Surprise find in the attic as almshouses restored

Published on Sun Jul 31 06:15:53 BST 2011

A STOVE pipe hat, a girdle and some old hobnail boots from the Victorian era were discovered during the restoration of almshouses in a Lutterworth-area village.

The six homes are in Powell Row, in Lutterworth Road, Bitteswell, and were built in 1847 to provide living accommodation for poorer people, using funds left for charitable purposes by Wakelin Welch esq and his wife Elizabeth, the sister of the Rev James Powell, former vicar of Bitteswell.

The funds are still managed by a group of nine volunteer trustees who form a group called the Powell and Welch Almshouses.

Recently, the homes have been undergoing improvement works as occupants have moved out, and the top hat, boots and girdle were discovered in a top floor room.

Marion Reid, a trustee of the almshouses, said: “The homes are Grade II listed properties so we have been restoring them in a sympathetic fashion.

“The items were found in one of the attics. The boots had obviously been repaired a number of times and a piece of the top hat had been cut off, probably to patch an item of clothing.

“They were possibly owned by earlier occupants of the houses, who may have worked at Bitteswell Hall or on one of the nearby farms.”

Occupants of the homes pay less than the market rental value for the properties, and are referred to as residents, rather than tenants.

Improvements are paid for from the original money which was bequeathed and the group has also received a grant from Harborough District Council for some of the work.

Census records from 1851, passed to the Mail by Mrs Reid, show that the homes were at that time occupied mostly by older people, although some younger relatives also lived there.

One of the records, for house number 6, shows that it was occupied by two women, both called Elizabeth Broughton, one aged 82 who was an ex-school mistress, and the other a 26-year-old ‘stockingmaker’. Both had been born in Bitteswell.

Number 2 was occupied by 70-year-old ‘washerwoman’ Mary Williams and her 14-year-old granddaughter Anne.

The trustees and residents held a cream tea day on Friday.

Mrs Reid added: “We have had a number of new trustees and residents so it was a good opportunity for them to meet and get to know each other a little bit.”

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