West Ham: Charities

A History of the County of Essex: Volume 6. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1973.

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'West Ham: Charities', in A History of the County of Essex: Volume 6, (London, 1973) pp. 157-163. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/essex/vol6/pp157-163 [accessed 20 April 2024]

In this section

CHARITIES. (fn. 1)

Charitable bequests entrusted to the vicar and churchwardens of West Ham, for the use of the parishioners in general, were being divided equally between the three wards (Church Street, Plaistow, and Stratford) as early as the 16th century. In each ward the churchwarden kept what was known as the donation account, and each churchwarden in turn acted also as accountant to the whole parish. Bequests for the use of specific wards were paid into their donation accounts.

A Chancery order of 1848 apportioned the income of the charities then existing, except those of Sarah Bonnell, between the three ecclesiastical districts, each of which was also to share the right to nominate to vacancies in Newman's and Harris's alms-houses. A Charity Commission scheme of 1870 provided that the Alms-house Charities and the Distributive Charities for the poor should be administered by a central charity board consisting of the Vicar of All Saints', the churchwardens, and the parish overseers. In each of the eleven ecclesiastical districts the vicar and churchwardens were to apportion the district's share of the Distributive Charities and to appoint, in turn, to vacancies in Newman's alms-houses. In 1897 a controversy arose concerning the administration of the charities. By then West Ham had become a large county borough, and a strong section of public opinion was urging that the charities should no longer be controlled by the Church. An order of the Local Government Board on 19 March 1897 transferred the power of appointing the overseers from the vestry to the borough council. The council, exercising its powers under the Local Government Act, 1894, thereupon increased the number of overseers from three to seven (including the mayor ex officio), thus giving them potential control over the central charity board, though not of the district boards. Churchmen, under the determined leadership of the Vicar of All Saints', Canon Pelly, then pressed the Charity Commission to draw up a new scheme which would enable them to retain control. This was strongly opposed by the council, which in 1898–9 was controlled by the Socialists and their allies. A public inquiry was held in 1899 by an assistant commissioner who reported in favour of 'more popular and less ecclesiastical' control.

Under the resulting scheme (1903) a new board of trustees was set up, consisting of the vicar of All Saints', the mayor, 12 representatives appointed by the borough council, and 6 co-optative members. This board was to administer the United NonEcclesiastical Charities, i.e. all the Alms-house and Distributive Charities controlled by the old central charity board except Avenon's charity, together with three other charities that had been independent of the old board. The new board was to use the income of the Alms-house Charities for the purposes of those charities. The income from the Distributive Charities (except the ecclesiastical portions) was to be shared between the 12 wards of the borough, in each of which there was to be a local committee responsible for distributing the money. The Ecclesiastical Charities, drawing their income from the ecclesiastical portions of the Distributive Charities, were separated from the Non-Ecclesiastical Charities and placed under the control of the vicar and churchwardens of All Saints'.

A scheme of 1966 placed the United NonEcclesiastical Charities under the control of a board of trustees comprising the mayor of Newham, the vicar of All Saints', 14 members nominated by the Newham borough council, and 6 co-optative members. The ward committees were abolished.

In addition to the United Non-Ecclesiastical Charities there are various other charities for the poor or for the churches. These are all treated in the present section. Educational charities are described in the section on Education. Those connected with nonconformist churches are treated in the section on Protestant Nonconformity.

The United Non-Ecclesiastical Charities. (fn. 2)

Alms-house Charities.

In 1512 there was an almshouse in Church Street maintained by John Scott of Stratford, who gave instructions relating to it in his will of that year (proved in 1525). (fn. 3) Nothing further is known about Scott's alms-house. It must have been very near the later alms-houses of Newman and Harris, but there is no evidence that it was connected with either of those foundations.

