Sir George Monoux
George Monoux was Walthamstow’s first benefactor and probably it’s most wealthy and famous. Monoux began his rise to fame and fortune as a merchant adventurer in Bristol during the 1480’s exporting cloth to Bordeaux, Spain and Portugal, and importing wine, oil, salt and sugar. Monoux served as bailiff of Bristol in 1490-01 and mayor in 1501-2.
Early in the 16th Century he moved to London, where he continued his successes in the cloth trade. He was admitted to the freedom of the City as a member of the Drapers’ Company in 1505 – 6. He was subsequently Master of the Drapers’ Company on six occasions. Monoux entered the world of London politics as alderman for Bassishaw ward in 1507. During 1509-10 he served as sheriff of London and as Lord Mayor in 1514-15. Monoux also represented the City in Parliament. He invested extensively in London property during his mercantile career and in numerous counties extending to the North in Yorkshire. He bought a country seat in Walthamstow, known as ‘Moones’, where he lived until his death on 8th February 1544.
The Drapers Company was one of the many City Guilds or Livery Companies which at the time regulated and promoted their respective trades. These companies had (and still have) a strong social welfare tradition, with many providing weekly allowances (doles) or annual pensions for members who because of age, sickness or disability could not pursue their occupations. Wealthy members of the Livery Companies often bequeathed money or property to establish almshouses for poor and aged companymen. Sir George Monoux was among this small, but wealthy and influential group of merchant benefactors and founded the Sir George Monoux Almshouses and School in Walthamstow.
The original school and almshouses were designed and built to Monoux’s own specification. A memorandum in George Monoux’s ledger book notes that on Sunday 16th June 1527, in the presence of witnesses, his attorney Richard Vaughan took possession of the almshouse land from Prior Nicholas and the Convent of Holy Trinity Priory in Aldgate London. Monoux’s design for the almshouses was for 13 rooms measuring 13 feet by 17 feet, each room having two windows two doors, a fireplace sharing a chimney with the adjoining room and a back yard. Forming a gabled crossing in the centre with six rooms to the west and seven rooms to the east, stands a house measuring 15 feet by 17 feet with two rooms below and two above, where the alms-priest /schoolmaster lived. Two long galleries on the first floor on either side of the school masters house, were to be used as a schoolroom and a church house. Later documents reveal that Monoux intended these upper rooms should be used for parish dinners and wedding feasts for poor people in the parish. An adjoining house belonging to Monoux on the north side of the almshouses was equipped with spits, irons and pewter “and other necessaries fit for the dressing of the said Dinner“Accompanying the memorandum and sketch of the almshouses, but dated 1541, are the rules carefully designed by George Monoux to ensure the good governance of the almspeople and the almspriest, who would serve both as schoolmaster and as priest to the almspeople.
George Monoux also provided for the financial future of the almshouses and school in his Will dated 6th June 1541. The Almshouses and School faced difficult times and neglect over the following centuries, however the almshouses to this day provide secure and comfortable accommodation to older people from Walthamstow and Chingford.
George Monoux School
The Monoux School moved to new premises in 1819 and closed in 1878 following the death of the schoolmaster. The school was subsequently re-opened in 1886 and occupied temporary premises until moving to a new school building in the High Street in 1889. In 1927 The Sir George Monoux School moved to a new building at its current location on Chingford Road, Walthamstow.
Mary Squire’s Almshouses
During 1795, Mrs. Mary Squire, a widow then residing in the parish of St Mary Newington in Surrey, erected and endowed six almshouses in the parish of Walthamstow ‘for the reception from time to time forever of six poor widows’. Located on the western edge of the churchyard and bordering on the workhouse garden and the present day church path, the almshouses were built on part of a field belonging to John Conyers of Copped Hall in Essex. The rules devised, printed and distributed by Mrs. Mary Squire directed that each widow on her appointment as almswoman be provided with “a bedstead, a stove, and a large water-tub”. To supplement their stipend, the widows might take in “one nurse-child, but no more” or “small washing and clear-starching, but on no account any heavy washing, nor are they to hang out any article whatsoever in front of their houses”.
