Fordham: Charities for the poor

Pages 419-420

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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By 1800 Fordham was well supplied with means to assist its poor. (fn. 1) In 1626 Thomas Hinson built six almshouses, three with six chimneys being recorded in 1664, (fn. 2) standing on Pool fen by the Snail. (fn. 3) Following inclosure Robert Hayward arranged in 1811-12 to pull down those almshouses and take their site, buying for the parish in exchange a plot on the high street, where six 'new almshouses' were built. The parish also sold a house on Market Street bought in 1713 as a town house and bought in 1812 a house next to that given by Hayward. In the 1830s the six dwellings housed widows and old people rent free, and the new house, in better repair, large pauper families. (fn. 4) The six almshouses were burnt down in 1854 and six new ones erected, apparently on a fresh site given by William Dunn Gardner (II) (fn. 5) still on the village street. They were usually inhabited from the 1860s by women over sixty. (fn. 6) Still in use in the early 20th century, (fn. 7) the unendowed almshouses were in poor condition by the 1930s. Only one was occupied in 1939 and two, by very old women, in 1959, when the rest of the brick, slated, mostly two-roomed, dwellings were thought beyond repair. In 1963-6 they were sold with their 1/8-a. site on Church Street for demolition. The two behind collapsed; the others were renovated. The parish invested the price, £550, to yield c. £31 a year, usually given in the 1990s in cash grants. (fn. 8)

Margaret Gray (d. 1594) gave for the poor a cottage later sold by the parish, which bought instead 6 a. of freehold land, then yielding £2 a year, later incorporated with other charity land acquired c. 1730. Between 1586 and 1726 Fordham had received for the poor thirteen bequests, (fn. 9) usually of £10 each, another four ranging from £5 to £20. The testators, who included the expelled vicar Stephen Hall (d. 1661), and his successor Hugh Floyd's daughter Jane (d. 1666: £10 for twelve poor widows), as well as two women giving to commemorate dead daughters, required distribution of the interest on their gifts on set days, mostly around Easter and Whitsun and near Christmas. Two similar bequests of £10 were made in 1752-3. In 1730 the parish had invested £87 of the accumulated £132 in 9¾ a. in Fordham's fields. At inclosure in 1820 it was allotted, for its 16-a. Poor land, 8¼ a. in Moor common, next to its Church land, all still in its hands in the late 20th century. (fn. 10)

In the early 18th century the parish had normally given out the interest on those bequests on the dates specified by donors among c. 50 people, including 16 widows. (fn. 11) From the late 1770s it began instead to hand it out in quarterly doles, combining several testators' gifts, of 3-9d. to 65-85 people. (fn. 12) Soon after 1800 the bequests, only the Floyd gift for widows being for a time distinguished, were amalgamated: the rent of the Dole land, increased from £10 c. 1785 to £12 10s. by 1820, was by then given annually at Christmas in cash doles to poorer villagers. The number so helped rose from 125-145 in the 1810s and 1820s (fn. 13) to 180-210 from the late 1840s, each usually receiving 1s. 6d. to 2s. 6d. out of a rent in 1863 of £21 10s. Those doles were reduced as the rent fell from the 1870s (fn. 14) to £13. In the late 20th century it rose from c. £10 in 1962 to £50 in 1976 and to well over £600 in the 1990s, still given at Christmas in cash; in the 1970s £1 each went to 70-90 old people, but by 1994 as much as £15 each to c. 60 people. (fn. 15)

At inclosure in 1820 the parish received the Great Brackland, 18¼ a. just east of the river and Abbey park, where its legally settled poor might dig turf and cut flags. If it was let, the rent was to go to poor people occupying property worth under £5 a year (fn. 16) in lieu of their former unlimited right of turbary. The boggy land was dug for turf until it was exhausted and the hollows so made flooded. Thereafter, perhaps by 1830, that land was let, eventually to the owners of Fordham Abbey, and its rent given in fuel to the poor. The income rose from £12 c. 1830 to £20 10s. by the 1860s, (fn. 17) but fell from £26 10s., given in coal, c. 1870 to £23 10s. between the 1880s and the 1920s, when 45-50 people benefited. (fn. 18) Only in the 1970s was the rent again raised to £40, still then given in coal. (fn. 19)

