Letters addresses York Guild of Building

5th March 2020

Letters staff were delighted to give a talk on the history of a beautiful 18th Century almshouse which we manage in the centre of York, after being invited by the Master of the York Guild of Building.

Our Managing Director Anya Mathewson [pictured, right] and Almshouse Administration and Finance Officer Emma Davis [centre] were joined by chartered building surveyor Daniel Salisbury [left] of SASS to address a guild meeting at The Bar Convent, York.

A place to “retire from the hurry and noise”

They told guild members about Wandesford House [left], a Grade II* listed almshouse on Bootham which is one of York’s most striking buildings and is central to the city’s tradition of providing shelter for people in need. The UK’s first almshouse was established in York in 936.

Wandesford House, one of 12 almshouses in York today, was established in accordance with the will of Mary Wandesford (1655-1726), a wealthy, unmarried gentlewoman who left provision for ten poor, unmarried, Protestant gentlewomen to “retire from the hurry and noise of the world.”

The layout of the building, known originally as the “Old Maids’ Hospital,” has changed over the years – most notably a flat central roof was added in the 1950s and the chapel was moved upstairs to leave room for a communal lounge in the 1960s – but its striking façade remains.

A real honour

Anya and Emma spoke about how the almshouse still caters for single older women, but they are no longer required to be unmarried and can be of any Christian faith. Its gardens [right] are beautifully kept and were a highlight of York’s Bloom! Horticulture festival in 2018.

Anya said: “It was a real honour to address the York Guild of Building about the history of Wandesford House and our management of it today. It has a special place in the history of almshouses and of York itself.”

She added: “The guild members were very hospitable and well-informed hosts for the evening. Thanks, too, to Daniel Salisbury of SASS for his contributions about changes to Wandesford House’s architecture over the years.”

Click here to find out more about almhouses in York and here if you’d like to contact us to talk about how we might help manage an almshouse in your area.