Ever passed the almshouses on Berkhamsted High Street and wondered what lay behind the front door? Well, now’s your chance…
The John Sayer Almshouses are on the corner of the High Street and Cowper Road in Berkhamsted. Berkhamsted residents will have walked past them many times but may not know much about them.
Now is your chance to find out more first-hand. On Saturday 9 September between 10am and 2pm, there will be an open day at the almshouses. Local people and visitors to Berkhamsted are invited to drop in, look around the almshouses and garden, and learn about their history. Visitors will be able to see an almshouse that is currently occupied and one that is unoccupied as it needs significant building work to make it habitable. Home-made cakes, tea, and coffee will be on sale and visitors will be able to make donations (should they wish) to the John Sayer Almshouses registered charity.
The almshouses were built in 1684 and so are one of the oldest buildings on the High Street. John Sayer (the cook to Charles II and a Berkhamsted resident) left £1,000 in his will to build housing for local women in need and this social housing is still providing essential support more than 300 years after John Sayer’s death. The almshouses are four self-contained, small, single storey houses. Each one has a living room, sleeping area, kitchen, and bathroom.
In 2022, the Trustees launched a major restoration project. Local benefactors and the Almshouse Association have provided some much-needed funding but more than £80,000 still needs to be raised to renovate one of the four units and to replace all the gutters. Work has recently been completed on repointing one side and the back of the building to replace the 1960s cement mortar with lime mortar which will enable the building to breath and help to resolve a problem with damp.
When this work is complete, the Trustees will be able to offer a home to someone in need in the local community.