Almshouses belonging to a medieval hospital charity dating back to the 1400s have been transferred to one of the biggest almshouse charities in the country.
The Hospital of St Mary Magdalene, Wilton, existed in 1420 with close links to Wilton Abbey, as an education hothouse for Queens and aristocratic girls of the day. The hospital’s ‘12 poor bedesmen” were to pray for the soul of St Edith, the patron saint of Wilton Abbey and a powerful medieval figure.
The present six almshouses in King Street, Wilton, were built in the 1830s by the then Countess of Pembroke at a cost of £2,000, to house retired workers from Wilton Estate.
Following three years of negotiations, Lord Pembroke and the Countess of Pembroke officially handed over a symbolic set of keys to Salisbury City Almhouses Welfare Charity (SWAC).
Lord Pembroke said: “When these almshouses were originally built, they were in great demand by retired estate staff. Wilton does not employ as many people as it used to, so there are not as many retirees.
“Ever since that time, these magnificent buildings have been somewhat underused. It’s fantastic to see them pass over to an organisation that can utilise them well.”
Countess of Pembroke Miranda said: “I remember coming with my late husband to bring Christmas bottles to the residents. For the future of the almshouses, which need quite a lot of work, the Salisbury City Almshouses have economies of scale – they can bring a degree of management and expertise far above what we can do managing them as a set of almshouses in their own right.”
SWAC is drawing up plans of how to adapt the accommodation for modern living. Narrow stairs lead to bedrooms, and bathrooms and kitchens need upgrading.
SWAC runs 190 sheltered units and 22 general needs houses, making it one of the biggest almshouse charities in the UK.
Chairman of SWAC Trevor Austreng said: “This is a big day.”