A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 5, East Cuttlestone Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1959.
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The civil parish of Dunston, formerly part of the ancient parish of Penkridge, lies mainly to the west of the Stafford-Wolverhampton road north of Penkridge. It is bounded on the east by the Penk, and part of the northern boundary is formed by the Pothooks Brook, which enters the Penk at the northeastern extremity of the parish, and by a tributary of the brook. The ground slopes from 375 ft. in the west to below 250 ft. at the Penk. The soil is stiff loam, the subsoil marl with sand and gravel. (fn. 1) Part of Penkridge was added to the civil parish of Dunston under the Staffordshire Review Order of 1934, increasing the area from 1,448 acres to 1,752 acres. In 1680 there were 20 houses in Dunston, (fn. 3) and in 1817 44 houses, with a population of 214. (fn. 4) The population in 1951 was 295. (fn. 5)
Dunston's marly loam soil and the meadows by the Penk were commended in 1817. (fn. 6) In 1827 100 acres of common on Dunston Heath were inclosed under an Act of 1814. (fn. 7) There were six farms and a smithy in Dunston in 1834, (fn. 8) and of seven farms of c. 1841 three were of over 100 acres. (fn. 9) In 1940 there were thirteen farms and a smithy, and five of the farms were over 150 acres, one of them then being a dairy farm. (fn. 10) In 1933 the County Council bought 103 acres in Dunston and established eight smallholdings, each with a house. (fn. 11)
On the west side of the road between Little Heath and Tofts a field which still contains pools was known in 1754 as Motes (fn. 12) and c. 1841 as Moat Bank. (fn. 13) It probably marks the site of a medieval house. It is said that an ancient house, from which the stone was carted away in the 19th century, formerly stood north of Dunston Heath near the present Yew Tree Farm. (fn. 14) Dunston Hall, rebuilt on the site of an older house by Frederick C. Perry c. 1870, is a large stuccoed mansion bearing his monogram. It has Gothic detail to the principal doorway and a central tower-like feature. Depressions in the north-east corner of the garden may indicate the presence of a former moat. The brick stable-range dates from the late 18th or early 19th century. Dunston House, lying opposite the church, is a square late-18th-century building of red brick. Alterations to the top story and elsewhere date from the late 19th century. Dunston Farm is of earlier18th-century date. The Toft, known in the early 19th century as Old Toft, (fn. 15) was built c. 1700 and in its original form was a T-shaped brick house with a symmetrical front and a moulded stone cornice. The back wing has an early-19th-century extension and at the front a Georgian porch and a bay-windowed addition date from the present century. Toft Farm, formerly New Toft House, (fn. 16) appears to be an 18thcentury building with later alterations.
At Little Heath part of a small thatched cottage of 17th-century origin is timber-framed and was formerly single-storied. At the south-west end a cobbler's workshop was added before the mid-19th century, and this trade was carried on for several generations by the Stanley family who still occupy the house. (fn. 17) There are few old cottages in the parish, most of those on the main road having been built or rebuilt by Frederick C. Perry of Dunston Hall. (fn. 18) The Home Farm, until 1934 in Penkridge parish, is dated 1892. There was formerly a toll-gate cottage at Acton Gate, lying in the angle between the main road and the road to Acton Trussell. (fn. 19) Immediately east of the school a small weatherboarded reading-room, dating from c. 1900, was given a brick extension after the First World War and now serves as a village hall. (fn. 20) Farther east a police house was built in 1952, and on a new service road north of the church there are six council houses, dating from 1953. (fn. 21)