In 1636 John Newman conveyed two copyhold cottages to the churchwardens of West Ham for the use of the parish poor. These provided seven almsrooms without endowment. The site, which was declared freehold about 1810 after a dispute between the vestry and the West Ham manor court, lay east of the churchyard. (fn. 4)

James Cooper (d. 1743) left £200 for the rebuilding of the alms-houses, and this work was apparently completed between 1745 and 1748. (fn. 5) The new houses comprised a two-storey terrace of ten tenements, accommodating 20 alms-women. In 1899 the condition of the alms-houses was said to be unsatisfactory, but they were still in use in 1938. (fn. 6) A scheme of that year provided for the amalgamation of Newman's with Harris's alms-houses; the buildings of both were to be demolished and replaced by a block of 26 new alms-houses in Gift Lane. These were built in 1939–40.

The scheme of 1870 stipulated that the almswomen were to be over 60 years old or infirm, and to have been resident in the parish for at least two years. A scheme of 1913 permitted the trustees to employ a nurse to look after the alms-women, and to accommodate her in one of the alms-rooms.

For over a century after their foundation Newman's alms-houses appear to have been maintained entirely by the vestry, but from the middle of the 18th century they received a succession of endowments, mainly for the alms-women's stipends, which were providing a total income of £188 by 1898. In that year the alms-houses also received £20 from the Distributive Charities. The scheme of 1903 did not permit such payments, but that of 1913 gave the trustees power to spend up to £130 from the Distributive Charities on the alms-houses. Subsequent schemes increased the limit, and under the latest (1966) the trustees have discretion to use for the alms-houses whatever proportion of their total income they think necessary. In 1966 the total income from endowments of the United NonEcclesiastical Charities was £1,766, of which £140 was spent on eleemosynary grants and the remainder mainly on the maintenance of the alms-houses, the nurse's wages and Christmas gifts to the almswomen.

James Cooper (d. 1743) (fn. 7) left £600 stock in trust for various charitable purposes in the parish, including gifts of coal for the inmates of Newman's almshouses. In 1834 £7 10s. was being spent on coal, one sack being given to each alms-woman and the remainder to the poor of Plaistow. Thomasin Gouge, by will dated 1754, left the residue of her estate for the relief of Newman's alms-women. In 1834 £1,300 stock yielded an income of £39, which was distributed to the alms-women half-yearly. John Snelgrave, by will proved 1810, left £700 stock, in addition to another bequest, for a yearly distribution to the alms-women. In 1834 the income was £21. Samuel Jones Vachell, by will dated 1831, gave £200 for the poor, from which in 1834 the income of £8 was being distributed among the alms-women. Isabella Wilson, by will proved 1834, gave £1,000 for the relief of 30 poor women attending the parish church. The Chancery order of 1848 apportioned the income among the three ecclesiastical districts of West Ham, but for some time before 1870 it was being used for Newman's alms-houses. Joseph Watts, by will proved 1836, gave £500 in trust for the alms-women. Elizabeth Hoyte and Mary Goldthorp by deed of 1844 gave £2,300 on reversion to augment the income of the alms-women, the gift becoming effective in 1851. By her will proved 1851 Mary Goldthorp left the reversion to a further £437 for the same purpose: this was received in 1875. All these charities were included in the scheme of 1870 and formed the Alms-house Charities, the charities of Cooper, Snelgrave, Vachell, and Wilson being numbered also among the Distributive Charities. Emily Cleypole, by will proved 1877, gave £100 for the benefit of Newman's alms-women, and this gift was included among the Alms-house Charities in the scheme of 1903. Under that scheme Wilson's charity ceased to be one of the Distributive Charities and Vachell's charity ceased to be one of the Alms-house Charities.

