The city of Cambridge: Other charities

A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 3, the City and University of Cambridge. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1959.

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'The city of Cambridge: Other charities', A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 3, the City and University of Cambridge, (London, 1959), pp. 147-148. British History Online [accessed 15 June 2024].

. "The city of Cambridge: Other charities", in A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 3, the City and University of Cambridge, (London, 1959) 147-148. British History Online, accessed June 15, 2024,

. "The city of Cambridge: Other charities", A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 3, the City and University of Cambridge, (London, 1959). 147-148. British History Online. Web. 15 June 2024,


The number of endowed charities in Cambridge is large, and the following account does not purport to contain more than a summary description of some of the more notable types of trust. (fn. 8) In particular, no attempt has been made to deal with the many modern institutions or societies for social and charitable work which hold property on charitable trusts. The majority of charities in Cambridge have been simple eleemosynary ones for the poor of the Borough or of one parish. Sermon charities were sometimes attached to them. A number of charities for the poor of the Borough in general seem to have been lost, in some cases certainly by the negligence of the Corporation, well before the 19th century. There were several coals charities, all of which seem to have been distributed very indiscriminately in 1836, the coals in some cases being left at the church doors to be collected by anyone who chose. Some charities provided for payments or dinners for officials, and these provisions often seem to have been liberally interpreted until municipal reform. Most of these charities are now paid to the inmates of the almshouses maintained by the Municipal Charities or given in cash to general charitable purposes. In accordance with its statutes Trinity College distributed small doles for the poor of certain Cambridge parishes until the late 19th century. By then further payments, for the repair of roads, had long been discontinued, and the payments to the poor had long fallen short of the original £13. 6s. 8d.

Of the parishes, All Saints in 1951 enjoyed one charity for a sermon and five for the poor, the earliest dating from 1588 and the rest from the 18th century. The total income for the poor was £520 in 1952. In 1836 some embarrassment to the trustees of the richest charity (Susannah Forrester's, founded 1726) was caused by persons who came to the parish especially to qualify for it. Holy Trinity parish has Wray's almshouses and several small charities for the poor dating from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. In 1836 the Charity Commissioners commented that the indiscriminate distribution of one of them seemed to be worse than useless. Three charities in St. Andrew the Great parish were lost by 1836, two apparently because the principal was lent and never returned. The five surviving charities for the poor date from the 19th and 20th centuries and produced just over £50 in 1950. St. Andrew the Less parish has five charities, all established in the 20th century, which produced about £65 for the sick poor in the year 1952–3. St. Bene't's parish has two charities, established in the 16th and 19th centuries, which produced just under £7 for the poor in 1950. Another, for loans, was being left to accumulate, while a fourth was lost by 1836. St. Botolph's parish has four charities, founded between 1563 and 1706, whose income was distributed in bread and coals in 1836 and in cash in 1952, when it amounted to £9. St. Clement's has five charities for the poor, and two more were lost by 1836. All were founded in the 16th and 17th centuries. The surviving ones were distributed indiscriminately to the poor in 1836; in 1948 they were given away in bread, coals, and doles of a few shillings each. St. Edward's has six charities for the poor, one dating from 1612 and the others from the 18th and 19th centuries. They were mostly distributed indiscriminately in 1836, and in 1952 £24 was given away in cash to eight persons and £39 was given to charitable organizations. In St. Giles's parish Bridgman's charity, founded in the 18th century, provided the parish workhouse for some years, and was later used to relieve the rates. Another charity, of 1815, provided a subscription to Addenbrooke's Hospital for the parish; the proceeds are now given to the hospital each year. There are three other charities, which, with Bridgman's, pro- duced about £95 for pensions to the poor in 1950, and one small 17th-century charity which applies only to the part of the parish which used to be the separate parish of St. Peter. As well as Jackenett's almshouses and eight legacies which are appropriated to them, St. Mary the Great formerly had two charities for the poor which were lost by the 19th century. St. Mary the Less had apparently lost two or three charities by 1836; it still has an 18th-century sermon charity and a 19th-century charity for relief in kind. There was one apprenticing charity, founded in 1684, under which in the 19th century the children were bound to masters in other parishes so that they would gain settlements outside St. Mary the Less. St. Michael's parish has five charities which were founded between 1666 and 1820 for bread and coals to be given to the poor. They produced just over £20 in 1952, but none of this was spent. One of them was designed partly for an almshouse and in fact provided the parish workhouse for some time. A sixth was lost during the 19th century. There is only one charity for the poor in St. Paul's parish and in 1952 its income had apparently only once been used since its foundation in 1904. Although seven charities appear to have been left to the poor of St. Sepulchre's parish between 1544 and 1785, all but one for coals were lost by 1836.

