Almshouse complex of 1885 by James Fowler.
Reason for Listing
The Orme Almshouses of 1885, Eastgate, Louth are listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons
* Architectural Interest: the almshouses are carefully composed with meticulous detailing, executed with dexterous handing of materials, and compare favourably with other listed examples of this date and type;
* Interior: the plan-form of 1885 remains legible and some internal fixtures and fittings remain;
* Intactness; there have been some additions and alterations to the rear elevation, but the quality of the design and construction of the facades outweighs the loss of historic fabric;
* Historic interest: the local and national significance of the architect, James Fowler, adds to the special interest of the building;
* Group Value: the almshouses have group value with other nearby listed structures, including the war memorial (Grade II) and the Priory (Grade II).
The town of Louth in Lincolnshire, often referred to as the ‘Capital of the Wolds’ has Saxon origins, and at the time of the Domesday survey was one of Lincolnshire’s 7 market towns, with a population of 600. Its medieval core is still discernable in the town’s street pattern, and was bounded by the River Lud, the streets of Gospelgate and Kidgate to the south and Church Street to the east. Street names including the suffix ‘gate’ abound in the medieval core, which is signed from a great distance in every direction by the spire of the St James Church, completed in 1505, the tallest such spire of any parish church in England. Louth’s medieval prosperity was derived from exporting wool and grain, and its magnificent parish church is testimony to the wealth generated by agriculture in the region, and by Louth’s relative proximity to the east coast.The town’s population was reduced by three-quarters by outbreaks of plague in the 1630s, and by the early C18 economic prosperity had understandably waned considerably. However, the opening of the Louth-Tetney canal in 1770 heralded a new era of prosperity, and the growth of industries related not only to the region’s agriculture such as malting and grain processing, but also activities such as tanning, boatbuilding and warehousing. Much of this development took place around the canal terminus at Riverhead, and the growth of the town eastwards, along Eastgate James Street and Walkergate.
In 1848, the East Lincolnshire Railway came to Louth, extending trade and communication links beyond those of the canal, and further enhancing the town’s economic strength. An expanding population stimulated the development of terraced housing and villas, churches, chapels, schools and a range of public buildings all graphically captured in the remarkable ‘Louth Panorama’ a two section painting by a local man, William Brown. The Panorama presents a view of the town from high in the spire of St James Church. It portrays Louth at the height of its development and prosperity, shortly after the arrival of the railway, set in its surrounding rural landscape, with the east coast seascape in the background. The structure of the town has changed remarkably little since the Panorama was created, and Louth has mercifully escaped the large-scale post-war redevelopment experienced by many communities in England. Louth remains a thriving historic market town with a high proportion of well-preserved C19 buildings.
The Orme Almshouses and gardens were constructed on part of the site formerly occupied by the House of Correction, built in 1620, extended in 1826 and enclosed by a 23ft high wall. Under the 1865 Prison Act, prisoner facilities were provided elsewhere in Lincolnshire, and in 1872 the site and buildings were sold to John Walmsley, a bone crusher and manure merchant of Queen Street. He demolished the buildings, re-sited the former prison clock on the front of his warehouse and sold off parcels of land. The northern part of the site was developed for housing and a strip on the south side was sold to Louth Corporation to straighten Eastgate. The remaining land was sold to the Revd. Frederick Orme who, being 'desirous of erecting Almshouses for aged pensioners and a Lodge-House', established an Almshouse Trust in January 1885. The seven Trustees were to be members of the Church of England and resident in Louth. Each pensioner had to be either a bachelor or a widower, be over 55 years old and a lay member of the Church of England. Candidates could not have an income above £13 per annum, had to be resident in Louth for five years and preferably former scholars of the King Edward VI Grammar School. The 10 almshouses and warden's lodge were designed by the Louth architect James Fowler (1828 -1892) whose drawings for the scheme survive. Each almshouse had a covered porch, living room, bedroom, kitchen and (originally) an outside toilet and coalhouse. A detached warden's lodge was constructed and the site enclosed by metal railings on a short wall. Fowler was born in Lichfield but moved to Louth at the age of twenty to work for the County Justices on Louth Prison (known as the House of Correction). He established an architectural practice in the town and became known as Fowler of Louth, but he also took in work in London and other counties. A prolific architect, Fowler designed or restored over two hundred buildings during his 38 years in practice, including 24 new churches, 40 vicarages or rectories, 13 schools, 4 almshouses, and over a hundred churches that he restored or rebuilt. He was also mayor of the town five times, was a provincial architect of considerable achievement. He is associated with 67 buildings on the statutory List, many of which are historic churches, but also domestic and public buildings such as the headmaster's house at De Aston School in Market Rasen, and the Allenby Almshouses at Fotherby, both in Lincolnshire and listed at Grade II. Fowler was a leading freemason, elected as Grand Master or the Lindsey Lodge in 1875 and went on to become the Deputy Grand Master of Lincolnshire.
