History is a not an exact business, a perceived view can prevail for long enough and then a newly discovered fact may render all that went before as pure fiction. One such instance in the local area is the building which used to be the Aberford Almshouses, lately an office for a vehicle monitoring service. Anyone familiar with the area will have seen the building and might have marvelled at its Neo-Gothic splendour.
The building is a much loved local landmark and it might be assumed was a favourite of the Gascognes’ themselves, certainly the two sisters having commissioned it must have been pleased with it, but it seems the same cannot be said of Isabella’s son Colonel Frederick Richard (Dick) Trench-Gascoigne of Lotherton Hall. Documents recently gifted to the Lotherton Estate from a descendent of Cynthia Gascoigne (Dick’s daughter), paint a rather different view, here is a verbatim account from documents transcribed in 1931 of Dick’s memories of his early life, for the benefit of his grandson Douglas (killed in WW2, 1944).
“Now a word about the Aberford Almshouses, which the Misses Gascoigne built in 1844 [sic] to the memory of their father who had died in 18 [sic: read 1843], and to their two brothers, Tom and Dick, who were both in the Blues, but pre-deceased their father; their mother had died long ago in 18 [sic: read 1819]“
“I need not describe this preposterous building as you must know all about it. When I succeeded my aunt [sic: read Elizabeth], the almshouses became impossible to keep going as per the original scheme, which was too expensive; however with the leave, and by the advice of the Charity Commissioners we made out a new system with new rules. Today all goes well at Aberford Almshouses. The architect was one Fowler Jones of York; I believe the whole building with its lodge cost £40,000; a sum which I can well understand, when in later years I had building relations with Mr Jones. He wanted to charge £2,000 for a necessary addition to our Garforth Colliery School in 1892-3. Mr Routledge,[sic: read Estate Manager] and I arranged with a good builder to comply with the School Authorities’ demands, for £650.’“
Therefore we can see that despite the charm of the building in the landscape today, there was once considerable anguish about the extravagance of the Neo-Gothic building and the architect Fowler Jones was not held in high regard by Colonel ‘Dick’. [Photo: View from Almshouses Tower]
The Following paragraph was not part of the Original Article
The Almhouses comprised eight two storey accommodation units, a chapel at the southern end, a canteen at the northern end, and in its centre at the entrance is a very tight spiral staircase up to the clock in the tower, and from there are excellent views over the countryside. The whole thing is constructed of magnesium limestone under steep roofs of Westmoreland slate. The construction to the design by George Fowler Jones was completed in 1844, and it was built in commemoration by the sisters, Isabella and Elizabeth Oliver-Gascoigne’s, of their father and two brothers Thomas and Richard who died in short order between 1842 and 1843.