Roger Harris, by will dated 1633, devised two copyhold cottages in Little (later Gift) Lane for the use of the poor. In 1834 these were being maintained by the parish as poorhouses. They were rebuilt by subscription in 1853, as a single house with six living rooms, (fn. 8) the balance of the subscription, £39, being invested as an endowment for the alms-houses. In 1899 the upkeep of the buildings was being met by the vicar, mainly from parochial funds. There were six alms-women, usually from All Saints' parish, each receiving 2s. 6d. a week from the guardians of West Ham union, and gifts of bread and cash out of All Saints' share of the Distributive Charities. Harris's alms-houses were excluded from the schemes of 1870 and 1903, and remained under the control of the vicar and churchwardens of All Saints' until a scheme of 1932 placed them under the trustees of the United Non-Ecclesiastical Charities. From 1932 the conditions of admission to Harris's alms-houses were the same as for Newman's alms-houses, except that Harris's alms-women were expected to have a pension or other assured means.

Distributive Charities.

Nicholas Avenon (d. 1599), (fn. 9) merchant tailor of London, conveyed to 12 trustees, by a deed of 1580, 6 a. marsh called Withering's mead. After his death the income from this land was to provide 24 poor persons with a penny loaf each every Sunday, any residue going towards an annual sermon to be preached in the parish church. The trustees, all laymen, were empowered to renew the trust as required, but by 1834 it had long lapsed and the charity was controlled by the vicar. The land, at Middle marsh, in Plaistow, was then let for £21, and the penny loaves were being distributed usually among the inmates of the alms-houses. Avenon's charity was included, as a Distributive Charity, in the scheme of 1870. It was later doubted whether the residue of the charity, as well as the £5 4s. applicable to bread, was governed by the scheme, but in 1879 the Charity Commissioners ruled that it was and that the central charity board should govern the whole charity. Up to that time the income from Withering's mead had remained at £21, but in 1880 the board sold one acre for £1,500, most of which was used, between 1881 and 1897, to develop the remaining land for building. When completed the estate, in Avenon's Road, Hayday Road, Ingal Road, and Denmark Street, comprised the sites for about 140 houses, let on building leases. By 1898 the gross income of the charity was £298; the profits, after deducting the £5 4s. for bread, were used by the vicar of All Saints' for church purposes.

During the 1890s and later the fact that the Church's share of the charity had so greatly increased caused great local resentment. (fn. 10) Thomas Scott, who as vicar of All Saints' from 1868 to 1891 had started to develop the land, is said to have wished to make over to the poor part of the increased income, but to have been prevented from doing this by Disraeli and later Prime Ministers, who would not permit any alienation of rights attached to this Crown living. The controversy concerning Avenon's charity caused it to be omitted from the scheme of 1903, pending further consideration. This created uncertainty about its management. The scheme of 1870, though in other respects superseded by that of 1903, presumably still applied in this case, so that Avenon's trustees continued to be the vicar and churchwardens of All Saints' and the parish overseers. The borough council's right to nominate the overseers, acquired by Local Government Board order in 1897, was reaffirmed in the West Ham Corporation Act (1900), but for some years after 1903 the overseers seem to have been unaware that they were still trustees of Avenon's charity and its control was left to the vicar and churchwardens. In 1909, however, the overseers were asked to sign a legal document relating to the charity, and thus realized that they were still entitled to share in its management. This precipitated a fight for the control of the charity between the Church and the borough council, in which the earlier controversy regarding its application was revived and became the main issue. The struggle was embittered by the fact that the clerk to the Avenon trustees was A. B. Banes, who had fought a previous battle with the council over his claim to compensation for losing the office of vestry clerk. (fn. 11) The overseers pressed for a new scheme which would enable part of the increased income to be used for non-ecclesiastical purposes. The vicar, Canon R. A. Pelly (1891–1916), was firmly opposed to surrendering any of the income, and he obtained the support of his bishop and the archbishop of Canterbury.

