charity, to provide funds for the maintenance of the almshouses. Each almsperson received an annual stipend of £6 and a chaldron of coals. 

Palmer's endowment also included six acres of land in Tothill Fields, immediately southwest to the almshouses. The land was used to generate income for the charity. Mainly single-story houses were built on it for the labouring poor. By the early 19th century the hamlet was known as Palmer's Village, with its own village green, a blacksmith and a public house - the Prince of Orange. The street the almshouses stood in became known as Palmer's Passage

By the beginning of the 19th century the charity was deep in debt and the almshouse buildings decayed beyond repair. They were pulled down and rebuilt between 1816 and 1818, as were the chapel and the school Palmer had also founded at the same time as the almshouses. In 1863 the almshouses were acquired by the Charity Commisioners.

Palmer's Village lay between the marshes of Tothill Fields and a notorious slum (named Devil's Acre by Charles Dickens). With the building of Victoria station and the Embankment during the 1860s, the authorities turned their attention to slum clearance. By the 1870s a modern sewer system had been installed, draining the marshes, and social housing had replaced the unhygienic overcrowded dwellings of the Devil's Acre. 

As the area improved, land became more valuable and plans were made for more redevelopment. In 1879 the Charity Commissioners introduced a scheme for three of the Westminster almshouses - Palmer's, Butler's (see above) and Emery Hill's (see below) - to be amalgamated as the United Westminster Almshouses.  The new almshouses were erected in 1881 on the site of Emery Hill's almshouses in Rochester Row. 

Palmer's Almshouses were demolished in 1881. Palmer's Passage is now Palmer Street.

  • Witcher's Almshouses, Tothill Fields, SW1H

SW1P Victoria  
  • Emery Hill's Almshouses, Rochester Row, SW1P 1BU

In his will dated 1677 Emery Hill left £100 for the building of three almshouses for three poor elderly couples in what was then known as Petty France. It is unclear whether these were built or, if so, how long they endured.

As well as being the Treasurer for Palmer's Charity, Hill had been a churchwarden and a member of the Company of Brewers, but had made his fortune in property. He had also left sufficient funds in his will for a further 12 almshouses and a chapel to be built, but this did not happen until 1708. 

The almshouses, built in Rochester Row, consisted of two terraces of 6 one-room houses facing each other. They provided accommodation for six poor elderly widows on one side and six poor elderly tradesmen and their wives on the other. If one of the married couples died, the widow would transfer to other side, but the widower would remain in the home. Sufficient funds had been bequeathed for the maintenance of the buildings and their occupants.

 Each couple received an annual stipend of £7 4s (£7.20) and each widow £4 16s (£4.80), as well as a chaldron of coal. Each almsperson received a new gown every two years. 

With the redevelopment of Westminster in the second half of the 19th century, in 1879 the Charity Commissioners introduced a scheme for the almshouses to be amalgamated with those of Palmer's (see above) and Butler's (see above) as the United Westminster Almshouses.  

The new almshouse buildings were erected in 1881 on the same site as Emery Hill's almshouses in Rochester Row, which had been demolished in 1880.

  • King Henry VII's Almshouses, Lady Alley, SW1P 2DF

  • United Westminster Almshouses

SW1Y St James's
  • St Martin's-in-the-Fields Almshouses, 13-15 Cockspur Street, SW1Y

SW2 Brixton

SW3 Chelsea  
  • Royal Chelsea Hospital

  • St Joseph's Cottages

SW6  Fulham
  • Butchers Almshouses, Vanston Place, Walham Green, SW6 1BT

  • Elizabethan Schools Almshouses

  • Sir William Powell's Almshouses

SW7 South Kensington

William Methwold (1590-1653) was an English merchant and administrator in India, who eventually became Deputy Governor of the East India Company, credited with identifying the site of Bombay (Mumbai) as suited to be a strategic port. 

Having returned to England, he acquired a mansion and land, Hale House (later Cromwell House) in Kensington, in around 1640. Nearby, around 1650, he established a hospital for six poor women, who would be single, aged over 50 years, free from vice and of good report. 

His will of 1652 specified that three of these women should be nominated by the local parish to the westerly three houses and the other three by the owner of his mansion, Hale House, to the easterly three; and that this owner should be responsible for the maintenance of the almshouses, by an annual charge of £18, based on a settlement of 16 acres of land. (Later on, his great-grandson refused this responsibility, was taken to law by the parish, and lost.) 

In 1850 the mansion itself was pulled down, its grounds becoming the site for the Great Exhibition of 1851. The almshouses survived this episode but, in the 1860s, they were in the line of construction for the Metropolitan District Railway, which purchased them in 1867. 

In the end the site was not actually required for construction, and the almshouses continued in use until they were vacated in 1873. They were demolished in 1874. 

The site was on the southeast corner of Harrington Road and Queen's Gate, to the north of St Augustine's Church. It was developed into a number of residences and small hotels, but not for long. For some time the site has been empty and used as the Kensington Parking Centre - presumably awaiting future redevelopment.

SW8 Vauxhall
  • Noel Caron Houses

  • Whicher & Kifford Almshouses

SW9  Brixton
  • Gresham Almshouses (City of London)

SW9  Stockwell

SW11 Battersea

SW11 Clapham Junction
  • St Peter's Hospital

SW14  Mortlake
  • Bootmakers Almshouses, Rosemary Gardens, SE14

SW15  Putney         

SW16 Streatham

SW17  Tooting  

SW19  Wimbledon 

Last updated 25th March 2023

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