They were built by a bequest of William Riley who was born in 1815 and died in 1st May 1904 and a charity was set up called “William Riley Of Birmingham and Leamington Charity”. The charity would build Almshouses in both areas in the proportion of four in Birmingham which were built in Maas Road and two in Leamington.
The purpose of the charity is “The Provision Of Almshouses For The Benefit Of Poor Persons Of Not Less Than Sixty Years Of Age Who (Except In Special Circumstances To Be Approved By The Commissioners) Are Inhabitants Of The Area Of The Former Borough Of Royal Leamington Spa.” This meant applicants had to live within the parish boundary of Leamington that existed before the parish of Milverton became part of Leamington as it is now for them to be considered as occupants of the Leamington Houses.
The last time one of them was let this description appeared in the particulars: A two bedroom Alms House located to the south of Leamington Spa with good access to local amenities. The applicant must be over 60, be in receipt of housing benefit and be a current resident of Leamington Spa ward.
The Leamington Houses were built in 1931. In a notice in the Leamington Courier on 27th February 1931 it was announced by the Trustees of the charity on 22nd March 1931 that the first occupiers of the houses would be elected. The notice states that applicants had to be poor persons of good character who had lived in Leamington for 2 years and who from age, ill-health, accident or infirmity are unable to maintain themselves by their own exertions and who are 60 years old or older. Preference will be given to those who have shewn reasonable providence and to those who have been longer residence in the Borough. Married couples who met the criteria could also apply. All applicants had to provide testimonials.
The Charity is managed by local solicitors Wright Hassall and between 1907 and 1926 sums amounting to more than £11,000 accrued to the charity. Four almshouses were then being built in Maas Road, Northfield, and two in Leamington. The almshouses in Birmingham were transferred to a housing trust in 2007.
William Riley who lived at 41 Leam Terrace Leamington was a Birmingham businessman and on his death he was buried in Brunswick Street Cemetery and has a magnificient memorial on his grave and he left full instructions for his interment. The monument was erected before his death and he requested to be buried in two coffins, one of oak and the other of lead. His will also stated that a marble bust of himself executed in Florence be placed on his monument. Among his many bequests was £800 to endow a bed in Warneford Hospital and similar bequest to hospitals in Birmingham.
He also endowed a lifeboat in Whitby which was described by Alan Griffin in an article in the Leamington History Group’s newsletter and which can be read at https://www.leamingtonhistory.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Summer-2009-omnibus-PDF.pdf. There is also an article about the Lifeboat on this website, Click Here
Barry Franklin, September 2016
Various copies of the Leamington Courier and conversations with people with connections to various occupiers of the Almshouses
Photos by Barry Franklin