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10 and 12 Shefford Road - Alms Cottages - Clifton

Pisgah Cottages in 1871 [Z50/30/16a]
Pisgah Cottages in 1871 [Z50/30/16a]

10 and 12 Shefford Road were built as a pair of cottages for widows by the Particular Baptist Minister Septimus Sears. He edited two national magazines The Little Gleaner for children and The Sower for adults. They are the surviving pair to two, the first, called Pisgah Cottages, being demolished in the 1960s.

Sears noted in the editorial for the January 1871 edition of The Little Gleaner: "A larger circulation would enable us to go on improving our periodicals and extend our efforts. We have long had in our breast a work of mercy … That is the building of Two Gleaner Almshouses to stand for ever a monument of the kindly feeling of our readers towards aged lovers of the Gospel. We have a large quantity of some of the works advertised on the cover as "Works of the Editor". If every one of our readers would give us an order for one or more of these books or a contribution for this benevolent and needed purpose in a very poor neighbourhood we might soon see these longed for Homes for Aged Pilgrims rising above the ground until their front was adorned with an inscription showing these homes were built by the Editor and readers of The Gleaner for the use of aged Christians". Building work was obviously swift - Pisgah Cottages were opened in June 1871 and The Alms Cottages in July 1872.

10 and 12 Shefford Road about 1960 [Z251/332]
10 and 12 Shefford Road about 1960 [Z251/332]

The Rating and Valuation Act 1925 specified [Section 19 (1)] that every piece of land and property in the country be valued to determine the rateable value. Clifton, like most of Bedfordshire, was assessed in 1927 and the valuer visiting the Alms Cottages [DV1/C207/113-114] noted that they were owned by the Trustees of the Strict Baptist Chapel - 12 Shefford Road was inhabited by Mrs. Ford, the other dwelling by Mrs. L. Haddow. Both simple little houses comprised just a living room and a bedroom. The two dwellings shared a small washhouse outside and a barn attached to the property. The two widows paid no rent but did pay five shillings per quarter for water, which they had to fetch.

Pisgah Cottages about 1960 [Z251/333]
Pisgah Cottages about 1960 [Z251/333]

At that time Pisgah Cottages, 2 and 4 Shefford Road, stood just up the road, bordering the pond to the south [DV1/C207/117-118]. They were also owned by the chapel trustees, the two inhabitants being Mrs. Sale and Mrs. Meeks. Again, both women occupied just a living room and a bedroom ands a small washhouse was attached to the house. Both women paid a nominal rent of a shilling a month to the trustees.

The Alms Cottages were listed by the former Department of Environment in November 1975 as Grade II, of special interest. The structure is built of brick, which has been colourwashed white and the roof is of clay tiles. A strip over the one central front window reads: "A judge of the widows is God in his Holy habitation". Over each door is a label, that on the left saying "Gleaner and Sower", that on the left saying: "Widows Homes".

10 and 12 Shefford Road - The Alms Cottages - August 2009
10 and 12 Shefford Road - The Alms Cottages - August 2009