A History of YALDING, Kent, England
Since the fourteenth century there have been over thirty deeds relating to benefactions and charities. One that still retains a prominent presence in the village, is dated 30th January 1863. In it the Misses Ann and Elizabeth Simmons founded a charity for the establishment of six almshouses, to be erected on one rood of land that is situated 100 metres from the Village Green, along a footpath towards the then windmill, which is what the footpath was then called.
These various charities have progressed through several stages of amalgamation. In 1975 these changes resulted in just two identities; the ‘Yalding Educational Foundation’ and the ‘Yalding Charities’. The later has three component parts of; (a) the Simmons Almshouse Charity, (b) the Relief in Need Charity, and (c) the Relief in Sickness Charity.
In the eighteenth century part of which was to be Downs Farm including the site of the Almshouses was owned by farmer John Simmons of Mill Place farm, who had been born to parents John and Elizabeth. He was baptised here on the 25th of August 1745. He subsequently married Ann Stanford of Great Peckham on 3rd of August 1785. They had two daughters, Ann baptised on 17th August 1787, and Elizabeth baptised on 28th of August 1789.
John Simmons was buried 21 July 1807 aged 61, and wife Ann on 25th March 1808 aged 57.
In 1851 Ann and Elizabeth Simmons lived together at Mill Place where they farmed 150 acres employing eleven labourers, and similar to most local farms it was substantially hops with some fruit.
Two years separated the birth of these sisters, and they passed on within two years of each other, but with their order reversed. Elizabeth the younger sister was buried on 21st March 1862, aged 73, and Ann on 11th March 1864, at the age of 77.
The resulting row of six terraced houses, had a kitchen, living room, and two bedrooms, with outside toilets. Changes were made and they now have one bedroom with a bathroom.
Although the charity and the plaque on the front of the building quotes, “for the use and benefit of six poor women of the parish”, the fact that there was a second bedroom meant that it could accommodate two, and initially did. In the 1871 census all units had a prime tenant with a lodger, and as example number one had tenant Ann Luck, plus her 11 year old niece staying, and Ann Goldsmith as a lodger. According to Victorian standards that was quite comfortable, as some cottages held parents with ten or more children.
After husband David died in 1866, Ann moved into the Almshouses in the 1870’s, where she remained until she passed away in 1905 at the age of 91.
Not all, but many of the almshouse ladies had been village residents for a long period, most had been wives of farm labourers, who having died had left their wife to become a pauper, dependent upon the parish, and if lucky that there was a place available, finish their lives in the luxury of an almshouse, where they were looked after in relative comfort.
There was Charity Smith who died in 1904 aged 85, who had been in the Alms for about thirty years, after being married to Stephen, an agricultural labourer who died in 1867 aged 55.