An Almshouse is an unfurnished dwelling usually designed with the needs of older people in mind. The aim is to provide convenient and comfortable accommodation in a setting which allows residents to come and go as they please.
The road between Thornton village and St Mary’s Church had at sometime in the past been diverted and the Almshouses were built on part of the old road and the wasteland which adjoined it. The Lord of the Manor granted a small piece of land from his enclosure for the enlargement of the grass plot in front of the Almshouses.
In 1819 an Act of Parliament was passed specially for the ancient parish of Thornton-in-Craven; its title being ‘An Act for inclosing and exonerating from tithes, lands in the Manor and Parish of Thornton in Craven in the County of York. The Act required that part of the old road and wasteland on which the houses had been built should be allotted for the use of the Almshouses.
In 1826 a report in the charities of the parish describes the Smith’s Almshouses as hospital premises consisting of five small tenements in a row, each containing two apartments with a common kitchen and a room for the trustees to meet in are occupied by five poor single women who are selected by the trustees from poor women of the parish of Thornton in conformity with the direction of the founder.
In 1894 the report described the Almshouses as consisting of a continuous row of one storied cottages, each with a living room, cupboard and a bedroom, scullery, and a coal hole at the back. Each cottage has a back door, giving access to a grass yard containing one convenience. The occupant of the centre house also has use of the room for the trustees meetings. Each has a well-kept flower garden in the front.
In 1954 the Almshouses at Thornton were included in the List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historical Interest under the Town and County Planning Act of 1947 and are listed as Grade II.
The Smith and Crowther Almshouses were completely modernised in 1970 which included the installation of bathrooms.