The origins of the Cottenham Charities date back to the seventeenth century.
John Moreton, by deed of 1671, gave half the rental of houses in Holborn in London for poor relief and for apprenticing in Cottenham. In 1728 £11 a year was spent on apprentices, £20 in 1783. Two sets of almshouses were later supported, one in Church End built in 1816, called Moreton’s almshouses, the other on Rampton Road and known as Little London.
Moreton’s almshouses fell vacant in the 1960s and were demolished.
In 1837 The Little London almshouses comprised four dwellings. They had been built on parish land sold to Moreton’s charity for £60. At that time Moreton’s charity made cash grants to people not receiving poor relief, and spent money on coal and medical care, on apprenticing, and on coats for the parish watchmen. In 1834 c. £550 was paid towards the new school in the village.
The current almshouses were rebuilt in 1853 in Tudor style as a central block with attached wings, comprising seven cottages. There was an Anglican chapel in the centre, opened on 7th March 1855, where services were held for the benefits of the inhabitants. The chapel has since been converted into two houses. The houses were modernised in 1961 with money raised by the sale of the Church End almshouses. The photograph on this page shows the Little London almshouses and is dated 11th February 1911.
In 2007, after a survey of the almshouses revealed the listed buildings to be in poor condition, the trustees raised money for their renovation. A loan filled the £220,000 shortfall.
The charity’s income in 1982 was c. £1,675, half from the rents of the almspeople, which was spent on maintaining the properties.
The Town Lands charity was established in1664 with an endowment of 5½ acres bought by public subscription. By 1876 the income was usually spent on goods for poor families.
Thomas Maulden, by deed of 1713, gave land and a common right for which £16 were allotted at enclosure in 1847.
One third of the income of Catherine Pepys’s charity was for the poor of Cottenham.
Thomas Ridge, in 1901, gave four cottages, the rent of which was to relieve 12 poor people a year.
The Town Lands, Thomas Maulden’s charity, Catherine Pepys’s eleemosynary charity, and Ridge’s charity were amalgamated in 1970 to form the Cottenham United Charity. The total income in 1982 was c. £480, of which £305 was spent on Christmas gift vouchers.
Cottenham United Charity is an amalgamation of four charities, the prime one dating from 1703 when Catherine Pepys, widow of Thomas Hobson (of Hobson’s Choice fame), provided funds for a school in Cottenham and left bequests to support Parishioners on low income. The Rampton Road allotments are owned by this charity and the income from letting is used, together with the bequest, to give grants to those who cannot afford to purchase essential equipment and it also gives grants to about 50 individuals on low income at Christmas.
As the late Olwyn Peacock wrote: ‘In 1671 John Moreton conveyed to Doctor John Pepys and others of Cottenham half the rental of houses in Holborn, London for poor relief and for apprenticing in the village.’
This Charity, now managed by the Trustees of the Cottenham Charities, financed the building of the six almshouses and a chapel at Little London, Townsland, Rampton Road in 1853; undertook their refurbishment in 1960; and in 2007 completed a modernisation of the houses in order to provide tenants with high quality accommodation.
The building work was sensitive to the rules governing listed properties and this contributed significantly to the expense and the ultimate issue of funding. But through a combination of our own funds and some very generous donations the work was successfully completed.
The almshouses have been home to hundreds of residents over the past 150 years and the Trustees seek to ensure that many more residents will benefit in the future.