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Sir John Port II (who founded Repton School) of Etwall Hall, died suddenly in 1557. In his will he provided for the erection of 'an Almshouse, which God willing shall be builded in or near to the Church-yard at Etwall' and which would afford free lodgings for 'six of the poorest of Etwall parish' who were additionally to receive 'weekly and for ever twenty pence a piece'. This building survived for over a hundred years.
In 1681 the building was replaced by one that could accommodate twelve men. This date is carved in the ornamental stonework above a central archway in the courtyard, together with the coats of arms of the Gerrard, Stanhope and Hastings families, whose sixteenth-century male representatives married the Port daughters. A memorial to John Jackson, almshouse warden in 1681, can be seen in the south-east corner of the chancel floor of the village church.
The Almshouses are perhaps the most outstanding feature of the village. Up until the 1960s, Almsmen and women wore special hats or bonnets and a dark blue cloak with a silver clasp. They were always buried in their cloaks. In 1986 the interior of the Almshouses was fully modernised to provide eight two-storey units and two flats, leaving the seventeenth century external appearance unchanged.
In the 1980s a local Restoration Committee raised enough money to have the eighteenth century wrought iron gates, made by Robert Bakewell of Derby, that used to be at the entrance to Etwall Hall, restored and erected in their present location at the entrance to the Almshouses.
The Almshouses are situated at the rear of the churchyard of the Church of St Helen.