Avenon's endowment by then provided almost half the money required to pay the parochial staff of All Saints', whose duties included a great deal of charitable work. Pelly opposed a new scheme also because its publication would 'awake all the Socialist part of the place to opposition and cause infinite trouble and disturbance'. The matter was eventually referred to Chancery, which in 1912 ruled, in principle, that the increased income of Avenon's charity could only be used for Church purposes. A Chancery scheme of 1913 provided that the vicar was to receive £10 10s. a year for a sermon and that the balance of the income (after payment of the £5 4s. for bread) was to be used for curates' stipends. The trustees of the charity were in future to be the vicar, churchwardens, and two members appointed by the bishop. If and when the income of the charity exceeded £450 they were to apply for a new scheme. This did not become necessary until the 1960s, when the leases of the houses on Avenon's estate began to expire, enabling the trustees to sell the properties and invest the proceeds. By 1964 the income was about £2,000, and it was estimated that by 1975 it would rise to £5,000. A Charity Commission scheme of 1965 cancelled the provision of 1913 relating to the £450 limit. The payment of £5 4s. to the United Non-Ecclesiastical Charities was still being made in 1966.

John Shipman, by will dated 1583, left £6 a year for the poor of the parish. It was settled in 1608, after disputes, that the payment should take the form of two rent-charges, of £3 6s. 8d. and £1 4s. The larger rent-charge lapsed in 1861; the smaller was redeemed in 1896 for £48 stock.

Thomas Spaight of Stratford, yeoman, and Henry Store, woodmonger of London, by a deed of 1584, gave 3 a. marshland, let for £4 a year on a lease to run until A.D. 2112, for the relief of the poor. In 1916 the charity's interest in the land was sold for £300 stock.

Robert Rampston (d. 1585) left a rent of £2 for the poor, charged on Stone Hall in Little Canfield. This was still being received in 1966.

Margaret, Lady Throgmorton, of Upton, (fn. 12) by will proved 1591, left a rent-charge of £2 to be distributed quarterly to poor widows. This was redeemed in 1896 for £80 stock.

Thomas Staples, by will proved 1592, left a rentcharge of £1 for the poor. It was redeemed in 1878 for £30 stock.

William Rooke of Upton, (fn. 13) by will dated 1596, left a rent-charge of £5 for bread for the poor. In 1966 it was being paid by the City corporation as owners of West Ham Park.

Oliver Skinner, by will dated 1609, left a rentcharge of £2 for the relief of 40 poor persons. Half of this was redeemed for £40 stock in 1894 and the remainder for the same amount in 1924.

Peter Blower in 1616 settled in trust 1 a. land in New marsh, the profits to be distributed to 30 poor persons (8 in Plaistow, 3 in Upton, 12 in Church Street, 7 in Stratford). The charity was omitted from the scheme of 1870, but included in that of 1903. In 1899, the land, in Prince Regent's Lane, Plaistow, was let for £5 a year to the borough council as a rubbish shoot. It was sold in 1928 for £1,500, which was invested.

Mary Gwilliam in 1633 gave for the poor a rentcharge of 30s. In 1834 it was distributed to two poor widows from each ward. In 1877 it was redeemed for £60 stock.

Roger Harris, founder of Harris's alms-houses, by his will dated 1633, gave a rent-charge of 52s. for coal for poor men or widows. This was included among the Distributive Charities under the scheme of 1870, along with the balance of £39 from the subscription for rebuilding the alms-houses, although the alms-houses themselves remained outside the scheme. The rent-charge was redeemed in 1893 for £104 stock.

Sir Richard Fenn, alderman of London, by will dated 1635, left the rents of two houses to buy bread for the poor. In 1834 the property comprised a terrace of 6 houses, let for a total of £10 a year. In 1865 the site was let on a building lease for 60 years at £80 a year. In 1926–7 it was sold for £5,500, which was invested.

Anne, Lady Middleton, by will dated 1645, left a rent-charge of £5 a year: £3 for apprenticing a boy, £1 for the poor of Plaistow ward, and 10s. each for those of Stratford and Church Street wards. The apprenticeship payments lapsed between 1848 and 1870. The whole rent-charge, however, continued to be received until 1930, when it was redeemed for £200 stock.

