Tag Archives: Simpson

Rigid rules of the almshouses in old days

Clip from Merton Memories photo, reference Mit_​Almshouses_​1-2, copyright London Borough of Merton. This early drawing shows the original enclosing wall.

From the Mitcham News & Mercury, 13th May, 1960, page 3.

TWELVE middle-aged women, protected from the cold winds by woollen capes that reached their ankles, wended their way to Mitcham Parish Church in 1829.

Parishioners who saw the women demurely stepping out each Sunday, knew by their dress that they lived at the newly-erected almshouses at the Cricket Green, Mitcham.

For in 1829 the Tate’s Almshouses were constructed to provide “a residence free from rent, taxes and outgoings for 12 poor women who shall be respectively widows or unmarried women … members of the Church of England and who have a legal settlement in the parish.”

TRUST FUND

For generations the Tate families had been benefactors in the parish and in this early part of the 19th century decided it was time to build houses for the poor and set up a trust fund.

The building, familiar to residents today, was built to designs by a Mr. Buckler on the site of a former house belonging to the Tates who lived nearby. When completed a board of trustees was set up to choose applicants for admission to the house and to organise the administrative side.

These well meaning gentlemen included the Rev. James Henry Mapleton, Vicar of Mitcham, who acted as clerk to the trustees; George Matthew Hoare, of Morden Lodge; Sir John William Lubbock, of Norfolk, and William Simpson, squire in Carshalton.

Each of these ebullient figures invested some money in the project as did the foundress, Mary Tate who gave £5,000.

EXPENSE

The almshouses, whose exterior has altered little, are built in the style prevalent in the latter part of the 16th century and were erected “ at considerable expense.”

For the poor of the parish there was considerable competition to be allocated a room or small flatlet in the almshouses and when, at last, they were successful in gaining admission, there were some fairly rigid rules to be observed.

A copy of the rules was presented by Worthing Public Library to Mitcham Library in the early 1930s.

One of the main stipulations was that the “almswomen” were to be 50 years old and upwards and were not to have received poor relief in the five previous years. They were to be selected by Mary Tate during her life and subsequently by the trustees.

The women forfeited their weekly allowance of three shillings if they remained outside their home for more than 24 hours without official leave.

They were expected to “ behave civilly and orderly and to live orderly and religious lives,” attending the church each week and receiving the sacraments four times each year.

The gates, inset in the high brick wall round the building, were locked at 11 p.m. and an hour earlier during the winter months.

No strangers were allowed into their homes without special permission and on receiving the weekly allowance, the women were “enjoined to discharge all debts contracted in the last week.”

They were also not allowed to keep dogs or alter their apartments without permission.

From this early record, it would seem that the establishment was run on rather austere lines with the matron keeping a book with the names of the women and reporting ” for infraction of the rules ” to the trustees.

The women also benefited from “Smith’s charity.” Smith was an eccentric retired London jeweller who travelled Surrey on foot accompanied by his old dog. He was dubbed “ Dog-smith ” and was reputed to leave sums of money where villages received him well.

Some of the correspondence between William Simpson and Mary Tate, who moved to a country house at Loughborough, shows how the women were chosen to live at the almshouses.

SAME COURSE

In February, 1837, he wrote. . . ” our course at the last vacancy was to give notice of it at church and invite each candidate to send in her grounds of admission to the trustees … if it is your pleasure we should follow the same course on the present occasion, will you do me the honour to communicate with me.”

Then again he wrote to Sir Lubbock asking if he considered it suitable to ask applicants to go to the almshouses 44 when particulars of each case be laid before Miss Tate for her decision on the next vacancy.”

But now a proportion of the old rules have been changed and a recently completed modernisation scheme has resulted in a transformation within the building.

The residents — still all women who have lived in the locality for not less than five years—have had their two-room flatlets redecorated in pleasant light colours. Electric light has been
installed, inside toilets, baths and new gas stoves in some of the apartments.

