Shortly before his death in 1666, the Reverend Dr William Spurstowe, Vicar of Hackney, built six almshouses near Church Street, Hackney, for six ancient widows from the parish of Hackney. His brother, Henry Spurstowe, completed his work by endowing the almshouses with two closes of pasture called Badbrooke's Meadows containing eight acres of land and one close of pasture called Peckwell or Pickwell Field containing eight acres, all of which (including the almshouses) were copyhold of the manor of Kings Hold. Henry Spurstowe transferred the almshouses and land to trustees by a deed of gift dated 22 August 1667. The deeds of gift was lost some time between 1754 and 1800 and no precise record of the terms of the trust remained.
The charity was augmented in 1773 by a bequest of £200 3% consols from Mr Henry Baker, the interest of which was to be divided equally between the almswomen, supplementing the pensions paid to them from the revenues of Spurstowe's Charity.
In 1819 the almshouses were rebuilt on the same site (later known as nos 1-11 (odd) Sylvester Path). The money for this was raised by selling the brick earth found in Pickwell or Pigwell Field to Richard Dann, the tenant of the charity's estate. At the end of his lease he was required to level and restore the field to agricultural use.
A scheme for the management of the charity was made by a decree of the Court of Chancery in 1835 in the cause "Attorney General v. Watson and others". Fifteen non official trustees were named by the Court and the Rector and churchwardens of the Parish of Hackney were made ex-officio trustees. The scheme laid down the procedures for the future election of trustees and almswomen.
In 1854 the Spurstowe's Charity estate was enfranchised. Agreements with neighbouring landowners, Sir William Middleton and Mr Thomas Wilkinson, in 1853, 1855 and 1863, allowed for the straightening of boundaries and the laying out of new roads and sewers in preparation for building. Most of what became known as the Graham Road Estate was developed in the 1860s and 1870s with houses, shops, and two taverns.
The Charity Commissioners approved a new scheme for the administration of the charity on 24 August 1877. This allowed the surplus income to be applied to the following objects:-
1) Out pensions were to be paid to not more than 20 poor ancient widows or unmarried women resident in the Parish of Hackney.
2) Pensions were granted to the ten poor widows resident in Bishop Wood's Almshouses
3) Convalescent treatment was to be provided for poor deserving inhabitants of Hackney.
Bishop Wood's Almshouses and Chapel, situated in Clapton Road, were founded by the will of Dr Thomas Wood, Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry, dated 11 November 1690. They were endowed with a rent charge from an estate at Bishop Itchington in Warwickshire, supplemented by half a fee farm rent from an estate at Wanley, near Richmond in Yorkshire, given by Francis Willes in 1842, and by consols bequeathed by Anne Ashpitel in 1870. In 1906 the Charity Commissioners approved a scheme whereby Bishop Wood's Almshouses were to be administered by the Trustees of Dr Spurstowe's Charity. For further information see ACC/1845/14.
Bishop Wood's Almshouses and Chapel still exist. Spurstowe's Almshouses were demolished in 1966 and replaced by new almshouses situated in Navarino Road, Hackney.
Records in this collection include:
Trustees' minute book 1754-1832
Cash book 1887-1923
Annual accounts, bills, vouchers and other financial papers 1863-1939
In-letter book 1856-1866
Convalescent Sub-Committee minute book 1878-1891
Convalescent Committee accounts 1917-1942
Register of admissions (? to Convalescent Homes) 1921-1940
Bishop Wood's Almshouses
Copy of will of Thomas Wood dated 1690
Deed relating to Bishop Wood's rent-charge 1699
Deed of trust of Sir F Willis' Charity 1842
Minutes of Almshouses Repair Fund Committee 1869-1884
Cash book 1906-1933
Surveyor's report on state of Almshouses 1930