26 June 2024

William Lunn’s Homes,
a 350-year-old charity
and almshouse near
Stowe Pool in Lichfield

William Lunn’s Homes on Stowe Road, Lichfield, date back to almshouses founded in William Lunn’s bequest in 1654 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Patrick Comerford

Two of Lichfield’s oldest buildings, apart from the Cathedral, are Saint John’s Hospital and Dr Milley’s Hospital. They are almshouses rather than hospitals, and I visited both earlier this week: Saint John’s Hospital has played an important role in my spiritual development and growth since I was teenager, and Dr Milley’s Hospital this week is celebrating the 600th anniversary of its foundation, including a special service at Choral Evensong in Lichfield Cathedral tomorrow (27 June 2024).

But Lichfield has other hospitals – such as the Samuel Johnson Community Hospital on Trent Valley Road and Saint Michael’s Hospital, and other almshouses – such as Newton’s College, founded by Andrew Newton, in the Cathedral Close, and William Lunn’s Homes on Stowe Road, beside Stowe Pool and facing Saint Chad’s Church.

As I walked around Stowe Pool earlier this week, I stopped at William Lunn’s Homes on Stowe Road. They may not look as old or as historical as the other earlier hospitals and almshouses in Lichfield. But these single-storey bungalows, close to Stowe Pool, date back 350 years. They have their beginnings in Lunn’s Almshouses, which date from 1654, when William Lunn left two houses in Stowe Street in his will as almshouses for six ‘poor, ancient and impotent widows of the City of Lichfield,’ with an endowment of two acres in Long Furlong.

I was unable to find the memorial to William Lunn in nearby Saint Chad’s Church, beside Stowe Pool, when I visited it earlier this week. But the local historian Kate Cardigan has said in a posting on Lichfield Discovered some years ago that it describes his gift of two houses in Stowe Street and two acres of land in Long Furlow for the benefit of six poor widows for ever.

Inside Saint Chad’s Church at Stowe Pool … I failed to find the memorial to William Lunn (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

The charity may not have become effective until 1667, the date given on the plaque on the site, when Edward Lunn, probably William Lunn’s son, conveyed the property to a trust in indenture dated 26 June 1667, 357 years ago today. By 1762, the trustees had come under the supervision of the city bailiffs, and the almshouses then included six two-roomed cottages with gardens.

In the 19th century, the residents or almswomen were given clothes by the trustees and most of them received 1 shilling or 1 shilling 6 pence and a loaf from the parish each week. The women were also paid an annual sum of 5 shilling each and were allowed half a ton of coal five times a year.

The charity was administered with the Lichfield Municipal Charities from 1899 and was then merged with them in 1908.

A plaque from 1959 recalls the origins of William Lunn’s Homes in Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

As the plaque recalls, the original six cottages were replaced on the site in 1959 by a terrace of six new bungalows, now known as William Lunn’s Homes. Three more bungalows on the site were added in 1982, and a further four in 1985, giving a total of 13 residences for one and two person occupancy. In 2022, four single occupancy almshouses were converted into three two occupancy almshouses so there are now 12 almshouses on the site.

The 12 almshouses on Stowe Street are available to poor inhabitants of the City of Lichfield, and the aim is to provide convenient and comfortable accommodation in a secure setting. Any surplus income after costs and expenses is available for the relief of people in need living within the boundaries of the City of Lichfield.

Another historic but now lost almshouse in Lichfield was Buckeridge’s Almshouses. It was founded by Canon George Buckeridge (1797-1863), the Master of Saint John’s Hospital (1836-1863), who died in 1863 and gave the Revd Thomas Alfred Bangham (1819-1876) of Christ Church, Leamonsley, two adjacent cottages in Lower Sandford Street to be used as parish almshouses.

The cottages had become uninhabitable by 1908, and the vicar sold them. The money was invested and the income from the Buckeridge Bequest was used for charitable purposes in the parish.

I hope to say something more about Buckeridge’s Almshouses tomorrow evening, Meanehile, that same year, the charity founded by William Lunn was merged with Lichfield Municipal Charities in 1908. Lichfield Municipal Charities was established 470 years ago in 1654 and is now regulated by a Charity Commission Scheme.

Many local charities in Lichfield were separately administered until the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835. The formation of Lichfield Municipal Charities first brought together 11 charities. Over many, years a further six charities were taken in foldto the, including the charity founded by William Lunn, and the charities of the Biddulphs and Sir Theophilus Biddulph.

From 1908 to 1955, the trustees were empowered to use the income of Chetwynd and Plumer’s Charity and Mousley’s Charity for educating poor children. The charities of Rowland Muckleston, Luke Robinson, and Richard Wakefield, and the Lichfield share of Roger Hinton's Charity were merged with Lichfield Municipal Charities in 1955.

In 1982, the number of trustees was increased to 14 – the mayor, three appointed by the city council, two appointed by the district council, and eight co-opted. The current trustees include William Michael Henwood (chair), Christopher Paul Earnshaw (vice-chair), and the Mayor of Lichfield for the time being (ex officio).

The main focus of the trust today is administering and updating the almshouses on a continuous programme. Solar panels were fitted to the roof in 2015 to provide green energy to the residents. The solar panels were replaced in 2023 and the new panels now provide electricity to five of the almshouses.

The charity founded by William Lunn was merged with Lichfield Municipal Charities in 1908 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Additional reading: ‘Lichfield: Charities for the poor’, pp 185-194 in MW Greenslade (ed) A History of the County of Stafford, vol 14, Lichfield, (London, 1990) (accessed 27 June 2024).

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