Looking backwards, moving forwards.
Welcome to the new website of the Ewelme Almshouse Charity. As you will see, we are one of the oldest almshouse charities in the country and have been helping to relieve need in our areas of operation for nearly 600 years. As we enter a new chapter in the Charity’s history, it seems timely to reflect on where it all started, with The Cloisters, our original almshouses, which date from the late 1430s. The Cloisters is a beautiful building. Built around a quadrangle, its timber frame sits atop an outer stone wall. With decorative brickwork, Flemish-inspired chimney stacks and tiled elements, its architecture was intended, observes the historian John Goodall (2001), to be ostentatious. It was meant to draw the eye, and in its ecclesiastical and royal influences it simultaneously conveyed wealth, influence, and piety.
It is in the quadrangle, though, that we should pause, for recent research by the Bayes Business School has suggested that almshouse living is good for you: it imparts a ‘longevity boost’. Being part of a community, taking part in social activities and living close to others, reduces loneliness, nurtures friendships and makes you live longer. The original design of The Cloisters, with its distinctive quadrangle and homes that look towards one another, facilitates the community spirit that is key to the longevity boost. It is a design replicated in almshouses across the country, for sharing a place with others – seeing them, hearing them, and having the opportunity to be with them – helps weave rich, lively and convivial places to live. If the architectural design of our almshouses lay the foundations for good living, as we look forward, our new website will hopefully be a vehicle for showcasing our spirited community.