Picturesque 19th-Century Almshouse Retirement Home in Suffolk Listed
St Edmund’s Almshouse in Bungay, Suffolk has been listed at Grade II by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on the advice of Historic England.
A philanthropic gesture
St Edmund’s Almshouse was built in 1895 with funds donated by Frederick Smith (1833-1903), a local solicitor who was also ‘Town Reeve’ (a position unique to Bungay, dating to the 16th century and similar in status and responsibility to that of Mayor) for four periods of office between 1885 and 1900.
The building cost £2,000 and provided accommodation for six single tenants and two married couples. It is thought to have been designed by Bernard Smith, a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, who had previously been commissioned by Frederick Smith to design the billiard room extension at his home, the Grade II listed Earsham House in Bungay (which is now the Town Hall, with the billiard room the Council Chamber).
Picturesque Tudor style
St Edmund’s Almshouse is a single-storey building in a picturesque Tudor style with gabled bays, stone mullion windows and finely crafted Gothic detailing. The steeply pitched roof has decorative ridge tiles and five tall octagonal chimney shafts with moulded brick bases and star tops.
The gable heads have applied half timbering and along the bottom edge of the gables is a band of terracotta Tudor roses. The central gable contains a carved stone plaque with gothic trefoil arches bearing the date and name of the building. The architectural details convey qualities of homeliness and comfort. Such embellishments were traditional for almshouses, partly to reflect well on their benefactor.
Accommodation for retired residents
In 1973-74, there was extensive modernisation of the interior of the almshouse, with the fitting of new kitchens, bathrooms and central heating. Further interior modernisation took place in 2012-13 to convert the bedsits into one-bedroomed accommodation for double occupancy. The external woodwork was restored in 2019. St Edmund’s contains eight of the 13 almshouses owned and run by Bungay Town Trust for retired residents.
This charming building has supported retired residents in Bungay for over 120 years, offering comfortable and restful retirement accommodation. Listing St Edmund’s Almshouse celebrates its importance to the local community and recognises the philanthropic gesture of Frederick Smith which enabled the building of this beautiful home.
Bernard Smith and Frederick Smith (not related) also collaborated on two other listed buildings in Bungay, the Grade II* listed Roman Catholic Church of St Edmund (1889-1901) and its Grade II listed Presbytery (1894).