William Tudor of Stratford, merchant tailor of London, by will proved 1653, left a rent-charge of £5 for the poor of Stratford, to be distributed half in money and half in bread. Peter Ward, by will proved 1668, left £60 in trust for the poor, and this was used to buy 5 a. of the land liable for Tudor's rentcharge. The land, which in 1834 was let for £22, was sold in 1854 to the Victoria Dock Co. for £1,000, which was invested.

Sir Jacob Garrard, (fn. 14) by a deed of 1653, conveyed in trust land called Oxleas in High mead, West Ham, beside the river Lea, then let at £22 a year, from which £9 was to be paid for apprenticing a boy from each of the three wards of West Ham. Other charges, amounting to £7 12s., were payable for church purposes in West Ham and for charities in two other parishes. Any residue was to be distributed between 50 poor persons in West Ham. In 1830 Oxleas, about 12 a., was leased for 99 years at £70 a year. It was sold in 1927 for £14,000, which was invested.

Elizabeth Toppesfield, by will proved 1660, gave a rent-charge of 50s., of which £2 was to provide six poor wives or widows with waistcoats, in which they were to attend a yearly sermon paid for by the other 10s. The rent-charge was redeemed in 1888 for £100 stock. She also gave £30 to buy coal for selling to the poor at cost price, but the loss and trouble incurred in this scheme resulted in the remaining £20 being used, in 1819, to build a pump for the poor of Plaistow.

Clement Pragell of Stepney (Mdx.), by will dated 1680, gave a rent-charge of £5 for the poor. This was still being received in 1966 from the owners of land at Plaistow which included Pragell Street.

Nathaniel Peckover, by will proved 1686, left a rent-charge of £2 to be divided between 20 poor widows of Stratford. This was redeemed in 1905 for £80 stock.

Sir Thomas Foot, by will proved 1689, left an annuity of £42 of which £8 was for the poor of Plaistow. In 1720 this was transferred to South Sea Co. stock and lost most of its value, no dividends being received for many years. A reinvestment was made in 1783 from which in 1830 the parish was receiving £1 10s. a year. In 1893 £56 stock was specifically assigned to this charity.

Sir William Humble (d. 1687) (fn. 15) left £60 to buy land, the rent from which was to provide weekly doles of bread. In 1706 1 a. was bought in New marsh. This produced a rent, in 1834, of £4. In 1869 the Gas Light and Coke Co. took the land by compulsory purchase to make Beckton Road, at a price of £450, which was invested.

Daniel Ingoll (d. 1691) (fn. 16) left a rent of £10, charged on his land in Leadenhall Street, London, to buy coal for the poor. In 1772 the owner of the land conveyed it to the vicar and churchwardens of West Ham in recompense for 35 years' arrears, and between 1776 and 1879 the rent from it increased from £10 to £120. In 1891 it was let on an 80-year building lease at a rent of £105. In 1878 £97 stock was bought with money paid by the owners of adjoining properties in compensation for interference with light and air. The land was compulsorily purchased by the City corporation in 1913, and the proceeds invested in £4,731 stock.

Mary Battailhey (or Sherley), by will proved 1702, gave a rent of £10 charged on a house and land at Plaistow. Of this £1 was for bread for the poor of Plaistow, and £2 10s. for 'widows' groats', to be paid to eight poor widows of Plaistow and eight of Church Street ward; the rest was for ecclesiastical and educational purposes, which were excluded from the scheme of 1870. The rent-charge was redeemed in 1925 for £400 stock, of which £140 was allotted to the United Ecclesiastical Charities.

Samuel Sheppard, by his will dated 1733, gave £50 for coal and £200 for the sick poor.

The legacy of James Cooper (d. 1743), part of which was for Newman's alms-houses, was also to provide doles of 5s. for 30 poor householders of Plaistow on Midsummer Day and £1 2s. 6d. and 15s. for bread on New Year's Day for the poor of Plaistow and Church Street respectively.

