In 2015 we celebrated 555 years since the birth of our first benefactor, John Greenway, in 1460. Festivities included a service in St Peter's Church, garden parties and open days. More about our history can be found on the "Our History" page and below is a copy of the introductory talk given at the church service. Photographs of the service can be found on our gallery page.
We were delighted and honoured to be joined at St Peter's Church by Mr David Fursdon Esq, Her Majesty's Lord-Lieutenant of Devon and His Worship the Mayor of Tiverton, Councillor Dennis Knowles and the Lady Mayoress.
We will keep this page updated as we go through the year. In the meantime, you may be interested to read an extract of the talk given at the church.
First and foremost, today is a celebration of the longevity of Tiverton Almshouse Trust - and more specifically it is a recognition that our first benefactor, John Greenway, was born 555 years ago in 1460.
It can be difficult to grasp just how long ago this was. Some interesting facts may help. When John Greenway built the almshouses in Gold Street, Henry VIII was on the throne and just married to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. Drake had yet to voyage around the world and Shakespeare was in the next generation, not yet born. Guy Fawkes, the great Plague and the great Fire of London were some way in the future. Tiverton's population was estimated at around 2000 inhabitants.
In May 1910, the Charity Commissioners carried out an inquiry in the parish of Tiverton. John Greenway's charity appears to be the oldest recorded, pre-dating Peter Blundell who was nine years old when John Greenway died. Other benefactors listed in the Commissioner's inquiry and who are part of Tiverton Almshouse Trust today are: John Waldron, George Slee (both have tombs here in St Peter's) and Walter Tyrrell - to name but a few.
John Greenway started life as a weaver bringing wool from Ireland to Tiverton (possibly Minehead and then on packhorse across Exmoor). He processed it into woollen cloth called kersey and then exported it to Portugal and Spain from Topsham, Barnstaple and Dartmouth (interestingly this would have been at the same time that Christopher Columbus was first crossing the Atlantic to America - I wonder if our benefactor knew). Greenway was admitted to the Draper's Company in London in 1497 which was not only a testament to his trading ability but also to his ambition: he was one of the first traders outside London to be called to Livery.
Following his death in 1529, Greenway's property was assessed at £150 making him the richest man in Tiverton at the time. His extensive property portfolio (which included a farm in South Devon) together with endowments from our other benefactors provide the foundation upon which we still operate half a millennium later.
Today we have over eighty almshouses on two main sites in Tiverton, one at John Greenway Close, Gold Street and the other at Greenway Gardens, King Street as well as Slees, Angel Hill. We are primarily regulated by the Charity Commission and, to a lessor extent, the Homes & Communities Agency. Our first objective is to provide housing. You will find our offices in Bampton Street in the beautiful historic brick-pillared Market House (another one of our treasures) and it is there that our staff are based. We also have eleven voluntary Directors (they used to be called Trustees).
As John Greenway did, we also look to the future and some of you may already know that we are involved in promoting an extra-care facility using a property that we own on Old Road, Tiverton. We are very well-aware that there is an acute shortage of suitable housing for older people needing care and, together with the Abbeyfield Society, we very much hope we can make a positive contribution to help ease this ever-increasing demand.
Today is not only to celebrate the Trust's long life and a birthday but also to increase the awareness of our work so that all Tivertonians and those close to them know that we are here. If we can help you, or someone you know, please get in touch with us. We have put our details next to your Order of Service and look forward to hearing from you.