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Wilmington Parochial Charity

The following is based on ‘The History of The Wilmington Parochial Charities’ written by Stan Stringer and who, before his death, gave permission for extracts to be published on the Parish Council website

The origin of the Charity goes back as far as the reign of Henry VIII when in 1535 each Parish was made responsible for the care of the ‘impotent poor’ being ‘those, who because of illness or disability, were incapable of working for a living’. However private alms were forbidden with the penalty of a fine of ten times the amount given but the priest and churchwardens were able to procure charitable donations on a Sunday to distribute to the poor.

In 1563, during the reign of Elizabeth I a ‘Poor Law’ was passed which stated that ‘two able persons or more shall be appointed gatherers and collectors of the charitable alms of all the residue of people living in the Parish’. Quite often the collectors would be the churchwardens and the Act gave them limited powers to compel generosity as well as encouraging it!! In 1572 powers were given to Magistrates to deal with those who refused to give alms.

The office of ‘Overseer of the Poor’ was created whose role was to supervise endowments and other charitable funds, collect any funds allotted to the relief of the poor and later to assess inhabitants for a ‘poor rate’. The Overseer was appointed at a Church Vestry Meeting and the appointment approved by a Justice of the Peace. This position of Overseer continued in Wilmington until 1894 when the Local Government Act was passed which also removed churchwardens as trustees of the charities by virtue of their office with their role ceded to representatives of the newly created Parish Council. In Wilmington’s case one of the churchwardens, Mr C J Morgan, was elected onto the Parish Council so continued as a trustee, a position he held until 1921.

On the west wall of the nave in St Michael & All Angels Church are two boards painted in 1742, one on either side of the entrance, which give details of the six Charities in existence at that date.

On 17th May 1935 eight of the Charities that then existed in Wilmington were included by the Charity Commission in a scheme sealed on that date entitled The Wilmington Parochial Charities.

In 1985 Parliament passed a new Charities Act which enabled the alteration of the objectives of local charities and for the amalgamation of small charities. The trustees of the existing Wilmington Parochial Charities decided to ask the Charities Commission to amalgamate the eleven individual Charities as well as seeking to change the objectives of one of them, the Bathurst Charity, back to its original form. The new scheme was sealed by the Charity Commission on the 11th October 1990 to combine the eleven Wilmington Charities under the title of the Wilmington Parochial Charity in which form it continues to exist.

The Charity is administered by a Board of Trustees composed of –

  • One ex-officio Trustee, being the serving Vicar of St Michael & All Angels Church
  • Two nominated Trustees to be elected by Wilmington Parish Council to serve for a period of four years (the current such Trustees being Councillor Mrs Ann Allen and Mrs Jennifer Rickwood) and
  • Four co-opted Trustees to serve for a period of five years

The Trustees meet twice a year to consider any additions to those residents of Wilmington receiving benefits and to determine in what amount with distributions made at Easter and Christmas; other payments are made as required under the specific terms of a component Charity.

The eleven Charities now incorporated into The Wilmington Parochial Charity are –

  • The Charity known as The Rectory Payment
  • Charity of John lake
  • Charity of Sir Thomas Smithe
  • Charity of Thomas Round
  • Charity of Anthony Poulter
  • The Bathurst Charity
  • The Bathurst Charity as an Educational Charity
  • The Charity of George Langworth
  • Charity of Ann Allen
  • The Allen Rowlatt Memorial Fund and
  • Charity of James Andrew Piesse

Stan Stringer’s booklet contains some fascinating facts about the Charities under the umbrella of The Wilmington Parochial Charity, such as –

  • Under the Rectory Payment ‘peas and wheat’ continued to be distributed until 1941 when these were difficult to obtain. Flour was substituted and each beneficiary under the Charity continued to receive 3lb pf flour until 1977 when a grocery voucher was given
  • The Estate of Thomas Round consisted of ‘dwelling houses and lands in Wilmington’ and he directed that ‘one dozen and one half of bread’ shall be given to ‘nyne of the poorest people of Wilmington every yeare’ – the interesting point being that the ‘lands’ consisted mainly of Cherry Orchards which were prevalent at the time of Round’s death in 1631
  • The poor of the Parish of Wilmington lost out under the Will of Anthony Poulter who died in 1635 as, although he intended them to receive ‘the like some of Twenty Shillings every yeare …. issuings out of my lands and Tenements in Wilmington aforesaid’ the Will failed to specify the house or piece of land and, as a result, the bequest could not be fulfilled
  • There were many twists and turns in the Bathurst Charity with the records of St Michael & All Angels Church between 1767 to 1799 clearly showing the complexities that had to be unravelled regarding the income derived from land in the area of Broad Lane and Turnagain Lane. It was not settled until a scheme was set up by the Court of Chancery in the mid-19th Century. The complexities of the matter are demonstrated by the fact that the legal fees were £270.19s.6p – a not inconsiderable sum in 1856!
  • Under the Will of George Langworth who died in 1714 the poor of Wilmington had to wait to benefit from the sum of twenty shillings per annum until ‘after the decease of the said Katherine my wife’

The final sentence of ‘The History of The Wilmington Parochial Charity’ reads – ‘The Parish of Wilmington should be indebted to those who over the past four hundred years have enabled those in need to have a better quality of life’……….words with which everyone will agree.

Victorian Family Victorian Family