There are around 2500 groups of almshouses in Great Britain, most of which were founded centuries ago. Some of them can trace their origins to the early Middle Ages when religious institutions were among the first to offer shelter to needy elderly people. Many others were initiated by individuals who left money for the erection of sometimes splendid buildings. Often picturesque, they can be found in towns. villages and remote country areas. Almshouses come in a variety of architectural styles and often have interesting features, including coats of arms, inscriptions, dedications, statues, clock-towers and sundials. Many have chapels and gardens.