Isleworth_parish.gifThe roots of Isleworth & Hounslow Charity are 350 years old and started life within the Ancient Parish of Isleworth as the Isleworth Parochial Charities. The Isleworth Parochial Charities was responsible for various endowments of land or real estate and monetary bequeathments by wealthy Benefactors. It was common practice for such charities to be governed by the Parish Vicar, Parish Officers, Church Wardens and Overseers of the Poor.  These Officers were connected to all Saints Church, Isleworth. It is thought that the land endowed, together with donations from wealthy philanthropists connected to the Church became part of small individual Charities within the Parish, which later became amalgamated. Some of the land was developed as almshouses for the poor and the monetary donations received, invested with the profits dispersed to those in relief of poverty to purchase fuel.


The history of almshouses goes back to medieval times when religious orders cared for the poor. They were originally called hospitals or bede houses, in the sense of hospitality and shelter.  The oldest almshouse foundation still in existence is thought to be the Hospital of St Oswald in Worcester founded circa 990.  It is believed that the then Bishop of Worcester (St Oswald) created this sanctuary where the brothers could ‘minister to the sick, bury the dead, relieve the poor and give shelter to travellers who arrived after the city gates had closed at night’.

By the middle of 1500s, there were about 800 medieval hospitals around the country but the dissolution of the monasteries meant that many were either sold off to landowners or left to ruin.  It was during the late sixteenth century that the medieval craft guilds founded many hospitals to provide care for the ‘elderly decayed’ members in their declining years.  Today, links with the City Livery Companies remain strong, with many still retaining their own almshouses. Famous amongst these was the Mercer, Richard (Dick) Whittington.

Benefactors included Kings and Queens, Archbishops and clergy, the aristocracy, merchants and liverymen. It is believed many benefactors were driven by conscience and the needs of their fellow men, and perhaps a less charitable explanation was the possibility of securing their own salvation!

Relief of poverty

Donations have always been received from Benefactors intending to make a difference to the poorest in the community. Records refer to such Benefactors of monetary gifts over the years and would have been administered by the Official Custodians later known as The Official trustees of Charitable Funds of that charity. Within the Ancient Parish of Isleworth there were many Benefactors, which some formed as Charities. Records show that some form of amalgamation of these entities surfaced in the 1890’s. The amalgamations relate to those registered with the Charity Commission. The most recent Benefactor was John Fielder Haden, from Isleworth. In 1925 he left in his will a sum of money for the poor in relief of sickness. This became the John Fielder Haden (Isleworth) Relief in Sickness Charity.

The various charities, which were amalgamated, are closely related in relieving poverty, helping those in need of shelter and those in need or sickness. The Benefactors who endowed land or real estate for the poor caused the creation of almshouses for those in need. In the early years, the Benefactors who endowed a monetary gift, intended that fuel be purchased for the poor. Over time this form of income progressed to supporting almspersons with an income and a pension for almspersons who qualified, together with giving monetary relief to the poor (non almspersons), within the Ancient Parish of Isleworth. 
Some endowed land was leased and a proportion of the income was given to the relief of poverty.

In the 18th century there were three main charities within the Parish. The Charities comprised of a mixture of almshouses, land, stocks messuges and rents of which a proportion of the income continued to be given for the relief of poverty within the Parish.

The three Charities were Isleworth Almshouse Charity, regulated by a Scheme with the Charity Commission in 1898, Sermon's Almshouses endowed in 1843 and regulated by a Scheme in 1910 and The Isleworth Charities regulated by a Scheme in 1896.  In 1939 the 3 Charities were amalgamated to form Isleworth United Charities. This was from a Scheme with the Charity Commission sealed on 23rd June 1939. Isleworth United Charites came under the management and administration of a selection of local people known as trustees. The scheme retained the ancient position of Vicar of the Parish of Isleworth by way of appointment as Ex-officio Trustee.

Isleworth United Charities

Isleworth United Charities incorporated:

  • Farnell’s Almshouses founded by John Farnell by deed of gift dated 3rd December 1859, including the gift of William Thomas Farnell founded by deed dated 12th September 1865 and the gift of Frances Susan Seager founded by will dated 25th June 1884. Regulated by a Scheme dated 2nd November 1961.
  • The Charity of Samuel Rayment for Almshouses. Comprised in a Scheme dated 8th November 1935.
  • The Charity of Alice Sophia Heldman for distressed ladies. Founded by will dated 17th February 1939.
  • The Fuel Allotment Charity. The assets of the Fuel Allotment Charity comprise an area of land beside Hounslow Heath, where the residents of the Ancient Parish of Isleworth would go to dig peat for fuel. The Fuel Allotment Charity was comprised in an enclosure award made on 15th June 1818. This area of land besides Hounslow Heath is now leased by Isleworth & Hounslow Charity Ltd to Priory London Ltd.
  • The John Fielder Haden (Isleworth) Relief in Sickness Charity. Founded by will dated 23rd September 1925.
  • 1 – 6 Sermon’s Almshouses built and endowed in 1843 by Mrs Sarah Sermon. Re-modelled 2017
  • Ingram’s Almshouses built and endowed in 1664 by Sir Thomas Ingram.
  • Tolson Almshouses founded in 1756 as the gift of Mrs Ann Tolson. Current Tolson House built 2012.
  • Butler’s Almshouses built and endowed in 1885 by Elizabeth Butler.


