Behind The Blue Doors Of Brixton's Georgian Almshouse

Last Updated 02 April 2024

Behind The Blue Doors Of Brixton's Georgian Almshouse

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A man in a room, its walls covered in art
Guy Hunting, 78, a published author, and previously a footman at Buckingham Palace, scours local charity shops for artworks to add to his enormous collection. "People aren’t here by choice...some are here for unfortunate 'force majeure'...but some are great fun."

"I've often wondered what lay behind the blue front doors of this distinctive Georgian building on Brixton's busy Acre Lane, and which are always firmly shut," says Jim Grover.

Fortunately for Grover, he's a celebrated documentary photographer — and so began his latest project, which delves into the past and present of Trinity Homes Almshouse, and the stories that lay behind its blue doors.

A Georgian Almshouse
The almshouse was established in 1824 'for pious aged women'.

Behind the Blue Doors — which appears as a free exhibition at Lambeth Archives from 19 April-1 June 2024 — is a story in three parts. The first is about the extremely religious Thomas Bailey, the successful china and glass merchant, who set up the almshouse (then Trinity Asylum) in 1824 'for pious aged women'.

A second strand explores the lives of the women who first lived here, including Margaret Wright, an inmate (as they were called then) from 1883 to 1914, who had to stick fast to the original 30 rules, and received a monthly sack of coal, plus £10 each year — equivalent to around £1,400 in today's money.

A rolled up parchment
Margaret Wright's 1879 'Memorial'. A successful applicant would have their documentation bundled together as their 'Memorial' and held by the trustees. Margaret Wright’s comprises 25 letters and documents.
A marble wall tablet
Wall tablet, Trinity Homes.

Finally, Grover has photographed and spoken to the almshouse's 17 current tenants (there is also a warden and a cat), including Wallee McDonnell, a 72-year-old who facilitates peace education workshops in London prisons; Guy Hunting, a former Buckingham Palace footman who now scours local charity shops for artworks to add to his walls; and Peter Avery, a former senior art lecturer, who has converted his bedroom into a studio and is currently designing a stage set for a south London theatre.

A yellow chair sculpture
Traces of former artist residents can be found in the communal gardens.
A small statue tangled in garden plants
The almshouse is full of stories to tell, and Grover has uncovered many of them.

The exhibition features over 50 photographs, as well as documents, prints and portraits from the 19th century that shed light on the almshouse's first 100 years.

Says Grover: "It's been a wonderful voyage of discovery for me, full of extraordinary revelations that span 200 years. I am so pleased to be able to throw open the doors and share the remarkable and inspiring stories that lie behind them."

A woman sat on a bed
Christine Holding, became a resident in 2004; her mother was previously a resident for over 20 years. Christine retired in 2020, at the age of 72, having previously spent 20 years as a dinner lady and housekeeper in a local school. Now 76, she has signed up to be a volunteer for The Patients' Association in her local GP surgery..."I've worked all my life...42 years...I've got to be doing something...I love meeting people."
A older man in his apartment
In 1996 Peter Avery became the first male resident of Trinity Homes. A former senior lecturer at Central School of Art and Design, Peter, now 84, continues to be a very active artist and is currently designing a stage set for a south London theatre. "I don't have a's my studio instead...I have a fold-up bed which I wheel out each night."

Behind the Blue Doors, Lambeth Archives, 16 Brixton Hill, 19 April-1 June 2024, free

All images © Jim Grover