HUNTINGDON’S historic early-Victorian almshouses look set for a £500,000 re-vamp that will make them fit for modern living.

HUNTINGDON’S historic early-Victorian almshouses look set for a £500,000 re-vamp that will make them fit for modern living.

Although designed in Tudor style with octagonal castellated turrets, they were actually built in two parts in 1846 and 1851 for the hospital of St John, according to the architect, Graham Campbell, from Godmanchester.

The plans, which are being finalised before submission to Huntingdonshire District Council, will propose demolishing single-storey extensions built in the 1950s and replacing them with much larger two-storey additions at the rear of each of the eight homes.

Trustee Mike Baker, a retired Hinchingbrooke schoolteacher and a member of Huntingdonshire District Council, said the plans had been generously backed by Huntingdon Freemen’s Charity, which had promised to pay for most of the cost of the original project.

But the estimates of total costs rose significantly when changes were introduced to proposals for the Grade II-listed structure in George Street to satisfy conservation officials at Pathfinder House.

If the plans get the green light, the trustees will have to make temporary arrangements for the two existing tenants before letting the other one-bedroom homes to “poor widows”.

“As trustees, we shall have to find a suitable definition of a poor widow,” Mr Baker told The Hunts Post. “That will meaning defining not just ‘poor’, but also ‘widow’ in these equal times.”

The 1950s extensions, aimed at getting round the drawbacks of outside lavatories, “include the tiniest kitchen and the tiniest bathroom you have ever seen,” he said.

The two-storey extensions will provide a kitchen and toilet downstairs, with a decent-sized bedroom and bathroom on the first floor.

The Almshouses are on the edge of the soon-to-be-completely redeveloped ‘Huntingdon West’ area of the town centre, and will back onto a proposed new Sainsbury’s superstore.

“They are very attractive, but sub-standard, and we want to extend in the same vernacular style,” Mr Campbell said. “It will be an important façade for the new Sainsbury’s.”