Books on Hertfordshire


Illustrated Handbook


St Albans

A Sketch of its History and a Description of its Abbey; its Antiquities; and other Objects of Interest

Fred. B. Mason

R. Gibbs, "Herts Advertiser" Office, 1866

St Stephen's Church

This little book, of 88 pages with a number of plates, is one of the earliest pocket guides to describe a Hertfordshire town. It contains some interesting descriptions, including the follow of the Marlborough Buildings:

The Marlborough Buildings, or "The Buildings" as they are locally termed, are the principal alms houses in St. Alban's. They are situated in the Hatfield Road, not far from St. Peter's Church, and form three sides of a parallelogram. They consist of nine almshouses, each house containing four rooms, and having a detached garden belonging. Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, built and endowed these alms houses for the comfortable support and maintenance of thirty-six poor persons - eighteen poor men, and eighteen poor women. About the year 1735, the Duchess purchased the Manor of Newland Squillers, in St. Peter's parish, and the Manor House stood where the alms houses stand now. This Manor House had been let as a Boarding School for boys of dissenting parents. The school obtained considerable reputation, and Dr. Philip Doddridge, Dr. Aikin, and other celebrated dissenting ministers received their early education here. The Duchess of Marlborough pulled down the manor house and built the present Alms Houses on the site. She generously endowed the charity, provided that she herself should have the sole management of it during her lifetime, and that after her death it should be under the direction of the Lord of the Manor of Sandridge. She also provided that 20 should be paid annually to the Rector of the Abbey Church, and the Vicar of St. Peter's, "for overlooking the poor that shall be placed in the same alms house." The management of the charity now devolves upon Earl Spencer, her descendent. The Charity is a noble one, and it is admirably administered. The inmates of the buildings are elderly men and women in reduced circumstances, who have yet some small income of their own, which, with the help of the charity, suffices for their comfortable livelihood. It affords a home for thirty-six persons, with a gift of 15 a year to each, and an adequate allowance of coals.

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