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Almshouses of widowed poor that stood for nearly three centuries

PUBLISHED: 12:37 06 February 2009 | UPDATED: 14:02 05 October 2010

Photo by William Whiffin, courtesy of Tower Hamlets local history library

Photo by William Whiffin, courtesy of Tower Hamlets local history library

THESE women posing in 1935 among their flowers lived in the historic Hester Hawes almshouses in London’s East End, which dated back to the 17th century. The almshouses for six poor widows’ were in Bow Lane, now known as Bazely Street, off Poplar’s East India Dock Road, until they were demolished in 1953

By Julia Gregory

THESE women posing in 1935 among their flowers lived in the historic Hester Hawes almshouses in London's East End, which dated back to the 17th century.

The almshouses for six 'poor widows' were in Bow Lane, now known as Bazely Street, off Poplar's East India Dock Road, until they were demolished in 1953.

Hester or Esther Hawes left money in her will for the homes in 1696 and a monthly allowance of half-a-crown (121/2p) for the women, which were charged upon an estate near Poplar Chapel.

The funds have long since been passed to the Parish of Poplar Benevolent Fund 'for the relief of the poor.'

Hester was the daughter of Henry Hall of Blackwall who left her an annuity of £10. Hester married John Craven of Shadwell in 1644, but outlived him. Her second marriage was to Thomas Hawes of Hertfordshire.

In 1685, she bought five tenements with a garden in three-quarters of an acre in Bow Lane. The tenements home were all just one room, with a water pump in the yard.

But by 1730, court action was being considered to enforce repairs. In the 1850s they were considered unfit for human habitation.

Plans were afoot in 1933 for slum clearance at nearby Commodore Court and the future of the almshouses was uncertain.

Calls were made for the buildings to be preserved because of their historic importance.

The remaining four widows were rehoused in 1937 and the almshouses were sold to Poplar borough council in 1938 for £250.

The almshouses survived another 15 years before finally being pulled down in June, 1953, just days after the Queen's coronation.


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