Elsworth: Charities for the poor

Pages 319-320

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.

(fn. 1) Samuel Franklin by will of c. 1695 gave £400 to build single-room dwellings for three aged widows and to buy land to maintain them; the net surplus income was to be divided weekly equally among the widows. A small plot at Cowdell End was bought, the almshouses were built on it at a cost of £105, and three closes (13 a.) nearby, let by 1783 for £20, (fn. 2) were acquired in 1702 to support the widows, installed by 1728. (fn. 3) In the early 19th century the Holworthys occupied the land and managed the charity, paying the widows £28 a year out of a £32 rent, hardly increased until the 1960s. William Lunn by will proved 1828 left £700 stock, £15 of the income from which, after a kinsman died, was to augment that charity, 4 guineas a year for each widow, the balance for repairs. A Chancery suit undertaken c. 1847 to recover his legacy reduced the capital to £430 yielding £12, later 9 guineas, for the widows. Following a Scheme of 1876 for both charities the almshouses continued to be occupied by widows, later by aged spinsters, each paid in 1941 £6 a year, until the late 1950s. The last almswoman left in 1961, and the derelict and collapsing structure was sold in 1968 and demolished, leaving the charity, by then united with the other parish charities, with an accumulated £360.

Thomas Campion by will dated 1614 gave a 6s. 8d. rent charge redeemed in 1969; a Mr. Newman gave the income on £6 for bread; and Rose Desborough, by will proved 1699, gave the interest on £10 for bread on the anniversary of her death. The last two ceased to be paid after the manor was sold in 1827. Matthew Holworthy by will proved 1728 left £5 a year, of which £2 (still due after 1908) went to the rector for a sermon at Christmas, after which £3 was given in bread. The money was regularly paid out of the manorial estate, after 1930 from Lordship farm, until its redemption for £117 in 1952. The £3 was given in doles in the 1830s, in bread in the 1850s (fn. 4) and in the 1880s when church and chapel bakers disputed the task of making the almsbread, and by 1950 in bread vouchers.

John Hunt's gift by will dated 1754 of 6s. yearly in bread, redeemed in 1972, was c. 1837 given monthly in bread by the owner of the house which bore the charge, but by the 1890s in cash at Christmas. Elizabeth Whitechurch by will proved 1856 left £100, whose interest, £2- 3, was to reward industry and morality among the deserving poor. Elizabeth Banks by will proved 1896 left £300, yielding £12 a year, for poor protestants in bread and coal at Christmas. William Childs by will proved 1941 also left £300, producing £14 yearly, for the poor. A 4- a. plot called Herb's Gore, allotted to the parish at inclosure, (fn. 5) was let rent free to the parish clerk, being thence called the Clerk's piece, until 1858 when a Dissenting majority at a parish meeting obliged him to pay a rent towards the rates. The rector recovered it in 1876 and a Scheme of 1878 devoted to the poor the rent, c. £5, at first given through a coal club. The land was sold in 1963 for £275, yielding £13 a year.

Since 1900 the income of Elsworth's charities other than the almshouse had been de factoamalgamated. It was largely given in coal until rationing was imposed in the 1940s, later in cash, and increased steadily. A Scheme of 1967 formally united all the charities, including the almshouse, under one management, giving a preference in spending the income from Franklin's and Lunn's to elderly widows, and from Banks's to protestants. (fn. 6) In the mid 1970s the combined income was c. £350 a year, of which Franklin's and Lunn's contributed c. £290, mostly rent; apart from £10 in coal from Banks's charity, it was mostly given in cash.


  • 1. Section based on C.U.L., E.D.R., C 1/1; Char. Don. i. 92-3; 31st Rep. Com. Char. 248-9; Char. Digest Cambs. 1863-4, 388-9; Char. Com. files.
  • 2. C.U.L., E.D.R., B 7/1, f. 82: hos. described, R.C.H.M. Cambs. i. 89.
  • 3. C.U.L., E.D.R., B 8/1, f. 11.
  • 4. e.g. Camb. Chron. 30 Dec. 1854; 2 Jan. 1858.
  • 5. C.R.O., Q/RDz 5, p. 317.
  • 6. Cf. Camb. Ind. Press, 19 Mar. 1970.