Words & pics by Erdington Local editorial staff
Church Road’s distinctive almshouses, which were built in 1930 to give the needy a place to live, have been put on sale for £1.6 million. Residents who thought they had a home for life have been told they have to vacate the premises by March 2023.
Tommy Swaine, aged 71, has lived in his almshouse for 13 years.
He told Erdington Local: “I thought I had a house for life but then get a letter telling me I have to be out by March. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’ve not even had anyone round to talk about it. There are about seven of us here who are in the same position.”
He added: “These lot (Josiah Mason Trust) have only had the almshouses for three years and now they are selling them from beneath us, it’s shocking.”
Paul Cunningham, aged 77, has lived in his almshouse for 17 years. He said: “I could not believe what I was reading. Everywhere we have been offered is way more expensive and as far away as Solihull.
“I pay £128 a week and do not have to pay bills, but the places they have offered me are over £160 and will have to pay bills. I don’t know what I am going to do; I don’t want to move to Solihull.
He added: “They are trying to say the almshouses are not up to their standard, but I am perfectly happy with my home.
“As they are listed, I cannot see what their plan is because they cannot build on the gardens or mess with the front of the houses – and there is no space in the back. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are just left to rot and then demolished. It’s such a shame as they were built for a reason, to give people a home.”
Almshouses date back to the 10th Century when churches and local landowners began building homes for needy parishioners to live in. Many of the 1,600 almshouses in the UK now date back to the Victorian era when prominent industrialists began building them for the poor of rapidly growing cities like Birmingham and Bristol.
The Church Road almshouses, just of Erdington High Street and near St Barnabas Church, were built in 1930 by the Bracebridge and Holte Trust, to replace almshouses built from the proceeds of the will of Sir Thomas Holte, who built Aston Hall, in 1650. Sir Holte, who lived on Church Road, was the former Sheriff of Warwickshire wanted to provide homes for ‘ten poor, old people, including five men and five women’ in the then Aston parish.
Ownership of the almshouses changed in July 2019 when the Sir Josiah Mason Trust took over the Bracebridge and Holte Trust. Sir Josiah Mason was a prominent Victorian industrialist who built further almshouses and an orphanage in Erdington, with a trust founded in his name in 1868.
They said: “The Trust is delighted to welcome Holte and Bracebridge Charity in Erdington to our family today. The charity was founded in 1650 as instructed by the will of Sir Thomas Holte, the founder of Aston Hall. The charity provides 10 almshouses, just half a mile from our original site and one mile from Mason Cottages and our former orphanage and is also a relief in need charity.
“We look forward to supporting residents and to continuing the valuable work of this very old charity.”
Estate agents Knight Frank is selling the ten Church Road almshouses on behalf of the Sir Josiah Mason Trust together as one sale, for £1.6 million.
The online listing said: “The development comprises 10 individual Almshouses set within communal gardens, erected circa 1930. Constructed of brick with Flemish detail to the end gables and single glazed windows. Locally listed Grade B.”
There is also a Wellbeing Support Worker ‘offering individual personal support’, with residents given access to the ‘communal facilities and meetings at Mason Cottages’ on Orphanage Road.
Chief Executive David Healey told Erdington Local: “The Trust are committed to providing quality housing and as people live longer, we want to provide homes that enable older people to age and remain living in the comfort of their own home.
“The current Holte and Bracebridge Almshouse are not suited to the needs of older people.”
He added: “Sir Josiah Mason Trust, which was founded in Erdington, is currently in the process of identifying a site to build new purpose-built Almshouses.
“The charity said that it is required to relocate the site to a location within the ancient Parish of Aston.”
For more on Sir Josiah Mason Trust visit www.sjmt.org.uk