Originally built as St Johns’ Almshouse, the modern day St Johns’ House benefits from the unique surroundings of the original Almshouse buildings but residents now enjoy contemporary and comfortable accommodation in a relaxed and friendly environment. Applications are welcomed from all who wish to enjoy what life at St Johns’ has to offer, without many of the somewhat daunting constraints of the original Foundation Deed
The original Almshouse of S. John The Baptist and S. John The Evangelist is the best surviving example of a medieval Almshouse in Wessex. Its Foundation Deed is dated 10th January 1437 and provided for ‘Twelve pore feeble and ympotent old men and four old women’ to be cared for by a housewife whose duty was to ‘feeche in and dyght to the victaill wash wrying make beddys and al other things do’.
The Licence of King Henry VI to found the Almshouse is dated 11th July, 1437. The building was completed in 1448 and consisted of a Chapel (1442) and a hall with dormitories above. A fine doorway with niches and statues of the two Saints John provided the main entrance from Trendle Street.
Important to the street scene here are the Victorian iron posts and rails lining the kerb. Here the Almsmen would lean, smoke a pipe and chat to passers-by. The finials to the posts are a Bishop’s mitre, the badge of the Almshouse.
Through the Victorian gateway, noting the symbols of a lamb and flag for S. John the Baptist and an eagle for S.John the Evangelist, the present front door can be found tucked into a corner of the cloister. A brass plate declares ‘For the House’. Above the Chapel a bell rings to mark the various events in the life of this ancient community.
St Johns’ House and the original Almshouse buildings are governed, to this day, by the Master and Brethren who continue a body established in 1437.