The Revd. Orme endowed £7,200, the interest of which was to be used for maintenance and insurance. Each pensioner was given 5s a week and provided with a distinctive uniform comprising a long coat with buttons embellished with the image of a dolphin for weekday use and an additional coat and beaver hat for Sundays. The almshouses were opened in the presence of the Trustees by the Revd. W. Hancock on 24th August 1885, but the buildings were not complete until 1888. Frederick's brother, Major Charles Orme, planned the planting of the trees and shrubs in the grounds, retaining the ancient pear tree (cut down in 2010) believed to have been on the site since the House of Correction stood there. Gardens to the rear of the almshouses grew produce for equal distribution amongst the pensioners and the warden; the latter's responsibilities included visiting each pensioner daily and maintaining the grounds and gardens. Financial difficulties beset the Trust in the late C19 and first half of the C20. In 1949 the pensions were discontinued. In 1961, the Trustees joined the National Association of Almshouses and began an improvement scheme, installing indoor toliets and bathrooms in new flat-roofed extensions to the rear, replacing the old outside facilities. The work was completed in 1966 at a cost of £6,405. The Trust Deed was revised in 1968, which created a repair fund in addition to other changes, but the principles of Orme's endowment remain.
With the exception of the replacement rear extensions, the buildings are little altered externally. Internally, central heating and hot water systems have been installed and the warden's lodge was refurbished in 1981 removing most interior features. No original fireplaces are thought to remain in the almshouses, but the plan-form, joinery and some original features survive.
Ten almshouses arranged in two terraces of 4 and 6 dwellings, and a warden's lodge, enclosed by a wall and railings. Built for the Trustees of the Orme Almshouses, endowed by the Revd. Frederick Orme. between 1885-1888 and designed by James Fowler.
MATERIALS: red brick with stone dressings and slate coverings to the roofs.
PLAN: the terraces are arranged to the north and east of a central garden with the warden's lodge adjacent to the easternmost terrace near to the entrance from Eastgate. Although built as terraces, the dwellings are designed in pairs.
EXTERIOR: the almshouses are single storey. The gable roofs sweep low over the principal elevations, providing shelter to the open porch of each dwelling. Tile cresting embellishes the roof, accentuated by slender moulded brick ridge chimneys with stone dressings, one chimney per pair of dwellings; the return elevations have stone copings. The cast-iron rainwater goods remain.
The principal elevations of both terraces face the garden. Above the chamfered plinth, each pair of dwellings has a projecting, double pedimented gable with stone quoins and a pair of 12-light, mullion and transom casement windows with stone surrounds. Between the pediments is a cast-iron drainpipe with a square hopper topped by a carved stone gargoyle. Above is a slender stone band and in the apex of each pediment is a stone niche with classical motif carving to the surrounds. Within each niche is another carving, particular to each dwelling including a scorpion, sun, initials of the Revd. Orme and different coats of arms. Above the carved surrounds are sea shells. Flanking the gables, each almshouse has a sheltered porch, approached by a step, with a timber balustrade and quarry tile paving. Another step leads to the four-centred arch door opening and timber-batten entrance door.
The west elevation of the north terrace and south elevation of the east terrace have the same treatment comprising two, single six-light transom casements with stone surrounds. Above in the gable apex are three, shallow stone niches with carved surrounds, the centre of which has a carved coat of arms; above is a sea shell. The east and north elevations of the terraces are plainer, with stone cross banding and timber loft access doors. The rear elevations of each terrace comprise a projecting gable to each dwelling with enlarged openings, flanked by 1960s flat-roofed extensions with rear doors leading to paths running to the rear of both terraces.
INTERIOR: in each almshouse, the main entrance leads into the living room with a kitchen and bedroom to the rear. Access to the bathroom is from the kitchen. Joinery and some doors remain; in eight of the dwellings there are timber settles beneath the garden-facing windows. Some have tiled fire surrounds of the 1930s. The shared roof structure comprises principal and common coupled rafters and a ridge piece.
SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: near to the Eastgate entrance is the detached, two-storey warden's lodge arranged in a 'T' plan, of plainer treatment to the almshouses. Each gable has stone quoins and herring-bone brick in the apex. The slated roof has a broad, four-flue moulded brick ridge stack. To the rear is a single storey wing, altered in the C20. The interior has been refurbished and has very few contemporary fixtures and fittings.
The site is enclosed by a low brick wall with stone coping topped by the original iron railings, some with finials, and occasional brick piers; at the corner with Alexandra Road, the pier is topped by a stone vase. At the Eastgate entrance there are iron gates to the vehicular egress and an ornate iron gas-light stand on a dwarf brick wall next to the pedestrian entrance.
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.