Deposited on permanent loan December 1979. Further deposit March 1980.
Annual reports added every year
Administrative / biographical background:
The Friendly Female Society (renamed The Friendly Almshouses in 1939) was founded in January 1802 'for the relief of poor infirm aged widows and single women of good character who have seen better days.' The rules at first limited recipients of assistance to those living within five miles of St Paul's Cathedral, but this was extended to seven miles in 1891 and later still to ten. Subscribers Scould recommend 'objects', as the 1814 rule book calls them, in proportion to the amount of their subscriptions. Members of the Society were nominated as Visitors to report on the circumstances of those so recommended, and relief was given for three, six or nine months. At the General Meeting of 25 January 1804, however, it was decided to give in addition annuities of five guineas (subsequently increased to six) to twenty recipients of temporary relief. The numbers of those 'annuitants' was increased to fifty by 1806, and in 1814 a second class, receiving only four guineas, was created. A third class for women between sixty-five and seventy was set up in 1908.
In June 1819 the Society decided to erect almshouses and by 1823 there was an 'asylum' at Albany Road, Camberwell for twenty old ladies, who also received eight guineas per annum. The asylum was later enlarged and in 1862 William Dent of Streatham presented the Society with a freehold at Stockwell Park Road on which another almshouse accommodating twenty-eight pensioners was built. This is still standing, but the Camberwell almshouse was so badly bombed during the war that the Society relinquished the lease. The Brixton houses were also damaged, and were requisitioned in 1941, but they were rebuilt in 1948. There has been a steady programme of improvement and enlargement ever since.
The Society is notable for the fact that even from its beginnings it has been run by an exclusively female commiteee (although the trustees appointed for its property in 1812 had to be men) and for the amount of royal patronage it has enjoyed. The Duchess of York, the Princess of Wales, Queen Adelaide, Queen Victoria and Queen Alexandra were all patrons and Her Majesty The Queen Mother became patron in 1938.
The minute books have lasted well. Although after the first committee minute book there is a gap of thirty-eight years, there is then an unbroken run to 1976. The minutes of the general meetings, at which annuitants and pensioners were elected have been deposited to 1968. With the cash books they provide a very good picture of the work of the Society. The Rules and lists of subscribers, produced somewhat irregularly but usualaly at least every two years until 1898, when they were produced annually, occasionally contained in addition reports of the Society's work. From 1892 these became a regular feature. Hilda Martindale's booklet (IV/105/4/5) provides a short account of the Society to 1939.