Widows' Houses

The present building replaces an earlier pair of cottages built in 1825. The village school stood mid-way between the site of the cottages and the churchyard, and so, in the estate correspondence, the cottages were referred to as the 'cottages by the school'.
They were started in late May 1825 and were near finished, except laying two floors,  in late July.
 In 1841 the building was called Church House. One half was occupied by Elizabeth Mortimer, aged 72; and the other half by James Ling, carpenter, aged 45; his wife Mary Ann, aged 40; and their son William aged 10 years. James Ling died aged 99 years and 11 months in January 1888, and his wife Mary Ann died in 1879.
When the 1881 Census was taken he was 93 and described himself as 'formerly a carpenter 76 years', which possibly means he was at Culford from the age of 17 in 1805. His obituary gives an interesting summary of his life as estate carpenter in succession to James Ilsley. 'James Ling was a native of East Suffolk, and was supposed to have been born on the 8th January, 1788.
The greater portion of his long life was spent, however, in the parish of Culford, where he followed the occupation of a carpenter at a time when this extensive estate belonged to the noble family or Cornwallis, and where his wife for many years filled the responsible position of school mistress, and was highly estimated by the ladies of the Cornwallis family.
He served the late Rev. E. R. Benyon for many years in the capacity of estate carpenter. During the long period in which he held this responsible and arduous position, he necessarily took a very active part in the restoration of no less than five churches on the estate, and the building of a sixth, with about as many schools.
He had enjoyed for many years previous to Mr. Benyon's death a weekly gratuity, which Mr. Berens on entering the Culford estate, with commendable generosity continued to the death of Mr. Ling'. (14) The present building was originally called 'Widows' Houses' and is dated 1856. There are many similarities in the architectural detail of the church, these almshouses and the lodgegate.
The Habershon brothers, who were the architects employed by Rev. E. R. Benyon to redesign Culford church in 1855-7, were almost certainly responsible for this building, and probably also for the lodge gate.

The first census taken after their construction was in 1861. At that time the northernmost of the four 'houses' was occupied by Sarah Fetch, widow, aged 74 and her grandson George aged 10 years; the next by Maria Jolly, widow, aged 54; the next by Matilda Rickwood, widow, aged 68; and the southernmost by Eliza Fetch, widow, a stay and dressmaker, aged 47, and her daughter Harriet aged 19.