Fen Ditton: Charities for the poor

Pages 129-130

A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 10, Cheveley, Flendish, Staine and Staploe Hundreds (North-Eastern Cambridgeshire). Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2002.

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An almshouse for six poor widows was built opposite the church on Church Street, by Sir Thomas Willys in 1665. (fn. 1) It had no endowment in 1728, and the parish kept the building in repair and made an allowance, which amounted to 3s. a week in 1851, for the almswomen. (fn. 2) In the early 19th century it was occupied by poor families as well as by poor widows. (fn. 3) Rebuilt in 1877 by Thomas Bailey as a group of six houses, (fn. 4) in 1892 it was endowed with land in Manea fen, producing £14 a year. (fn. 5) From 1945 the rent was augmented by occasional donations from other charities. (fn. 6) From 1908 those admitted were required to have lived in the parish for two years before taking up residence in the almshouse. (fn. 7) The almshouses were converted into three dwellings in 1968-9.

In 1620 the parish owned a house and land which yielded £7 2s. 8d. a year intended for the poor, but the funds were being used for church repairs. (fn. 8) In 1775 that Town Lands charity had two pieces of ground, called the town holts, from which turf was given to the poor. (fn. 9) In 1807 it comprised 5 a., which in the 1780s had yielded £5. (fn. 10) In 1825 the rent was being distributed by parish officers in fuel for the poor, and between 1863 and 1883 the income rose from c. £11 to £13, three quarters of which was used to buy fuel for the poor, and the remainder for church repairs. (fn. 11) The Town Lands estate charity was subsequently divided into ecclesiastical and parochial branches, (fn. 12) and in 1970 the parochial branch provided Christmas gifts of £1 to 92 old people, besides a loan to Willys's almshouses. (fn. 13)

Elizabeth March's school charity was used for the benefit of students and apprentices from its foundation in 1722. (fn. 14) Between 1816 and 1867 the Ditton share of the rent from its property increased from £10 to £38. In the late 20th century funds from the charity helped pay for school outings made by the pupils of Fen Ditton primary school.

The inhabitants of Fen Ditton also have a shared interest in Quy's Poor charity. (fn. 15)


  • 1. 31st Rep. Com. Char. 109; Char. Digest Cambs. 1863-4, 20-1; Lysons, Cambs. 174; P.R.O., E 179/244/22.
  • 2. B.L. Add. MS. 9412, f. 196; C.U.L., E.D.R., B 8/1, f. 12v.
  • 3. Gardner's Dir. Cambs. (1851).
  • 4. C.U.L., E.D.R., C 1/4; C 1/6.
  • 5. Cambs. Chron. 1 Dec. 1877, p. 4.
  • 6. Kelly's Dir. Cambs. (1892-1933); Char. Com. file 226349.
  • 7. Char. Com. file 226349.
  • 8. Char. Don. i. 90; 31st Rep. Com. Char. 109.
  • 9. C.U.L., E.D.R., C 1/1.
  • 10. Ibid. C 1/4; Char. Don. i. 90.
  • 11. C.U.L., E.D.R., C 1/6; Char. Digest Cambs. 1863-4, 20-1; Kelly's Dir. Cambs. (1883).
  • 12. Char. Com. file 255202.
  • 13. Ibid.
  • 14. Above, educ.; 31st Rep. Com. Char. 109; Char. Don. i. 91.
  • 15. Below, Horningsea, intro.