Dedham: Charities for the poor

A History of the County of Essex: Volume 10, Lexden Hundred (Part) Including Dedham, Earls Colne and Wivenhoe. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2001.

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'Dedham: Charities for the poor', A History of the County of Essex: Volume 10, Lexden Hundred (Part) Including Dedham, Earls Colne and Wivenhoe, (London, 2001), pp. 185-186. British History Online [accessed 21 June 2024].

. "Dedham: Charities for the poor", in A History of the County of Essex: Volume 10, Lexden Hundred (Part) Including Dedham, Earls Colne and Wivenhoe, (London, 2001) 185-186. British History Online, accessed June 21, 2024,

. "Dedham: Charities for the poor", A History of the County of Essex: Volume 10, Lexden Hundred (Part) Including Dedham, Earls Colne and Wivenhoe, (London, 2001). 185-186. British History Online. Web. 21 June 2024,


By will proved 1518, Stephen Dunton devised to his executors, with reversion to the churchwardens, seven cottages for the use of the poor. He endowed the cottages, later known as the Row, with 2½ a. of meadow and the rents of two houses, one at each end of the row. In 1806 the old cottages were demolished and replaced by 10 houses at a cost of c. £600 raised from the accumulation of rents, a loan from the town stock, and subscriptions from the grammar school governors, who by then were managing the charity. (fn. 1) The plain red-brick row, with a tiled roof, was arranged with low hipped roofed cottages flanking taller ones with a mansard roof. William Littlebury, by will proved 1576, devised to trustees 69 a. of land in Bradfield; 46s. 6d. of the income was to provide wood for Dunton's almspeople, the residue was to be distributed among the poor and infirm. In 1575 management of the estate was transferred to the grammar school governors. In 1833 the Charity Commission directed that a greater share of the rents should go to the poor and infirm outside the almshouses. (fn. 2)

William Littlebury gave £100, Hugh May by will proved 1605 gave £60, John Marsh by will dated 1642 gave £40, Robert Freeman by will proved 1684 gave £15, and Thomas Turner by will dated 1692 gave £17 as a stock to be lent to young clothiers. The bequests were amalgamated as the town stock. By 1806 the capital had been increased by money from other charities. In that year it was directed that £212 be lent without interest; the remaining £390 was used to rebuild Dunton's almshouses. By 1833 part of the capital had been lost; the rest was lent to craftsmen, labourers, and small farmers. (fn. 3) In 1616 the parish bought and vested in feoffees c. 27 a. of land in Little Clacton, perhaps using money like the £20 left by Henry Sherman in 1590 and the £10 left by Hugh May in 1604 as a stock for the poor. No trusts seem to have been declared, and by 1811 the income was used for church expenses. (fn. 4)

In 1859 a Scheme incorporated the grammar school and its associated educational charities with Dunton's almshouses, Littlebury's charity, the Clacton land, and the town stock under the management of the grammar school governors. The incomes of Littlebury's charity and the Clacton land were applied to the almshouses; that of the town stock to apprenticing children. A further Scheme of 1896 separated the endowments of Dunton's almshouses and their associated charities from those of the school, including the town stock which presumably became part of the Dedham Educational Foundation. The Clacton land was sold c. 1866; Littlebury's land was apparently sold c. 1920. A Scheme of 1964 required the almspeople to contribute towards the maintenance of the almshouses, which were renovated in 1963 as nine houses. By will proved in 1909, C. A. Jones left £150 to be invested to provide warm clothing for the almspeople; £50 was received from that, and presumably other investments, in 1991. (fn. 5)

Mary Bardfield of Colchester, by deed dated 1833, founded four almshouses for widows aged over 60, preferably residents of Dedham, otherwise of Colchester or Royston (Cambs.); each resident was to have a weekly stipend of 4s. 6d. One of the seven trustees was to be the Congregational minister in the parish. In 1971 a Scheme required residents to contribute towards the maintenance of the houses. The houses, built as a red brick terrace with projecting ends, have fretted bargeboards to gables and porches; they were modernized in 1987. (fn. 6)

