Boone's Almshouses

Lee High Road, SE13 5PH


In 1668 Christopher Thomas Boone (c.1615-1686), a wealthy wool merchant and member of the Merchant Taylors Company, purchased Lee Place, a large mansion in the small rustic village of Lee, Kent, for use as their family home.

Later, in around 1680, he and his wife Mary bought lands in the parish in order to build four almshouses and a chapel.

The almshouses opened in 1683, with an income from endowment of £71 a year. Three of the almshouses were to be shared by 6 poor men and women, whilst the fourth was to be occupied by a schoolmistress, who would educate 12 poor children.

To qualify for a place, applicants had to be able to recite the Lord's Prayer, the Apostles' Creed and the Ten Commandments by heart. If they failed to do so within two months, they could be expelled. All residents were expected to attend the chapel services.

In 1683 the almshouses and the chapel, together with various rents in the area, were conveyed to the Merchant Taylors Company, which was appointed in trust to maintain them.

An increase in land prices during the 19th century led to an increase in income for the charity. Therefore, in 1858, plans were discussed to replace the almshouses, which by then were almost 200 years old. In 1868 a scheme was proposed to double the number of almspeople and to establish an Educational Fund.

In the census of 1871 the occupants of No. 1 Boone's Almshouses were listed as a couple and a widower, possibly unrelated, while No. 2 contained 3 single women and No. 3 a married couple with a 70-year-old servant. In the fourth house, there was another couple, also with a 70-year-old servant. The average age of the occupants was 75 years.

In 1872 a plot of land some 250 metres further east along, on the south side of Lee High Road, was purchased on which to build new almshouses.

In 1876 the residents moved to the new buildings.


Current status

The almhouse buildings were demolished in 1877, but the chapel survived. It continued to serve as a Reading Room for the Merchant Taylors Almshouses, which had been built on land adjacent to it, until 1945.

The chapel then fell into disrepair, but was finally restored in 2008. During restoration a secret vault was discovered, containing the coffins of Christopher Boone and his wife.

Today, Boone's Chapel is Grade I listed and is leased to an architectural and exhibition design practice.

N.B. Photographs obtained in March 2020

Boone's Chapel

The chapel has now been restored (above and below).

Boone's Chapel


 Boone's Chapel

Explainers in the garden of the Merchant Taylors Almshouses show Boone's Almshouses to have been built on the western side of the chapel (above). The relationship of both almshouses is shown below. The chapel and the Merchant Taylors Almshouses are coloured brown, while the Boone's Almshouses are shown as an uncoloured line drawing.

Boone's Chapel

References (Accessed 12th August 2020)

Duncan LL 1908 History of the Borough of Lewisham. London, The Blackheath Press, p.93.

Last updated 12th August 2020

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