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‘Beautiful’ 19th century almshouse awarded Grade II listed status

Sam Russell, PA
·2-min read

An almshouse which was built 126 years ago and continues to support retired residents has been awarded Grade II listed status.

St Edmund’s Almshouse in Bungay, Suffolk, was built in 1895 with funds donated by local solicitor Frederick Smith who was the Town Reeve.

The position, unique to Bungay, dates back to the 16th century and is similar in status and responsibility to that of a mayor.

The building cost £2,000 and provided accommodation for six single tenants and two married couples.

St Edmund's Almshouse  in Bungay circa 1900-1910. (Bungay Museum Trust/ PA)
St Edmund’s Almshouse circa 1900-1910 (Bungay Museum Trust/PA)

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 Smith to design the billiard room extension at his home.

He lived at Earsham House in Bungay, which is now the Grade II listed Town Hall, with the billiard room becoming the Council Chamber.

The almshouse has been listed at Grade II by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on the advice of Historic England.

It is a single-storey building in a 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.

St Edmund's Almshouse in Bungay was built in 1895 and continues to support retired residents. (Historic England/ PA)
St Edmund’s Almshouse continues to support retired residents (Historic England/PA)

The building was designed to show homeliness and comfort.

It was extensively modernised in 1973-74, with further work in 2012-13 and 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.

Judy Cloke, Town Reeve and chairwoman of the Bungay Town Trust, said: “I am delighted the St Edmund’s Almshouse has been classified as Grade II listed.

“Its attractive design is a well-loved and familiar feature of the Bungay townscape and something of which the Town Trust can be very proud, especially following recent refurbishment and upgrading.

“Not only is it good to look at, it offers a vital service to the local community.”

Melissa Thompson, senior listing adviser for Historic England in the East of England, said: “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.”