The Almshouses at Shustoke were founded in 1699 by Thomas Huntbach the younger of Shustoke Hall, who died in 1712. They form a handsome row of stone cottages and are Grade II listed; the thatched roof was replaced by tiles in 1832/3. The original building provided six tiny back-to-backs, later turned into three larger units. The adjacent brick schoolhouse, also founded by Thomas Huntbach, was rebuilt in 1844 and converted to provide two further almshouses in the 20th century. The almshouses stand in Church End, they are now called ‘Church Cottages’ and are still in use as almshouses.
The almshouses were intended for six poor people who had lived in the parish for at least two years. The 1851 census shows six heads of household: four women (one with a seamstress daughter) plus a retired agricultural labourer and a soldier. By 1881 there were four female heads of household (one with a 14-year old servant) plus two married couples. By 1901 there were just four female heads of household; one had her daughter living with her and another a boarder, a 34-year old dressmaker.
The original endowment provided a small stipend for the inhabitants. Coals and milk were provided in the late 19th century, loaves of bread and butter in the early 20th century. A winter shawl was given to a woman on entry and at Christmas £1 was provided ‘for warm and serviceable clothing’. 1 Dugdale Stratford Dugdale was a trustee in the 19th century, and local JP Randall Croxall made a substantial donation to the charity in 1887.
Rules and behaviour
A lengthy set of rules were drawn up in 1868. There was to be no sub-letting of rooms and ‘If any Almsperson be guilty of insobriety, insubordination, breach of rules, or immoral or unbecoming conduct’ they were to be removed. Ann Holt was expelled from the almshouse for bad language and ‘unbecoming behaviour’ the following year, possibly suffering from dementia.
A poem was written about the schoolhouse and almshouses by the founder; it is displayed on one wall of the schoolhouse, beautifully inscribed on slate for the millennium.
This Schoole House
Which is built you se
In poore and rich I make it fre
For all that in the parish dwell
To teach their youth how to live well
And to catakise them frequently
That they may know truly thereby
When they in riper years doe come
Their duty both to God and Man
Six houses here anext unto
With gardens there belonging to
I give unto the poore for ever
Desirous this my quit may never
At any time abused should be
But that trustees will always see
And be unto the poore a friend
Forever unto the worlds end
Pass here accomp’s this chambers free
Expences saved by I you see
Praise not the giver but let him have
All praise that give a heart that gave
Soli Deo Gloria
1 Johnstone, RT: ‘The Thomas Huntbach Charity of the School and Almshouses’, Shustoke, 2006; Warwickshire County Record Office reference B Shu. Joh (P).