|Holborn Estate; Diprose Lodge||Wandsworth|
Almshouses erected by St Clement Danes Holborn Estate Charity on a 6-acre site, previously farmland, purchased for the purpose in 1848, which incorporated a large garden at the front that contained an Artesian well to supply the residents. The plans for the grounds were devised by the managers of the Charity and implemented by Robert Mackay, Nurseryman of Stoke Newington, Middlesex. When the charity moved to new almshouses in Sydenham the almshouses were purchased by LB Wandsworth and are predominantly council housing.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/08/2005
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St Clement Danes Holborn Estate Charity was founded in 1551 by the Churchwardens of St Clement Danes church, The Strand, London. St Clement was the patron saint of mariners, particularly Danish sailors, hence St Clement Danes. Clement was martyred during the reign of the Emperor Diocletian (AD 98-117) by being attached to an anchor and drowned. The charity initially established almshouses behind Clement's Inn Hall in the City in 1700 but these were replaced in 1849 by their new almshouses in Lower Tooting. The charity had purchased 6 acres of farmland from different landowners in 1848, prior to which the area was rural. Today the almshouses are surrounded by a housing estate of 1969-72. Work on the new almshouses commenced in 1848 under the direction of architect Mr R Hesketh of Mill Hill Mews, Wimpole Street. Hesketh and the Charity's Building Committee made a point of visiting other London almshouses to gather information of the best examples. The almshouses were to provide accommodation for 20 elderly men and 20 elderly widows or spinsters who had been ratepayers within the parish of St Clement Danes for 5 years.
The 6-acre site purchased by St Clement Danes Holborn Estate Charity allowed for the incorporation of a large garden in the front, which had a fountain supplied by an Artesian well to provide for the needs of the residents. In Gothic Revival style, the buildings consisted of 40 two-storey terraced cottages, one window wide, arranged in pairs on three sides of the garden, with another three cottages linked to each return end and a chapel on the axis of the central block. The extensive red brick buildings had stone dressings, grey brick diaper and slate roofs. Each pair of cottage doors are beneath a single dripstone and prominent clusters of Tudor-style chimneys rise from upstands separating each in two pairs. The central Devotional Room in the main building has a clock and large traceried window flanked by louvered turrets. Diapering in the gable picks out an anchor, the letters 'CD' and the date, 1848. There was a house for the matron, whose attention could be attracted by any of the residents via a clever series of alarms devised by Mr Hesketh.
The plans for the grounds were devised by the managers of the Charity and implemented by Robert Mackay, Nurseryman of Stoke Newington, Middlesex, who was responsible for all land up to the gravelled areas and the beds, which would be for flowers, trees and shrubs. In all Mackay planted over 2,000 shrubs, trees and plants and over 6,000 bulbs (see Westminster Archives, Records of St Clement Danes Holborn Estate Charity 1576/62 for the exact varieties planted; the plan of the actual planting is not among these records). Although most of the residents were elderly, in his opening speech on 12 July 1849, Trustee Mr Twinning stated that the almshouses 'are not merely for the reception of those who are so far advanced in life, that their enjoyment of a residence here can only be calculated upon for a very limited period; but persons are selected, who, although at, certainly, advanced periods, may yet be expected, under God's blessing, to find this a peaceful and happy refuge for many years to come'.
In October 1952 the Queen Mother unveiled a plaque in the Devotional Room to commemorate the Charity's 400th anniversary. In 1966/7 the Charity Trustees sold the property to LB Wandsworth for council housing and built new almshouses on Wells Park Road in Sydenham, which they continue to operate today. In 1971/2 the Council refurbished the buildings and grounds. Although two houses have been sold, they continue to be managed as Council housing. The chapel, which is under the Diocese of Southwark, Deanery of Wandsworth St Mary's Summerstown, is no longer operational. The almshouses gardens are railed to the front and remain well landscaped with Disprose Lodge at one corner. The garden largely retains its original layout; it has curving paths, now tarmac, mature trees including notable London planes, and mature fruit trees towards the back of the almshouses on communal land. Hedges include holly, with shrubs on the borders and flower beds in front of the houses. The entrance is through a pair of iron gates. The central fountain and well is now filled with various junipers and flanked by pergolas.
Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 2: South (Penguin) 1999; Clive Berridge, 'The Almshouses of London' Ashford Press Publishing Southampton, 1987; 'Building' 30 July 1972 pp40-41; John Timbs, 'Curiosities of London', 1867 pp214-9 (see www.victorianLondon.org); Herbert Fry 'Royal Guide to London Charities', 1917 (see www.victorianLondon.org).
LPGT Volunteer Research by Selene Leatham, 2005