Friendly Almshouses

155-167 Stockwell Park Road, Brixton, SW9 0TL


The Friendly Female Society was founded on 20th January 1802 by a group of women who wanted to provide financial help for poor elderly women "of good character residing within ten miles of St Paul's Cathedral". Its membership was not restricted to any religious sect or creed; it was to be ruled by "love, kindness, and an absence of humbug".

Applicants for its charitable grants were considered with sympathy and kindliness by the Committee, despite being referred to rather uncharitably as "old objects".

In 1819, noting that many of the applicants also need accommodation as well as financial assistance, the Society decided to build an almshouse. Fund-raising began and a suitable site was found in Camberwell. The Friendly Female Asylum opened in 1821.

In 1863 a second Asylum opened in Stockwell Park Road, Brixton, with accommodation for 28 women.

In 1938 the Friendly Female Society renamed itself the Friendly Almshouses.

In 1939 both almshouses together accommodated 68 women, each with her own room and a small garden. The use of a small kitchen was provided, as was coal in winter and an annual pension of £8 guineas (£8.40). The Committee also supported out-pensioners, who lived in their own homes, supplementing their Old Age Pensions with small grants from £3 to £10 a year.

During WW2 (1939-1945) the Camberwell buildings were damaged by bombs. They fell into disrepair and the Committee relinquished the site.

However, the almshouses in Stockwell Park Road survived, despite also being bomb-damaged. In 1945 they were repaired and extended.

In the late 1950s the Committee purchased a neighbouring plot on which to build an extension. Named Martindale House, after Hilda Martindale, the Chairman of the Committee during the war, it opened in 1961. The building contained four apartments and accommodation for the resident warden.

In 1970, as the surrounding area was being redeveloped, work began on modernising the almshouses. In 1976, when the first two stages of the modernisation had been completed, the extension built in 1945 was named Colville House, after Lady Margaret Colville, the late President of the Friendly Almshouses. The other surviving buildings were renamed Victoria Cottages.

The bed-sitting rooms of the almshouses were converted into studio apartments with their own kitchen and bathrooms. Central heating was installed, as well as a warden-linked alarm system. A communal laundry and guest room were also provided.

In 1993 the age of applications was lowered from 60 years to 50.

In 1996 an administrative office opened in Colville House to help with the workload.


Current status

Colville House at Nos. 165-167 and Martindale House at No. 155 were demolished in 2015. New buildings, one 5-storey and one 4-storey, are being built in their place. Victoria Cottages, at Nos. 157-159, have been refurbished. The Friendly Almshouses will eventually contain 38 self-contained sheltered residences.

N.B. Photographs obtained in June 2011

 Friendly Asylums

Victoria Cottages, as seen from the north. Of the original seven cottages, only four remain. The bomb-damaged three were replaced by Colville House.

Friendly Asylums

The most northern section of Victoria Cottages.

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The second block of Victoria Cottages.

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Victoria Cottages, as seen from the south.

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Victoria Cottages are seen on the left of the image, with the wing of Colville House on the right.

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Colville House, at Nos. 165-167, has now been demolished (above and below).

Friendly Asylums


Friendly Asylums

The northern wing of Colville House.

References (Accessed 14th June 2020) (1) (2) (3)

Last updated 29th June 2020

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