Shrewsbury Drapers Holy Cross Ltd (registered charity no 1132671) administers the existing almshouses, acting as corporate trustee for the linked/subsidiary charity, Shrewsbury Drapers Company Charity (No 1132671-1), which owns the permanently endowed land and buildings.
Details of charities can be found on the Charity Commission website.
The charitable work of the Drapers has been continuous since 1444 when they established almshouses for widows and spinsters who received money, fuel and clothing from the Company. The first group of thirteen timber-framed cottages, a common hall and warden’s house, were built in the churchyard facing St Mary’s Street, then known as ‘Ox Lane’. Degory Watur occupied the Warden’s house in the early days, and financial support came from Katherine Bonel, the widow of a wealthy Draper. Each cottage was single-celled, probably with a ‘croglofft’ or sleeping shelf, in the Welsh tradition.
The cottages had open hearths but the common hall was built complete with fireplace and chimney. In 1647 fireplaces with tall front chimneys were added to the cottages. By 1824 the almshouses were ‘wretched and filthy’ and ‘dangerously unwholesome’ and they were replaced with eighteen new almshouses on the opposite side of the street.
This was part of a scheme under the Street Improvement Act of 1820 to improve the streets and regulate frontages and pavements in the town. The new almshouses were designed and built by John Carline in Tudor style, in brick with Grinshill stone dressings; they were arranged around a courtyard entered from the street through a gatehouse bearing a fine cartouche of the Company’s arms carved in stone.
By 1964 these almshouses had in their turn become antiquated and lacking in modern amenities, so the site was sold for re-development. Sixteen modern almshouses and a Warden’s house, all designed by Stanley Catterall, were built in Fairford Place, Coleham, and the Drapers’ handsome carved stone coat of arms was transferred from the entrance tower of the 1824 almshouses to the new site.
In 1969 the Company became trustee for another group of almshouses on the Wenlock Road, adjacent to St Giles Church. All the Drapers’ almshouses provide a good bed-sitting room, a kitchen and a bathroom for each resident and are available to elderly men and women who can look after themselves while living in a caring community.