Watlington Charities

A Charity Commission of 1614 found that before that time various Lands, known as the Church Estate, had been Settled in Trust for the repair of Watlington Church and the relief of the Poor of the Parish.  Not all the sources of these Benefactions could then or can now be traced.  The Gift, however, in the 13th century of a ½-acre in Watlington by Agnes daughter of Richard the Clerk of Watlington, for the upkeep of the Fabric and the Ornamentation of the Church may have formed one element.  The Benefaction of Richard Hutchins or Buckland, Blacksmith, was certainly another. Buckland (Will proved 1578) devised his Freehold Dwelling-house in Watlington, possibly in Shirburn Street, subject to his wife’s life interest, for the Benefit of the Poor.
Watlington 17, High Street (The George c.1820 later The Old Greyhound c.1843)
Town house. Late 15thC, with 16th/17thC Wing.  Rectangular Timber-framing with Arch braces, jettied over rendered Ground-floor; Gabled old tile Roof; brick Ridge Stack. L-plan with rear Right Wing.  2-Storeys; 3-window Range. Plank door to left passage: central late 19thC 4-panelled (2 glazed) door adjoins 20thC window.  Late 19thC 3-pane horned Sash to Right and 20thC 1st-floor Casements.  16th/17thC Rear Wing of 1-Storey and Attic, one-Bay Range with rear Gable wall of rectangular Timber- framing.
Interior: chamfered ogee-stopped Beam and chamfered Firebeam to left; central stud partition, with cavetto-moulded 4-centred Doorway; chamfered Beam to Right. 3-Bay Queen-post Roof with clasped Purlins & curved windbraces.


A House in High Street called Watts (but later called The George Public House in 1820 and The Greyhound Public House from 1843), a Cottage, and 12 acres had been given by a William Dancaster and had been Administered for 50 years or more by the Churchwardens as Successors to an extinct Body of Feoffees.  The Donor was probably the ‘William Dancaster’ who held a Tenement in the Town, late Watts’s, in 1492, but had been succeeded in it by another Tenant by 1509.  The rest of the Property, which consisted of a Cottage, an Orchard, 2 former Barns, a ½-acre in Watlington, and 1 acre in Britwell, was of unknown origin. The Commissioners decreed that a Quarter of the proceeds of all this Property should be devoted to Church Repairs and the Residue to the Poor.  The Estate became known as the Church Estate.  In the later 17th century the profits from it were called the ‘House and Use Money‘.

It seems probable that in the 18th century some additions were made to the Property.  In particular, 5 or 6 ‘Huts‘ in Church Street, which within Rawlinson’s recollection had been perverted to wrong uses, were rebuilt as 2 Cottages between 1711 and 1757.  In 1820 the Estate consisted of 4 Cottages, a Garden, and an Orchard in Hog Lane (later Chapel Street), 3 Cottages in Shirburn Street, and 2 in Church Lane, the ‘George‘, a Meadow ‘adjoining the Fleet‘ and a Field adjoining the Meadow, and 2 acres in Britwell. The Shirburn Street houses were only restored to the Estate in 1816, having for some time previously been confounded with the Parish Property.  By 1883 some further additions seem to have been made, for there were then 8 Cottages in Chapel Street instead of 4, and there were also 2 Gardens not included in the list of 1820.

The Parish Accounts show that between 1660 and 1672 Rents from the Property and Interest on Loans from Accumulated Capital varied from £3 to £6 a year.  This Income was not always spent in full, for balances were sometimes allowed to accumulate. Expenditure took the form of money doles to varying numbers of Poor—64 in 1666, 73 in 1672—and payments to the sick, for nursing, and for boarding out orphans.  Between 1714 and 1828 the Rent Income gradually rose from £11 10s in 1714 to £51 12s. in 1811–12.  During this period the whole income was spent on Church purposes, for there was then no Church Rate.  But for these purposes the Charity Moneys were inadequate and it is therefore not surprising that the Trustees should have ignored the other objects of the Charity.  Only in 1732–5 is there a hint of a distribution to the Poor.