By indenture dated 1862, Samuel Barker of London gave houses in East Lane for six spinsters aged 55 or over, or else widows of 60 or over. Each resident had a weekly allowance of 5s. In 1907 the charity was one of the most flourishing in the parish. (fn. 7) The terrace of plain brick houses, which had projecting gabled ends linked by a tiled roofed loggia, was sold in 1982 and replaced in 1984 by new ones on the old school site in School Lane. (fn. 8) From c. 1990 residents made regular contributions toward the upkeep of the almshouses. C. A. Jones in 1909 left £100 for warm clothing for the almspeople. A Scheme amalgamated the two charities in 1983. (fn. 9)

John Chapman, by will proved 1661, devised to the churchwardens and overseers his house and c. 30 a. of land in Ardleigh, later called Townlands, for the Dedham poor. The grammar school governors made an unsuccessful claim to the estate in 1810, and the following year the vestry ordered the income, which had been paid to the church, to be used for the poor. The estate was leased in 1830 for £45 a year, most of which was used to buy coal for the poor settled in the parish; the rest was paid out in doles to people belonging to, but not resident in, Dedham. (fn. 10) Between 1845 and 1853 all Dedham's poor, whether settled or not, benefitted; thereafter those living outside the parish were excluded from the charity. From 1837 until 1922 the charity also provided coal and doles for the almspeople in the town. In 1895 the charity's land was vested in four trustees appointed by the parish council. In 1963 Townlands farm was sold for c. £35,000 and the proceeds invested; the income in the late 1990s was £1,100-£1,200 a year. (fn. 11)

Edward Betts, by will proved 1826, gave £500 to provide coal, bread, and blankets for poor Anglicans. (fn. 12) In 1987 the capital was transferred to the Dedham Relief in Sickness Fund. (fn. 13)

Muriel Elizabeth Mallett, by indenture of 1990, set up the Little Garth Cottages Trust to provide affordable accommodation at Nos. 1-4 Little Garth cottages for the elderly, the needy, or church workers. (fn. 14)

No further information has been found on the charities of John Marsh, who by will of 1642 devised five tenements to house the poor, (fn. 15) or of Grace Marratt, who by will dated 1825 left £100 to the poor, especially the sick and aged. (fn. 16)


  • 1. 27th Rep. Com. Char. 226-8; Jones, Hist. Dedham, 130-2; P.R.O., PROB 11/19, f. 52. Mrs. Veronica Webber gave valuable assistance with the writing of this section.
  • 2. 27th Rep. Com. Char. 226-8; E.R.O., D/P 26/25/19-20.
  • 3. 27th Rep. Com. Char. 228-9; E.R.O., D/P 26/25/19; D/P 26/25/75, p. 35; ibid. D/ABW 26/155.
  • 4. E.R.O., D/P 26/25/75, pp. 142, 145, 191; ibid. D/ABW 26/155.
  • 5. Char. Com. file; E.R.O., Q/RUm 2/174; plaque on houses; inf. from Mrs. V. Webber; above, this par., Educ.
  • 6. Jones, Hist. Dedham, 136-7; Char. Com. file.
  • 7. Jones, Hist. Dedham, 137.
  • 8. E.C.S. 10 June 1983.
  • 9. Char. Com. file; Principal Registry, Family Division, will of C. A. Jones.
  • 10. 27th Rep. Com. Char. 229; E.R.O., D/P 26/5/1; D/P 26/25/38.
  • 11. Dedham Par. Mag. Aug. 1895; E.R.O., D/Q 23/17/9-10; Char. Com. file; inf. from Mr. A. Mitchell, clerk to the charity.
  • 12. 27th Rep. Com. Char. 230; Dedham Par. Mag. Apr. 1890; M.I. in ch.
  • 13. Char. Com. file.
  • 14. Ibid.; E.C.S. 28 Mar. 1997.
  • 15. E.R.O., Q/RSrl, pp. 374-5.
  • 16. 27th Rep. Com. Char. 230.