The Charles Sheils Charity is easily the largest “almshouse” charity in Ireland, and one of the largest in the U.K.
It is entirely self governing under the special legislation which set it up in the nineteenth century.
We are responsible for honouring and maintaining the legacy of the founder, Charles Sheils, a merchant from County Down who wished to use his fortune to help many of the impoverished of Ireland by building charitable housing, leaving a legacy to that effect in his will.
It was a remarkable project for its time particularly because Sheils stipulated that housing was to be provided irrespective of religious and cultural background. The first buildings were completed in Killough, County Down, Charles’ home village, followed by Stillorgan Dublin, then Carrickfergus, Dungannon and Armagh. Today there are 126 houses.
The Will proved too complicated...
so that the executors obtained an Act of the UK Parliament in 1864 to create a new constitution which, with three later Acts, still govern the Charity. It is a corporate body with its legal domicile in Dublin. The Charity is run by 3 ex-officio Governors and 12 elected ones.
The ex-officios are the Primate of the Church of Ireland, the Primate of the Roman Catholic Church and the Moderator of the Presbyterian General Assembly whilst they are in office. The elected Governors are the successors of the original Executors and Trustees of the Will.
There are 4 each of the 3 denominations, and vacancies are filled by the co-religionists of the vacancy nominating someone.
The Acts allow a Secretary, who is part-time, on a modest salary, who lives in Dublin and is based in the office at the Stillorgan houses, in County Dublin.
How things work locally.
Each set of houses is administered by a Local Board, where it is the policy to have a local cleric of each denomination plus three of each of his co-religionists, making twelve in all and each Governor is ex-officio a member of every Local Board.
Until 2004 the charity provided a free house, but inflation together with the necessity to modernise the houses to accepable modern standards meant that the charity would inevitably have run out of money unless change came.
The charity obtained the power to charge and this has enabled it to refurbish our houses in Armagh, Killough and Carrickfergus.
All our northern houses are Listed, so expensive to renovate, and presently no grants are available either from the Heritage Service or N.I. Housing Executive. Our charges are below those elsewhere in the social housing sector and most of our Northern Irish residents receive full or partial Housing Benefit.
The Central Board Governors are:
Secretary: Denis O’Donovan
Tel: 00353 12070737
Address: 24 Sheils Houses, Brewery Road, Stillorgan, Dublin, A94 VD87
Charity Registration Number: CHY 887
CRA Reference Number: 20001421