The former vicarage house, which lies over half a mile south of the church, probably dates from the mid-19th century. It is a gabled house of red brick with Tudor windows. In 1902 additional service accommodation was provided at the expense of Helen Perry. (fn. 22) The house is now the property of the Cannock R.D.C. and has been converted into flats. (fn. 23) The present vicarage was built in 1951 on a plot of land immediately west of the churchyard given by the Rt. Hon. G. E. P. Thorneycroft. (fn. 24)
In 1086 DUNSTON, assessed at 2 hides, was a member of the royal manor of Penkridge, (fn. 25) but by 1166 Robert de Stafford seems to have been lord of 1 knight's fee in Stretton and Dunston. (fn. 26) The Stafford lordship in 1243 included 1¼ small or mortain fee in Stretton and Dunston (fn. 27) which descended in the barony until at least 1460. (fn. 28) Dunston continued to be held of the barony by knight service until at least 1604. (fn. 29) Some land in Dunston was retained by the Staffords and held of them by freehold and leasehold tenants between at least 1331 and 1542. (fn. 30) In 1391 the Earl of Stafford had free warren in Dunston. (fn. 31)
In 1166 Hervey de Stretton was holding of Robert de Stafford, in demesne, the fee apparently situated in Stretton and Dunston. (fn. 32) Richard de Stretton, probably Hervey's great-grandson, was holding the 1¼ fee in Stretton and Dunston by 1243, (fn. 33) and in 1273 his widow Agnes was suing his son and heir Richard (II) for a third of 11 messuages and 2½ virgates in Dunston. (fn. 34) By 1285 Agnes and her then husband William de Draycote were said to be holding onethird of the vill of Richard (II), (fn. 35) but in 1296 they surrendered to him most of the lands and tenements in Dunston which they held as Agnes's dower, Richard giving them in return 16 acres in Stretton for life. (fn. 36) Richard (II)'s widow Rose was claiming dower rights in lands in Dunston in 1297, (fn. 37) but the Stretton lordship seems to have ended about this time. Their capital messuage in Dunston was mentioned at some time between 1273 and 1292. (fn. 38)
Land in Dunston called 'Edwenes brughe' formerly held by Robert Bagot was leased by Richard de Stretton, probably Richard (I), to Simon de Pickstock and Thomas his brother. (fn. 39) Thomas acquired from Richard de Stretton (II) 5 messuages in Dunston with 2 oxgangs of land, the villeins dwelling there and 4s. rent, (fn. 40) along with a further messuage and 4 acres of land here. (fn. 41) In 1285 Thomas and William de Pickstock were said to be holding two-thirds of the vill of Dunston of Richard, (fn. 42) and what may have been the other third was granted to them by Richard (fn. 43) at some time after 1286, the year in which he had received it from William de Draycote and Agnes, widow of Richard (I). (fn. 44) William and Agnes also conveyed to Thomas de Pickstock their rights in land in Dunston called 'Bagotisbryge'. (fn. 45) Thomas seems to have been succeeded before 1289 by his cousin John, the son of William de Pickstock and a minor; (fn. 46) and although his title to some of the land was disputed by a William son of William de Pickstock between 1289 and 1301, (fn. 47) John was named as lord of Dunston in 1316. (fn. 48)
John's heir was his son William Pickstock, a burgess of Stafford, (fn. 49) who was succeeded, probably by 1325, by a son Nicholas described as of Stafford in 1328 or 1329 and still living in 1339. (fn. 50) Simon son of Nicholas was lord in 1375 (fn. 51) and 1379. (fn. 52) Simon's son John occurs in 1419, (fn. 53) and in 1437, as John Pickstock of Levedale, he granted his lands in Dunston to Robert Derrington of Gayton (Pirehill hundred) and Agnes his wife, (fn. 54) who in 1438 settled the reversion on their son John with remainder to a younger son George. (fn. 55) Robert was dead by 1441, but Agnes continued to hold Dunston for life. (fn. 56) John was succeeded by a son John and he by a son Hamlett, described as of Coton in 1517 or 1518. (fn. 57) In 1573 Hamlett's son John conveyed two messuages, 30 acres of land, 12 acres of meadow, and 20 acres of pasture in Dunston to his son Sampson, described as of Coton. (fn. 58) Sampson Derrington died in 1596, holding what was called the