Sarah Bonnell, by deed of 1754, gave £200 stock in trust to provide each year lengths of cloth at 10s. each for five poor widows, 10s. 6d. for education, and the residue for coal for the poor. All the beneficiaries were to belong to Church Street ward. In 1834 the interest of £6 was spent as directed, but in 1868 7s. 6d. was given to the alms-women and the vicar spent the residue on port wine for the sick.

Peter Bigot, by deed of 1771, gave a rent of £10, charged on a house and land in Upton Lane, for shoes, stockings, and 1s. each for six poor women in Plaistow and six in Stratford ward, the residue to be spent in the same way in Church Street ward. In 1966 the rent-charge was being paid by Barclay's bank, Forest Gate.

Jeremiah Atkinson, stationer of London, by will dated 1777, left the reversion of £300 for coal for the poor of Plaistow. This became effective some time between 1814 (fn. 17) and 1834. The restriction to Plaistow lapsed under the scheme of 1870.

Margaretta Hodshon of Wandsworth (Surr.), by will proved 1779, left £200 for apprenticing one poor boy each year. The income continued to be used for this purpose until 1870, after which it was applied to the general purposes of the Distributive Charities.

Before 1791 William Winn gave £10, Penelope Colchester £20, and other parishioners £20. These sums were together invested in stock, and the interest, £1 15s. in 1834, was distributed in doles.

John Snelgrave, a benefactor of Newman's alms-houses, by will proved 1810, also left £200 for coal, bread, or clothing for the poor. In 1834 the income of £5 15s. was spent on blankets for 20 persons.

The charities of Samuel Jones Vachell and Isabella Wilson have been mentioned above under the Almshouse Charities.

The scheme of 1870 included, along with the above-mentioned charities, four others founded in the 17th century which had in fact lapsed before 1870. None of these was included in the scheme of 1903. Richard Pragell, by will dated 1617, gave for the use of the poor a rent-charge of £2. Richard Hale of Stepney, by will proved 1628, gave for the poor of Plaistow ward a rent-charge of £2. In each case the land charged was eventually acquired by the Victoria Dock Co., which made no payment of Pragell's rent after 1854 or of Hale's after 1860. William Fawcit, by will proved 1631, left a rent of £2 10s. charged on a house at Upton, to provide 10s. for a Gunpowder Plot sermon on 5 November and £2 for bread for the poor attending the sermon. This was regularly paid until 1851, after which the owner of the land withheld payment. William Davis, by will dated 1679, gave a rent-charge of £4 on reversion to buy waistcoats for 12 poor women each year. This rent, from land at Plaistow, also lapsed in the 1850s. In most of these cases attempts were made to prevent the loss of the charities, but with such small sums involved the trustees could not afford much litigation. The great changes that were taking place in the topography of West Ham at that time sometimes made it difficult to identify exactly the land upon which a rent was charged, and the defaulting landowners exploited these difficulties.

Rebecca Robinson, by her will proved 1866, left £90 stock to maintain her family's tombstone, the residue being for bread or coal for the poor. The charity was not included in the scheme of 1870, but from 1881 its trustees (the vicar and churchwardens) remitted the income to the central charity board, and it was included in the scheme of 1903 as one of the Distributive Charities, the tombstone bequest being invalid.

Other Charities for the Poor.

The following charities are not included among the United Non-Ecclesiastical Charities, in most cases because they were not in operation when the scheme of 1870 was being prepared. Many of them are restricted to particular ecclesiastical parishes.

John Hiett, distiller of London, by will proved 1719, gave a rent of £5, charged on Chobhams farm, for apprenticing each year the son of a poor Protestant dissenter, preferably from Stratford. In 1834 this was paid to the minister of Brickfields Congregational church, who used it as directed. It was not paid after 1839 and efforts to recover it in 1855–7 failed.