Among the trusts founded for purposes other than the direct relief of poverty were several charities for the lending of money to young or poor tradesmen, in some cases without payment of interest. They seem to have been peculiarly liable to embezzlement. Thomas Johnson's gift, by will dated 1563, had been lost long before 1836 and the Borough records then apparently contained an old note: 'Accursed let that Mayor be that spent this £50.' Under Sir Thomas White's charity, which was founded in 1566, Cambridge received £104 for loans every 24 years. In 1833 a suit was brought in Chancery whereby it appeared that the Corporation had received £5,240 between 1592 and 1833 and had accounted for only £4,450. As a result of the suit the difference was repaid with interest. The unreformed Corporation received a last payment in 1835, after the suit had begun. Public notice was given for the first time and two of the £25 loans were made to young tradesmen, in accordance with the terms of the trust, but the other two loans were made to Borough bailiffs, one of whom was a musician over 40 years old. Since 1914 any unspent income is payable in other charitable ways and no loans appear to have been made for some time. Cambridge also shared in John Crane's bequest for loans and gifts which he made to several towns in his will dated 1651. Only seven loans were made in Cambridge between 1701 and 1817. About 1822, when a movement was started to compel the Corporation to observe the trusts, it appeared that many members of the Corporation were entirely ignorant of them. Arrears since 1816 were accordingly paid, and from then on the income was given away to the poor more or less in accordance with the donor's will, while £200 capital was duly used for loans at least until 1836. The income appeared in 1951 to be used in general charitable purposes, and no loans were apparently made. Three other 17th-century legacies for loans appear to have been spent by the Corporation or otherwise lost by the end of the century. A loans charity, founded by Elizabeth Goodall (d. 1813), still survived in 1951, but though repayments of loans were made in that year no new ones appear to have been made by 1953. A £5 loans charity founded in St. Bene't's parish in 1673 never appears to have been used for that purpose since it was apparently not applied for.

Charities were endowed for the making or maintenance of causeways by Henry Harvey (d. 1585), Master of Trinity Hall, Stephen Perse (d. 1615), and William Worts (d. 1709). (fn. 9) Harvey in his lifetime built a causeway from Paper Mills to Quy and left money to Trinity Hall for its maintenance, (fn. 10) but no later information about the administration of this charity has been found. Perse's will provided for the building of a causeway from Jesus Lane to Dr. Harvey's causeway. (fn. 11) In 1841 the yearly sum to be set aside for the maintenance of the causeway from the endowment of all Perse's charities was raised from £10 to £20. (fn. 12) None of this was spent in 1935. William Worts endowed several charities including one for the making and maintenance of a causeway from Emmanuel College to the Gogmagog Hills. The causeway formed the main road as far as the Red Cross, whence it ran east to the hills. Until 1882 the trustees employed a surveyor to look after it though the part inside the Borough was repaired by the Improvement Commissioners. The income of £40 a year is now paid to the appropriate local authorities.


  • 7. Except where otherwise stated, this section is based upon 31st Rep. Com. Char. [103], pp. 11–76, H.C. (1837–8), xxiv, and Char. Com. files.
  • 8. Almshouses are dealt with above, p. 146; Addenbrooke's Hospital above, p. 106; Hobson's conduit and Spinning House, pp. 103, 121; charities for prisoners, p. 121; Anglican ecclesiastical charities, pp. 123–33; Roman Catholic charities, p. 138; charities attached to Protestant nonconformist churches, pp. 135–8.
  • 9. None of these was reported in 31st Rep. Com. Char.
  • 10. Cooper, Annals, ii. 406–7.
  • 11. Ibid. iii. 99.
  • 12. Ibid. iv. 642.