In 1821 the Vestry had resolved to adhere to the provisions of the 1614 Decree, but in 1844 rescinded the Resolution and decided to apply the whole Income to the repair of the Church.  The Income amounted to £70 in 1850 and £100 in 1882.  The Charity Commissioners, after an Inquiry, ruled in 1883 that the application of the Income, as settled in 1844, was illegal.  The inquiry led in 1884 to the formulation of a Scheme whereby a quarter of the Income was to be applied to maintaining the Church Fabric. Of the Residue, a part was to go to maintaining a prospective Recreation Ground and thereafter to the benefit of children living in the Parish who were attending or had attended an Elementary School.  These Benefits were to take the form either:
(i) of Prizes, of Bonuses to encourage the children to continue their Primary Education, and of Exhibitions to further their post-primary Education.
(ii) to provide them with Lectures or Evening Classes.
By a Scheme of 1897 the 1st Quarter was constituted as the ‘Church Repair Charity‘. Of the Residue, to be called the ‘Recreation Ground and Educational Charity‘, one half was to go to the Recreation Ground and the other to the Governors of Watlington School to be applied as directed in the 1884 Scheme.

In 1896 a Cottage in Shirburn Street was added to the Estate by purchase and in 1957 another (or the same) Cottage in that street sold.  Between 1948 and 1957, by 6 separate orders, most if not all of the Chapel Street Property was sold and the proceeds invested in stock.  In 1952–3 the income from Rents and Interest totalled £166 and £160 respectively and sums of £95 and £93 were carried to the Church repairs account.

Chibnals’s Charity
Joan Chibnal
, by Will dated 1646, directed that 8 gowns and 8 ells of linen should be given yearly to 8 Widows or ‘ancient maids‘ of Watlington.  The cost was to be charged upon her Estate in Princes Risborough (Bucks) and in 1823 was still being paid regularly by the Owner of the Property.  By 1883 the Estate had devolved upon Sir Nathaniel Mayer de Rothschild, Bt. (created Lord Rothschild, 1885), who was then making the distribution.  The records show that the distribution was made regularly in 1757–8 and from 1774 to 1883.  In 1865 the gowns were reduced to 7 and limited to Widows, and the surplus cloth used for petticoats.  By a Scheme of 1884 the Trustees were directed to apply the Charity to the Poor of Watlington, preferably to Widows or ‘ancient maids‘ by providing clothes, linen, or bedding or supporting a local Clothing Club.  In 1934 the Trustees seem to have begun distributing blankets instead of clothing and this was the form that the Charity took in 1953.  In 1952–3 the Charity was receiving a regular yearly income of £8 which suggests that the obligation of 1646 had been by that time redeemed.
Hart’s Charity
John Hart, of Cottisford, by Will dated 1664, left a yearly rent of £9 charged on the Manor of Easington for Apprenticing 2 ‘honest godly Poor‘ Boys to ‘good Trades‘.  It was the custom to allow the money to accumulate until there was enough to bind out one boy, although in 1738 the Trustees were suspected of using it, in part at least, to ease the Rates.  Premiums varied from £7 4s in 1769 to £20 in 18191835, and 1882.  In the last year the owner of Easington Manor was still paying the Rent less the Land Tax.  Between 1846 and 1881 18 boys were Apprenticed.  By a Scheme of 1884 the Charity was to be applied to Apprenticing a boy to an Occupation, Trade, or Service, or, in default, in the payment of Exhibitions to enable boys educated at an Elementary School in the Parish to undergo Technical, Professional, or Industrial Instruction or towards the cost of outfit.  The Rent was still paid in 1953 and in 1952 a Grant of £10 was made.
Parslowe’s Charity
Robert Parslowe, by Will dated 1683, left £200 to be laid out in the Purchase of Land, the Rent from which was to be used to distribute yearly on the Anniversary of the Testator’s Funeral 10s to the Preacher of a Sermon and 10s for Tolling the Church Bell.  The Residue was to be used to purchase yearly 10 suits, gowns, or coats, marked with ‘R‘ & ‘P‘ on the breast, for 10 Poor persons of Watlington.  At 1st, the Charity was secured on land bought at Aston Clinton (Bucks) and Weston Turville, and produced a Rent of £8 7s.  In 1716 this land was exchanged for 9 acres in Watlington, reduced on Inclosure in 1810 to 6 acres Quit of Common Rights and Tithe.  From the early 18th century the Trustees accumulated a Surplus and its existence seems to have encouraged them to spend their funds on Charitable objects outside the Terms of the Trust—Bread (1718), food and drink (1727), Apprenticing both boys & girls (1727, 1730, and later years), or a Dole (1742). From 1735 Surpluses tended to be applied towards increasing the number of coats. In 1760, less appropriately, they were applied in aid of the Poor Rate. By the early 19th century the funds were once again being spent exclusively on Clothing. The number of Beneficiaries, which had stood at the conventional 10 in 1765, rose to 24 in 1810 and 47 in 1813.  For some years before 1813 the recipients were all men, but thereafter women shared.  The Rent from the Charity lands amounted to £39 in 1810, and £28 in 1823, i.e. after Inclosure, and £26 in 1882.  Between 1813 and 1883, coats and gowns were distributed in roughly equal numbers, 22 of each being given in 1882.  By a Scheme of 1884, the Charity was so varied as to provide for the distribution of clothing to such of the unrelieved Poor as the Trustees might choose.  By a Scheme of 1897, the Provision for the Vicar out of this Charity was joined with Provision for him made under the Hester, Greendown, & Burt Charities to form the ‘Charity for the Vicar‘. By the same Scheme the Provision for Bell-ringing was likewise separated as the ‘Charity for the Parish Clerk‘.  In 1952 the Income from Rent was £15 and in 1953 £22, and in the latter year £27 was spent on blankets.


