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September 2020 Advertiser Article

Aberford Almshouses 1850’s :: Photo by the architect George Fowler Jones

An article in the Leeds Intelligencer, dated May 10th 1845, titled: “The Gascoigne Alms-Houses at Aberford” set out information about the newly completed almshouses under the superintendence the architect Mr Jones. It goes on to say how the building erected at the expense of the Misses Gascoigne, daughters of the late Richard Oliver Gascoigne, Esq., of Parlington, were built of the beautiful stone known by the name of York Minster Stone. It continued… “They are to accommodate but 16 persons – aged widows and widowers of the township of Aberford – and the whole cost, we understand, will not be far short of £14,000.” Then it lauds the style… “a building of very chaste, neat, and interesting appearance. The style of architecture is of a mixed character, being Gothic and Oriental combined in such proportions as to produce a most pleasing edifice, which consists of a central tower and two wings, with a small chapel at one end and a dining room at the other.”

However the architect Mr Jones, who you will be familiar with from earlier articles, as George Fowler-Jones, was less than impressed on reading the article, and took it upon himself to write to the editor of the Intelligencer… “Having seen a paragraph in your paper last Saturday, relating to the Gascoigne Almshouses, at Aberford, I beg to correct some of the statements made therein. The houses are only to accommodate eight old people (four of either sex) and a matron. With regard to the style, your informant is mistaken; the architecture being exclusively English – the style chosen, that prevailing in the early part of the sixteenth century, and, if anything, partaking of the Monastic. The principal part of the work was executed in Huddlestone stone, from the well known quarries of that name, on part of the same estates.” George, clearly irritated, then comments… “Without detracting in the least from the well known munificence of the founders” [protecting his potential future client prospects], “the whole cost of the building, including the fixtures, is considerably under the amount stated.”

Funny thing but more than fifty years later, Isabella’s son Richard Trench-Gascoigne at Lotherton reflected upon the price given by Jones for additions to the Gascoigne sponsored school in Garforth as being exorbitant at £2,000 and therefore not taken up, whereas he had them done for £650. But he believed the almshouses were even more so, describing them as preposterous and having cost £40,000!

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