Gateway to Barber's Almshouses


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
Barbers Almshouses, Elms Avenue, Ramsgate, CT11 9BN


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Statutory Address:
Barbers Almshouses, Elms Avenue, Ramsgate, CT11 9BN

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Thanet (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:


Gateway to Barber’s Almshouses dating to 1899 by architects WG Osborne and Langham and Cole.

Reasons for Designation

The gateway to the Barber’s Almshouses, erected in 1899 to the designs of WG Osborne and Langham and Cole, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* the gateway is a distinctive design of strong architectural character, well executed and defined by its ornate detailing within an Elizabethan-cum-baroque style.

Group value:

* with the nearby Grade II listed former Adult Education Centre, 1 to 19 Guildford Lawn, and Ramsgate Library.


Ramsgate is situated on the east coast of the Isle of Thanet, facing France and the Low Countries. Originating as a fishing village within the medieval parish of St Laurence, Ramsgate’s development from the C16 was driven by the strategic importance of its coastal port. Ramsgate became associated with the Cinque Ports as a limb of Sandwich from the C14. Late C17 trade with Russia and the Baltic resulted in a wave of investment and rebuilding in the town. In 1749 the construction of a harbour of refuge from storms in the North Sea and Channel was approved, and a cross wall and inner basin were completed in 1779 to the design of John Smeaton. From the mid-C18 Ramsgate became increasingly popular as a seaside resort, its expansion being accelerated by road improvements and faster sea passage offered by hoys, packets and steamers. During the Napoleonic Wars Ramsgate became a busy garrison town and a major port of embarkation. The arrival of the South Eastern Railway’s branch line in 1846 opened up Ramsgate to mass tourism and popular culture, bringing a range of inexpensive, lively resort facilities. New schools, hospitals and services were also built. The thriving town attracted diverse faith communities; Moses Montefiore founded a synagogue and a religious college at East Cliff Lodge, while AWN Pugin St Augustine’s Church and the Grange as part of an intended Catholic community on the West Cliff. Ramsgate remained a popular holiday destination until the advent of cheap foreign travel in the post-war decades. Falling visitor numbers were exacerbated by the decline of the town’s small trades and industries, fishing and boat-building. However, a ferry and hovercraft port and the large marina created in the inner harbour in the 1970s have continued to bring life to the area.

Almshouses were powerful emblems of corporate status and private munificence and remained so well into the twentieth century. They represent a valuable link between medieval and modern approaches to welfare provision. St Cross Hospital, Winchester (re-founded in 1443, and still flourishing; listed Grade I), embodies the collegiate approach of individual units around shared facilities that continues down to this day. The combination of private and municipal charity means that some towns have several almshouses, some – as in the case of Banbury (Oxfordshire; listed Grade II) – growing out of medieval charitable institutions which survived the Reformation. Larger almshouse complexes are distinctive both in plan form and architectural detail, with prominently placed chapels serving to project the piety of their benefactors and the sanctity of charity; secular status was also confirmed through heraldry, sculpture and inscriptions. Accommodation for residents was frequently set to the side or rear and resembled a cloister or college quadrangle, with similar emphases on formality. Ornate or imposing entrance gateways are also often observed as a distinguishing feature to these sites, such as at the C12 Hospital of St Cross, Winchester (Grade I), Wright’s Almshouses in Nantwich – dated 1668 – (Grade II*) and a C20 example at Holy Trinity Hospital, West Retford (Grade II). The almshouse tradition remained strong throughout the C19 and C20, although most foundations were of simple rows of single-storey dwellings. Later almshouses were often erected as independent charities or as additions to existing foundations, often with funds obtained from local residents.

The Barber’s Almshouses, designed by architects WG Osborne and Langham and Cole, were built in 1899. They were endowed and dedicated to the poor of the parish of St George by the will of Frances Barber, who had lived in Ramsgate for many years, in the memory of her husband Francis Charles Barber (1800-82) and her son William Charles Barber. Mrs Barber died on 16 May 1897, aged 82, and was widely respected on account of her philanthropy towards the poor and her generosity towards charitable institutions. By early 1898, Osborne and Langham and Cole had been appointed architects, seemingly as the result of a competition, by the trustees of her will and J H Forwalk of Ramsgate was appointed contractor. The building, which held accommodation for 12 old persons (ten women and two men) who received 7 shillings alms weekly, was completed by the end of the summer of 1899. The almshouse was formally opened by the Right Reverend William Walsh, the Lord Bishop of Dover, in ceremony which took place on 29 September.


Gateway to Barber’s Almshouses dating to 1899 by architects WG Osborne and Langham and Cole.

MATERIALS: Wealden sandstone ashlar dressings with metal gate.

PLAN: the gateway is located at the main entrance courtyard to the Barber’s Almshouses, fronting onto Elms Avenue. Brick dwarf walling extends from either side of the gateway along property boundary line.

EXTERIOR: the south-west elevation of the gateway, features a central arched opening with moulded bands and Gibbs-style intermittent large voussoirs with a central keystone. Tuscan style pilasters are located at either side, extending from the plinth up to the impost, topped by a pair of vase shaped pilasters with decorative panels surmounted by Tuscan capitals. The entablature consists of a broken and open segmental pediment, featuring dentil mouldings on the cornice and an obelisk finial. The tympanum comprises a frieze containing ornamental foliate and swag mouldings, mythical creatures and a centrally positioned female human face below which rests the dedication stone. The text on the stone reads: “THESE ALMSHOUSES WERE BUILT ENDOWED AND DEDICATED TO THE POOR OF THE PARISH OF ST GEORGE RAMSGATE, BY THE WILL OF FRANCES BARBER FOR MANY YEARS A RESIDENT IN THAT TOWN, IN ORDER TO PERPETUATE THE MEMORY OF HER HUSBAND FRANCIS CHARLES BARDER AND HER ONLY SON WILLIAM CHARLES BARBER.” Two consoles are positioned on either side of the gateway and on the rear elevation, which faces the almshouses, there are plain panels and no ornamental mouldings in the tympanum. An ornamental metal gate, painted black, hangs fixed into the stonework by two hinges either side, located towards the top and the bottom of the gate. It exhibits a symmetrical design with alternating diamond and scrolled bars to the upper panel, cross bars and scrolled framing to the middle panel, and alternating waved and straight bars to the lower. It is crowned by scrolled detailing formed from both gates.


Books and journals
Hallett, A, Almshouses, (2004)
‘Plans and rough notes for competition: Mr Barbers’: Kent History and Library Centre: KHC:R/U1561/P122(A)
Historic England, Listing Selection Guide: Health and Welfare Buildings, (2017)
Thanet Advertiser, 16 April 1898, p.5
Thanet Advertiser, 22 May 1897, p.5
Thanet Advertiser, 30 September 1899, p.5


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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