A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 3, Shepperton, Staines, Stanwell, Sunbury, Teddington, Heston and Isleworth, Twickenham, Cowley, Cranford, West Drayton, Greenford, Hanwell, Harefield and Harlington. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1962.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
In 1367 Twickenham was said to have shared in a distribution which had been made to the three parishes of Isleworth Hundred by the Prior of St. Valéry. (fn. 1) Twelve bushels of peas and beans had been given each year to the 'churchmen' (perhaps churchwardens) of the parish, to be shared among the poor, but the prior had stopped the gift twenty years before. (fn. 2) There is no later reference to it. In 1645 Parliament suppressed a custom of scrambling for two great cakes on Easter Sunday, because of the disorder and profanation of the Lord's Day which it caused, and substituted the more decorous distribution of ordinary loaves. (fn. 3) This was possibly the origin of the later Vicar's Bread Charity: (fn. 4) Lysons recorded that within memory the penny loaves provided under this charity had been thrown from the church-tower to be scrambled for by children. (fn. 5)
A number of charities founded by wills or other gifts survive from the 17th century and later: (fn. 6) the earliest seems to be that of George Perryman, founded by deed of c. 1603. By the early 17th century the parish held various small pieces of land and some rent-charges, one of which was payable in compensation for the inclosure of lands in the parish. Some of the parish lands were applicable to maintaining a bull for Twickenham and another for Whitton, though the custom lapsed soon afterwards and most of the lands were lost. The 'church house' or 'church houses' also seem to have been parish property, and stood in School Alley. An almshouse, perhaps nearby, was left to the parish in 1624. These houses and the parish lands and charity moneys were managed by the vestry during the 17th and 18th centuries, and their administration forms part of the history of local administration in Twickenham. (fn. 7) In 1681-2, as part of an effort to put the charities and parish property in order, the vestry called in the charity and parish stock which had been lent out at interest, and invested it, with some 'communion money', in land. All the parish rents were then apparently to be used to distribute bread at church on Sundays. During the 18th and early 19th centuries most of the charity moneys were paid into the general parish account, some almshouses built on the common out of charitable funds in the early 18th century were converted into a workhouse, and the workhouse was enlarged with other parish stock. The appropriation of the almshouses received the censure of the Brougham Commission in 1823, but the commissioners forbore to condemn the general confusion between parish and charity funds, because the origin of so many of the charities was doubtful, and because no record existed of the purpose to which their donors intended some of them to be put. Before the commissioners reported, however, the parish had already formed a donation account in 1820, into which the income of the parish and charity lands was paid, and which was used to give relief, mostly in bread and clothing. Part of the fund was set aside for the repair of the almshouses into which the parish had resolved to convert three cottages in School Alley, which had hitherto been let and were probably part of the old church house estate. A further reparation was made after the workhouse was sold in 1838, and £300 of the proceeds were paid back to the charities.
In 1827 the parish substituted three new and larger houses at the bottom of the alley for the six almshouses higher up. In 1860 there were 22 almspeople, all receiving relief and living in considerable poverty and discomfort, though the houses were in some request as a refuge from the union. Remonstrations from the Charity Commissioners brought about a new system by which those receiving relief were excluded and fewer inmates were admitted. (fn. 8) In 1876 Elizabeth Twining, the founder of St. John's Hospital, restored the buildings, (fn. 9) and in 1898 they were occupied by widows. The other charities, despite at least one project for reform since 1860, (fn. 10) were then still managed in a way of which the commissioners disapproved. The income of all except the almshouse and school endowments formed a general fund. From this some payments were made to the new ecclesiastical parishes, and the rest was used to pay a parish nurse and to give tickets for food and coal at Christmas. These were distributed to very large numbers: people were accustomed to appeal if they considered their shares inadequate or if their claims were rejected altogether. The result was considered to be pauperization on a large scale. The total gross income, excluding that of the schools, was then £936. (fn. 11) The commissioners made a scheme in 1899 setting up what are now the United Charities. In 1957 the total income, chiefly derived from stock, was £593, of which £195 were spent on the almshouses and their inmates, and £283 on pensions. (fn. 12) The charities applicable to Whitton had been detached from the main body and produced about £70, which was spent on charitable purposes. (fn. 13) The old almshouses had meanwhile been sold and replaced by five new ones in Amyand Park Road, which were opened in 1936. Five more houses on the same site were built at the same time to fulfil the bequest of William Candler (d. 1907). (fn. 14)