manor of Dunston, and his heir was Katherine, a minor, the daughter of his son Anthony Derrington. (fn. 59) The queen granted the wardship to Richard Masterson of Nantwich (Ches.) to whose son, Thomas, Katherine was married by 1597. (fn. 60) Katherine died in 1603 holding the manor and leaving an infant son Thomas as her heir. (fn. 61) He gained possession in 1631, (fn. 62) and he and his wife Mary conveyed the manor in 1638 to Thomas Adshed of Milwich (Pirehill hundred), (fn. 63) who sold it in 1647 or 1648 to Henry Pickstock, described as of Dunston. (fn. 64) Henry was chargeable for three hearths in Dunston in 1666 (fn. 65) and was still living in 1667. (fn. 66) This estate presumably descended with the Toft estate until c. 1841 at least, when the Pickstock family's 186 acres in Dunston included Dunston House and land in the east of the parish as well as the Toft in the west. (fn. 67) Dunston House is described above. (fn. 68)
Hervey de Stafford was lord of a knight's fee in DUNSTON, Drayton, and Water Eaton by 1236, (fn. 69) while by 1243 Robert de Stafford was lord of half a small fee in Dunston and Drayton, in addition to the 1¼ small fee in Stretton and Dunston. (fn. 70) This ½ fee descended in the Stafford barony until at least 1460. (fn. 71)
By 1243 this ½ fee was held of Robert by a William de Stafford, (fn. 72) who by 1271 was claiming a third share of land in Dunston against Richard de Stretton and others. (fn. 73) Later, probably in 1281, William stated that his ancestors had held a third of the vill of the barony. (fn. 74) His land may perhaps be identified with what was called a manor of Dunston settled by 1452 on Avice, daughter and heir of Sir Richard Stafford who had succeeded his father Sir Humphrey Stafford of Hooke (Dors.) in about 1427. (fn. 75) Avice died without children, and the manor passed to her cousin Humphrey Stafford, lord of Southwick (in North Bradley, Wilts.) in 1461. (fn. 76) This manor then descended with Littywood in Bradley (fn. 77) until at least 1634 when it passed to Sir Greville Verney. (fn. 78) His descendants continued to hold land in Dunston until at least 1896, (fn. 79) the 16th Lord Willoughby de Broke (d. 1852) owning over 114 acres c. 1841. (fn. 80) The 19th baron (d. 1923) owned some 195 acres here in 1903. (fn. 81)
In 1409 Sir Fulke Pembrugge, lord of Acton Trussell, was holding land in Dunston of Lord Stafford, (fn. 82) and in 1464 Sir William Trussell died seised of land here in 'Welesmedewe', his heir being his son Thomas. (fn. 83) Thomas Fowke, of the City of London, merchant of the staple, who acquired half Acton Trussell, also bought what was described as the manor of DUNSTON from Lord Stafford in 1577 and conveyed half of it in 1578 to John Barbour. (fn. 84) Thomas Fowke died seised of half this manor in 1586, his heir being his eldest son John, a minor. (fn. 85) In 1589 what were described as lands in Dunston were conveyed to a John Fowke, along with Acton Trussell and Bednall, (fn. 86) and in 1598 a Thomas Fowke was holding the manor jointly with John Barbour in fee simple. (fn. 87)
By 1600 Thomas Fowke had been succeeded by his son John who in 1602 sold his half of the manor to William Anson of Lincoln's Inn. (fn. 88) William's son and heir William (II), having succeeded in 1644, (fn. 89) made settlements of what was called the manor in 1658 (fn. 90) and 1667 (fn. 91) and conveyed it in 1681 to his son, William (III). (fn. 92) A manor of Dunston, with Acton Trussell and Bednall, was said to be held by William's grandson Thomas in 1736 and 1752; by Thomas's nephew George in 1785 and 1789; and by George's son Thomas, created Viscount Anson in 1806, in 1790, 1791, and 1792 (fn. 93). In 1818 this Thomas's son Thomas William, created Earl of Lichfield in 1831, succeeded to the manor, (fn. 94) which descended in the family until at least 1880 along with much of the land in Dunston. (fn. 95)
