10 Feb 2017

The Squire's Almshouses in Walthamstow

I have long wanted to do some kind of research: figuring out a research topic that fascinates me and get the opportunity to use archives and libraries. And then write about it.  I did have something 'historical' in mind, I fell in love with genealogy and was utterly fascinated by house history detective work (as glimpsed on tv).

I can't research ancestors because a grandfather and uncle respectively (see where I get that from?) have already done the work. But finding out more about the history of a house and the people who lived in it?!  Now that sounds fascinating, and very much something I can do.  Give my brain something to work on.

When I thought about what subject I wanted to pick first, I remembered this photo I had taken in Walthamstow, East London:

The text reads: "These houses were erected and endowed for ever by Mrs Mary Squires [sic] Widow for the use of six decayed tradesmens widows of this parish and no other A.D. 1795" (I am taking slight liberties with the spelling).

And wouldn't I just love to launch into my findings right here and now!

I'll allow myself this one remark: 'Squires' is actually the wrong spelling of her name, Mary's last name was not Squires. I found her will [link to text] and also the parish register record of her burial. There is no 's' there.

What I think may have happened is that the plaque was either put up at some point after the almshouses were first built and/or by someone not familiar with the spelling of her name. She did live quite a distance away in Walworth and we will never know if the unknown plaque maker would have had contact with her (she died in 1797), even though he surely must have had written instructions?

But these almshouses were probably being referred to locally as "The Squire's Almshouses" and I imagine that's how the 's' got in there.  Also: back in those days people didn't bother with silly little things like apostrophes that much, - spelling of names in general was sometimes a bit all over the place. Though from what I can tell is that by the late 18th Century name spelling was already a lot more establish than a century earlier.

It suffices to say that the foundress's name was indeed Squire. It's good to know something for sure.

Even the street name includes the apostrophe
I spent a good three years researching Mary and the building, much longer than I had planned. I was going to put three months into it!  And considering the effort and sheer length of time I invested in this personal project of mine, I do want to have something to show for it: something written on pages somewhere.

So here we are.

I am going to put up one Mary Squire/Almshouse related blog post for any subject or person and their history as makes for a good segment of the story.  I have looked into family history, found out a little about life in the mid to late 18th Century, social mores, and also a bit about the locality.  I must emphasise though that I am doing this as an amateur researcher for my own amusement. You are welcome to let me know mistakes. Just be gentle.

I hope you'll enjoy this series of posts.

My second post will be about what 'decayed' in this context means. I'm sure you'll agree that this is a nice little teaser to lure you into looking for the next bit!  Enjoy.

I would like to research more projects in future, so I will make sure to tag each post with 'Mary Squire's Almshouses'. I also hope to link many posts with the others where it merits it.

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Please do leave me a comment if you enjoy this blog. I particularly love if you have anything to add, or a question. Research is a solitary pursuit so it is great fun to discuss my findings.