History 1752-2021

A history of the establishment and development of the Almshouses in Barlborough

Beginning in 2012, research began into the history of Barlborough Hospital and background of the sisters Margaret and Mary Pole. It has been undertaken by the author of this web site, and in fine detail is now captured in a single document entitled: – ‘Inside Chandos Pole House – An exceptional benefaction’.

The latter covers the establishment of the ‘hospital’, the management of the bequeathed assets of land at Barlborough High Common, a farm at Froggatt and fishing rights on the River Derwent.

The research lists all of the identified trustees and provides insight into their year-by-year travails and management of the almshouse and the other bequeathed assets, all in considerable detail.

It tabulates the identified residents who have occupied the almshouse (excluding those currently appointed or still living elsewhere, to protect their privacy), insight into their daily lives and the discretionary help some have received from the trustees.

Currently comprising over 225 pages including photographs and drawings, it is hoped to make this available to raise public awareness and to support the ongoing work of the charity.

The author would welcome input from anyone having familiarity with the Pole family, the Almshouse on Church Street, Barlborough and its past residents. Please use the Home page email link to contact the author.

© David Blackwell 2021

First edition 2021

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior permission in writing of the author.

This book is available subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the author’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

In March 2012 David Blackwell was appointed Clerk to the Trustees of Barlborough Hospital, a charity registered with the Charity Commission (221552).  He retired from this role in March 2021.

All research specifically relating to the Almshouse, now called Chandos Pole House, on Church Street, Barlborough has been carried out by the author and obtained from original documents in public archive or otherwise held, together with recovery, transcription, interpretation and translation of artefacts referenced in the work, except as otherwise accredited in Acknowledgements and Bibliography.

The following list identifies the scope of the completed research. The information within each section is extensively supported by reference to the detailed deliberations, decisions and actions of the many trustees over the full history of their work since 1752

  1. Introduction
  2. Summary
  3. Almshouses in England
  4. Establishment of Barlborough Hospital
    1. Creation of the Charitable Trust
    2. Supporting endowments
    3. First Trustees
    4. Qualifying Characteristics of Trustees
    5. Objects and Obligations
  5. Beneficiaries
    1. Qualifying Characteristics of Beneficiaries
  6. Land at Barlborough High Common
  7. Land & Farm at Froggatt
  8. Fishing Rights at Froggatt
  9. Insight to life and lives of Beneficiaries
  10. Benefits and Wellbeing of Beneficiaries
  11. Property Maintenance
  12. Modernisation of Chandos Pole House – 1982/3
  13. Trustees and their appointment history
  14. Beneficiaries and their residential history
  15. Amendments and Corrections
  16. Annex 1 – Composition of Derwent Farm
  17. Annex 2 – Parish Relief & State Pensions
  18. Annex 3 – Table of Fishing Rights Lease Changes
  19. Annex 4 – Table of Trustees: 1752 & 1832-2021
  20. Annex 5 – Table of Beneficiaries: 1832-2020
  21. Annex 7 – The Last Will & Testament of Margaret Pole
  22. Annex 8 – The Last Will & Testament of Mary Pole
  23. Annex 9 – Almshouses Accommodation 1983 Layout
  24. Annex 10 – 1752 Lease of the Farm at Froggatt
  25. Annex 11 – Family Tree of Margaret and Mary Pole
  26. Annex 12 – Translated from a tablet in St James’ church, Barlborough
  27. Annex 13 – Major John Walkeline Chandos-Pole Dies
  28. Annex 14 – Timeline of Historical Events: 1750 to 2021
  29. Annex 15 – Original Deed of Bargain and Sale, 11 Oct 1752
  30. Annex 16 – Charity Commission Scheme
  31. Bibliography and Acknowledgements

Here is insight to some of the chapters in the completed research: –

1. Introduction

People living in Barlborough for only a short period will have a casual awareness of Chandos Pole House; but it has been an Almshouse for over two and a half centuries. For the passer-by, a large stone plaque above the door fronting onto Church Street provides evidence of its early origin as a ‘hospital’ built by Margaret and Mary Pole and the date 1752. Beyond this brief statement, what has taken place behind its walls over the last two hundred and sixty-nine years may be something of a mystery and potentially a curiosity, now familiar only to relatively few people.

This little book aims to shed at least some light on an incredibly generous gift to the community of Barlborough and for the relief of those who were less fortunate than its benefactors. The beneficiaries, how they lived and the ways in which they were supported have been researched, examined and recorded here, in so far as discovered records have uncovered.

However, it would be to err towards rudeness if recognition is only focused on the primary endowment of the original benefactors that is the building on Church Street, substantial as that was.  Recognition must also be accorded to significant functional endowments and financial bequests given by them and others, to assure the sustainability of the accommodation for its residents.

