Oxford Inscriptions: Stone’s Almshouses

Stone's Almshouses

This Hospital for ye Poor & Sick
was founded by
The Reverend Mr WILL. STONE
Principal of New Inne Hall

in Hopes
of thy Assistance.
Ao.Dni. 1700

This inscription is on the front of Stone's Almshouses, facing St Clement's Street. The word “hospital” in the inscription is used in its older sense of “A charitable institution for the housing and maintenance of the needy; an asylum for the destitute, infirm, or aged”.

The almshouses are named after William Stone, Principal of New Inn Hall, who died in 1685 (see below). Under his will he directed that the residue of his estate should be bestowed on such charitable purposes as Obadiah Walker, the Master of University College, should direct. Walker directed that a hospital be built and Stone's executor, Dr Stephen Fry of Trinity College, was empowered to carry out those instructions. In 1688 a site near Gloucester Green was being investigated by Walker and Fry, but unfortunately in that year Walker was sent to the Tower of London for his Romanist tendencies, and the plan did not go ahead. Walker was released in 1690, and in 1695 he deputed the almshouse scheme to various friends who were to be commissioners, including Dr Timothy Halton, Provost of The Queen's College. In a letter to Halton, Walker outlined Stone's vision: the almshouses were:

for sick & poore and none to bee refused as long as there be room to receive them, that it should be founded without reverences upon the providences of our good Lord and the alms of well disposed and devote persons and that all inhabitants, privileged or not, strangers, men of all professions Catholics, Protestants, dissenters should be received and none restricted that were fiar objects of such charity.

(“Privileged” here may mean privileged persons, or people who worked for the University, as the almshouses were intended for the needy.)

In 1697 a piece of ground was purchased in St Clement's, which was then outside the city of Oxford, and the central section of the present almshouses was built. The Oxford mason Bartholomew Peisley was paid £250 for the building, and the Headington carpenter George Smith received £180 for the woodwork.

By an indenture dated 31 January 1700, the hospital was incorporated by the “name of the Brethren and Sisters of Mr. Stone's Hospital near Oxford”. These “brethren and sisters” (the almsmen and almswomen) had a common seal bearing the arms of William Stone, and were “ordered, directed, visited, and placed or upon just cause displaced” by the Visitors (who were various heads of colleges and professors). The first eight poor and aged women of Oxford were admitted that year.

In the 1960s the architect Thomas Rayson added an extension to each side: Parson's Almshouses on the left (1960) and Mary Duncan Almshouses on the right (1964). The one on the left was paid for by Helen and Frank Altschul of New York City so that University College could take over the original Parson's Almshouses of 1816 in Kybald Street.

Stone's Almshouses are now managed by the City of Oxford Charity Trustees. They are Grade II* listed (List Entry No. 1047125). The wall and gate piers are separately Grade II listed (List Entry No. 1047126). They provide sheltered accommodation for 22 residents.

Stone's almshouses

The Revd Mr William Stone (c.1615–1685), the founder of the almshouses

The Revd Mr William Stone was born in c.1615. He was a Bachelor of Civil Law, sometime of St Edmund Hall, Oxford.

From 1661 he was one of the ministers of Wimborne Minster in Dorset.

In 1663 he was appointed Principal of of New Inn Hall, Oxford. (The site of that hall is now occupied by St Peter's College.) Not long after he was also appointed Rector of Potterspury in Northamptonshire, and in 1664 he also had the sinecure of Northop in Flintshire.

He died in 1685 at the age of 70, and was buried in Oxford in the college chancel of St Michael-at-the-Northgate Church on 25 June that year.

In his will (signed on 12 May 1685), he left all his property in Wimborne to St Margaret's Hospital there: this included the properties in West Street there which are still the main source of revenue for St Margaret's Charity.

Stephanie Jenkins