The other half of the manor, held by John Barbour in 1598, (fn. 96) was granted by him to Hugh Whitby of Rickerscote (in Castle Church) in 1602. (fn. 97) After Hugh's death the moiety passed to his son John, who, in pursuance of a trust reposed in his father, conveyed a half of this moiety to Thomas Spokes, otherwise Whitby, of Dunston in 1612. (fn. 98) A William Whitby and others in 1641 settled this quarter of the manor with lands in Dunston on Thomas Whitby the younger, (fn. 99) whose son and heir George seems to have held half the manor in 1725. (fn. 100) Thomas son of George was succeeded in 1744 by his niece Ann Whitby, who as Ann Parker, widow, sold half the manor of Dunston to George Anson in 1788. (fn. 101)
In 1652 Thomas Whitby, to settle his debts, had leased a messuage and land in Dunston for 99 years to George Oswald of Bransford (Worcs.), but at some time between 1687 and 1692 Thomas's son George sold the messuage and lands to Thomas Pickstock, the mortgage at the same time being cleared with Elizabeth, widow of George Oswald. (fn. 102) Thomas Pickstock and others made a settlement of lands in Dunston in 1717, (fn. 103) and in 1725 Thomas made a further settlement of the messuage, by then called the Toft, with lands including the Long Toft and the Withy Flat, prior to the marriage of his daughter Elizabeth. (fn. 104) In 1732, when he was living at the Newhouse in Penkridge parish, he and his son and heir Thomas, of Dunston, appointed further trustees of the Toft, by then in the hands of tenants. (fn. 105) Ralph Pickstock, son of a Thomas Pickstock, occurs in 1756, (fn. 106) and a Ralph Pickstock of Aston (Warws.) owned the Toft in 1776 when he leased it to Henry Pickstock, probably his brother, for three years. (fn. 107) Ralph was living at the Toft in 1804 and died in 1808, his brother and nephew, both named Henry, being among his executors. (fn. 108) Ralph, son of the younger Henry, (fn. 109) was living there by 1822 when the estate consisted of the Slang Toft (about 3 a.) and the Broad Toft (about 10 a.). (fn. 110) Between at least 1851 and 1872 Thomas Pickstock, farmer, was living at the Toft, (fn. 111) while Mrs. Thomas Pickstock was farming there between at least 1876 and 1884 (fn. 112) and Ralph Pickstock between at least 1892 and 1896. (fn. 113) By 1903 Ralph had sold the house and buildings to Arthur Meakin whose tenant was Joseph Eccles. (fn. 114) By 1924 the Toft was owned and occupied by B. C. Griffin, who died in 1955 and whose widow still lived there in 1956. (fn. 115) Toft Farm is described above. (fn. 116)
Thomas Anson held courts leet and baron at Dunston in at least 1792 and 1811. (fn. 117)
In 1452 the Duke of Buckingham leased the farm of a fishery in the Penk within Dunston to the lord of Acton Trussell for 12d. (fn. 118) These waters, from the cross at Swanford, apparently the boundary between Dunston and Drayton, downstream to Acton Bridge, were leased and sub-leased between about 1483 and 1543. (fn. 119) The tenant of Acton Trussell, 'one Fowke of Penkeriche', was lessee in 1533, when he also paid 5½d. for licence to divert the stream to Acton Mill. (fn. 120) Thomas Whitby granted William Anson and his heirs a fishery in the Penk from Swan Lane to Litty Meadow Ditch in 1617, (fn. 121) and Ann Parker's grant of her share of the manor of Dunston in 1788 included a fishery. (fn. 122) Thomas Pickstock and others made a settlement of a free fishery in the waters of the Penk at Dunston in 1717, (fn. 123) and a fishery here was offered for sale in 1821, probably by Ralph Pickstock. (fn. 124)
Elizabeth, daughter and heir of William Trumwyn of Cannock, was holding a messuage and land in Dunston of Simon Pickstock at her death in 1375. (fn. 125) The estate then descended with the Trumwyn family's lands in Cannock (fn. 126) and consisted of 46 acres of arable, 8 acres of meadow, and 11s. 6d. rent, worth in all 20s., in 1493, when it was said to be held of the Duke of Buckingham. (fn. 127) It was described as a manor of DUNSTON in 1559 and 1560 when two-thirds of the estate were sold to Francis Biddulph, (fn. 128) already holder of the third part. (fn. 129) In 1564 Francis and his wife Isabel sold the whole estate to John Cowper, (fn. 130) but the lands were divided with other disputed Trumwyn property among various claimants in 1568. (fn. 131) Thomas Salwey, one of the claimants, and Arthur and Matthew Salwey, conveyed their share to John Cowper in 1576, (fn. 132) while a further messuage and lands in Dunston were settled on John and Edmund Cowper in 1578 by Francis Pycto and his wife Elizabeth. (fn. 133) Edmund died in possession of a messuage and lands in Dunston in 1585 with a son John as his heir. (fn. 134) In 1607 John Cowper made a settlement of what was called the manor of Dunston with 3 messuages, other land, and 16s. rent there. (fn. 135)
