Henry VIII had in 1521 set himself as the defender of the Catholic Church and began a persecution against the protestant reformers. In February 1523 he visited Nottingham privately on (it is said) an affair of gallantry. In the accounts of the town is a note for £143.13s.4d which was borrowed from the corporation signed on 14th February with the king’s hand.
A year later in 1524 a Mr. Thomas Willoughby, one of the towns alderman, instructed through his will that his body be buried in St Mary’s church, by the “Ladies’ chappel”.
He then went on to give more specific instructions.
- That every priest at his burial be given 6d. and every estranger being there 4d.
- The 13 torches bearers attending the burial to be paid 2d. each.
- 10 shillings be given to the high alter for any tithes and oblations forgotten.
- £28 be held so that a priest could sing for his soul for six years and that the
same priest also be given £4.13s.4d every year.
In the will Thomas Willoughby also left instructions that ‘a close in Fisher-gate and two gardens in Moltoll-gate be disposed of in such a manner that the profit be used to maintain a ‘bedehouse’ in Malin -hill and any surplus coming from that be bestowed as fuel for the bedsfold’.
He also willed that once his executors had died the churchwarden’s of St Mary’s ‘be the masters of the said close and gardens for ever’. He left instructions that the churchwarden’s should be paid 6d. each out of the profits of the rents of the close for ever. It was the job of the senior warden to receive the rents and keep the accounts for the Thomas Willoughby Almshouses.
In 1780, a lease granted by the churchwardens tells that ‘the almshouse is in very ruinous condition and nearly falling down, it cannot be inhabited with safety, it is not capable of being repaired, there was no fund for rebuilding it, and the benefits of the charity were likely to cease’.
A John Morris had agreed to surrender a lease which he had on the garden belonging to the almshouse, granted in 1769 for 21 years, and to pay the churchwarden £150, being more than the property was worth, in order that the money might be applied in the erection of 12 new almshouses on another part of the charity’s estate.
There were 12 dwellings in the almshouse – each of one room.
The ongoing repairs were paid by the churchwarden’s out of rents of other property belonging to the charity. These included the Half Moon public house for which they received a rent of £36 a year. There were a couple of other properties next door to the pub that each brought in yearly rent of £2.10s. Eventually these properties were demolished and rebuilt so as to be uniform with the pub and connected to it. In 1827 the leases for these properties were valued at £70.8s per annum. Other properties around Willoughby row brought in ‘fair rents’.
Each Whit Sunday the charity gave each tenant of the almshouse wood or coal.
In 1827 the whole income of the Thomas Willoughby charity was £124.10s.per annum. The total of the entire charities belonging to the poor of St Mary’s at that time was £320.7s.10d.