Alms Houses at St. Stephens

Alms Houses of St Stephens

From the time of Queen Elizabeth all Parishes had to provide “convenient houses of dwelling" for the impotent Poor, and the Churchwardens with the Overseers of the Poor had to provide “competent sums of money towards the necessary relief of the lame, impotent, old, blind, and such others among them being Poor and not able to work.” They also arranged “the putting out of ..... children to be apprentices.”

Therefore one or more Alms-houses were provided in every Parish, but these became redundant in 1834 when Parishes be­came combined as “Unions,” and Boards of Guardians took over the duty of the Overseers.

The Alms-houses at St. Stephens were built round the Church­yard, and included a brew-house in which the Churchwardens brewed for the “Church Ale,” the annual Parish Feast. This later became the "Church House Inn," and was pulled down in 1902 or 3, and rebuilt on a new site as “The Cecil Arms.” The tithe map of 1841 shows “Church House Inn” situated on the site of our War Memorial, with the remains of ruined cottages (only one of which was then occupied), all along the road to the Lytch gate, and another set of four small dwellings of one room each situated on the south side of the old Churchyard on land now incorporated in the extended burial ground, with access to the old back lane (now diverted) near the farm-house, but there is no indication of their use.

The following report is written on a sheet of loose paper which was found in the Vicarage by the Rev. C. T. Wal­ker when he left.

An account of Household goods in the Alms-houses taken the 28th April 1771 by Jewell Doidge and Thomas Edwards,—  (original spelling used)

One peice rug. one new blanket, two peices. 1 old bed-tick. 1 pellow. Do two peices very old rugs. 1 very poor blanket. bed-tick too bad to mention. 1 spining turn, three old ire crocks. 1 pot crock, two poringers. 1 plater.


  1. R.

1 goodish, 1 old rug. 2 Blankets 1 good 1 old. 2 bolsters 1 pellow, old bed-tick, 1 chest, 2 poringers, 1 crock, 1 fry­ing pan, 1 plate.


  1. S. S.

two rugs 1 good one bad. 2 blankets one good one bad. bed tick prety good. 1 bolster and spining turn.


Beding too bad to mention. 1 spining turn, table board and frame. 1 crock, 1 kitle, four poringers.


  1. H.

one good rug. one good blanket, old bed-tick. 1 bolster. 1 pellow. 1 box, spining turn. 1 crock and pot croock.


  1. H.

two new blankets, new bed-tick. 2 bolsters. 1 little crock and little bor.


  1. H.

two peices rug. 1 new blanket. 1 do pretty good, 1 bolster, 1 bed-tick, 1 large crock. 1 brass skelit. and 1 large box.


  1. S.

one good blanket, one sheet, bed-tick, 1 pellow, 1 chest, do without cover, spining turn, 1 ire crock, (1 brass crock her Gran-Daughter’s) pot crocks and 1 table board.


Necessaries wanting. House to be repaired.                    H's pot crocks mending.

                                                                                          S.S. pair cards.

                                                                                          M’s oven repaired and girl cloathed.

                                                                                         H. rug wanted.


It would appear that there were in all eight alms-houses, and four occupants were men, and four women; possibly in two sep­arate blocks on either side of the Churchyard, but they must have been in very bad repair, for in 1841, seven years after the Union had opened, the tithe map shews a confused jumble of ruins on the site between the Inn and the Lytchgate, and the others were ruins soon after.

With reference to the “spining turns," to M’s "Frame,” and the “pair of cards" (i.e. carding brushes) to be provided for S.          


It was no part of the duty of the Overseers to provide relief for the able-bodied; but the Parish had to provide a “stock of Hemp, Wool, Thread. Iron and other necessary Ware Stuff to set the Poor to Work”; so it would appear that wool and tools were provided to eke out a hard living. The Elizabethan Poor Law was imperfectly administered, in many Parishes Overseers failed to collect rates; the stock was not uniformly provided. Full credit must be given to Messrs. Doidge and Edwards, for the report indicates regular, if to our views, inadequate care.

St Stephens-by-Saltash before 1903 when the Church House Inn was pulled down along with the cottages. The land in the foreground became Churchtown Vale in 1965/6. In the foreground the thatch covers plies of mangles or turnips. The Cecil Arms opened on 1902 and was not built when this photograph was taken. In the wall behind the inn was a stone coffin lid marked with a cross. This was set up in a wall and inscribed

“This stone was found near this spot in March 1903 and placed here by Henry Bowden Builder

Terms used

Bed-tick                 Very thin mattress that can be rolled out on the floor.

Poringer                 Shallow bowl, used for eating cereal or porridge.

Kitle                        Pot with handle normally uses to hang over a fire.

Spinning turn        Probably a spinning wheel of some description but if you have any ideas please let me know.