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Turnor Almshouses Milton Ernest

The Turnor Almshouses 1962 [Z53/82/7]
The Turnor Almshouses 1962 [Z53/82/7]

The Turnor Almshouse Charity was established by Lord of the Manor of Milton Ernest alias Harnesse about 1697. A manuscript of source material put together in the 19th century [P80/28/3] states: "Sir Edmund Turnor, Kt, a very worthy promoter of piety and virtue … And that his piety to the Church might be the better consecrated by his Charity to the poor; he did within the same parish erect & found a decent Hospital or Alms House, containing six suitable apartments, each apartment having two Rooms, for the dwelling of six poor persons, old men or women, and endow it with lands to the Value of 320 per annum forever, settled upon Trustees for the yearly relief & maintenance of the said poor persons, to be divided amongst them in equal portions".

A different source recorded on the same manuscript says: "The greatest benefactor of this place was Sir Edmund Turnor, a most devout man whose whole life was one continued Act of Devotion. Seldom less than four or five times a day would he partake of the public service of our Church, besides his closet devotion never omitted night & morning. He was no less exemplary in his diffusive Charity, Dona Dei Ded (the Gifts of God ought to be returned to God) [the motto actually seems to be Dona Dei Deo - "The gifts of God for God"] was his beloved motto deeply engraven on his Heart as well as on the front of his Hospitals. He has nobly enlarged the revenues of four Hospitals and of a new work house in London and erected almost as many in his County, whereby a great many poor will be relieved by him for many generations. He died in April 1707 and was buried the fourteenth of the same month, at Stoke in Lincolnshire".

Mention of the names of inhabitants of the almshouses are sometimes given in the charity account books dating between 1746 and 1914 [P80/25/3-4] though this is not consistent. Mentions might be for amounts paid by the charity to the inhabitants, deaths of inhabitants or election of new inhabitants. Rev. Pownall compiled a list of “occupants so far as I have been able to ascertain” between 1745 and 1872 which is included in the first account book. The third book [P80/25/9] contains a list of tenants from 1915 to 1944.

The land on which the income for the charity was based, at least in 1781, was as follows: a cottage in Radwell Road near the Swan Inn, rent £10 per annum; eighteen acres called Bellswood in Clapham, rent £12/15/- per annum and a cottage and five acres of land in Oakley, rent £12 per annum [P80/25/5]

The Rating and Valuation Act 1925 specified that every building and piece of land in the country was to be assessed to determine its rateable value. The valuer visiting the almshouses [DV1/C1/127-132] found that there were six apartments, each with a living room and a bedroom and all six shared a washhouse with three apartments each sharing an earth closet. The valuer noted: “Water from well on [Mrs] Rowlatt’s property”. The six tenants, from north to south were:

  • G. Solesbury;
  • Mrs. M. Parrott;
  • Mrs. A. Solesbury;
  • Mrs. Charles;
  • G. Jacques;
  • Mrs. Taylor

A report on the almshouses by surveyors Robinson and Hall in 1962 [P80/25/14] reads as follows:

“The property is situate in the village of Milton Ernest, adjoins the privately owned Village Green, over which there is an assumed right-of-way, being a gravelled road … The property has no frontage to the public highway but has a frontage of approximately 100 feet to the gravelled road; the depth of the site varies but averages approximately 70 feet”.

“Main electricity and main water are available but a public sewer is not at present available; the Local Authority has, however, a scheme of main sewers for the village and it is believed this will be in operation within the next two years”.

“Owing to the state of repair and the accommodation generally being below standard, a Closing Order was served by the Bedford Rural District Council and a Demolition Order will no doubt be served unless the property is brought up to standard. Having regard to this situation our instructions are to value the site only on the assumption the houses will be demolished and the cost of demolition will be covered by salvaged material”. The valuation was £1,000.

The almshouses were sold for £1,500 in 1965 [P80/25/13] and were replaced, on the same site, by old people’s bungalows built by Bedford Rural District Council, a letter of 1966 stating: “As the Charity is no longer an Almshouse Charity, it is consequently ineligible for membership of the [National] Association [of Almshouses], and we have removed it from our list of members with regret”.

Old people's bungalows February 2011
Old people's bungalows February 2011

Bedfordshire and Luton Archive and Record Service has records of the Turnor Almshouse Charity in the Milton Ernest parish archive. The sources [P80/25/3-16] are as follows:

  • P80/25/3: account book: 1746-1843;
  • P80/25/4: account book: 1843-1914;
  • P80/25/5: account of lands belonging to the charity: 1781;
  • P80/25/6: extract from the Oakley glebe terrier concerning Turnor Almshouse Charity land in that parish: c. 1708, extracted c. 1820;
  • P80/25/7: names of tenants of allotments on almshouse property in the field adjoining Thurleigh road: 1875;
  • P80/25/8: rough notes of almshouse rents: 1878;
  • P80/25/9: account book: 1915-1958;
  • P80/25/10: Charity Commission sealed order vesting Turnor Almshouse Charity land in the Official Trustee of Charity Lands: 1947;
  • P80/25/11: Charity Commission sealed order vesting Turnor Almshouse Charity land in the Official Trustee of Charity Lands: 1948;
  • P80/25/12: Charity Commission sealed order authorising sale of 10 acres, 1 rood, 18 poles in Milton Ernest: 1948;
  • P80/25/13: file on the condition of the almshouses: 1960-1966;
  • P80/25/14: report on and valuation of the almshouses: 1962;
  • P80/25/15: correspondence with the Charity Commission: 1963-1965;
  • P80/25/16; correspondence regarding preparation of a new Charity Commission scheme: 1965-1966