Fulbourn: Charities for the poor

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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A F Wareham, A P M Wright, 'Fulbourn: Charities for the poor', in A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 10, Cheveley, Flendish, Staine and Staploe Hundreds (North-Eastern Cambridgeshire)( London, 2002), British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/cambs/vol10/pp159-160 [accessed 18 July 2024].

A F Wareham, A P M Wright, 'Fulbourn: Charities for the poor', in A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 10, Cheveley, Flendish, Staine and Staploe Hundreds (North-Eastern Cambridgeshire)( London, 2002), British History Online, accessed July 18, 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/cambs/vol10/pp159-160.

A F Wareham, A P M Wright. "Fulbourn: Charities for the poor". A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 10, Cheveley, Flendish, Staine and Staploe Hundreds (North-Eastern Cambridgeshire). (London, 2002), , British History Online. Web. 18 July 2024. https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/cambs/vol10/pp159-160.


Fulbourn was well endowed with charities from the 15th century. (fn. 1) In 1442 (fn. 2) John Careway, rector of St. Vigor's, enfeoffed c. 100 a. whose rents were to pay parliamentary fifteenths for the poorer inhabitants of the whole vill, excluding those with over 40 a. of land, unless they could not afford to pay without selling (or from 1699 mortgaging) land. Surplus income was to go in gifts, particularly of clothing, for the poor. The land included 12 a. of closes and 104 a. of arable until inclosure, when 58½ a. were allotted for the latter, and yielded rents that increased from £23-35 in the 18th century to c. £120 in the early 1830s. The fieldland, then let as allotments of 1/4-1 a. to 60-70 labourers at rents totalling £90-100 in the mid 19th century, but £120-150 from the 1860s to the 1890s, (fn. 3) was still used for allotments in 1910. (fn. 4) It yielded c. £400 in the 1960s, £650 by 1980.

In the early 18th century the income still went partly to pay rates and taxes for poorer villagers, but partly in cash gifts to the sick and needy, partly in shoes and clothing. From the 1760s it was given mainly in clothing or materials for making it. Between the 1830s and the 1860s that portion was distributed yearly through £50-60 worth of vouchers redeemable at village shops: the 300-350 recipients included almost all the settled labourers c. 1860, when coal was also given out. A coal club was supported in 1880. Gifts of clothing to pensioners by such vouchers continued until 1970. Thereafter part of the income went to support the village almshouses. The rest, under a Scheme of 1974 which combined the management of Careway's and Bishop's charities, (fn. 5) was given for various charitable purposes or in the 1980s partly accumulated. (fn. 6)

The vicar, Geoffrey Bishop, (fn. 7) gave 63 a. of arable in 1474 to discharge, after supporting his obit, Peter's Pence and Ely farthings on behalf of All Saints parish. Any surplus arising was to pay 'great rates' for its poor inhabitants, defined by a Decree of 1689 as those occupying houses worth under £3 yearly. At inclosure 83 a., later Bishop's Charity farm, was allotted for the arable. Its rent rose from £15-22 in the 18th century to £155 c. 1855-6, reduced after 1909 to £83. The income from the stock acquired in 1953-5 from the sale of the farm and of four cottages rebuilt by the vicar in 1871 produced by 1970 over £300 yearly.

In the early 18th century some money still went to pay rates for the poor, but distribution of the surplus in bread at Christmas and Easter, customary by 1699, absorbed over half the income in the 18th century, most of it by the early 19th. The bread was given at church after service to all settled poor inhabitants of All Saints. In 1860 630 people shared 6,250 loaves. From 1941 (fn. 8) Bishop's charity was restricted to c. 125 pensioners, who received grocery vouchers. After 1970 the income was applied like Careway's.

By the 1720s a row of eleven cottages, described by 1800 as almshouses, (fn. 9) perhaps the Town houses named in 1666, (fn. 10) stood along the north side of the churchyard. They were controlled by the parish officers, who chose their inmates, but, unendowed and infrequently repaired, they were almost uninhabitable by 1860, though still occupied by 15-18 paupers. (fn. 11) They were pulled down and eight new tworoomed brick dwellings were built in 1864 on a site across the road provided by C. W. Townley. (fn. 12) Under rules of 1905, confirmed under a Scheme of 1960, places were reserved for poor people, old or sick and of good character, who had dwelt in Fulbourn for two years. H. F. Chaplin of the Bury, Fulbourn, by will proved 1931, left £1,000 to be invested to repair the almshouses and to provide pocket money for their occupants. (fn. 13)