Eyre Coote by will of 1857 left the income from £500, invested in 1859 to yield £15 12s. a year, to provide coal and blankets in winter for Fordham's poor. (fn. 20) By the 1930s, as later, the income, £13, was being spent on coal, in 1976 for 13 people, with the 'Fuel Allotment' charity described above, into which Coote's bequest was merged, its stock being sold, in 1995-6. (fn. 21)

Under the will, proved 1878, of Hetty Roper, leaving over £300 to assist Fordham's sick poor, £438 was invested in 1891, primarily for medical aid for them. In 1994, when it yielded £11, it was incorporated into the Dole charity. (fn. 22)


  • 1. Donors, dates, and terms of pre-1880 gifts, discussed in this and next para., given in detail, B.L. Add. MS. 5809, f. 8 (from benefactors' table in ch., 1745); C.R.O., P 71/3/1 (terrier 1794); summarized, Char. Don. i. 98-9; 31st Rep. Com. Char. 156-8.
  • 2. P.R.O., E 179/84/437, rot. 85.
  • 3. C.R.O., par. reg. transcript, p. 361.
  • 4. 31st Rep. Com. Char. 156; C.R.O., P 71/25/5-17, 21.
  • 5. Char. Com. file 245683, corr. 1855; C.R.O., P 71/8/1, s.a. 1854-5; cf. Camb. Chron. 13 May 1854, p. 4.
  • 6. e.g. P.R.O., RG 9/1035, f. 38v.; RG 10/1600, f. 36v.
  • 7. Cf. Kelly's Dir. Cambs. (1869 and later edns.).
  • 8. Char. Com. file 245683, corr. 1939-40, 1959-63; Scheme 1961; accts. 1992-4; local inf.; Newmarket Jnl. 11 Mar. 1982.
  • 9. e.g. P.R.O., PROB 11/129, f. 390; PROB 11/134, f. 123; PROB 11/293, f. 25.
  • 10. C.R.O., P 71/25/25-32; ibid. Q/RDz 9, p. 346; cf. 31st Rep. Com. Char. 156-7.
  • 11. C.R.O., P 71/25/34 (accts. 1725-39).
  • 12. Ibid. P 71/25/35 (accts. 1772-90).
  • 13. Ibid. P 71/25/33; ibid. P 71/25/36 (accts. 1791-1826); 31st Rep. Com. Char. 156-7.
  • 14. Accts. from 1814 in C.R.O., P 71/5/2 (chwdns. accts.); cf. ibid. P 71/25/37; Char. Digest Cambs. 1863-4, 390-1.
  • 15. Char. Com. files 30598, incl. corr. 1878, 1922; 204297, accts. from 1962; Camb. Ind. Press, 26 Apr. 1901, p. 5; 11 Apr. 1972; 20 Apr. 1978; 29 Mar. 1979; Newmarket Jnl. 16 June 1994.
  • 16. Fordham Incl. Act, 49 Geo. III, c. 36 (Private, not printed), pp. 122-3; C.R.O., Q/RDz 9, p. 335.
  • 17. Rep. H.L. Cttee. on Poor Laws, 330-1; 31st Rep. Com. Char. 158; Char. Digest, Cambs 1863-4, 390-1.
  • 18. C.R.O., P 71/5/2, s.a. 1870, 1885, 1893; Char. Com. files 38152, corr. 1883; 245884, corr. 1922; 72817, corr. 1939.
  • 19. Newmarket Jnl. 26 Feb., 11 Mar. 1976; 28 Apr. 1977; Camb. Ind. Press, 18 July 1976; 20 Apr. 1978; cf. Char. Com. file 214296, accts. 1968-9.
  • 20. Char. Com. unrep. vol. 14, p. 463; cf. C.R.O., P 71/5/2, s.a. 1858.
  • 21. Char. Com. file 214296, accts. 1968-94; Order 1995; cf. C.R.O., P 71/AM 2, p. 254; Camb. Ind. Press, 20 Apr. 1978.
  • 22. Char. Com. unrep. vol. 67, pp. 476-8; Char. Com. file 245682, Scheme 1890; accts. 1990-3.