Fuel Allotment

The Fuel Allotment, more recently the former garden centre beside Hounslow Heath, was created by an Act of Parliament for Enclosing Lands in the Parish of Isleworth. Hounslow Heath originally consisted of approximately 4,293 acres. Historical records refer to Roman Camps on the heath. Over time various armies have used the heath, due to its proximity to London. Armies using the heath included those of Oliver Cromwell and Richard II.

In 1813, an Act of Parliament awarded the freehold of 10 acres of Hounslow Heath to the Vicar, churchwardens and overseers of the poor of the said Ancient Parish of Isleworth and their successors. Known as an Enclosure Award, part of the wording is below:

"And we have allotted and do hereby award unto the vicar, churchwardens and overseers of the poor of the said parish of Isleworth, and their successors for the time being for ever upon trust, all that piece or parcel of freehold land containing 10 acres, situate on Hounslow Heath, bounded on the north by the Great Weston Road on the east and south by review ground, and on the west by land belonging to the poor of the said parish. The said allotments to be fenced, which said allotment is awarded for ever for the benefit of the poor of the said parish in lieu of and in full satisfaction for the right of such poor of cutting furze and heath on the waste lands and grounds for fuel."

The Enclosure Award is dated 22nd June 1813. Records mention the administration of the award continued to be managed by the Vicar of the Parish of Isleworth in 1859. It is thought that Isleworth Charities may have taken over the governance and administration of The Fuel Allotment Charity around this time.

It was made clear in the original governing document that the Fuel Allotment forever be for the benefit of the poor. This was by way of dedicating the land for collection of Furze or Heath for fuel and ‘renting’ part of or all the land to generate income to spend on purchasing fuel and giving to the poor of the parish.  As time went on the fuel benefits to the poor changed to bread, bedding, boots, tools, food and other articles in kind together with assistance in money, by way of loan or otherwise, in case of sickness, special distress or unexpected loss.

As a point of interest, this is thought to be the first signs of the Social Security system within the UK. Fuel Allotments were awarded, at or around the time, throughout the UK.
Since the Enclosure Award to date, the Fuel Allotment (Heath Nurseries), has always given to the poor from proceeds or income generated therefore fulfilling its obligation from the governing document.

Records show that in the 1900s the plot became Heath Nurseries. In the 1980’s it was a garden centre, rented by Town and Country PLC and in the 1990’s it was leased by Priory Investments who sublet to a car boot sale company. All these leases paid rent. The income enabled the Charity at the time and to present date to continue giving relief to the poor.

Over time, changes have been made to the Charity and various schemes were amended by the Charity Commission. Due to boundary changes resulting in the creation of the London Borough of Hounslow, a scheme was amended to allow ‘one time only’ grants to be awarded by the Charity to those in need of relief of poverty within the Borough, formerly the Ancient Parish of Isleworth.

As a result of the changes, the Charity, on application, awards grants to individuals and organisations within the Borough.  These are generated from the income received from the Fuel Allotment (Heath Nurseries).

Isleworth & Hounslow Charity

In 1994 IAHC was formed by a scheme which merged The Fuel Allotment Charity, Isleworth United Charities and others. In 2008, Isleworth & Hounslow Charity Ltd became the Corporate Trustee for the Parthenia Hayburn Trust. The Parthenia Hayburn Trust comprised a single property in Chiswick which was bequeathed by the late Parthenia Hayburn in 1971. It was sold to help finance the building of the current Tolson House, which was opened in 2012. New almshouses, adjacent to the original Sermon's Almshouses, 7 – 9 Sermon’s Almshouses, were built in 2009.

The governance of IAHC, now known as Articles of Association, is administered by 14 Trustees. There are also 2 full time staff. Two of the Trustees are Vicars within the parish of Isleworth and are Ex-officio Trustees, retaining the ancient format of having a parish vicar and links with the church. The Governance, although modernised in recent times, retains the same principles from centuries ago.

IAHC primary objectives are to provide housing to almspersons, and to provide monetary grants to those in relief of poverty within the Borough of Hounslow., this includes organisations whose objectives are to assist those in need.
Ingram’s Almshouses
The Charity owns eight sites within the Borough, this includes the former garden centre beside Hounslow Heath. The other seven are almshouses, totaling 92 units and providing housing to 101 residents. All the sites were as a result of endowments donated with freehold by Benefactors from the 16th to 18th centuries. One of the sites endowed by the Farnell family in 1865 is leased to Notting Hill Genesis. They are 12 listed units, which are rented to single persons with mental health issues. The oldest almhouses owned by IAHC is Ingram's Almshouses in Mill Platt which were built and endowed in 1642.

Some of the sites are the beautiful ancient buildings we recognize as almshouses. However, there are many modern blocks of flats or houses which are also almshouses. These have been built by the Charity on endowed or purchased land.

Residents of the Charity are appointed to become Beneficiaries through an interview process. The Charity’s criteria are, in general, to be over 55 and able to live independently. Successful applicants become Beneficiaries on licence, by appointment and, providing they do not breach any rules or regulations laid out by the Governing documents within the Charity Commission Scheme, they can remain in their almshouse for the duration of their life.

In 2006 Isleworth and Hounslow Charity became incorporated. The name is the same but includes the word Limited. Although both names are the same Charity, the Charity Commission has them registered as ‘Linked’.

The staff ensure the Charity operates within the governance as set by the Trustees. The Charity does not operate a warden style business but contact the residents in person or by phone once a week to check on their wellbeing, whilst not interfering with their independence. It is the duty of all staff and Trustees to support the Beneficiaries when necessary. This is in line with the ancient theme of our founders and in line with our articles of association and the Charity’s strategic plan.

Further reading