Bishop Wood's Almshouses

Lower Clapton Road, Clapton, E5 0QH


In 1653 Dr Thomas Wood (1607-1692) bought some land in the parish of Hackney, where he had been born, in order to build almshouses for 10 poor elderly widows over the age of 60 years.

The almshouses opened in 1655. Built of red brick and with mullioned windows, they consisted of three single-storey buildings - a central one containing six one-roomed dwellings facing a small courtyard, flanked by a wing either side, each containing two dwellings.

In 1671 Wood was made Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry, but seemed loath to take up the appointment. He continued to live at the family home in Clapton, despite pressure from the King and the Archbishop. He was eventually suspended in 1684.

In his will of 11th November 1690, Wood made financial provision for the "ten poor ancient widows". Every two years they would also receive a new gown with his finials embroidered on the shoulders.

After Wood's death in 1692, the new owners of his Clapton estate continued to select the almsowmen until 1798, when the parish of Hackney took over the task.

Around 1845 a small Gothic chapel was added to the site in the angle between the north wing and the central building. Reputedly the smallest chapel in Britain, it measured 18' 8" by 12' 5" (5.7m x 3.8m) and had only ten seats (for the resident widows).

In 1877 the almswomen also received financial help from Dr Spurstowe's Charity.

The almshouses were refurbished in 1888. A new scullery was built and the oak roofs repaired.

In 1906 the trustees of Dr Spurstowe's Charity took over management of the almshouses.

The buildings were restored in 1930 by the trustees. The ten almshouses were converted into five dwellings, to provide each resident with a bedroom/lounge and a separate kitchen, entrance lobby and shower room with WC.

During WW2 (1939-1945) the almshouses were requisitioned by the government. They reopened in 1948.

In 1951 the buildings were Grade II listed.

Further remedial repairs and remodelling of the internal arrangements took place in 1985.

Some 25 years later the almshouses were again in need of repair and modernisation. The trustees of the Dr Spurstowe and Bishop Wood Almshouses Charity decided the necessary work was unaffordable and that the buildings should be sold. In 2013 the almshouses were vacated. The residents moved to the newly rebuilt almshouses - Dr William Spurstowe House - in Navarino Road.


Current status

The Grade II listed buildings were put up for sale in 2014, with £1,650,000 as a guide price. They were sold on 23rd January 2015 to Noble House Properties for £1,437,500 but, by 2016, had fallen into greater disrepair. They were placed on the Heritage at Risk register.

In 2019 the buildings were completely refurbished with new stairways and rooflights. A bedroom with additional living space were created in the loft area. A mezzanine floor was inserted in the chapel.

In 2021 a single-bedroom apartment was marketed for £500,000.

N.B. Photographs obtained in March 2021

Bishop Wood's Almshouses

The almshouses on the eastern side of Lower Clapton Road, as seen from the footbridge across Clapton Pond.

Bishop Wood's Almshouses

The central almshouse building is overshadowed by the houses built behind it. The chapel can just be seen on the left side of the image.

Bishop Wood's Almshouses

The central building and the southern wing.

Bishop Wood's Alsmhouses

The central building and the northern wing, with the chapel in the corner between both.

Bishop Wood's Almshouses

A plaque is mounted on the western gable of the southern wing. It states: Bishop Wood's Almshouses. Erected and endowed by Dr Thomas Wood, sometime Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry, born in the parish of Hackney 1607 and died 1692. The Almshouses and chapel were restored by the Trustees, AD 1930. The Revd N.A. Lash MA - Chairman, Rector of St John at Hackney, Sir D.T. Keymer OBE - Hon Treasurer, William Voss - Clerk, H. Reginald Ross- Architect.

References (Accessed 2nd March 2021) (1) (2) (1) (2) (1) (2) (1) (2)

Last updated 2nd March 2021

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