Spalding Town Husbands

A Short History Of The Spalding Town Husbands

From 1561 to 2020

For nearly four hundred and fifty years, local trustees have been making provision for their needy fellow citizens from bequests from the Wills of departed Spalding residents.

In 1591 John Gamlyn, who had given £26 in 1588 for defending England against the Spanish Armada, left land on the north side of Church Street to establish an almshouse and within twelve months the first almsperson was in residence. The trustees of this almshouse were already administering funds provided by the Wills of John Harrox of Moulton in 1561 and Richard Kedby of Monks House in 1574 “for Poor Needy and Impotent Persons of Spalding and Cowbit”.

In 1623 the then trustees built six almshouses in Church Street which, with their successive replacements, were known as the Gamlyn Almshouses. In that year, as a result of the Will of John Hobson, who lived in the building now known as the White Horse Inn at High Bridge, a Town Hall was built in the centre of what is now Hall Place. The income from the Town Hall and the shops around it enabled alms to be distributed for over 300 years.

In 1630 William Willsby established an Almshouse Charity for two old men beside the Church Porch on the South side of Church Street.

In the first book of accounts and minutes (which opened in 1591 and closed in 1696) the first description of the trustees acting as “Town Husbands” appears in 1665, and they have been described as such ever since. As Charity Trustees, Spalding Town Husbands are unique. No other Almshouse Charity is administered by “Town Husbands” – a term describing their ability to manage thriftily the financial affairs entrusted to them.

In 1717 further almshouses were built under the terms of the Will of Mrs Sparkes in Double Street, initially for eight almspeople. 1751 saw the first of a series of rebuilding programmes when the Gamlyn Almshouses were rebuilt. At that time there were twenty seven Town Husbands who all signed the contract. Twelve years later a further three almshouses were added.

In 1806 the Willsby Almshouses in the Churchyard were rebuilt for four almspeople. They were described by the Charity Commission in 1835 as “very inconveniently situated, without back premises” but their recommended closure had to wait a further 50 years.

In 1812 the Sparkes Almshouses in Double Street were rebuilt for six almspeople and remained in use, ultimately for four poor widows, until 1967.

In 1844, without legal authority, the Gamlyn Almshouses were rebuilt as a square in Church Street with seventeen dwellings for thirty four almspeople with males to the West, females to the East and couples in the Centre. They were occupied by almspeople until they were sold to the Spalding Urban District Council in 1974.

By the Will of Alderman Sam Kingston, the first Chairman of Spalding Urban District Council, land and money was given in 1905 to build four homes in South Parade. The Charity Commission insisted on an endowment for their upkeep and this was given by his nephew in the form of twenty one acres of land at Moulton Fengate. The Kingston Cottage Homes were opened in 1907 and with regular maintenance and modernisation were eagerly sought after when vacancies occurred. They were designed by J.B. Corby, the architect who designed Kingston’s Corner Offices, the Gentlemen’s Society Museum in Broad Street, and the Christadelphian Hall facing onto Pinchbeck Road. They are listed on the 2nd Schedule of Historic Properties. One of the four properties was sold in 2006 and two more in 2008.

In 1959 Mr. William Masham offered £5,000 to build four almshouses. The Spalding Urban District Council provided a site in Green Lane for £100 and plans by its own surveyor. In 1961 the first four almspeople took up residence.

Despite the expenditure of legacies to modernise the Gamlyn Almshouses, converting some to flats, they proved unsatisfactory for their elderly residents and in 1968 together with the residents of the Sparkes Almshouses they were rehoused in Bowditch Road on the site of the old railway line from Spalding to King’s Lynn. Sixteen bungalows designed by Desmond Waite, an architect from King’s Lynn, were provided with fifteen for almspeople and the sixteenth for a warden. They were named the “Adrian Gall Homes” after the late Dr Adrian Gall, who as Chairman of The Town Husbands had been the driving force behind the scheme for renewal.

In 1980 The Town Husbands took over the administration of the Edwin Dalton Almshouse Charity and its two bungalows built in 1938 in West Parade.

