Londina Illustrata. Graphic and Historical Memorials of Monasteries, Churches, Chapels, Schools, Charitable Foundations, Palaces, Halls, Courts, Processions, Places of Early Amusement, and Modern Present Theatres, in the Cities and Suburbs of London and Westminster, Volume 2Wilkinson, Robert
Meggs' Almshouses, Whitechapel Road.
The Almshouses built and endowed by William Meggs, Esq. in the year , are situated in the on the south side. The building is on a moderate, or rather contracted scale, and exhibits but external entrances, and but story in height; containing windows to each floor in front; over the uppermost of which, in the centre, are placed the Founder's arms, carved in stone, agreeably to the tenor of his will. To each of these Houses is attached a small garden; but since their erection the buildings altogether have been repaired, improved, and further endowed by Benjamin Goodwin, Esq. formerly of Saint Edmond Bury, and many years an inhabitant of this parish, anno ; from which improved state our view is correctly drawn.
Although Mr. Meggs caused these Houses to be built in , it does not appear he had entirely made up his mind as to the intended extent of endowment until years afterwards; and even then, as himself states, he had altered his intention as to the power of placing poor people in them.
By his will, which is dated A.D. , he bequeaths to be laid out in the purchase of land for their maintenance. The inmates are to receive per week, and a sack of coals each at Christmas: the residue of the rents is directed to be laid out in repairs. into these Houses are described in his will, "decayed inhabitants of this Upper Hamlet of Whitechapel; and my mind and will is, that none but single persons shall inhabit or dwell in any of the said Houses, nor any more than person in each room, nor any under the age of years at the least, nor any person that shall not frequent the church to hear divine service at the usual times of assembling, according to the laudable custom of the Church of England, nor any persons that are vagrants, beggars, or such as receive pensions of the parish; but only such decayed householders as are fit to partake of such a charitable gift."
The choice of persons, for the years after his decease, rests with his executors (the Rector and Churchwardens recommending): after this period it is to rest with the Rector and Vestrymen of the Upper Hamlet of Whitechapel; yet "none is to be admitted without the approbation and consent of the Rector."
Thinking that the above bequeathed would be insufficient for the support of these Houses, in a codicil he orders to be added to the and to be laid out in the purchase of land. He increases the allowance from to and sixpence, and directs a greater quantity of coals to be given. And his regard for the poor people is thus farther expressed: "This being done, if there shall be an overplus of rent, the said to be for the repair of the said Almshouses, when need shall be, or the further and better relief of any of the said poor people, that should lie sick and weak at any time: my hope is, that my executor will have a great care in performing my mind and will herein for the relief and comfort of these poor people; for it is my mind and will they should be well provided for; and, although I did never affect vain glory, yet I think it not amiss, soon after my decease, that my executor should cause a stone to be set up under my arms, where there is a place left for it to be engraven and cut, declaring whose gift it is, and what maintenance is left."
In a sheet written with his own hand, and added as a codicil to his will, dated , he says, "I have altered my mind as to that point (i. e. the power of placing poor people into the Almshouses), and do hereby declare my mind, that my nephew, William Goulston, whom I have made my executor, with advice of counsel, shall have full power to purchase land for the said sum of and to order and appoint all things touching the same, the placing and appointing what poor shall come in upon the
|death of any of the said poor people; of whose Christian care in this charitable work I doubt not in the least, as he will answer to God the contrary of not performing my mind and meaning herein."|
This nephew William Goulston (or William, as he is afterwards called) seems to have little regarded this solemn injunction of his uncle, and to have ill performed his trust. For the execution of the will and codicils was resisted by the Goulstons, and the business thrown into Chancery. The Lord Keeper decreed that the will and codicil be performed by the defendants Goulstons, and land be purchased. He also decreed that the Rector and Churchwardens should have the nomination of the poor people, and the defendant Goulston and his heirs, the approval.
From some cause, not now to be ascertained, this decree was never carried fully into effect. No land was ever purchased, and the only remains of at present is South Sea Annuities, payable at the Accomptant General's office.
Such a sum as this was, being altogether unequal to the maintenance and repair of the Houses, they of course soon became a heap of ruins. But in the year , Benjamin Goodwin rebuilt them, and bestowed per cent. reduced, for their better support; and per cent. reduced, the interest to be laid out in coals.
The parish from its funds have lately added per annum, and other benefactions have been bestowed;[*] so that the inmates are now made comfortable, and the Houses are kept in good repair by the Churchwardens for the time being.
In the chancel of the parish church of St. Mary, Whitechapel, are the following monuments:
" To the memory of Judith Meggs, widow, the beloved wife of William Meggs, of this parish, Esq. &c. , aged . And the said William her husband, .
"William Meggs, Esq. and James Meggs, D.D. their sons, caused this monument to be erected.
"William Meggs, Esq. , who was a most worthy member of this parish, and the principal benefactor towards the re-edifying of this house of God. His loving nephew, Sir William Goulston, Knt in much gratitude erected this monument."
[*] £ s. d. "1798. Daniel Peacock, for the poor Women in Meggs' Almshouses, 5 per cent. Navy . . . . . 100 0 0 "1813. Mrs. Anne Rutter gave to the 12 widows, residing in Meggs' Almshouses, per annum . . . 3 0 0 "1818. Luke Flood, Esq. (late Treasurer), the interest to be divided annually among the 12 widows at the Almshouses, New South Sea Stock . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 400 0 0 From the Table of Benefactors in Whitechapel Church.
Title page of Vol. 2 reads: Theatrum illustrata. Graphic and historic memorials of ancient playhouses, modern theatres and other places of public amusement in the cities and suburbs of London & Westminster with scenic and incidental illustrations from the time of Shakspear to the present period.