Willingham: Charities for the poor

Page 414

A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 9, Chesterton, Northstowe, and Papworth Hundreds. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1989.

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Charities for the poor

In 1876 four eleemosynary and two educational charities were united as the Willingham Parochial Charities. (fn. 1) Details of the earlier history of the four pauper charities follow.

Henry Greaves, by will dated 1505, left an annual rent of 6s. 8d. from a house on the north side of Church Street to help defray taxes levied on the poorest inhabitants. (fn. 2) The house was later called the town house. Nine cottages were later built on the back of the site for letting to poor women. (fn. 3) The 15 a. allotted at inclosure in 1853 for common rights yielded c. £48 a year in the 1860s, distributed in fuel. (fn. 4)

The rector William Smith by deed of 1615 gave 8 a. to maintain an almshouse for four widows, which was apparently already standing in the south-east corner of the churchyard. The income was at first £6 a year. (fn. 5) In the 1830s each almswoman received 3s. 6d. a week. (fn. 6) After inclosure the land was let as allotments to the poor, bringing in c. £30 in 1876. (fn. 7)

Robert Osborne by deed of 1693 gave a rent charge of 3s. 4d. for the poor, (fn. 8) which had been lost by 1938. (fn. 9)

Samuel Saywell by will proved 1709 left half the rent of Queenholme droveway to the poor of Willingham. (fn. 10) In 1876 the income was £5. (fn. 11)

After the amalgamation of the charities in 1876 Queenholme droveway and Smith's land were sold and Smith's almshouses and the town house and cottages were demolished. Two new almshouses and new cottages for letting were built on the site of the town house. (fn. 12) In the 1890s and 1900s each of the two almswomen was paid 5s. a week, sums usually of 5s. were given to other deserving cases, and coal was occasionally distributed. The money and coal never exceeded £30 and £10 respectively in any one year. (fn. 13) Greaves's land was sold in 1965 and the 1870s cottages were demolished in 1962 and 1972. (fn. 14) The almshouses were still in use in 1982.

By will proved 1952 Hilda Smith left c. 11 a., stock, and money to build and maintain additional almshouses. Six bungalows, the Josiah Smith Homes, were built on Over Road in 1967. The Josiah Smith Homes and Willingham Parochial Charities remained separate but from 1964 were administered by the same trustees. In 1981 the total income was over £3,000, of which c. £900 was spent on maintenance and £62 on Christmas parcels. (fn. 15)


  • 1. Char. Com. files; above, educ.
  • 2. C.R.O., R 59/14/5/10, ff. 15-17.
  • 3. Ibid. P 177/25/24; Char. Com. files.
  • 4. Char. Digest Cambs. 1863-4, 410-11.
  • 5. C.R.O., R 59/14/5/10, ff. 46-51v.
  • 6. Char. Digest Cambs. 1863-4, 410-11.
  • 7. Char. Com. files.
  • 8. C.R.O., R 59/14/5/10, f. 91v.
  • 9. Char. Com. files.
  • 10. P.R.O., PROB 11/510, ff. 193v.-194v.
  • 11. Char. Com. files.
  • 12. Ibid.; C.R.O., P 177/25/3; P 177/25/24; P 177/25/26.
  • 13. C.R.O., P 177/25/46.
  • 14. Char. Com. files.
  • 15. Ibid.