The Romance of English Almshouses

by Mary F. Raphael

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Almshouses date to England in the Middle Ages. In fact, the still existing Hospital of St. Cross in Winchester of York is evidence of this long history of almshouses. It remains in operation today. Almshouses were developed in order to help the elderly, ill, disabled, or impoverished get the assistance they needed. They spread to some regions of the United States and both in England and America differed greatly based on the person developing it, the purpose and the regional influences. For example, in some almshouses in Connecticut, people using the service were regularly punished by whipping for having to use it. Not all of them were unpleasant and since they were often endowed and the residents required to pray for the souls of the benefactors, they differed from workhouses, where the inhabitants were required to earn their keep. Mary F. Raphael focuses on popular, large, established almshouses across England and records her impressions of the region, architecture and residents.