George Dacre, by deed of 1855, conveyed to the vicar and churchwardens of All Saints', West Ham, land and houses in Church Street, then leased at an annual ground rent of £7 10s. (fn. 18) At the expiration of the lease in 1910 the houses were to be used as alms-houses, the rents meanwhile being saved. By 1910 the accumulated rents amounted to about £750. The houses were not used as alms-houses after 1910, but continued to be let, the income from rents and investments being used, under a scheme of 1911, to pay pensions to poor married couples, preferably aged, who were constant communicants of All Saints' church and had lived in West Ham for at least two years. In 1922 the property was sold for £630. In 1964, when the income of the charity was £86, four pensioners each received £1 a month and an almoner £5 for the year.

Edith Clark, by will proved 1860, gave £300 in trust to provide bread and coal at Christmas for the poor of the parish of St. Mary, Plaistow. In 1966 the income of £4 15s. 8d. was used to provide fuel for old people at Christmas. (fn. 19)

The Mary Curtis maternity charity was founded in 1872, when Mary Curtis, widow, gave £6,666 stock in trust to provide help at or after confinement to respectable poor married women living within a radius of 1 mile from St. John's church, Stratford. Six 'distributors' were appointed with power to grant letters of recommendation to objects of the charity. They included Mrs. Curtis herself and, ex officio, the vicars of West Ham and St. John's, Stratford. For many years the charity was administered by St. Helen's House women's settlement. A scheme of 1968 provided that after St. John's area had been served the charity could help any married woman living in the London Borough of Newham, before, during, or after confinement. In that year the income was £251, part of which was spent on the provision of gifts of food or clothing, usually costing about £5 in each case. (fn. 20)

The birthday gift of Thomas Wiseman Shipston was founded under his will, proved 1885, by which he gave £1,050 in trust to provide Christmas gifts for 30 poor aged inhabitants of West Ham. In 1966 each of the 30 pensioners received 16s. 3d. (fn. 21)

George Canning Edwards, by will proved 1902, left £100 to maintain the graves of his parents and his sister, the residue of the income to be used for the poor of the parish of St. John, Stratford. The provision concerning the graves was invalid. In 1964 the income of £2 13s. 8d. was distributed to 5 persons. (fn. 22) Edwards also left £100 to maintain his own grave, the residue for the poor of the parish of Emmanuel, Forest Gate. In 1926 it was stated that in then recent years the income had been used for the general maintenance of Emmanuel church, and the Charity Commission reminded the vicar that it should be used only for the benefit of the poor. In 1966 the income of £2 13s. 8d. was distributed to the sick and needy. (fn. 23)

The Sir Henry Tate Memorial investment was founded in 1902 by his widow, who gave £3,330 stock to pay the salary of a nurse employed by the Silvertown and North Woolwich district nursing association. The association was dissolved in 1955, and a scheme of 1958 provided that the charity should be applied to the sick poor of Silvertown and North Woolwich by trustees appointed by the boroughs of East Ham, West Ham, and Woolwich. In 1966 £73 was spent on gifts in kind to 20 persons. (fn. 24)

The Richard Peck gift of coals was founded by Mrs. Dorothy Peck, who by will proved 1905 gave £105 for coal for the aged poor of the parish of St. John, Stratford. In 1964 £2 12s. was spent on coal for 5 persons. (fn. 25)

John Oliver Surtees, by will proved 1907, left £135, subject to a life interest which expired in 1914, for the sick and poor of the parish of St. Mary, Plaistow. In 1964 the income of £3 17s. 10d. was distributed in cash as directed. (fn. 26) Surtees also left £135 on the same terms for the parish of St. Mark, Victoria Docks. In 1964 the income of £5 1s. 8d. was spent on Christmas gifts for the aged poor. (fn. 27)

Miss Wetherall's trust was founded by deed of 1908 to provide coal at Christmas for poor members of St. Mary's church, Plaistow. In 1945 the income was £2 6s. 2d. from an endowment of £79. (fn. 28)

