Barnstaple's Old School House bought by charity

“This is an exciting moment for the charity, it provides us with the opportunity to continue the remarkable history of two...

“This is an exciting moment for the charity, it provides us with the opportunity to continue the remarkable history of two the buildings whilst also progressing the charity’s aim of providing long term housing for our local community." - Credit: David J Meredith

The trustees of Barnstaple Almshouses are ‘delighted’ to announce they have successfully purchased the Old School House in Barnstaple. 

The charity has purchased the property with the support of The Almshouse Association and is embarking on a project to refurbish the building into two new Almshouse flats. 

The change of use falls in line with government priorities to utilise town centres for residential accommodation and will continue the provision of accommodation for those in need in Barnstaple. In line with the Grade II listing the refurbishments will restore many of the original features like the fine moulded segmental-headed stone fireplace with plaster decoration above and the initials AH, Tudor Rose and Prince of Wales' feathers. 

This acquisition brings the great history between the almshouses and the Old School House full circle. 

Historic documents show that the four original almshouses were initially funded by Mayor of Barnstaple Thomas Horwood, Elizabeth, the wife of Gilbert Paige also a Mayor of Barnstaple and a businessman Thomas Harris at the time of a severe plague. 


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The Horwoods’, were, at that time, a notable family in Barnstaple. Thomas began the almshouses for the poor of the town in 1657 but died in 1658 leaving them to his wife, Alice who built four further almshouses together with a school next door for the children of the almshouses. The school was completed in 1659. 

Although they were next door to each other, the street which housed the school was called Church Row with the almshouses being on Paternoster Street, both now known as Church Lane in the centre of Barnstaple. 

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Elwyn Wilkey, proprietor of the Old School Coffee House said: “We moved into the Old School House in 1978 and have enjoyed our time here but I am now looking forward to my retirement. I am really happy that the almshouse charity has bought the Old School House. If they hadn’t stepped in during this time of Covid the buildings may have become derelict”. 

Barnstaple Almshouses’ chairman Mike Ford said: “This is an exciting moment for the charity, it provides us with the opportunity to continue the remarkable history of two the buildings whilst also progressing the charity’s aim of providing long term housing for our local community.” 

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