Almshouses continue to help local families
10 Mar 2016
Currently GTC has 16 almshouses, comprising two and three bedroom homes at Centenary Court, St Vincent's Close and Girton Road and bungalows in Michael's Close and Fairway. These are intended for Girton families, either to help them save and move onto the housing ladder or for active retirees who can live independently
Almshouse charities are the oldest form of social housing in this country, providing accommodation to those in need. Today over 35,000 people live in almshouses in the UK, including some in Girton who benefit from those run by Girton Town Charity.
By the start of the nineteenth century there were almshouses in Girton, although on a different site from today’s houses and bungalows. These early almshouses, reportedly tenements within a single parish house, were at Camping Close in Cambridge Road, between the Old Rectory (now the Cambridge Academy of English) and St Andrew's Church.
The first of the current almshouses were built in the 1930s on land owned by GTC in the High Street and four more in Michael's Close were added in the 1960s.
Robin Hiley, GTC Chairman takes up the story: “When we sold a large area of our land at Wellbrook Way for development in 2003, the sale enabled us to make exciting changes to what we do, bringing in a substantial sum of money which is invested to give funds to use for the benefit of Girton residents.
“As well as making repairs to existing almshouses, it allowed us to create 11 traditionally-built three bedroom homes in a £1 million building project at Centenary Court - 7 almshouses and 4 social housing all used by Village residents.”
These almshouses have been hugely appreciated by the residents including Mark and Sarah Walsh who, together with baby Owen, were one of the first lucky families to move in. Sarah said: “The almshouse scheme is excellent and I would recommend any young family to consider applying when the homes become available. It is so good to be located near our family support network and living in Centenary Court has enabled us to start saving for our future. We are hoping to be in a position to get a mortgage and buy our own property.”
GTC is a member of the Almshouse Association which provides advice and support to around 1650 independent almshouse charities across the UK. Many almshouses are now historic or listed buildings and part of the Association’s work is to help charities upgrade or refurbish their buildings to acceptable modern standards with disabled access, internet connection, electric doors and sophisticated alarms.
Robin concludes: “GTC is also part of a local almshouse networking group which meets twice a year with 11 other local almshouse charities to share experiences information and advice. At our last meeting on 20th January, we were delighted to welcome Julian Marczak, Deputy Director of the Almshouse Association who updated us on the latest initiatives.”