Almshouses in Burford
The Great or Warwick Almshouses, founded 1455-6. (Photo by Mike Hesketh-Roberts, English Heritage)
The most conspicuous charitable act in late medieval Burford was the foundation in 1455–6 of the Great Almshouse (or Warwick Almshouses) near the church, for eight poor persons. The founder was the Burford burgess and wool merchant Henry Bishop, acting in cooperation with the earl of Warwick (who was then lord of Burford). The initiative was part of a broader trend in late medieval England, which saw endowed almshouses founded in several small towns. A 19th-century datestone gives the date 1457.
After the Reformation’s townspeople continued to make charitable provision in a humanistic spirit. The mercer Simon Wisdom endowed Wisdom's Almshouse on Church Lane in the 1580s, and in 1726 the prominent Burford physician John Castle (of The Great House) founded Castle’s Almshouses in Guildenford, to house 4 poor widows. Most gifts for the poor were more modest bequests of money for investment, designed to supplement the parish’s poor rates. Donors often hedged their bequests with particular requirements, designed to target the so-called ‘deserving poor’.
In more recent times, Price's Almshouses at the top of The Hill were founded in 1897 by Miss Charlotte Anne Price, a daughter of the solicitor James Scarlett Price. Three cottages were to be built 'in the Elizabethan style', each one housing a 'suitable aged or infirm woman'. Briggs’ Almshouses in Sweeps Lane were endowed by Katherine M Briggs in 1966. Briggs was an eminent folklorist and long-term Burford resident, who lived in the Barn House to the rear of Calendars on Sheep Street). The building follows the Cotswold vernacular tradition, with uncoursed rubblestone and a stone slate roof. Features include a pair of three-light stone-mullioned windows under a drip moulding, and doorways with plain Tudor arches.
Read more in the EPE Book Burford: Buildings and People in a Cotswold Town by A Catchpole, D Clark and RB Peberdy (2008)
See also: R and J Moody, A Thousand Years of Burford (2007), 10, 79, 82-3, 138.; RH Gretton, The Burford Records (1920), 200, 359–62, 484–508.