The History and Antiquities of the County of Dorset
(3rd Edition published 1868)
Transcribed by Michael Russell OPC for Dorchester - December 2010
THE TOWN AND BOROUGH OF DORCHESTER.
The ALMS Houses
The 'Alms Houses' There are three distinct buildings which go by this name in Dorchester, established by different benefactors.
CHUBB's ALMSHOUSE was founded and endowed by Matthew CHUBB, M. P. for this town 1 James I (1602/3)(1) and Margaret his wife. Mr. Bond's chronology (2) says he died in 1617 (3). In an indenture dated 20th April 1620, between Margaret, widow and executrix of Matthew Chubb, and the bailiffs and burgesses of Dorchester, for carrying into effect the charitable intentions of the said Matthew Chubb, it is declared that certain moneys therein set forth were bestowed and to be employed for the relief and maintenance of aged and impotent old persons, placed and to be placed in the old almshouse of this borough, which, in an ancient book belonging to the corporation, under date 1625, is stated to have been very anciently founded, and to have always consisted of nine persons, most commonly women. In the same old book it is stated that of the £200. given by this deed to the almshouse £115 was employed by the donor in new building the same, and that Mrs. Chubb retained on bond £85; but the investment of this sum cannot be traced. Over the door of the almshouse is this inscription: " The gift of Matthew Chubb and Margaret his wife, 1620."
On the monument of Mathew Chubb, in All Saints' Church, it however states that he built the almshouse in his lifetime. (Note by John Hutchins(5):- Mr CHUBB's father founded an almshouse in Crewkerne, co. Somerset, 1604, and another at Shaftsbury in 1611. Pedigree:- Matthew Chubb of Dorchester Gentleman ob 1617 married Margaret (born 1620) daughter of John Budden or Boden esq of Shaftsbury, recorder thereof temp. James I - she was sister to Jane wife of William Grove esq of Shaftsbury.)
The almshouse was rebuilt in 1822, at an expense of £370 and upwards. It stands at the Bull-stake, in the parish of St. Peter's, near the site of the ancient Priory, and contains nine apartments, occupied by nine poor women, elected in regular turn by the corporation from each of the three parishes in Dorchester. The income of the almshouse is derived from the charities of Joan GOULD, Edmund DASHWOOD, Sir Francis ASHLEY, Lord HOLLES. John SYMONDS, and Elizabeth COZENS, the whole of which will be found set forth hereafter, under the head of Charitable Benefactions.
WHETSTONE'S ALMSHOUSE was founded by John Whetstone, who, by will elated 28th January, 1614, gave to the town of Dorchester " £500 to the building of an almshouse for poor folk." The £500, was eventually laid out in the purchase of a piece of ground, and the erection thereon of a house in All Saints' parish, in a lane called Durne-lane ; in the purchase (1620) of an estate at Rode Hill, in the parish of Minterne Magna, now called Lion's Gate Farm. with a coppice in the Parish of Hermitage, containing together about sixteen acres, and likewise in the purchase of a messuage and certain lands at Symondsbury, containing about 12¼ acres. The almshouse, which stands on the site of the original messuage, consists of four tenements. A man and his wife are always elected to fill up a vacancy, but if either dies the survivor continues to reside. They are selected from each of the parishes in succession, and are appointed by the corporation. The inmates receive £1 15s. yearly born Elizabeth Cozens' charity, hereafter mentioned.
NAPPER'S ALMSHOUSE or NAPPERS MITE Adjoining to the free-school on the north, says Hutchins, "is an handsome almshouse, founded as Mr Whiteways chronicle in 1615, by Sir Robert NAPPIER of Middlemarsh, for ten poor men. Before it is a neat piazza, and in it a small chapel. Over the door, in Roman capitals 'Napper's Mite' ; under this the arms of Napper and below them this inscription: 'Built to the honour of God, by Sir Robert NAPPER, knt.1615'.
