Lady Mico's Almshouses

1-10 High Street, Stepney, E1 0NN


In her will of 1st July 1670, Lady Jane Mico, the widow of the wealthy mercer and Alderman Sir Samuel Mico, bequeathed £1,500 to provide almshouses for ten poor widows of London aged over 50 years. Her executors or - failing them - the Mercers Company could decide where the buildings would be located.

The money was insufficient to cover the costs of building immediately and was therefore deposited with the Mercers Company to invest and to accumulate interest.

After 20 years the funds had increased to £2,900. The Company leased a small plot of land owned by the St Paul's School, Colet Estate (which the Company managed). It was located just off Stepney High Street, facing St Dunstan's churchyard.

The building - a single-storey brick structure with a sloping roof - was completed in 1691 at a cost of £700. It was subdivided into ten apartments, each with a cellar. Slit wooden shutters covered the windows overlooking the front yard, which was some 16 feet (5 metres) deep. The back yard - 12 feet (3.7 metres) deep - was accessed through a bolted door from the cellar.

The balance of Lady Mico's bequest remained at interest with the Company, producing £88 a year. The ten residents of the almshouses received an annual pension of £8 each, but the remaining sum was insufficient to pay for any repairs to the building. By the early 1850s the Company had taken over financial responsibility for this - about £300 a year.

In 1854 the Company decided the almshouses needed to be rebuilt. The work was completed in 1856 at a cost of £2,850.

In 1871 the Company purchased the land on which the almshouses were sited for £1,120.

Although Lady Mico had specified that the almshouses were to be for poor London widows, the Company only offered places to widows of Freemen of the City. By 1902, however, it was becoming difficult to find enough candidates among this group, and the Company dropped the criterion.

On the night of 19th March 1941, during WW2 (1939-1945), a high explosive bomb destroyed three of the almshouses. Amazingly, no-one was killed or injured apart from the caretaker, who had minor injuries.

The three almshouses were rebuilt in 1951. At the same time a communal bathhouse for all the residents to share was built in the backyard.

In 1965 the Company wished to modernise the almshouses, but there was a lack of space as the GLC was planning to create a public open space around St Dunstan's Church. It was therefore decided to build new almshouses elsewhere in Stepney. The GLC offered a plot nearby, where it was building a new housing development.

The residents relocated to the new Lady Mico's Almshouses when they opened in 1976. The GLC took over responsibility for the old buildings in part-exhange.


Current status

The Grade II listed almshouses are now known as Mercers Cottages with a street address as White Horse Road. They belong to the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and are rented out.

N.B. Photographs obtained in September 2020

 Lady Mico's Almshouses

The almshouses, as seen from Belgrave Street (above) and from White Horse Road (below).

Lady Mico's Almshouses


Lady Mico's Almshouses

The east gable facing White Horse Road bears a plaque.

Lady Mico's Almshouses

The plaque is inscribed: Lady Mico's Almshouses founded and endowed by the will of Dame Jane Mico, relict of Samuel Mico, citizen and mercer. A.D. 1691. Rebuilt by the Worshipful Company of Mercers A.D. 1856.

Lady Mico's Almshouses

The gate piers and wrought iron overthrow were Grade II listed in 1973.

Lady Mico's Almshouses

On the front of the building is a dedicatory stone plaque inscribed "The gift of Dame Jane Mico, relict of Sir Sam Mico, mercer, dec. Built ano 1691". It is surmounted by a female head - a Mercer's Maiden, a symbol of the Mercers Company.

Underneath is a second stone plaque inscribed "Rebuilt by the Worshipful Company of Mercers, A.D. 1856".

References (Accessed 11th October 2020) (1) (2)

Last updated 11th October 2020

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