These Houses are
Erected and Endowed
By Mrs. Mary Squires Widow
for the Use of
Six Decayed Tradesmens Widows
of this Parish and no other.
Anno Domini 1795
The meaning of ‘decayed’ at the time meant fallen on hard times.
There would have been various improvements and alterations to the almshouses over the years. In 1975 Mary Squire’s almshouses were provided with internal bathrooms, central heating and damp proof courses. The rear extension was reconstructed to include a small bathroom and wc and fully equipped kitchen.
By 1995, the six bed-sitters had been converted into four properties, which provided a separate bedroom, and overall, more spacious accommodation.
Collard Court Almshouses
On 18th May 1859 Mrs. Jane Sabina Collard conveyed to three trustees a piece of land on the south side of Shernhall Street known as Pound Field along with two pieces of land on the north and south sides of Maynard Road. Trustees were instructed to invest the income from the land and within 21 years to use the accumulated funds for the erection and endowment of almshouses.
The Collard almshouses were erected in 1881, a single storey range of 10 brick almshouses with a central gabled porch, the almshouses were restricted to “poor and deserving men none of whom shall be aged less than sixty years and none of whom shall have been at any time engaged or employed as a domestic servant or in the receipt of parochial relief”
The Victorian almshouses were demolished in 1972, having been deemed unsuitable for improvement and with the purchase of five adjoining properties trustees commissioned the rebuilding of the almshouses which were completed in 1974. A further refurbishment was completed in 1999.
In 1859 four almshouses were built on the Green in Chingford, the Almshouses were funded by public subscription. A fifth house was added during the Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1887. Over the next century other Chingford residents left legacies for the repair and maintenance of the almshouses and to benefit the occupants of the almshouses, notably the Ainslie sisters and in her will Nellie Ridgers left a house to be sold requesting the proceeds be applied to the almshouses. The house was eventually sold in 1956 for £3,675 and the proceeds invested. In September 1957 two of the five houses were vacant and the Trustees were informed by their architect that ‘the existing structures were not capable or modification or conversion so as to bring them into line with present day requirements.’ In February 1958 the trustees resolved to purchase a new site on Templeton Avenue offered for sale at £850 by the Chingford Borough Council, and to erect six new almshouses each containing kitchen, bathroom and bed-sitting room.
When over time the bedsitting rooms became difficult to let, trustees decided to demolish the existing building and build 7 new almshouses on the site, including a two bed wheelchair accessible property. Building works commenced in early June 2008 and were completed in April 2009, fifty years after the former almshouses were built and one hundred and fifty years after the original Victorian Almshouses were built on Chingford Green in 1859.
On 19th September 2018, Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy unveiled a plaque to commemorate the official opening of Colby Lodge, the Charity’s fifth Almshouse, a new development of 20 one bedroom, 2 person apartments with communal space including a large bright garden room, hairdressing /therapy room, launderette and basement for the building plant and additional storage. The event was attended by the Mayor of Waltham Forest, Sally Littlejohn, residents, trustees & many of those involved with the development.
The site had previously housed a children’s home – latterly used as council offices. The location of the site is ideal, being a stone’s throw from the Sir George Monoux Almhouse which is also the administrative office of the charity. The architects were Pollard Thomas Edwards and a local building firm Kind and Co were appointed to undertake the design and build contract.
The Charity is delighted that the high quality and design of the building has been acknowledged with the Mayor of London Award (GLA) at the prestigious national Housing Design Award’s ceremony on 11th July 2019, “A fitting addition to a suburban street and shows how the modern almshouse can be reorganised to add specialist homes in great demand”. On 19th September, the Charity went on to receive the Sunday Times British Homes Award for Best Community Living.
Thomas Colby was a Schoolmaster of the Sir George Monoux school, he died of the Plague in 1609 leaving approximately 12 acres of land to the Charity. During the 1990s The land was subject to compulsory purchase by the Secretary of State for Transport for widening the North Circular Road, this boosted the assets of the almshouse charity which has ultimately assisted with the development of the Colby Lodge almshouses.