Sir Robert Napper of Middlemarsh Hall, by his last will, or declaration in the nature of a will, dated 20th Aug. 13 James I. 1615(4), reciting that he had long purposed to build an almshouse in Dorchester, which was then almost perfected, and to place therein ten poor men to have their habitation and maintenance therein ; and that he had for this purpose purchased and procured unto himself and his son Nathaniel, and to his own heirs, the fourth part of the manor of Little Puddle alias Little Piddle of Sir Thomas Moeleynes knt and certain burgages and messuages in Dorchester, and other ground thereunto adjoining which he had lately purchased of John Spycer, upon which time almshouse in Dorchester and schoolmaster's house were built ; and for the better performance of his said purpose gave and bequeathed all the said manor and all his lands and tenements in the parish of Piddleton, in the said county, to his son Nathaniel and his heirs, to the intent that the said manor and lands, into whosesoever hands the same shall come, should be charged and chargeable ; and that the said Nathaniel, his heirs and assigns, should thereof stand seized, charged, and chargeable for the perpetual provision, sustentation, and maintenance of the said almshouse; and of the ten poor persons to be placed therein, to he for ever maintained by the said Nathaniel, his heirs and assigns, with the rents and profits of the said manor of Little Piddle ; and that his donation should be called "Napper's Mite," and that it should not he aliened or sold, but held in the heirs of his name and blood, and for ever continued to the uses aforesaid ; and he recommends and desire the Master of the Rolls and the Judges of Assize for the county of Dorset, for the time to come in succeeding ages, to take knowledge of his intention, to compel' his heirs and assigns not only to perform his express meaning declared in his will, but all things else which should he thought agreeable with his purpose, tending only to the glory and honour of God and to the relief of the poor.
In 1616 Nathaniel NAPPER, son and heir of Sir Robert, made certain ordinances and constitutions, in obedience to the injunctions of his father, for the regulation of the almshouse and its inmates ; but other articles which form the basis of the present management were afterwards (2 March 1636) made by Gerard NAPPER esq. grandson and right heir of Sir Robert, with advice and approbation of Sir Dudley DIGGS Master of the Rolls, Sir John FINCH, Lord Chief Justice of the Court of Common Please, and Sir John DENHAM, one of the Barons of the Exchequer, justice of assize for the western circuit. Amongst other things it was appointed that each of the ten men inmates should have £5 a year by weekly installments, the overplus to be employed for some addition to the maintenance of the person who should read prayers, and for the reparation of the almshouse, or otherwise for the benefit of the said almshouse and poor as the said Gerard NAPPER and his heirs should by writing appoint. That the said Gerard NAPPER and his heirs might by writing appoint such persons as they should think fit, who with the said Gerard NAPPER and his heirs should be called overseers or visitors of the said almshouse, who should have power to oversee and order the conversation of the said poor men, and execute the said ordinances, and to make further orders as they should think fit
Sir Gerard NAPPER, knt and bart by will dated 12 Nov 1667 devised all his manor of Stert in the parish of Babcary Somerset to his executors upon trust that they should yearly, out of the rents and profits, pay for reading divine service once a day to his alms people in his almshouse in Dorchester, and for catechising then once a week, £5 either to the schoolmaster of Dorchester for the time being or his usher; and after the payment of of the said £5 to set apart so much of the rents and profits of the said manor as, together with the yearly profits of the chambers of his almshouse, would make and provide convenient gowns for the alms people in the said almshouse once in two years; the residue of the profits of the said manor to be equally divided amongst the alms-persons of the said almshouse.
In 1672 the same Sir Gerard NAPPER made several additional articles and ordinances, and, amongst others, that the heirs of the said Sir Gerard should from time to time for ever nominate the schoolmaster of the free school of Dorchester, or some other proper person or persons of the town, to oversee the almsmen, that the ordinances should he duly performed. The almshouse stands on the east side of the south street, and contains ten apartments and a chapel, all on the around floor, forming a quadrangle, of which the chapel is one side. There is a cloister in front to the street, over which is a large room with a separate staircase. At the back is a garden. The management and direction of this almshouse and of the estates is now vested in Henry Charles STURT, esq. of Critchill house, the heir and representative of the Napper family.
(1). According to the Dictionary of Genealogy by Terrick VHFitzHugh Revised edition 1988; The Regnal Year 1 James 1 ran from 24th March 1602 to 23 March 1603.
(2). Bonds Chronology DHC (D 413/22/1)
(3). See Will of Mathew CHUBB Gentleman of Dorchester proved National Archives 15th July 1617 Ref Prob 11/130.
(4). The Regnal Year 13 James 1 ran from 24th March 1604 to 23 March 1605.The Will of Sir Robert Napper of Middlemarsh is at the National Archives Proved 15th Nov 1615 Ref Prob 11/126
(5). Subsequent research suggests that these notes made by John Hutchins do not appear to be correct - See more detailed account through link at the top of the page