A large bequest of £132,000 from the estate of the late Alice Wilson in 1980 resulted in the building of six further homes on the south side of Winsover Road on a site made available by the Spalding Urban District Council.  The architects, Ruddle & Wilkinson, designed them to a very high standard with minimal maintenance and upkeep required.

In 1989 The Town Husbands resolved to build more almshouses “subject to the availability of a suitable site and finance”. A year later Broadgate Builders Ltd offered an acre of land and in 1992 following the frustration of an application to the Housing Corporation for 60% assistance with funding, the John & Lucille Van Geest Foundation offered £250,000 to enable fourteen homes to be built. On 14th December 1993 Mrs Lucille Van Geest M.B.E. laid the first bricks. The opening ceremony was performed on the 28th September 1994 by Lady Benson O.B.E., the Chairlady of the Almshouse Association, the residents having moved in during the previous month.

In 1998 The Town Husbands took over the Turner Almshouse Charity which owned two bungalows in Knight Street, Pinchbeck, together with a small endowment fund.  The bungalows were then refurbished.

Towards the end of the twentieth and beginning of the twenty first centuries successive chairman of the Town Husbands, Dr Roy Aitken and Mr George Hastings pressed for the acquisition of additional modern bungalows.  Eventually these plans came to fruition in 2007/08 with the construction of ten bungalows by Broadgate Homes Ltd at Clover Way on their Wygate Park estate.  New residents moved into the bungalows in March 2008 including two ladies who previously lived in the Kingston Homes.  The new bungalows are to be known as “The Gamlyn Almshouses” and were  officially opened by HRH the Duchess of Gloucester GCVO at a ceremony  held in November of that year.

The construction of The Gamlyn Almshouses was partially financed by the sale of one of the Kingston Homes and two further Homes have since been sold.  The Town Husbands used these proceeds of sale together with a substantial bequest from the estate of the late Mary Gage of Halmergate, Spalding, a daughter of the Spalding auctioneer, Joe Longstaff, to build two further almshouses at Green Lane.   South Holland District Council agreed to sell a plot of land in Green Lane adjacent to the Masham Homes to the Town Husbands and in 2008 planning permission was granted for the building of two bungalows.  These were completed in 2010. 

The Town Husbands then commenced further building work of two bungalows on the Winsover Road site and one bungalow on the Hoekman Way/Drive site both of which were completed in 2011.

Work commenced at the end of 2012 to build a further almshouse at the Pinchbeck site with funding provided by The Petronella Keeling Charitable Trust which was completed by May 2013. 

The John & Lucille van Geest Foundation made a substantial grant of £500,000 to the Almshouse Charity in 2012 to be used to build additional almshouses.  The Town Husbands subsequently concluded negotiations with Broadgate Homes Ltd for ten almshouses to be built at Wygate Park, Spalding, to be known as the John van Geest Homes.

With the recent opening of the John van Geest Homes the Town Husbands now administer seventy one Almshouses, which places them in the second largest of the Almshouse Association’s five categories of Almshouse Charities. 

From their inception, The Town Husbands have been giving alms of every kind to the needy of Spalding and adjacent parishes. The various doles, educational grants and groups of almshouses, were administered rather haphazardly as one Charity which continued to grow. The Town Husbands, who varied in number between twenty and twenty seven and were described in 1855 as “about twenty of the most influential inhabitants of the town”, continued by self‑selection upon the occurrence of vacancies and were joined in 1896 by five additional trustees nominated by the Spalding Urban District Council.

In 1971 (the year that the Town Husbands joined the Almshouse Association) the Charity Commission approved a new Scheme, establishing The Spalding Almshouse Charity and The Spalding Relief in Need Charity together embracing the thirty three separate charities then being administered by The Town Husbands.  Under the new Scheme, seven of these thirty three charities were merged into The Almshouse Charity and the other twenty six were merged into The Relief in Need Charity, with the properties, land and investments of the thirty three charities being vested in The Town Husbands as appropriate.  The new Scheme reduced the number of Town Husbands ultimately to nine made up of seven Co-optative Trustees and two Nominative Trustees appointed by South Holland District Council (the successor to the Spalding Urban District Council).  The new Scheme provided for these Town Husbands holding off at the time to continue as Additional Trustees, five of whom continued to serve.  Of these five, one is still serving as a Town Husband in 2015.  In 2002 the Scheme was amended to increase the number of Co-optative Trustees to nine, giving a total of twelve Town Husbands.  They meet quarterly at Dembleby House in Broad Street with an annual general meeting held in March each year.  Additional meetings of Committees of Trustees are held as and when required.  

