Charity confirms fears Hackney almshouses could be sold off

Bishop Wood's Almshouses

Bishop Wood's Almshouses - Credit: Archant

Fears the future of a historic row of houses for the poor in Lower Clapton have been realised after it was revealed they could be sold to a private developer.

Bishop Wood's Almshouses

Bishop Wood's Almshouses - Credit: Archant

But the Dr Spurstowe and Bishop Wood Almshouses Charity trustees have this week refuted allegations they deliberately allowed the 150-year old grade II-listed Bishop Wood’s Almshouses behind Clapton Pond to become run down as part of a secret plan to sell them off.

The almshouses, which date back to 1872 and contain the smallest chapel in England, have provided a home to six local women for the past 300 years thanks to money left by Bishop Thomas Wood in 1692.

But the almshouses have been boarded up since the last residents moved out into new accommodation in June 2012, and are becoming increasingly dilapidated.

Cllr Ian Rathbone said many people fear the charity has let them become run down as part of a secret plan to sell them off.

He said: “The buildings are poorly maintained and we have become concerned –along with a number of local residents – that they are going to be sold to a private developer, rather than continuing as housing for the poor.

“The trustees still will not reveal what their plans are despite telling us back in 2012 they had ‘no plan to sell. “We have reached the point where the trustees are not responding, the place is run down, and they are not ruling out demolition.”

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Robin Sorrell, clerk for the charity refuted allegations they are considering demolishing the almshouses, but confirmed the trustees had not ruled out their sale, saying any profits would be used to build another similar facility in Hackney.

“It’s in a pretty grotty condition and it’s been uninhabited for the last year, the trustees have looked into it in considerable detail,” he said.

“The figures just don’t add up to refurbish or redevelop, it’s in their mind to sell it but to who they just don’t know.

“I’m not sure there’s much that can be done about it, I appreciate local people in Hackney might not like it but they can’t keep on spending out thousands of pounds to secure the building if they can’t guarantee an income from it - it’s meant to be an almshouse but the figures don’t stack up to get it into a proper condition.”

Planning permission to convert the almshouses’ interiors to provide more spacious accommodation has been granted by the council, which would see the current five flats reduced to four.

Chairman of the trustees, David Horder, refuted allegations the buildings had been left to rot on purpose.

He explained the last Bishop Wood almshouse residents left in 2012 to live in a £4 million 31-flat complex built by the charity in Navarino Road, Hackney Central, after demolishing 16 flats there.

He said: “Because Bishop’s Wood was dilapidated and had rising damp we asked the beneficiaries if they would like to join us at Dr Spurstowe in Navarino Road.

“There’s nothing sinister, we are perfectly decent trustees who are looking after elderly people, and working our way through a very complex legal system relating to almshouses and charities.”

A decision could be made during its next meeting next Thursday.