In 1400 the Guild of Our Lady of Pity was established in Saffron Walden by Charter from Henry VI following a bequest of £40 from John and Eleanor Butler.
One purpose of the Guild was to provide Almshouses for “13 poor men such as be lame, crooked, blind and bedridden and most at need”. Many local benefactors gave gifts of land and money. The infamous 16th-century Mazer Bowl, once drunk from and referred to by Samuel Pepys in his famous diary, was such a gift. Sold in 1929 to raise money for urgent roof repairs it is now in a private collection but a replica is on display in Saffron Walden Museum. By Act of Edward VI the Almshouse lands and estate were devolved to the King but he agreed to return them to the town in his name, and so they have continued. In the 19th century the Trust greatly benefitted from the Quaker Gibson family, and other units have been added since.
Saffron Walden Almshouses is a member of the Almshouse Association which was formed in 1946 to support the work of the nation’s Almshouses.