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The parish of St. Martin in the Fields decided to provide Almshouses for elderly people who had fallen on hard times in 1597. Originally eligibility for residence was confined to poor elderly spinsters, widows or divorced women of good character. These women had to be resident within the City of Westminster but inadequately housed, or homeless. They also had to be sufficiently poor such that their housing needs could not be met at prices within their means, or at all, elsewhere in the local market.

At first, housing for the Almspeople was rented; but in 1603 there were sufficient funds raised by public subscription to start building a number of Almshouses on the south side of what is now Cockspur Street, close to the south-west corner of modern Trafalgar Square. A large gift of money in 1612 allowed further Almshouses to be built alongside.

By 1684 the Almshouses were all in disrepair, and the parish decided to rebuild on a new site and henceforward only provide accommodation for elderly women. King Charles II made a gift of land in Hog Lane (now the Charing Cross Road) where St. Martin’s School of Art now stands. The entire cost of building eighteen new cottages and two large houses was paid from money given, for that purpose, by a local resident and official of the royal household, Sir Charles Cotterell. He also provided endowments to maintain the Almshouse charity for the future. These Almshouses were ready for occupation in 1686.

The Hog Lane houses became dilapidated in their turn by 1818 and the opportunity was then taken to construct new Almshouses on land recently purchased in Bayham Street, Camden Town. This provided St. Martin’s with a new burial ground, the cost of the new accommodation being met by the sale of the Charing Cross Road buildings. The Bayham Street property became known as St. Martin’s Homes and housed the Charity’s Beneficiaries until the move in December 1980 to the present building at 75 St. John’s Wood Terrace.

In 1886 an agreement was sealed which caused St. Martin in the Fields Almshouse Charity to become administered, through its Trustees, under a scheme approved by the Charity Commissioners. The current version of this agreement was sealed on 3rd October 1974. It was then that the charity was given its present title of The St. Martin in the Fields Almshouse Charity.

The scheme was varied in 2006 to extend the catchment area to include the whole of the City of Westminster and to allow men and couples to apply for residency under certain circumstances.

Since 2000, the Trustees have allocated substantial funds towards systematically refurbishing the accommodation provided for Beneficiaries and, to date, sixteen one bedroom flats have been created and three studio flats remain.