There is a new roof and drainage system and other renovations completed by a Mitcham firm to make the homes more comfortable.

The women, who now pay a small nominal rent, are chosen by a seven-man committee of trustees. Following former custom. Rev. John Thorold, Vicar of Mitcham, is the ex-officio trustee.

The memory of the Tate family is carried on, however, for there are several tablets and plaques in the parish church commemorating various members of the family.

Among them is a white marble monument erected to George Tate, “a gentleman of aimiable and accomplished manners,” father of the foundress, who died at the age of 77 in May, 1822.

1910 Annual Outings of the Sunday Schools

OUTINGS AND TREATS.

—The children attending the Parish Church Sunday Schools had their annual outing on Friday to Worthing, while on the previous day the infants were entertained to tea and games at The Birches, the residence of Mrs. Simpson.

On Wednesday St. Mark’s scholars went to Littlehampton by special train, and on the previous Saturday the infants had their annual treat at the residence of Col. Farewell Jones. The weather was fine for each event, and the children spent a very enjoyable time.

Source: http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000945/19100730/096/0005 from the British Newspaper Archive (subscription required)

6th May 1899 Mitcham School Board

MITCHAM SCHOOL BOARD

The usual monthly meeting of the School Board for Mitcham was held at the Board-room (Vestry Hall) on Monday evening. The Rev. D.F. Wilson presided, and the other members present were Messrs. F. Tomlin, W. Mears, James Clarke, Jasper Knight, B. Green, J. Brown, and Kemshead.

THE EXAMINATIONS.

From Her Majesty’s Inspector’s report on the recent examination of the Lower Mitcham School it appeared that the boys had passed a very successful examination and that the first standard had passed without single failure. The second was good, and the upper standards just got through. The girls had passed good examination. The arithmetic was less successful, but the grammar, geography, needlework, singing, and musical drill were good, and the tone of the school all that it should be. The infants had also passed a very successful examination. The average attendance at the boys’ school was 197, and the grant earned was £l70 14s. 8d. ; at the girls’ school the average attendance was 57, and the grant earned £59 5s. 6d. ; and at the infants’ school the average attendance was 98, and the grant earned £73 10s.— making total grant of £303 10s. 2d.

In answer to the Chairman the Clerk said the amount of the grant earned at the Lower Mitcham Schools last year was £277 7s. 5d.

The Chairman—Then the examination this year has been very satisfactory.

AN APPLICATION.

Mr. Harber, one of the head-masters, applied for an increase salary. He said his present salary was £145, and considered that his income should be proportionate to the size the school. The letter was referred committee for consideration.

Mr. Hossack, assistant-master at Lower Mitcham Schools, also applied for an increase of salary, and his application was similarly treated.

THE TREASURER’S BALANCE.

The Chairman stated that the balance in the hands of the treasurer was £257 10s. 5d.
The Finance Committee recommended the payment of current accounts amounting £517 Mr. Knight proposed, and Mr. Mears seconded, that the report should adopted.
The Chairman pointed out that they were drawing cheques for £500 and they had only £250 in hand.
The Clerk said the overseers would pay in £250 on Wednesday morning, and that before the week was out the grant on account of the Lower Mitcham Schools would be received.
It was decided to pass the report of the Finance Committee, but to hold over the cheques until there is sufficient cash in the hank to meet them.

ANOTHER LAWYER’S BILL

The Clerk said he had received letter from Messrs. Ward, Mills, and Co., solicitors, enclosing a bill of costs for £37 I3s. 7d. for acting for the trustees on the proposed transfer of the infants’ school at Lower Mitcham. They stated that they were told by Messrs. Gedge to send the bill to the Board. They asked for cheque soon as possible, as the bill had been running for four years. A second letter had been received asking when they might expect the cheque.

The Chairman said it might simplify matters if he stated that Ward, Mills, and Co. were the solicitors to the late Mr. William Simpson, who was the sole surviving trustee of the schools.