But even this generosity would be as nothing if it were not for the persistent dedication over this long period of time, of the many Trustees who have voluntarily given their time, expertise and energy to the effective management of all these assets, now held under the registered Charity 221552, Barlborough Hospital.

Whilst attending to property maintenance, the Trustees are shown to have been and continue to be, disciplined in their management of the endowments and caring through their support to provide for the residents brought into their purview during their time of need. ………………….

2. Summary

This account opens with the 18thC construction of an Almshouse by two philanthropic sisters, Margaret and Mary Pole, of Park Hall at Spinkhill.  Then, in remarkable detail it leads the reader through its history during the 19th, 20th and into the 21st Century, while safeguarding the privacy of anyone currently living there and any private information about known surviving relatives of those who once did.

The accommodation was erected in place of a dwelling known as Wragg’s House located at Hall Orchard (which belonged to the Savile Garth Hall in Park Street) and of another dwelling at that time in the possession of Mary Naylor.

After it was formally established as a charitable Trust on 11 October 1752, it continued to provide accommodation for six deserving residents of the parish until a remodelling took place between 1982-83.  A very large number of the residents were the widows of local coal miners.  From 1983 the accommodation was reduced to four enlarged units with more contemporary facilities.

In addition to the Almshouse itself, land with several farm buildings at Froggatt in The Hope Valley, comprising some 60 acres was leased to tenant farmers. This substantial physical asset and the lease fee were bequeathed for the ongoing support of the Almshouse in Barlborough.  The farm was sold in 1946 with the sale funds being invested for the ongoing support of the charity’s work.

Other financial bequests by John Heathcote, Peter Webster and Joseph Turner were made to provide for the support of residents who were and continue to be appointed by the Trustees.  These benefactor’s names are captured for posterity through the charity’s registration with the Charity Commission and in the title of investment accounts held by the Trustees.

A piece of land at Barlborough High Common was also a bequeathed asset of the Charity but the date of its first endowment is currently uncertain.

A window into the life and functioning of the Charity is obtained from the records kept over the years, although there is an opaque period between 1752 and 1830 for which no records have currently been located. Could this be accounted for by virtue of there being no generally accepted or effective oversight of the activities of charitable organisations until the establishment of the Charitable Trusts Act of 1853?  Prior to 1853 various bodies of Commissioners (for overseeing the poor) were set up but were vigorously opposed by vested interests such as churches, benefactors and trustees, among others. Was it therefore perceived that there was no need or obligatory requirement to keep and maintain detailed records?

Clearly there were several periods of challenge for the Trustees. It would be surprising if over 269 years all was ‘milk and honey’.

Another period for which only brief records exist falls between 2007 and 2012.  An explanation for this is offered in the section dealing with the history of those appointed as Trustees.

Specific challenges for the Trustees that are identified in this work help to highlight for the reader who might contemplate their own role as a trustee of a local charity, the critical importance of diligent record keeping and the safe custody of key documents.  Such rigour will be found helpful in justifying their own decisions and to inform their successor trustees.

A misconception – in fronting the administration of the charity on behalf of the trustee body, it has become apparent that there is a serious misconception, held over very many years, even among community residents of long-standing, which it is important to clarify.

Rectors of the parish of Barlborough have traditionally been offered a courtesy invitation to become chairman trustee of the Almshouse charity, which is always in a personal capacity (see extract from chapter 13).

Notwithstanding this invitation, there is no formal relationship between Church and charity. Moreover, neither the Church or church officers have any ex-officio jurisdiction over the property and function of the charity.

The misconception has perhaps arisen through a gradual fading in the community’s familiarity with the history of the Almshouse and its objectives, reducing to the only proper awareness, which is that applicants wishing to become licenced beneficiaries of the charity must, among other qualifying criteria, profess the religion of the Established Church of England. It is unquestionably the primary objective of the charity to provide relief for those in significant need, through the provision of subsidised accommodation.  With the availability of social benefits and free health care, and that these are things which the charity is not established to provide, the interpretation of ‘need’ is best interpreted as financial hardship. ………

4. Establishment of Barlborough Hospital

– an extract from chapter 4 ……………..

Margaret and Mary Pole – Margaret was baptised at St James church in Barlborough on 29th May 1683. Mary was born three years later. It was a little more than two years before both their deaths in 1755 that Margaret and Mary commissioned the new ‘hospital’ building and set up the Charity to provide accommodation and support for poor people of the parish. They both died within a very few weeks of each other (7 August and 17 September) and their remains were interred in the Parish Church of St. James the Greater at Barlborough. Margaret was 72; Mary was 69.

Full and faithful transcripts of their last wills and testaments were created by the author in 2017.  These are included at the end of the book. In each case, the last codicil was attached to their wills only one week and four weeks respectively, before their deaths, suggesting that they may both have been anticipating their imminent life’s end. What brought about their close demises has not been established.