William Farmer of Fulbourn (fn. 14) by will of 1712 directed that, after his widow died, his estate there and elsewhere be sold and the proceeds invested in land to pay doles each Sunday to those poor of All Saints parish who were 'constant' churchgoers. In 1746 £543 were used to buy 65 a. at Brinkley, for which 41½ a. there were allotted in 1816. It was sold in the 1950s. It had yielded £24 yearly in the 18th century and £55 c. 1835-60, but only £40 in the early 20th. After 1960 investments produced £130 yearly. From 1750 the income was given as required in 6d. weekly doles after services to 10-20 people. By the 1820s imborsation had been introduced to induce regular attendance among those on a set list. (fn. 15) From c. 1860 vouchers, redeemable quarterly, were instead issued to 40 people out of those named on the list which included 110-125 people in the 1840s, 145-160 by the 1860s, but only c. 50 by 1920 and 25 in the 1940s. Although distribution nominally continued until c. 1970, the income was partly by the 1880s and wholly from c. 1980 devoted to church expenses. (fn. 16)

Thomas Oslar by will of 1722 left £12 to buy land to endow an annual dole to poor widows of St. Vigor's parish. The 'Widows' Acre' bought in 1751 yielded 10s. c. 1780 and £2 in 1837, paid c. 1780-1840 to 6-10 widows, The income was still given as directed c. 1990. (fn. 17)

Ellen, widow of William Weston of Fulbourn (d. 1900), gave in 1901, for the poor of St. Vigor's, twelve cottages whose rents, £60-80, were distributed by voucher in the 1910s, as was the income, £22-32, from the proceeds of their sale in 1921-2 under a Scheme of 1918. In the 1960s there were up to 20 beneficiaries. (fn. 18)


  • 1. Char. Don. i. 90-1; C.U.L., E.D.R., B 7/1, p. 14; 31st Rep. Com. Char. 110-16; c. 1860: Char. Com. file 54571 (Inspector's report 1860); Char. Digest Cambs. 1853-4, 390-1. Incl. allotments: C.U.L., Add. MS. 6037, pp. 13-14; C.R.O., Q/RDz 7, pp. 282-3, 342; inf. from the rector (1990).
  • 2. For Careway's charity, also 31st Rep. Com. Char. 110- 12; C.R.O., P 75/25/15, 17-18, 35-9, 40-1 (accts. 1731-96, 1844-97); Char. Com. file 205143, incl. Scheme 1974, and accts. from 1961.
  • 3. C.R.O., P 75/25/15, 17-18.
  • 4. Camb. Chron. (FC), 5 Feb. 1892; C.R.O., 470/O 73; cf. ibid. P 75/AM 1, pp. 46, 73-4.
  • 5. Camb. Evening News, 17 July 1971; cf. Newmarket Jnl. 21 May 1981; 6 May 1982.
  • 6. Cf. C.R.O., P 75/25/19-25.
  • 7. For Bishop's charity, also 31st Rep. Com. Char. 112-14; C.R.O., P 75/25/30-4, 46; P 75/25/45 (accts. 1689- 1827); Char. Com. file 202513, incl. accts. from 1961.
  • 8. Camb. Chron. (FC), 27 Mar. 1942.
  • 9. Blomefield, Collect. Cantab. 36; C.U.L., Add. MS. 6037, p. 34; cf. C.U.L., E.D.R., C 1/4.
  • 10. P.R.O., E 179/244/22, f. 83.
  • 11. Camb. Chron. (FC), 14 Nov. 1857; 30 Nov. 1861; P.R.O., HO 107/1759, f. 581v.; RG 9/1020, f. 25.
  • 12. Camb. Chron. (FC), 30 Jan., 9, 16 July 1864; C.R.O., P 75/AM 1, pp. 236-7; cf. Char. Com. file 202325, notes at front.
  • 13. Char. Com. file 202325, incl. rules and Scheme 1960.
  • 14. For Farmer's charity, 31st Rep. Com. Char. 115-16; C.R.O., P 75/25/48-54 (accts. 1750-1950); Char. Com. file 204070.
  • 15. Cf. C.U.L., E.D.R., C 3/21.
  • 16. Camb. Ind. Press, 17 Feb. 1965; inf. from the rector.
  • 17. 31st Rep. Com. Char. 115; C.R.O., P 75/5/1, incl. accts. 1775-1825; Char. Com. file 238916.
  • 18. Char. Com. file 201172; C.R.O., P 75/25/64-5; Camb. Chron. (FC), 15 Nov. 1921.