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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CHARITIES FOR THE POOR.
A 16thcentury render expected from the former priory demesne farm of 10s. yearly for the poor through the churchwardens (fn. 1) was perhaps represented c. 1800 by a general distribution of cake and ale from 'Plum Cake Acre' by the tenant of Abbey Farm; the distribution ceased at inclosure. (fn. 2)
Nicholas Hughson of Momplers by will proved 1513 left land in Bottisham to feoffees to relieve of taxes all poor inhabitants of Bottisham and Swaffham Bulbeck, but excluding those possessing the lordships. If not duly enfeoffed the land was to revert to his heirs, which apparently happened. (fn. 3) Hughson's successor Thomas Rudston (d. 1556) left money for poor householders 'chargeable with children' in Swaffham Bulbeck and four neighbouring parishes and ordered his bequest for road repairs to go to the poor to gather fieldstones by the cartload. (fn. 4)
Between 1596 and 1640 seven substantial yeomen from four families, perhaps inspired by the then vicar and each using similar terms in their wills, left to the chief inhabitants or parish officers £5 towards a permanent stock. The interest, expected to be 6-7 per cent, was to be given yearly to the poor. (fn. 5) The accumulated money, not recorded later, may have helped to acquire part of the Swaffham charity property, whose donor was later unknown. In 1789 its feoffees possessed, besides a house at Newnham, later Commercial, End, probably the Town house for which 4 a. of fen was allotted in 1677, two cottages on Gutter Lane and four northwest of the churchyard on a plot extending into the adjoining Camping close. The feoffees also had 20 a. of pasture closes, and a house and 1¾ a. in Cherry Hinton, for whose common right 3½ a. were allotted at its inclosure in 1806. Following the Swaffham Bulbeck inclosure the charity emerged in 1801 with 30 a. of land there, besides the cottages. (fn. 6) Those by the churchyard, used from the late 18th century as almshouses for aged paupers, were badly dilapidated and mostly untenanted by the early 1860s. Although then repaired they were finally condemned in 1884 as insanitary, and demolished c. 1888. Their site was sold to the vicar in 1921 to enlarge his garden. (fn. 7) The Gutter Lane cottages, also let to poor people at low rents and likewise derelict by 1900, were pulled down c. 1933. Their site was sold for over £1,500 c. 1975. (fn. 8) Of the Cherry Hinton property eventually valuable as building land, 3½ a. were sold in 1902 for £1,100, (fn. 9) the rest c. 1953 for over £400. (fn. 10) The Swaffham field and fen land, let in 1837 for c. £45, (fn. 11) was from the 1840s converted into c. 120 allotments of ¼-a., yielding in the 1860s almost £70 yearly, and let to the poorer villagers. (fn. 12) They were still so let in 1910, (fn. 13) when supply had long exceeded demand: twenty were unlet in 1905, the rest being occupied by 54 men. (fn. 14) By 1960 part was held by larger farmers. The 30 a. still remained with the charity, the villagers refusing in 1978 to sell any of them, in the early 1990s, when their rents had greatly increased. (fn. 15)
Most of the charity income, which rose from c. £19 in 1780 (fn. 16) to £60-65 c. 1825-35, was usually in the early 19th century given in cash doles, once in blankets, among the poorer villagers, apparently according to the size of their families. About £40-45 was shared every May among 140-150 people, drawn from virtually all the households in the parish. Small amounts also went to from 1835 to the church school. (fn. 17) The total charity income, £85-95 c. 1860-80, rose to £106 by 1905, when a quarter arose from investments. (fn. 18) From the 1860s to the 1960s successive trustees continued the traditional broadcast distribution in cash to all but the wealthiest inhabitants. Those receiving 8-10s. each winter numbered 168 in 1869, over 100 in 1902, and 143 c. 1943. (fn. 19) After 1900 the money went to older villagers. In 1960 two thirds of the £110 income was distributed in coal, but a third was still handed out in cash to c. 170 people. (fn. 20)
In 1974 the Poor charity was combined with two others to form the Swaffham Relief in Need charity. (fn. 21) Francis Barnes (d. 1774) had given by will for the poor the interest on £60, averaging in the 19th century £2 10s. About 1837 it was given in cash among the settled poor, later in alternate years, by the 1890s in blankets. (fn. 22) The Swaffham Poor's Turf Fen had been constituted a poor charity in 1905. Its income, then c. £40, £55 c. 1960, £260 by 1974, though assigned to assist the needy in the standard ways, was until after 1970 given in cash doles. (fn. 23) The income of the combined charities, in the late 1970s almost £500, had by 1990 reached c. £3,450 from rents and £500 from investments, of which two thirds was then distributed yearly. (fn. 24)