In this same year John conveyed a capital messuage called the Hall of Dunston, with land, to William Anson, reserving for life a rent of £16 10s. 8d. (fn. 136) In 1612 William Anson leased the Hall to Edward Anson for three lives, at a rent of 47s. 6d. (fn. 137)
William Critchley, who was living at Dunston between at least 1818 (fn. 138) and 1851, (fn. 139) owned and occupied an estate of 137 acres here c. 1841, including a farm on the site of what is now Dunston Hall. (fn. 140) By 1852 Frederick C. Perry was living at what was called Dunston Hall and died there in 1900. (fn. 141) He was succeeded by Helen Perry who in 1900 settled the Dunston estate, then comprising 904 acres, in favour of George Benjamin Thorneycroft, (fn. 142) who was living at the Hall by 1901. (fn. 143) His grandson, the Rt. Hon. G. E. P. Thorneycroft, sold the Hall in 1951 to Mr. A. Alcock, who converted it into flats for members of his family (fn. 144) and in 1956 sold it to the English Electric Company. (fn. 145) The Home Farm with about 480 acres around Dunston was still in Mr. Thorneycroft's possession in 1956 (fn. 146) but the cottages were being sold as they fell vacant. (fn. 147) Dunston Hall and the Home Farm are described above. (fn. 148)
Thomas Giffard, probably the second son of Humphrey Giffard of Water Eaton, (fn. 149) was chargeable for two hearths in the constablewick of Dunston and Drayton in 1666. (fn. 150) Amy, wife of Thomas Giffard described as of Dunston, was buried at Penkridge in 1682. (fn. 151) What was called a manor of DUNSTON was held by Peter Giffard of Chillington (in Brewood) before 1743. (fn. 152)
As a member of the manor of Penkridge Dunston was included in the grant made by the king in 1372 to John de Beverley of the view of frankpledge in Penkridge and its fees and members. (fn. 153) By at least 1540 the vills of Dunston and Drayton were presenting jointly at the view (fn. 154) and were represented by five frankpledges from at least 1576, (fn. 155) but only four of these were present at the view of October 1608. (fn. 156)
A survey of the manor of Penkridge in 1598 showed that tenants of Penkridge, Wolgarston, Preston, Bitham, Lynehill, and Moor Hall, of the deanery manor, and of Drayton manor had stray common from Penkridge Heath into the common fields of Dunston, while the tenants of Dunston and Drayton had common rights in Penkridge Heath. (fn. 157) Dunston, including 100 acres of Dunston Heath, was inclosed in 1827 under the Act of 1814. (fn. 158)
The prebend of Dunston in Penkridge College existed by 1261 (fn. 159) and was valued at £5 6s. 8d. in 1291. (fn. 160) In 1535 the prebend consisted of the site of the PREBENDAL MANOR and its lands together worth 20s., assised rents of 10s. 4d., tithes averaging £3 9s. 8d., and Easter offerings averaging 20s. (fn. 161) Synodals of 6s. 8d. were due every three years to the Dean of Penkridge. (fn. 162) The tithes and oblations had been leased by 1548 to Joan Corbett for £7 4s. 8d. and the lands to Thomas Webbe and Sampson Egginton for £10 10s. 4d., both rents being paid to the royal bailiff of the dissolved college. (fn. 163) The prebend presumably descended with the rest of the collegiate possessions, (fn. 164) and in 1585 it passed with view of frankpledge and tithe in Dunston to Edward Littleton. (fn. 165) It then descended in his family with Pillaton (fn. 166) until at least 1709. (fn. 167) The 50 acres in Dunston, 45 of them on Dunston Heath, which were sold by the 3rd Lord Hatherton in 1919, (fn. 168) may have been former prebendal land.
