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Saint Johns Homes Kempston

Saint John's Homes May 2012
Saint John's Homes May 2012

The Saint John’s Almshouses are very attractive mock-Tudor buildings. The Saint John’s Homes Charity was endowed on 20th December 1881 by Anne Jane Charles-Williamson of Kempston Manor [Z1217/1] who appointed a Board of Trustees. She was a daughter of Edmund Riland Williamson, Lord of the Manor of Kempston Daubeney and Rector of Campton, who died in 1864. Former County Archivist Patricia Bell wrote of Mrs. Williamson in Eight Thousand Years – a Kempston History, published in 1966: “Anne Williamson married a clergyman, the Rev. George Charles, and as she was her father’s sole heir, the couple took the surname Charles-Williamson. He died only a year or two after their marriage, which was unfortunately childless, and Anne Charles-Williamson devoted her long widowhood to the church and to charitable work. She built and endowed the Saint John almshouses (where she herself chose to live) as a memorial to her husband, and she was most a generous patron of Saint John’s church. Mr. F. L. Crowsley wrote of her “For over forty years she was organist at Saint John’s Church and for a long period she was also superintendent of the Girls’ Sunday School. She exercised a great influence over the destinies of the parish. In every phase of social and religious life her influence made for the good of the people, and her indomitable will carried her through many difficult problems; yet she was always the same gentle personality affectionately known as “The Lady””, and he quoted from a sermon preached after her death. “Those who knew her best knew how firmly she held the great Christian truths. She never doubted that life had a spiritual basis. Blessed as she was with this world’s goods, she never felt that they were here to do with as she liked, but that they were a trust from God”. When she died in 1927 at the age of 83, it was a gift under her will that eventually made possible the building of the Church of the Transfiguration”.

The buildings themselves were listed by English Heritage in May 1984 as Grade II, of special interest. They are built in red brick and the ground floor is clad in colourwashed plaster with red brick dressings, the first floor being hung with decorative tiles. There is some mock timber-framing at each gable end and the roofs are composed of clay tiles.

In 1916 the endowment was varied [Z1217/1]. At this time the trustees were: Blair Hamilton Lee Williams of East Tilbury [Essex], solicitor; Edward Taunton Williams of Aspley Guise, solicitor; Ernest Flint of the City of London, architect and Rev. Percy Greeves of Kempston and Mrs. Charles-Williamson conveyed £1,010/1/- in India 3% stock and £1,000 in order to carry on the charity. Among the provisions was that when one of the residents, who had to be members of the Church of England, died, the trustees could spend up to £2 on their funeral. They also made a weekly payment of 2/6 to some of the occupants, described in the original endowment (sadly not held at Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service). It was decided that a married couple occupying one of the almshouses would only receive one payment between them.