Greendown’s Burt’s & Hester’s Charities
John Greendown
, Surgeon, by Will dated 1700, left £100 for the Purchase of Land, the Rent from which was to provide 10s for an annual Sermon on St John Baptist’s Day and the remainder spent on Bread for the Poor of Watlington.  Land (c.4a) was bought in Fleet Meadow, Watlington, and was let at £6 16s in 1766 and £5 in 1779.  In 1823, i.e. after Inclosure, it yielded £14 3s 4d but only £8 15s in 1881.  In 1824–36 an average of 230 benefited from the Midsummer’s Bread, as it was then called.  In 1881, after the needs of the Sermon Charity had been met, the Income was distributed to Widows in Bread.  In 1883 the distribution was said to be conducted in a ‘somewhat wholesale manner‘.  From the time of Inclosure the Charity was Administered with Burt’s (see below).

Anne Burt, Widow, by Will dated 1730, left 1 acre in Watlington for the Benefit of 10 Poor Widows of the Parish.  In 1738 small Doles were being so paid.  At the time of Inclosure the remaining portion of Fleet Meadow was allotted in exchange.  In 1823 the Rent amounted to £1 4s. 2d. and was distributed, as directed, in Doles.  In 1881 this and Greendown’s Charity were being Administered together.

Richard Hester, by Will proved 1737, gave £200 for the Purchase of Land, the Rent of which was to be distributed to the unrelieved Poor on St Thomas’s Day.  The money was spent in buying land at Rotherfield Greys, the Rent of which was £10 in 1737–9, £12 in 1786, and £28 in 1811.  For some time before 1823 the Income was being distributed to the Poor indiscriminately, and the Brougham Commissioners recommended that thenceforward the Trustees should comply with the Founder’s requirements.  In 1841–3 a part or the whole of the Income was spent on the National School.  In 1881 the Charity land was sold and the proceeds Invested in Stock yielding £64.  In 1882 the money was spent in Doles to the Poor varying from 1s 6d for one person to 7s 6d for a family.
By a Scheme of 1884 these 3 Charities were placed under Joint Administration. The 1st charge upon the Funds was to be the Sermon Charity, and the Residue was to be applied in one of the following ways: for the Benefit of Poor needy persons (with a preference in the case of Burt’s for Widows) living in Watlington, subscriptions to Hospitals, contributions towards providing Nurses and purchasing Annuities, subscribing to Coal or Clothing clubs and Friendly Societies, Contributions to the outfit of Minors entering a Trade or Occupation, supplying clothes, bedding, fuel, tools, medicines, or food up to £25 yearly, or supplying loans or gifts in cash to meet unexpected emergencies.  In 1918 the Trustees were empowered to form a Sinking Fund.  In 1953 the Income from the 3 Charities in the form of interest (all arising from Hester’s Charity) amounted to £53 and in the form of Rent (all arising from Greendown’s & Burt’s Charities) to £5, and about £15 was distributed as a Coal & Clothing Bonus.
Ryder’s Charity
William Ryder, by Will proved 1839, left £40, the interest upon which after Investment was to be distributed to the aged Poor in Bread. The Capital was paid over to the Vicar and Churchwardens in the year of Probate and in 1842 and 1844 4 years’ interest arising from it was added to the Revenue from the Poor’s Allotment and so distributed. No further interest was paid and though efforts were made to recover the Charity Moneys in 1856–7 they were not effectually pursued.
Hayward’s Charity
Elizabeth Jemima Hayward, by Will proved 1841, left £100 Stock, the interest on which was to be divided among such of the Aged, Infirm, Necessitous, and deserving Poor as the incumbent should choose.  In 1882 £1 of the interest was given to the local Clothing Club and £2 to the Coal Club. In 1926–32 about £2 10s a year was being distributed mainly through what were called ‘Mothers’ Meetings disbursements’.  There was no evidence of distribution in 1954–6.
