These almshouses were founded in the 16th century (along with the famous Rugby Public School) by Lawrence Sheriff who was born in Rugby and rose to become grocer to Queen Elizabeth I. The original bequest provided homes for four old men who received an income of 7s 6d a quarter (7d a week) plus a gown and coals. By the 19th century there were twelve residents receiving 7s a week (almost as much as an agricultural labourer) plus a blue cloth coat with the founder’s initials on. Throughout the 19th century wives were allowed to live in the almshouse with their husbands, but shamefully a widow had to leave within three weeks of her husband’s death and this insensitive rule persisted until the 1970s.
Rebuilding and extension
The original almshouse in Church Street (opposite St Andrew’s Church) was pulled down, rebuilt and extended in the 18th century. In 1828 four more units were added and the others modified to match them in the gothic revival style (see the photo above). These almshouses were handsome buildings made of stone with the founder’s arms and the date on. Each resident had two rooms: one up and one down with a yard, a coal-house and a little garden at the back. Sadly they were demolished in the 1960s and the site converted into shops (though there is a plaque about them on the site). Replacement almshouses were built on the central island of the gyratory in the middle of Rugby that are still in use today.
Photos of residents
Interesting photos of several Victorian residents can be found on the ‘Windows on Warwickshire’ web site: hairdresser Thomas Holloway, milkman/farmer Thomas Bradshaw and market gardener/greengrocer William Naseby (along with his wife Eliza who helped with the business); Naseby Road in Rugby was called after this family when their smallholding was built on.
Does anyone have memories to share about the old almshouses?
Sources: Aliberti, M., ‘The Lawrence Sheriff Almshouses’ in Aspects of the Past III, Rugby Local History Research Group, Rugby, 2001.