Stoneleigh Old Almshouses

Stoneleigh old Almshouses, 2012
Image courtesy of Anne Langley

This delightful row of almshouses stands in the centre of the village of Stoneleigh. It was founded to provide homes for the poor by Sir Thomas and Lady Alice Leigh of Stoneleigh Abbey in 1576. The original residents were all unmarried: five women and five men who had to come from the parish (indeed most of them were local tenants of long-standing). They had to go to church on Saturday, Sunday and holy days and attend a quarterly sermon preached by the local vicar.  Residents originally received a shilling a week (quite generous at that time).

The original buildings were built on the site of three existing cottages and were probably timber-framed (as can still be seen in some of the interior walls). The almshouses were encased in attractive red sandstone 18 years later. There was one room upstairs and one down with a shared garden at the rear. Modern facilities have since been added, with back extensions, but the basic unit remains the same small size.

A 17th century resident’s belongings

An inventory of 1640 survives for Richard Hargrave, a carpenter who lived in one of the almshouses. It lists his clothes, furniture, bedding and (amongst other things) three table napkins, two little kettles, one hand saw, one ladder, one old lantern and one fork.

Early 20th century residents

The 1901 census shows that one household had a lodger, two had younger relatives living there (including a 12 year old grandchild) and one man had a housekeeper living with him. No occupation was given for the women, but the men included a retired roadsman, a gardener and a gamekeeper (the latter two having almost certainly worked on the Stoneleigh Abbey estate).

The inventory is listed in Nat Alcock’s book People at Home: Living in a Warwickshire Village 1500-1800, Chichester, 1993. p. 143.

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