I took a Kingston walking tour the other day which included Cleave’s Almshouse as one of our stops. I’ve been passing by this row of houses since we moved to Kingston and never realized the importance of this building until I took the tour. It’s one of the reasons why I joined the free walking tour, to know the story behind the numerous beautiful and dated buildings around the area.
Luckily, the walking tour coincided with the Heritage Open Days of Kingston which provides free access to significant buildings that are not normally open to the public or usually charge an entry fee. After the walking tour, I went inside Cleave’s Almshouse where I was immediately assisted by a very friendly gentleman who explained what the place is all about in detail.
Cleave’s Almshouse is one of the many almshouses dotted around the country. Almshouses are charitable housing provided to elderly people who can no longer work to earn enough to pay rent. They are often very dated buildings which makes almshouses significant in the community not only because of its charitable nature but also because it makes a contribution to the national heritage of the country by maintaining ancient buildings.
Almshouses are normally in the center of town, close to the local community and accessible to shops and amenities. The first recorded almshouse dates back to the 10th century founded by King Althestan in York and to this date, there are about 2,600 almshouses around the country still operating.
Inside Cleave’s Almshouse, there’s a beautiful garden in the middle of the rows of houses. It was very well-kept and maintained, to be very honest – I wasn’t expecting such beautiful landscape inside. People living in Cleave’s almshouse pay their own utility bills (water, electricity etc.) and a small amount of fee for maintenance.
There is no waiting list in Cleave’s Almshouse as they do not operate on a first-come, first-serve basis. They do however, screen the applicants and base their decision on whoever needs it the most. To qualify, one must be of retirement age, of limited financial means and must be able to live on his/her own.
It was a great opportunity for me to see Cleave’s Almshouse to know what this building is all about and not just pass by it without really paying attention to it. After taking the tour, I realized how strong the community spirit is in Kingston. It made me happier that we moved here.