There are well over 170 almshouses within a mile of Barnet parish church, perhaps the highest concentration of any market town of its size in the country.
The new development is regarded by the Jesus Hospital Charity as another contribution towards a growing demand for affordable housing within the London Borough of Barnet.
“We are funding this ourselves as we believe it is important for almshouse charities to go on expanding our stock in order to meet housing need,” said Simon Smith, clerk to the visitors (trustees).
The seven new almshouses, due for completion next May, will add to the 15 on the estate at Ravenscroft Cottages in Potters Lane.
Currently Jesus Hospital has three vacancies in its 56 almshouses which are all named after the original benefactors – Ravenscroft’s, Garrett’s, Pagitt’s and Wilbraham’s – on sites in Wood Street, Monken Hadley, Grasvenor Avenue as well as Potters Lane.
Only women over 50 can apply and they must be in housing need; have pressing reasons to move; be able to live independently; have limited means; and have had a previous period of residency in Barnet.
Priority in the first instance is given to applicants in High Barnet, New Barnet, East Barnet and Friern Barnet. The average maintenance charge for each tenant is £85 a week and those who cannot afford to pay the full amount can claim housing benefit.
Of the current residents, the youngest is 50 and the oldest is Winifred Gale, aged 98, who has lived in the Ravenscroft cottages in Potters Lane for the last 24 years.
It’s so friendly here at Ravenscroft cottages. I’m so comfortable and the outlook is beautiful...
“It’s so friendly here at Ravenscroft cottages. I’m so comfortable and the outlook is beautiful, looking out on to gardens and trees,” said Mrs Gale.
Jesus Hospital employs two full-time gardeners to maintain the gardens and grounds around the various almshouse sites.
Mr Smith said that Chipping Barnet, as well as the rest of the borough, should be proud of its wealth of almshouses: there are almost 1,000, more than in any other London borough.
Jesus Hospital Charity was established by James and Mary Ravenscroft in 1679. Directly opposite the Wood Street almshouses bearing their name is the
Marie Foster site where Signature Senior Lifestyle plans to build a 100-place block of luxury studios and apartments for frail and elderly people.
“Perhaps what’s happening in Wood Street does say something about today’s world,” said Mr Smith.
“On one side of the road are almshouses built by a benefactor for six poor women and on the other side there will be ultra-modern apartment at rents that will be way beyond the means of the women in need that we provide homes for.”