Bottisham: 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, 'Bottisham: 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 17 July 2024].

A F Wareham, A P M Wright, 'Bottisham: 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 17, 2024,

A F Wareham, A P M Wright. "Bottisham: 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. 17 July 2024.


By 1859 Bottisham was well provided with charitable endowments. (fn. 1) Under a Scheme of 1886 seven of them were combined with Salisbury's school charity as the Bottisham United Charities, excluding only Pugh's bequest. Their total incomes were thereafter to be divided, as had been done since 1864, equally between the newly distinct Bottisham and Lode parishes, whose populations were then nearly equal. A Scheme of 1913, which added the Bottisham Poor's Fen, constituted a charity since 1878, set up separate groups of trustees for Bottisham and Lode to distribute the income from their charity property, jointly managed by a third group. (fn. 2)

Thomas Pledger by will proved 1600 left £40 to buy land whose rent should go to 6-8 'ancient inhabitants', including help with their house rents. (fn. 3) The 11 a. acquired in Bottisham, for which 2½ a. were allotted in 1808, yielded £6 10s. in 1738, 10-12 guineas c. 1780-1840, £30 by 1870. (fn. 4) Giles Bream (d. 1621), an Alington kinsman, (fn. 5) left £600 to build and endow an almshouse at East Ham (then Essex, later Greater London). Three of its six places were to be for old people from Bottisham, who should share the net income. From 1638 the balance of his bequest left after building costs was invested in land at Brandon (Essex). In practice the distance involved induced Bottisham to let East Ham almspeople occupy the rooms intended for its own, in return for rents amounting to £2 in the 19th century, and for yearly payments equal to the residents' stipends. In 1837 Bottisham's share was c. £24, given to five old men, c. 1870 £50, c. 1900 almost nothing. After the Brandon farm was sold in 1931 and the site of the then demolished almshouses c. 1940, Bottisham received half the £2,600 raised. (fn. 6) John Craister, fellow of Trinity, (fn. 7) by will proved 1736 left £100 between the poor of three parishes where he had once ministered, including Bottisham, with whose share, £30, a house on Lode street was bought in 1744. Called c. 1800-30 Craister's or Crofter's Hall, it then housed, rent free, up to seven paupers. It was burnt down in 1853 and the site sold in 1894; its price with the insurance money, £175 in all, yielded £5 yearly. (fn. 8) About 1870 the income of Pledger's and Craister's gifts was paid to four old men. (fn. 9) From 1886 the combined incomes of those and Bream's charities were to be given as pensions to needy villagers, resident for at least seven years, In the late 19th century pensions of £5-10 were paid to two or three old people. About 1975 £200, by 1980 £320-40 was spent in pensions.

Mary, widow of John Clench, (fn. 10) by will of 1741, charged land at Little Wilbraham with paying £5 yearly to apprentice poor children from Bottisham. Until c. 1875 the net income, £4, was accumulated and used every few years for apprenticeships. (fn. 11) The Schemes of 1886 and 1913 continued that application.

General assistance for the poor came from three other gifts. Samuel Shepherd in 1739 charged a 141-a. farm at Burwell with paying £20 for the poor in each of the parishes of Bottisham and Exning (Suff.). By the early 19th century that endowment was represented by a farm of 51 a. in Burwell and 27 a. in Exning, jointly controlled by trustees for Bottisham and Exning. Bottisham's share, half the net rent, worth £26 in 1837, £38 by 1870, was usually given in small cash doles among the settled poor. (fn. 12) William Mott (d. 1772), a Cambridge attorney, gave in 1762 £5 yearly charged on land at Little and Great Eversden. After providing 10s. 6d. until 1868 for an annual sermon, the rest was for the poor of his native Bottisham. In 1837 it was given in cash doles of 6d.-1s. among church-goers, by 1870 in coal by tickets. (fn. 13) Soame Jenyns's widow Elizabeth, by will proved 1796, gave £100 in Consols, then worth £6 a year, to have turf given among the poor. Distribution of the 'Turf charity' continued into the 1870s. (fn. 14) From 1886 the combined income of those three charities, c. £100 yearly in the early 20th century, was to be given in fuel, clothing, medical help, or temporary relief in cash. Initially distribution was largely in coal and blankets, and through clothing clubs. (fn. 15)

William Pugh, having supposedly saved the whole vicarial income during his incumbency 1812-25, (fn. 16) by his will of 1825 left the yield of the accumulated £3,946, c. £120 yearly, for distribution among the resident poor, especially widows and orphans. At first it was mostly given in flannel clothing and blankets, while after 1840 initially a quarter, by 1870 a sixth, was spent on the church schools. By the 1870s half the income went to a maternity club, and church and chapel clothing clubs. (fn. 17) By the 1890s two thirds of Pugh's charity was being given to needy individuals. By the 1970s it was being administered with the United Charities.

