94-104 High St (Almshouses)
The Drake Almshouses were a gift to the town by Sir William Drake, built in 1657 ‘for the relief of 6 poor widows of good repute in the parish’. There are now only 4 houses here, as they needed to be reconstructed to meet today’s standards.
In the 1911 census all married women were asked for the first time how many children they had born alive ‘in their present marriage’ and how many were living. The residents of Drake’s Almshouses responded as follows:
|Total born alive||Children still living||Children who have died|
|Ann Ward 81||7||4||3|
|Angelina Matthews 79||8||4||4|
|Catherine Mason 80||9||5||4|
|Sarah Wingfield 89||3||2||1|
|Emma Jones 79||–||–||–|
|Emily Harley 82||12||3||9|
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This article by John Clutterbuck was published in the Amersham Society/Amersham Museum newsletter and is reproduced with permission.
RIOTT AT THE AMERSHAM ALMSHOUSES
The Victoria County History (vol iii p. 142), refers to “very disorderly scenes” which took place at the almshouses in 1699 “when several poor old women were turned out at the instigation of the governors” to obtain additional votes; the suggestion being that the Drake nominees were placed in houses occupied by women who were moved to the almshouses, where room had to be made for them by force. The editor of the Buckinghamshire Records, Mr G. Eland, gave an alternative account based on papers from the Shardeloes estate. The following is based on Mr Eland’s article in the 1946 edition of the Records of Buckinghamshire.
The Amersham almshouses were built by Sir William Drake, Baronet in his lifetime. His will made provision for its endowment and appointed ten governors, which included “well-known Bucks worthies” of the day. Unfortunately, nine governors had died without being replaced, and the only one left was Francis Drake, who lived at Woodstock Park, Oxon. The almshouses had been left to manage themselves and abuses had crept in.
Sir John Garrard, who was father-in-law of Montagu Drake and held one of the Amersham seats in Parliament, thought that the almshouse’s affairs should be put in order. New governors were appointed, including Francis Drake’s nephew, then nearly seven, and Sir John Garrard’s son, also a minor. When the new governors made their formal visitation to the almshouses, they:
“found the Gate of the Outward Court locked and their entrance opposed by [the inmates] who not only denyed to open the said Gate but uttered very indecent, threatening, and scurrilous speeches, which caused [the governors] to require the petty constables of the Burrough of Amersham to attend that they might keep the peace, and prevent any Tumults, Disorders, or Riotts that might be occasioned thro’ the obstinacy of the Warden and sisters, whom they still endeavoured to pacify and persuade to conform with their visitation.”
Finally, they had to summon Eleazor Retherupp, the blacksmith, to break open the gate, – not without Susan Batcheller, “the pretended Warden violently assaulting him by giveing him severall blowes.”
Then followed the ejections and the filling of the places by more suitable “discreet and vertuous widdowes qualified in all respects.” During the painful scene the pretended warden, Susan Boreton and Mary Pratt set about Mr Francis Drake “arrogantly disowning the Family from whence the Charity they received proceeded.”