They were the last representatives of this line of Poles and their family home Park Hall passed to another branch of the family. ………………

7. Land and Farm at Froggatt

– an extract from chapter 7 …….

8 Oct 1849 – it was determined that Mr Wright be authorised to negotiate with Mr Nesfield, agent of the Duke of Rutland regarding a proposed exchange of land at Froggatt between his Grace and the Trustees.

11 April 1853 – Mr Wright reported on his correspondence with Mr Nesfield, agent of the Duke of Rutland but the Trustees determined to postpone any decision until their next meeting.

23 May 1853 – Mr Wright was instructed to proceed with the negotiations to exchange land at Froggatt with the Duke of Rutland.

21 Nov 1853 – it was decided by the Trustees not to proceed with the exchange of land with the Duke of Rutland, the increase of rental thereby appearing not to be justified.

4 April 1854 – the meeting discussed the matter that Mr Nesfield, agent of the Duke of Rutland had locked some of the gates on the land belonging to the Hospital.  Mr Nesfield to be advised of the extant decision of the Trustees not to proceed with the exchange of land; if Mr Nesfield continue to retain the locks on the gates of the common land after this information had been given to him, Mr Whiter to advise the (new) tenant Mr Gill to remove them by force.

24 April 1854 – the Duke of Rutland being willing to accede to improved terms in which a piece of land producing rent of £4 p.a. or thereabouts being added to that originally offered, the exchange to proceed.

11 May 1854 – Mr Nesfield presented the revised offer from the Duke of Rutland. In exchange for the Common Land, in addition to the land already offered was a cottage with a garden now let for £3 8s p.a.; a small field of 1 acre & 3 perches worth about £1 per acre p.a., if the last addition be insisted upon.  It was agreed to accept this offer, the addition of the field being considered a sine qua non and to apply to the Commissioners of Charities for authority and instructions for completion of the exchange.

In 1855 there was an exchange of land at Froggatt between the Trustees of this Charity and the Duke of Rutland.  Both parties had land holdings in and around Froggatt that were somewhat fragmented and it would appear that the result of this mutual exchange was to create land holdings for each party that were more proximate, each to another.  The significant parcels of land given over by the Trustees to the Duke of Rutland were on the east side of the main road to Sheffield consolidating for the Trustees a more coherent land holding adjacent to the River Derwent. ……….

10. Benefits and Wellbeing of Beneficiaries

The 1752 Deed and the Charity Commission Scheme both make clear that it is within the authority of the Trustees always to use the assets of the charity as benefits for the residents, in whatever way they choose. This appears to have been manifest initially by the provision of coal and a weekly personal allowance.  Any excess in these assets may be used at the discretion of the Trustees as benefits for the parishioners of Barlborough who are not otherwise relieved by the Parish. The Trustees did, from time to time, direct their attention to needs within the parish of Barlborough, of people other than the residents appointed to the Almshouse.

It will become apparent to the reader that in comparing the way in which today’s national economic strengths and difficulties have an all too noticeable impact on individual daily lives, this was also the case in the early 19th century. Little changes! But evidence shows that just like our perception of today’s behaviour by those having power to decide such changes, the Trustees of this Charity were not tardy in responding when the finances of the Charity changed, to protect either the viability of the Charity or the benefits accorded to the residents.

Unfortunately, there appears to be no surviving photographic record of the 1752 internal physical arrangement of the Almshouse. The original design catered for simple accommodation by six persons each in two rooms, one on the ground floor and one at first floor accessed by a stairway internal to each pair of rooms. Each was provided with a coal fire. Residents shared communal toilet, bathing and eventually some basic kitchen facilities – see Annex 10.

1970 was a turning point year during which the trustees were of a mind that some significant decisions needed to be taken. The property needed serious renovation and funding was a major concern.  Perhaps in direct consequence of this it seemed to be proving difficult to find new appointees.  Either the charity needed to be closed or the property offered to the local council for social housing needs. ………

13. Trustees and their appointment history

First Trustees – the 1752 deed explains that in order to “carry into execution the stated wishes (of the two sisters), in return for the payment of five shillings from each of them, the building and land is sold to Francis Bower, Samuel Yate, Gervase Gardiner, John Foljame, John Bromehead, Johnathan Bromehead and Godfrey Machon and to their heirs and assigns“. ……………

…………. in a letter, Charity Commission to Trustees, 16th November 1976 – “So far as your suggestion to have the Vicar and Churchwardens as ex-officio members of the Trustee body is concerned it is regretted that we cannot allow them to be appointed on this basis as there is no evidence from the past records that they were ever intended to be Trustees by virtue of their offices and it is not the policy to create Ex-officio Trustees where there have been none before.” …………..

14. Beneficiaries and their residential history

An assessment of the readily available records, between 1830 and 2013, shows that the Almshouse at Barlborough has provided accommodation for at least 87 individuals. With a further 80 years between 1752 and 1830, that number will be considerably higher.

