Whetstones Almshouses are one of two sets to be found in Ilton, quite rare for such a small village. These almshouses were built in 1636 and given to the village by a man called John Whetstone. It is reported that Johns mother was an Ilton lady who abandoned him shortly after his birth, the villagers that found him took him in and cared for him during his childhood – the almshouses were a token of his appreciation for those early years.
John Whetstone died a wealthy man in Dorchester, where he also commissioned another set of almshouses. The contents of his will were vague and obscure, so much so that it took legal arguments and orders through the Chancery Court to finalise the outcome. The result of this was that John died in 1614 and it took until 1634 for the almshouses to begin to be built, finally being finished in 1636.
Unlike the Wadhams almshouses there seems to be more documentation on the Whetstones but it also seems to have been poorly run throughout it’s chequered history – in 1803 it had become necessary to start a book called the ‘New Ledger of Whetstone Almshouse’ and was introduced with the following heading;
“To prevent, in some measure, the obscurity which increases by the lapse of time, and to remedy in some degree the mischief which has grown out of irregular proceedings for many years, I am induced to give the following summary of the charity known by the name of Whetstones Almshouses, within the parish of Ilton, in the county of Somerset….” It then goes on to set the rules out by which the “inmates” (as the residents were known back then) were governed.
Then, in the 1900’s we find that there were no recorded minutes between 1964 and 1990. Something must have provoked villagers into action in 1990 as they start up again with the following; “an inspection was carried out at the almshouse. Illegal structural work seems to have been carried out, particularly in rooms 2, 3, 9 and 10. Electric wiring and metering has been altered. The passageway between rooms 1 and 2 is being used for storing groceries. There is no access to No 1. Resident, Mr Ford appears to be running a food supply business from the premises and is using another room for storage. Mrs Gerard is paying for No 7 but found to be using No 8 as well” so it seems that all trustee control had disappeared during those 30 years!! However, a group of trustees was formed but sadly some 10 years later, due to the high maintenance and repair costs now found to be necessary the trustees handed over a 100 year lease to the Knightstone Housing Association and it remains in their hands today.
Lots more interesting articles on these houses to follow over the coming months.