The Jane Hayes Almshouses
It’s almost 90 years since the first tenant, a former lady’s maid called Ellen Ballinger, moved into the almshouses at Bartonsham. Almshouse resident Sharon Elson unravels the tale.
Jane Hayes, the daughter of a wealthy Wellington farmer, died on 26 August 1927. During her life she had become uneasy about the circumstances of servants who worked for the large estates around Herefordshire and who, on being retired when they were too old to work and having no home to go to, were as a rule cast off. They also had very little money or assets to live on.
Consequently the 75-year-old left a sum of £10,000 in her will of November 1923 to provide ten houses for "poor aged or infirm persons whether single or married, who are resident in the city or county of Hereford at the time of appointment."
A parcel of land was purchased from the Church Commissioners, situated on the edge of Bartonsham Farm at the end of Green Street and the corner of Vicarage Road, and in January 1929 the almshouses were built.
The grounds were laid out with small parcels of land set aside as allotments for the residents to grow their vegetables and flowers.
The first inmates, as the tenants were referred to in the articles held by the trustees, took up occupancy that September. One of the first was Miss Ellen Elsie Ballinger. When probate was granted on Jane Hayes’ £125,618. 16s 11d will through solicitor Arthur Dyne Steel on 17 October 1927, Ellen Ballinger was a named beneficiary. She soon took on the role of Spinster Administrator and overseer of the building works, today’s equivalent of a project manager.
Ellen Ballinger turns out to have been Miss Jane Hayes’ own former lady’s maid. But who was Jane Hayes? She had lived at Wellington Villa, Wellington and at Burghope Farm, Wellington. Jane’s father was William Hayes, born in 1802 and who went on to farm 224 acres of land in Somerset. He married Elizabeth who bore eight children: Joseph (born 1833), Emma Sophia (1837), Elizabeth (1838), Ellen (1839), William (1844), Jemima (1844) and Albert (1850) were born in Somerset. Jane (1852) and Charles (1856) were born in Wellington after the family took up residence in Herefordshire.
To this day those applying for an almshouse have to apply in writing and attend and interview with the trustees. They need to be of pensionable age or very near pensionable age and to prove that they wish to move into the Hereford city boundary, be of good character and respect their neighbours’ privacy.
Over the past few years, very few tenants have taken up the opportunity to cultivate their own almshouse allotment. However, on a happier note local residents are keen and there is quite a waiting list for allotments to become available for a yearly rent.
Sharon A. Elson 01.09.2018 with additional help from the Clerk to the Almshouse Trustees, Ms Sharon Warn, and Morley L. Smith