Mr. Tomlin said Ward, Mills, and Co. in their letter stated that Messrs. Gedge and Co. informed them that they should charge their account to the School Board. Could the chairman give any information to that and to who instructed Ward, Mills, and Co. to act for the Board. The simple fact of the matter appeared to be that there was nothing on the minutes authorising Ward, Mills, and Co. to act, and whatever the Board had to with Ward, Mills, and Co. had been through Messrs. Gedge. The whole of the negotiations appeared be conspicuous by the failures. The trustees did not know that the school had not been transferred, and it was not an unfair question to ask who had acted all through the piece? So far as he could understand Mr. Gedge and Mr. Wilson, their chairman, were the only two who had had anything to with it, and under those circumstances thought he was right in asking why Mr. Gedge had been allowed not only to act as trustee and solicitor, but also to give instructions as to the payment of the bill of costs of another solicitor. At the last meeting Mr. Legg told the Board that he was not a trustee, and that was simply appointed a trustee pro forma in order to facilitate the transfer of the schools. But the transfer had never taken place, and no sooner had Gedge’s bill been paid than put the other people on the track of the Board. What business had Gedge to refer Ward, Mills, and Co. to the Board, and to state that the Board were responsible? The whole matter required the serious consideration of the Board, and the bill should most decidedly be repudiated. If the schools had been transferred he could understand the account being paid, but the schools had not been transferred, and the Board had never instructed Ward, Mills, and Co. to act for them. If Messrs. Gedge and Co. had done so they should pay the bill. (Hear, hear.)

Mr. Brown said he would like to see the whole of the correspondence produced in connection with this affair from the earliest part, and they should also obtain from Gedge & Co, such information as they could get from them in the shape of correspondence. He wanted to know more about the matter. (Hear, hear.)

Mr. Tomlin said he really thought that after all the trouble the Board had had over Gedge’s account the trustees should take the initiative and something in this matter. That the trustees should have allowed one gentleman take the entire management of the whole thing showed a very bad state of affairs. The Chairman he said was not a trustee of the schools. Mr. Wm. Simpson was the sole surviving trustee, and the former Board instructed Messrs, Gedge & Co, to obtain a transfer of the infant school at Lower Mitcham from Mr. Wm Simpson to the Board. He had been looking through the correspondence, which was quite open for the Board to see, and he found one letter in which Mr. Simpson said would decline to transfer the schools except the advice Messrs. Ward, Mills & Co., his solicitors. He (the chairman) was simply a trustee with the other six gentlemen in order take possession the school and transfer it to the Board. He knew no more about the matter than the other gentlemen. He had the misfortune to be both member of the Board and a trustee, but he really had no information to give, and if he had would not withhold it for single moment. He had privately spoken to the trustees, and their opinion was that the Board wished the school transferred the initiative should come from the Board by proposing some terms. As to the account before them, he thought they should call upon Gedge & Co. to produce the whole of the correspondence.

Mr. Tomlin — We should also ask Gedge & Co. upon what authority they informed Ward, Mills Co. that we are liable. Mr. Clarke said he thought they should discuss the matter then. No business had been done, and yet two accounts had been sent in and one paid. He would like know what the present account was for. The schools had not been transferred, and when they were transferred the Board would called upon to pay similar set costs. Mr. Brows promised that the matter should be adjourned, and that in the meantime the Clerk should obtain from Gedge & Co. full particulars about the account.
Mr. Clarke — We should take no notice of the bill. What is the bill for?
Mr. Brown — We should write a letter ignoring our liability, but ask for further information without prejudice.
Mr. Clarke — Will someone kindly tell me what the account is for.
The Chairman — That is just the information we are anxious obtain. The motion was then carried.

Source: Croydon Advertiser and East Surrey Reporter – Saturday 11 May 1889 from the British Newspaper Archive (subscription required)