Having since the early 1860s alleged various abuses, the vicar of Lode and some farmers sought from 1875 the conversion of Bottisham Poor's Fen into a charity. Despite opposition from c. 210 Lode labourers, who, roused by a radical 'agitator' from Cottenham, wished to retain their customary rights of turbary or have the fen divided into allotments, the change was effected under Schemes of 1877 and 1878. The former was concerned with 166 a. of that fen, the latter with another 51 a. in which Horningsea and Stow cum Quy had interests derived from ancient rights of intercommon. Bottisham's share, much the largest, of the expected rents was supposed to support coal clubs and assist education. The 1913 Scheme devoted its whole income to general charitable purposes. (fn. 18) About 1890 the total rents were £185-95, of which Bottisham and Lode shared equally £140-50, by 1913 only £135. (fn. 19) By the 1890s their parts were customarily given in 'fen coal', shared out individually among, eventually, 240-50 householders, including until 1906 many tradesmen and small farmers. Attempts to enforce the official rules were resisted by villagers claiming the coal as their 'birthright'. (fn. 20) Only the introduction of fuel rationing after 1939 led to effective change. (fn. 21)

By 1960 the Bottisham and Lode income from the Poor's Fen was c. £155. With Shepherd's land, then worth £140, and the properties (24½ a.) of Pledger's and Salisbury's, it produced most of the combined United Charities income of c. £3,000 in the late 1970s and over £9,500 by 1990. (fn. 22)


  • 1. For parish charities as a whole before 1886, tables in ch.; Char. Don. i. 96-7 (for 1783); C.R.O., Q/RDz 5, pp. 165-6, 259-60 (local property from 1808); 31st Rep. Com. Char. 142-4 (for 1837); Char. Digest Cambs. 1863-4, 374-5; Camb. Chron. 4 June 1870, p. 7; Char. Com. file 203215/13 (inspector's report 1870).
  • 2. For assets, income, and distribution of United Charities, 1886 to 1950s, Char. Com. file 203215/11-12, 17, incl. Schemes 1886, 1913, and corr. 1886-1950s; C.R.O., P 13/25/36, minutes 1886-1912; ibid. P 13/25/42-3, accts. 1917, 1933.
  • 3. P.R.O., PROB 11/95, ff. 147v.-148.
  • 4. For Pledger's char. to 1886, 31st Rep. Com. Char. 142; C.R.O., P 13/25/8.
  • 5. Hailstone, Bottisham, 61.
  • 6. For Bream's char. to 20th cent., B.L. Add. MS. 5805, f. 11v.; 31st Rep. Com. Char. 142; 29th Rep. Com. Char. [216], pp. 129-30, H.C. (1835), xxi (1); V.C.H. Essex, vi. 42; C.R.O., P 13/25/1-2.
  • 7. Alum. Cantab. to 1751, i. 412.
  • 8. For Craister's char. to 1890s, 31st Rep. Com. Char. 143; Char. Com. file 203215/4, corr. 1893-4.
  • 9. Hailstone, Bottisham, suppl. 13.
  • 10. For her, below, Gt. Wilbraham, Temple manor.
  • 11. For Clench's char. to 1886, C.U.L., Doc. 336; 31st Rep. Com. Char. 142; C.R.O., P 13/25/3-6; Char. Com. file 203215/19, corr. 1862 sqq.
  • 12. For Shepherd's char. to 1886, 22nd Rep. Com. Char. [139], p. 164, H.C. (1830), xii (1); 31st Rep. Com. Char. 142-3; Char. Com. files 203215/10, 15; W. Suff. R.O., FL 567/11/14-18, 20-4 (from cat.).
  • 13. For Mott's char. to 1886, 31st Rep. Com. Char. 143; Char. Com. file 203215/2; Hailstone, Bottisham, 62-3; cf. B.L. Add. MS. 5805, f. 19v.
  • 14. For Jenyns's char. to 1886, 31st Rep. Com. Char. 143; C.R.O., P 13/25/32-3.
  • 15. e.g. C.R.O., P 13/25/36, s.a. 1886-90.
  • 16. Camb. News, 22 Feb. 1964; cf. above, churches.
  • 17. For Pugh's char. to 20th cent., 31st Rep. Com. Char. 143-4: C.R.O., P 13/25/9-21, incl. accts. 1829-1920s; Char. Com. file 203922.
  • 18. For the Poor's Fen char. 1870s-1910s, C.R.O., P 134/25/29-30, 40 (Schemes 1877-8, 1913); Char. Com. files 203215/1, 7, incl. corr. 1874-8. For the fen's earlier hist., above, econ. hist.
  • 19. Char. Com. file 203215/7, 11-12, corr. 1878-1910s; cf. C.R.O., P 13/25/40.
  • 20. Char. Com. files 203215/11-12, 16, corr. 1886, 1889-90, 1906, 1912-13; cf. Camb. Chron. 10 Jan. 1880, p. 4.
  • 21. Char. Com. file 203215/11, corr. 1946-7.
  • 22. Ibid. 203215, accts. 1961-90; cf. Camb. Evening News, 19 Jan. 1973; Newmarket Jnl. 10 May 1979.