Pensioner leaves St Albans’ Marlborough Almshouses for ‘unusual’ reason

Duchess of Marlborough's almshouses

Duchess of Marlborough's almshouses - Credit: Archant

An unusual story has emerged from the historic almshouses commissioned by Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, in the 18th century to help older people in need of accommodation in St Albans.

Cherry trees were ceremonially planted by the Mayor of St Albans, Cllr Salih Gaygasuz in the gardens

Cherry trees were ceremonially planted by the Mayor of St Albans, Cllr Salih Gaygasuz in the gardens of the Grade II Listed Almshouses - Credit: Photo supplied

A 72-year-old man has suddenly upped and left his unit - leaving fellow pensioners bemused - as his partner is believed to have had a baby.

Normally, there are a couple of prerequisites before people are allowed to lodge in one of the 36 small units housed in the landmark red brick building along Hatfield Road.

Prospective residents must be over 60 years of age and of limited means, with little capital.

They usually only leave the place in one of two ways - when they have to move to a care home, or are taken to a funeral parlour upon their death.

The 72 year old’s departure for an altogether different reason has apparently been the topic of much conversation among his surprised former fellow residents, and has amused trustee Rod Perks and clerk to trustees for the Charity of Sarah Duchess of Marlborough, Bill Fardell.

Rod said: “The fact he was leaving because he was becoming a father is fairly remarkable as when one of the residents depart it usually involves a residential care home or because they have passed away.

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“But on this occasion it seemingly involves a maternity home!”

Bill added: “He was an excellent resident, so it was a surprise to hear he had moved out. I haven’t been able to substantiate the story, because he left in a hurry, but if it’s true, it is unusual.”

The man is understood to have moved with his partner to Sheffield.

Sarah Jennings (1660-1744) was the wife of General John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, and founded the almshouses in 1736 for the benefit of poor people in St Albans.

The trustees are currently in the process of upgrading the accommodation, and are even contemplating additional facilities such as a summerhouse and a separate dayroom – but as Rod joked, “we have never before thought we might need a creche!”

• To mark the opening of the new communal residents’ launderette at the Marlborough buildings, and in fulfilment of a council planning condition, trustees organised the planting of a pair of semi-mature flowering cherry trees.

These were recently ceremonially planted by the Mayor of St Albans, Cllr Salih Gaygasuz, and continue the theme adopted elsewhere in the district of alternating the emblematic red and white ‘Wars of the Roses’ link with St Albans.

The new facility forms part of an ongoing programme of refurbishment at the Grade II listed almshouses, which continue to house the “old and needy” even in the 21st Century. Cllr Gaygusuz was supervised by the oldest resident, 98 year old Ethyl Davey.