The new Scheme extended the area of benefit of both new charities  and subsequently it has been amended to cover the whole of South Holland District but with preference to be given to residents of the parishes of Spalding, Cowbit, Deeping St Nicholas, Pinchbeck and Weston.  

Since the mid 1990’s The Almshouse Charity and The Relief in Need Charity have been administered from Dembleby House in Broad Street, the offices of Chattertons, Solicitors, which incorporates the former firm of Knipe Miller & Co. Patrick Skells is the Clerk to the Town Husbands and Tracy Griggs is the Charities’ Administrator.

The Almshouse Charity is affiliated to the Almshouse Association and The Town Husbands support the Association’s aims and activities at a local and national level.  The previous Clerk,  Richard Knipe, now a Trustee, is the Association’s representative for Lincolnshire and is a member of its Executive Committee and Finance and General Purposes Sub-Committee. 

The Relief in Need Charity makes grants to individuals in need resident in the area of benefit, usually in the form of buying furniture, carpets, domestic appliances and school uniforms.  The Charity’s income is derived from farm rents, an invested endowment fund and occasional donations from companies and other organisations.  

The Town Husbands hold continuous minutes of their meetings from 1591 to the present, the older minute books being stored at The Gentlemen’s Society in Broad Street, Spalding.  

The Almspeople

The various separate charities merged into The Almshouse Charity provided for sets of almspeople defined as follows;

1. The Gamlyn almspeople shall be poor persons.

2. The Kingston almspeople shall be poor aged persons resident in the area of 

    benefit at the time of appointment.

3. The Masham almspeople shall be poor aged persons resident in the Urban 

    District of Spalding at the time of appointment.

4. Mrs Sparke’s almspeople shall be poor persons resident in the area of benefit 

     at the time of appointment but preference shall be given to poor widows. 

5.  The Edwin Dalton almspeople shall be poor aged persons who are residents of the area of benefit

6.  The Turner almspeople shall be poor persons of good character of either sex and either married or single persons who from old age, infirmity or any other cause whatsoever are deserving of charity and shall have resided in the Ecclesiastical parish of Pinchbeck St Mary for not less than three years.

Recent Benefactors

A number of donations have been made to each of The Almshouse Charity and the Relief in Need Charity in recent years by the following benefactors :

The Almshouse Charity

1992           The late Alice Wilson

1992           The John & Lucille van Geest Foundation 

2010           The late Mary Gage        

2012           The Petronella Keeling Charitable Trust

2012           The John & Lucille van Geest Foundation

The Relief in Need Charity

Elsoms Seeds Limited and the John & Lucille van Geest Foundation have made regular donations.

Various gifts have been received from the Masonic Charitable Funds.


The Town Husbands have been made aware that life interest trusts have been established by the Will of the late Handley Tony Stephenson who died in 2004 and the Will of the late Landale Armstrong Scragg (a long serving Town Husband) who died in 2002 and that each of such trusts names The Spalding Almshouse Charity as the beneficiary of the trust fund on the death of the life tenant.  However, in the case of the trust fund established by the Will of the late Landale Armstrong Scragg, the relevant trustees have power to advance trust capital to the life tenant.  Subject, therefore, to any exercise of such power of advancement, the trust assets will in each case vest in The Almshouse Charity on the death of the life tenant.

Based on a history written by Dr Roy Aitken, Chairman of The Town Husbands from 1986 to 2001. Updated and expanded by Mr Patrick Skells, Clerk, October 2015. Updated by Tracy Griggs in 2020.

The Spalding Town Husbands administer;

The Spalding Almshouse Charity     –   registered number 220077

The Spalding Relief in Need Charity –  registered number 229268