Almshouses are places of charitable support for the poor, the sick, widows and strangers. Nationwide, in the 21st century, there are 2,600 functioning Almshouses in the UK, supporting around 36,000 elderly people on low incomes. Here in York, we have the first purpose built Almshouse in England, established in 936AD. This was a gift from King Athelstan to the canons of the Anglo Saxon cathedral of St Peter. Later renamed St Leonards during the medieval period. There are 12 Almshouses remaining in York, looking after 180 people. The oldest in York is in Heslington,started in 1608 by Sir Thomas Hesketh, since then it has moved nearer Fulford in 1795 and repaired and modernised in 1968.

One of the other Almshouses in York is Anne Middletons Hospital, Skeldergate. Founded in 1659, she left £2000 in her will to build a house for 20 widows of the freemen of York. This building also got moved, this time a yard further back. More movement in 1827-1829, even further back from its original position! This is the building we see today, only now there is another Almshouse built in front of it. This one is dedicated to the memory of Sir Joseph Terry, son of the founder of Terry’s confectionery business. So now we have 2 buildings, one shield for one of Yorks Main benefactors, and a stone figure set in a niche above the front door at Anne Middletons Hospital. Fast forward to the 1970s when the building was closed to residents. Purchased in 1973 for £34,000 by Andrew Clarke and his wife Kathy who turned into the Middletons Hotel we see today. The hospital charity that was in charge was one 46 amalgamated into one Charity, The York City Charities.

Every building in York has a story to tell…

Article contributed by Steve Sutcliffe –