The Alleyn Legacy - The Dulwich Almshouse
By Michael Maunsell
As a relatively recent Trustee of the Dulwich Almshouse House Charity I have been struck by the fact that Edward Alleyn's heritage now concentrates largely on the early years of life through education. During his lifetime he made a major contribution to the elderly through the provision of an almshouse in his new College and had also intended to build them in the three other parishes which are still beneficiaries of the Estate. These are: St Botolph’s ,Bishopsgate where he was baptised, St Giles Cripplegate (later St Luke’s ,Finsbury), where he had his Fortune Theatre, St Saviour’s, Southwark where he was churchwarden and St Giles, Camberwell, the parish in which he built his college.
The main function of the Dulwich Almshouse Charity is providing a home for fourteen residents over the age of 60 who are in need or require suitable housing and who come from the areas of benefit, which cover the aforementioned parishes of interest to Edward Alleyn.
The Charity’s income derives from two sources; an annual payment from the Dulwich Estate and contributions from residents of Edward Alleyn House. The contribution is calculated starting from the Rent Officer’s assessment of a Fair Rent which is eligible for Housing Benefit for those who are entitled to claim it. The main costs are in providing accommodation and ensuring that this is maintained in a good state and also by retaining the services of a Warden. In recent years we have improved the flats by ensuring that each has a bathroom with a sitz-bath with shower and toilet and three of the four staircases have chair lifts. The flats and common parts are subject to a rolling programme of redecoration and repair. The Trustees receive a lot of support from the Dulwich Estate staff in planning and carrying this out. However in seeking to do more, particularly to assist those with impaired mobility, is very difficult in a building of such heritage significance.
When there is a vacancy the Trustees seek nominations from the areas of benefit, particularly Southwark, and applicants will be seen and assessed against housing, financial, medical, and other criteria which the Trustees have approved. There is sometimes a waiting list. This is sheltered accommodation and so when a resident joins, and whilst here, s/he must be able to run their own lives and provide for themselves without the need of on-site medical or other assistance.
The Charity has always looked outside as well and it does this in a way which reflects the areas of interest of Edward Alleyn through the award of grants. A number of needy pensioners are supported in Bishopsgate/Shoreditch and Camberwell and funds are also given to charities working with the elderly in those areas and also in Cripplegate and the City. The Charity also supports Dulwich Helpline and other local charities. The Warden, through an outreach scheme, visits and provides help to about ten local, isolated, elderly people who have been referred by the local agencies.
Ensuring that the senior citizen whose home is in the Almshouse is treated with the dignity and respect expected in the 21st century is important. The Trustees believe that in carrying out his wish to provide relief in this area of need Edward Alleyn would require nothing less. We are very fortunate to have the full support of the Dulwich Estate and its other Beneficiaries in what we are doing.