Exploring Southwark and discovering its history
The distinctive row of seven gothic style almhouses on Nunhead Green were built in 1852 by the Metropolitan Beer and Wine Trade Society. The Society was founded in 1832 with the aim of “upholding the beerseller in the lawful exercise of his business, by defending him from legislative attacks and from annoying and vexatious informations.” Other objectives were to assist widows and orphans of deceased members and to provide permanent relief to older, retired members. Payments to widows and orphans began in 1841 and in 1851 fundraising began to enable the building of an asylum which was considered the most practical way of assisting aged members.
The foundation stone was laid on the site on Nunhead Green in 1852 and the asylum was completed and able to take in the first residents in September 1853. The total cost was about £3,000 and provided a home for thirteen inmates. Six houses were built to house two people, each containing four rooms and a kitchen, and the central house contained three rooms for use by the warden together with a committee room and waiting rooms. Each house had a garden to the rear. To become a resident, it was necessary to have been a member of the Society for 15 years and to be over 60 years old. An allowance was paid to the pensioners, in 1877 this was 6 shillings for single residents and 9 shillings to married couples. Residents also received coals and medical attendance.
In 1872 a new row of houses called Albion Terrace was built on the same plot of land that fronted onto Gordon Road. The aim was ultimately to take in 16 more inmates but in the short term the houses were rented out as a means of increasing the income to the Society.
The whole site today is owned by Southwark Council who acquired it in the 1970s. Albion Terrace has been demolished and the Barton Close estate has been built to the rear of the almshouses, sadly over part of their back gardens. The almshouses were Grade II listed in 1972 so happily were protected from demolition.