The chapel of St. Leonard at Dunston existed, evidently as a dependency of Penkridge church, by 1445 when the Dean of Penkridge confirmed its dedication and granted an indulgence of 100 days to all who, confessing their sins, should visit it and make some contribution to it. (fn. 169) A similar indulgence of 40 days was ordained in 1446. (fn. 170) The chapel was then already annexed to the prebend of Dunston in Penkridge church, (fn. 171) but no vicarage seems to have been ordained. (fn. 172) The chapel, called a chapel of ease to Penkridge with cure in 1563 (fn. 173) and a 'free chapel' in 1752, (fn. 174) was described in 1784 as 'a member of Penkridge church and consolidated to it.' (fn. 175) It was still within the peculiar jurisdiction of Penkridge in 1834. (fn. 176) The perpetual curacy was styled a titular vicarage after 1868, (fn. 177) and the benefice was united with that of Coppenhall in 1892. (fn. 178)
The right of appointing the curate presumably lay with the prebendary of Dunston until the dissolution of Penkridge College. The presentation then probably descended with that of Penkridge, (fn. 179) but the chapel is first mentioned as held by the Littletons in 1752. (fn. 180) They retained the presentation (fn. 181) until it passed c. 1897 to F. C. Perry of Dunston Hall. (fn. 182) It was settled by Helen Perry with the rest of the estate in 1900 on G. B. Thorneycroft (fn. 183) whose grandson, the Rt. Hon. G. E. P. Thorneycroft, held it in 1956. (fn. 184) Helen Perry, by deed of 1902, augmented the vicar's stipend by £220 annual interest on £6,779 15s. 7d. stock on condition that he should hold two services at Dunston and two at Coppenhall each Sunday. (fn. 185) Since 1950 this has been modified so that the vicar holds one service in each church every Sunday. (fn. 186)
The former chapel of ST. LEONARD was probably of early-15th-century date, rebuilt, except for the tower, in the 18th century. Drawings of 1838 and 1841 (fn. 187) show that the original tower had singlelight windows to the belfry stage and a larger medieval window, then blocked, below. On its north and south faces the tower had a high double-chamfered basement course, and a Georgian doorway had been inserted in the west wall. The body of the church, rebuilt or refaced with brickwork, had roundheaded 18th-century windows. In 1843 it was recorded that there were no monuments and that there was no means of reaching the belfry from the interior. (fn. 188)
Between 1876 and 1878 the chapel was demolished and a new church erected on the same site at the sole expense of Frederick C. Perry and his mother, brothers, and sisters. (fn. 189) It is a stone building in 14thcentury style and consists of nave, chancel, transepts, vestry, and a spired west tower. At this period the churchyard was not consecrated. In 1887 a new churchyard, given by the family of a former parishioner, (fn. 190) was consecrated, previous burials having been at Penkridge. (fn. 191) In 1907 the vestry was added and a new organ installed. (fn. 192) The church contains memorial tablets to Thomas Perry (d. 1861), in whose memory the church was built, to his widow Mary (d. 1881), and to later members of the family. There are memorial windows and a tablet to members of the Hand family including Charles Frederic Hand (d. 1900), also tablets to John Taylor Duce (d. 1886), Albert Pickstock (d. 1926), and three members of the Thorneycroft family (d. 1913, 1924, and 1943).
In 1553 the plate consisted of one chalice. (fn. 193) In 1955 the plate included a silver chalice, paten, and paten on foot; a pewter chalice, paten on foot, and alms dish; and an electro-plated chalice and paten given in 1861 to the Revd. E. Price by his friends. (fn. 194) There were two bells in the ancient chapel in 1553. (fn. 195) There was one bell in the new church by 1889. (fn. 196) There is now a carillon of eight tubular bells, rung from a keyboard, given by Mrs. Perry of Dunston Hall in 1890. (fn. 197)
A parochial school for boys and girls was built at Dunston in 1866 on a site given by the Earl of Lichfield, the expense of the building being met by subscription. (fn. 198) By 1871 it was run on National Society lines, and the average attendance was 15 boys and girls. (fn. 199) In 1910 the school had an average attendance of 21 infants and 42 older children. (fn. 200) By 1910 it had been enlarged. (fn. 201) In 1930 average attendance was 60 (fn. 202) and in 1937 34. (fn. 203) The school became controlled in 1952. (fn. 204) It is now called Dunston Church of England Voluntary Primary Controlled School, Junior Mixed and Infants, and had an average attendance in 1955 of 32, under a mistress. (fn. 205) Older children now attend school at Penkridge or at Rising Brook (Castle Church).
Charity for the Poor
Dennis Fieldhouse, probably c. 1680, (fn. 206) bequeathed to the poor of Dunstan £10 which was producing interest of 8s. a year by 1786. (fn. 207) This interest was still being paid in 1823, (fn. 208) but by 1898 all traces of the charity had been lost. (fn. 209)