Cook’s & Welton’s Charities
Maria Cook, of Brighton, Widow, by Will proved 1858, left, at the request and in memory of her son the Rev J C Cook and subject to 2 life interests, £1,000, the income on which was to be applied to the repair and improvement of the Church and Churchyard; any surplus was to be distributed annually to the Poor in Doles of not more than £1 a head.  The Charity became payable in 1862 on the death of Mrs Welton (see below) and was applied between 1862 and 1868 to the extension of the Churchyard.  In 1882 the income amounted to £32.  Since 1878 it had been applied to discharge the Debt upon the Church Estate incurred in 1873 (see above).  By a Scheme of 1884, the service of this Debt was formally made a 1st Charge upon the Income.  In 1954–6 the income amounted to £21 and was used for Church repairs.
Mrs Caroline Welton, Mrs Cook’s Sister, by Will proved 1862, gave £200 the interest on which was to be applied in the same way as the Cook Charity.  In 1882 the income was £6,  and in 1954–6 £5 was still being so applied.
William Wheeler, of Cadwell Farm, Brightwell Baldwin, by Will proved 1915, left £100, the income of which was to be applied to the repair of the Wesleyan Chapel [i.e. in Shirburn Street]. The money was invested in the purchase of a Cottage beside the Chapel, which was let to Tenants. In 1931 £4 3s was being spent on repairs to the Chapel.
Poor’s Allotment
In 1786 Woodland of the annual value of £40 was held in Trust for the purpose of furnishing the Poor of the Parish with Fuel and other necessaries.  In addition, the Poor had the right to cut dwarf Wood growing upon the Waste.  At the Inclosure of 1810 an Allotment of 41 acres out of the Commons and Wastes, at Minigrove, was set aside so that the Rent on it might be applied to buying Fuel for distribution among ‘the Poor’, i.e. those occupying lands below the net yearly value of £10. Any un-Leased part of the Allotment was to be appropriated to sowing Furze to cut for Fuel.  In c.1823 the land was let for £18 and the Rent distributed in Coals every other year to such Poor as chose to claim them.  In 1865–76 the Rent was £24, but in 1877 rose to £30 and so remained in 1882.   In 1928–30 the Rent was £20 and in 1953–5 £35.  Between 1865 and 1882 the whole or part of the income was spent on Coal for the Poor, whether or not relieved.  In 1928–30 and in 1954–5 the income was being spent in Coal and in the last 2 years sums of £108 and £120 were distributed in Coal by drawing upon unexpended balances.

Rawlinson mentions in 1718 that an Estate of Woodland (500a) at Minigrove Common had been given to the Poor.  The Common spreads into several Parishes (Pishill, Bix, and Watlington) and, in a different (and somewhat obscure) context, Rawlinson went so far as to declare that it belonged to Pishill, but also that it was in dispute between Watlington and ‘the Lords‘.  It is possible but not certain that Watlington’s share in this Common is the origin of this Charity.
Lost Charities
The Charity Commissioners of 1614 recorded the existence at that time of 6 Charities of which there is no later trace. Four of these were Bequests at unknown dates of sums of money to be lent, free of interest, to the Poor. The Testators were Thomas Nash, John Quartermains, Ann Molins, Widow, and John Colbroke. Nash left £5 to be lent yearly to 5 Poor men, Quartermains left £2, and the other 2 £1 each. At an unknown date, Richard Wells left 6s. for the yearly benefit of the Poor. Finally, Augustine Knapp, perhaps he who founded Henley Grammar School in 1602, had given to the Town of Watlington £20 so that the Poor might be ‘set on work‘. The Wells and Nash Charities were being distributed at the time of the Inquiry.