One of Stilton’s little treasures is the group of Almshouses tucked away at the end of Fen Street. The Trustees completed a major refurbishment programme in 2006, so it seems like a good idea to explain something about them and describe the progress of the project.
Frances Worthington was the widow of William Worthington, landlord of the Angel Inn. The Charity was created to provide housing for three poor men and three poor women of Stilton. The terrace of six houses was built in 1868 with just two rooms to each house – a living room with a curtained alcove for a bed, and a scullery. Expectations were more modest in those days!
In the 1960s the Almshouses were converted into three larger homes while still retaining the original exterior with six front doors. Each Almshouse now consisted of a living room with a dining alcove, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom – four rooms in all. Routine maintenance included roof renewal, new guttering and, at the end of the 1990s following the upgrade of the adjacent Al(M), the Trustees spent the compensation on new double-glazed windows.
Dampness in one property became a problem and, with no proper damp course, a survey confirmed dampness in all three properties. When two of the three properties became vacant in May 2005 the Trustees felt this was the ideal opportunity to consider major refurbishment and damp proofing. The Trustees were prepared to assist in the temporary relocation of the third resident; however, just prior to the commencement of building work, the resident decided to move permanently to Local Authority housing.
The project was placed in the hands of a local Architectural Agent, which proved to be a wise move in spite of the added expense. Plans were drawn and amended as required, then tenders were invited from four local contractors and a successful builder selected based on price and time.
Securing funds for such a major project proved daunting, but with advice from the Almshouses Association and prompt and helpful support from the Charity Bank a mortgage was granted. A bid to the MacAlpine Foundation was unsuccessful, but Stilton Parish Council gave a donation of £1000. Huntingdonshire District Council awarded a grant of £16,300 with the expectation that the Trustees appoint one nomination from their housing list. The Trustees agreed to this but only if the nominee fulfilled the Charity criteria. The refurbishment was not eligible for any VAT allowance or reduction.
The Charity solicitors Hunnybun & Sons of Huntingdon, who originally provided the Charity Deed to Mrs. Worthington in 1869, continued to oversee all legal matters for the Trustees.
Getting to work
The work involved ripping up the rotting wooden floors, renewing most of the plaster, lowering the ceilings, installing gas and central heating, damp proofing, drainage, new kitchens, new bathrooms with shower, re-wiring, decoration and floor covering for all three Almshouses. Work was also done on back yard clearance, wall support to neighbouring gardens, a back entrance gate to the garden and patio creation. Council Tax Exemption Class A was granted during refurbishment.
Cost and time
The final figure for the whole project was close to £125,000. The whole project took 12 months in the planning and six months in the rebuilding.
Nine Trustees worked as a team which involved many meetings, telephone calls and letters. Much time and expertise was given by a dedicated few who were able to cope with the mountain of paperwork; this alone required endless patience and persistence.
By the beginning of June 2006, refurbishment was nearing completion and the Trustees organised a gathering of the various people and organisations who had contributed to the project, both to say a heartfelt ‘thank you’ and to view the completed Almshouses. The Trustees can be justly proud of their achievement.
The three residents selected were able to move in to their Almshouse from June 17th 2006.