Little information about the prior background of these beneficiaries has been captured in records but since a major source of employment in this area of Derbyshire has been coal mining it seems highly likely that many women may have been widows of mine employees.

When a vacancy has arisen and there has been more than one application, the Trustees do appear to have held to the core criteria for qualification first set out in the 1752 deed and have offered the appointment to the most deserving case put to them.

Equally, a willingness for residents to offer mutual support and sustain a harmonious community within the accommodation has been a factor in avoiding ill-discipline. As the records show, there has been just the occasional need for firm management when for whatever reason an individual has infringed the rules of mutual respect.

Very few residents left the Almshouse accommodation for reasons other than their demise. ………….

15. Amendments and Corrections

The author of this account of the history of Chandos Pole House is open to its review, with additions and corrections invited and warmly received.  Best efforts have been put into the research and interpretation of third-party writings.  There are information gaps where records have been sparse or have not been located.

In a different respect, if a correction were not included here, it would allow the perpetuation of a significant misunderstanding about the appointment of residents that has been found in parish discourse.

Anecdotally, there is a broadly held belief that the charity is under obligation to or is organisationally related to the parish church of St. James. This is incorrect.

Historically, members of the Pole family were generous benefactors to the parish church in Barlborough.  But the sisters who built the Almshouse bequeathed it to the parish as a standalone community asset, the purpose and management responsibility of which was given in trust to seven people who were chosen from the surrounding community.

Over the last decade at least, the appointment of new residents has been undertaken by the trustees in proper accordance with the objectives of the Barlborough Hospital Charity Scheme.  Principal among these is the relief of poverty. Any expectation perceived or otherwise alleged, that residence may be assigned as a benefit or reward for exemplary community service, must be expunged.

Similarly, any prior assurance of appointment into residence, before a vacancy is available and has been publicly advertised, would be a breach of the responsibilities assigned to the trustees, individually and collectively.

The decline and subsequent closure of coal mining seriously affected the Barlborough community.  In recent years there has been substantial redevelopment in and around the village, bringing with it increased employment and wealth. When vacancies have arisen (2019) there has been low interest from qualifying applicants, followed by lengthy periods of empty accommodation.

The definition of poverty as it applies to the qualifying criteria at Chandos Pole House has been questioned by the trustees. The provision of subsidised accommodation to those experiencing financial difficulty and unable to fund a home in the commercial market remains the core objective of the charity. In 2012 authority from the Charity Commission was granted to the trustees to make appointments into half of the charity’s accommodation, to applicants from outside the parish other qualifying criteria being satisfied. ……………………

16. Charity Commission Scheme

  • Sections
    • Relevant charities
    • Administration of Charities
  • FORM OF NOTICE (of a vacancy)
    • Sealed by Order of the Commissioners this 14th day of November 1977. LS.

Section Extracts: –


Clause 27. Qualifications of almspeople. – The almspeople shall be poor persons of good character who profess the religion of the Church of England and are resident in the Parish of Barlborough at the time of appointment. Note: See notice of Alteration of the Existing Trusts, dated 11 December 2012, below. ………………….

Clause 29. Notice of vacancy. – No appointment of an almsperson shall be made by the Trustees until a sufficient notice of an existing vacancy specifying the qualifications required from candidates has been published in Barlborough by advertisement or otherwise so as to give due publicity to the intended appointment but it shall not be necessary to publish a notice if a vacancy occurs within twelve calendar months after the last notice of a vacancy has been published. Notices may be according to the form annexed hereto.

Clause 30. Applications for appointment. – All applications for appointment shall be made to the Trustees or their clerk in such manner as the Trustees direct. Before appointing any applicant to be an almsperson the Trustees shall require him or her to attend in person unless he or she is physically disabled or the Trustees are of opinion that special circumstances render this unnecessary. An applicant may be required to supply evidence of his or her qualification for appointment.

Clause 31. Selection of almspeople. – Almspeople shall be selected only after full investigation of the suitability and circumstances of the applicants. ……………..

Clause 36. Setting aside appointments. – (1) The Trustees may set aside the appointment as an almsperson of any almsperson who in their opinion – (a) persistently or without reasonable excuse either disregards the regulations for the almspeople or disturbs the quiet occupation of the almshouses or otherwise behaves vexatiously or offensively; or (b) no longer has the required qualifications; or (c) has been appointed without having the required qualifications; or ……………………


The existing trusts will take effect with the following sub clause inserted immediately after clause 27: “(1) The trustees may, in exceptional circumstances, appoint a resident who lives outside the area of benefit but is otherwise qualified. The trustees must record in the record of their meetings the nature of the exceptional circumstances justifying the appointment. ……………….” – Charity Commission, 11th December 2012

to be continued ………………

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