Joseph Withers, by will proved 1911, gave £1,000 in trust for the aged inmates of the West Ham union workhouse. In 1964 3s. 6d. was given to each of 160 old people in homes maintained by West Ham borough council. (fn. 29) Withers also gave £2,000 in trust for the aged poor of All Saints' parish and the same amount for those of the parish of St. John, Stratford. (fn. 30) In 1966 the income of the All Saints' charity was spent mainly on gifts of £1 each to 22 persons in June and again in December, and on an honorarium to an almoner. That of the St. John's charity was dispensed bi-monthly to about 10 old persons. (fn. 31)

Harriet Townsend, by will proved 1913, left £2,000, subject to a life interest which expired in 1924, for the poor of the parish of St. Mary, Plaistow. The vicar and churchwardens invested the capital. In 1964 the income of £89 was spent on a Christmas party for 120 aged poor and in other charitable ways. (fn. 32)

Thomas Geere, by will proved 1914, gave £114 10s. in trust to provide treats for inmates of Harris's alms-houses who were members of the Church of England. In 1964 £3 8s. was distributed in kind by the vicar of All Saints' among the Anglican inmates of the combined alms-houses. (fn. 33)

James Hawkey Banfield, by will proved 1916, gave £100 in trust to the mayor as a Christmas fund for the poor. In 1966 the income of £3 6s. 2d. was shared among three persons. (fn. 34) Banfield also left his residuary estate in trust to provide holidays for members of the 'lower middle class or upper lower class … who often have to keep up appearances on very small means'. Free church ministers were to have first consideration and the borough of West Ham was to have a 'liberal first claim'. In 1964 the investments of the holiday fund stood at over £11,000, and the income was £594. Grants totalling £312 were made to 30 applicants. (fn. 35)

Elizabeth Bowerbank, by will proved 1916, left £650 in trust to supply food and coal to the aged poor of the parish of St. Mary, Plaistow. In 1964 £21 was spent on coal. (fn. 36)

St. Cuthbert's home was founded in 1944 by Mrs. G. E. de Fontaine, who bought a house in St. Vincent's Road, Westcliff-on-Sea, to provide holiday accommodation for the aged poor of West Ham. Funds were raised by public subscription to equip and endow the home, which was opened in 1947. After Mrs. de Fontaine's death in 1948, and a subsequent Chancery action for the enforcement of the charitable trust, a scheme of 1951 directed that the property should be administered by the borough council. (fn. 37)

Jabez Legg's alms-houses at Forest Gate, which are not restricted to West Ham, are described elsewhere. (fn. 38)

Church of England Charities.

The Ecclesiastical Charities.

The following charities were included among the Distributive Charities under the scheme of 1870. The scheme of 1903 formed them into a separate group called the Ecclesiastical Charities, to be administered by the vicar and churchwardens of All Saints'.

Sir Jacob Garrard's charity, founded by deed of 1653, included an annual payment to the vicar of £1 for a sermon on the Sunday following 9 January, together with 6s. 8d. for the curate, 3s. 4d. for the clerk, and 2s. for the sexton. Elizabeth Toppesfield's charity, under her will proved 1660, included 10s. for an annual sermon in her memory. Clement Pragell's charity, under his will dated 1680, included a rent-charge of £1 for the repair of his family's tomb in the churchyard. The legacy of James Cooper (d. 1743) included annual payments of 15s. to the vicar for a sermon and 3s. 9d. each to the clerk and the sexton. The scheme of 1903 provided that the trustees of the Ecclesiastical Charities should receive £41 5s. in trust as their share of the endowment of Cooper's charity, together with annual payments from the trustees of the United Non-Ecclesiastical Charities of £1 12s. for Garrard's charity, 10s. for Toppesfield's, and £1 for Pragell's.

Battailhey's Charity.

The charity of Mary Battailhey, under her will proved 1702, included annual payments of £1 10s. to the vicar for a sermon on Good Friday and £1 for the repair of the vault in which she and her servant were to be buried. These and the payments for educational purposes were not included in the scheme of 1870, though the eleemosynary gifts under the charity were. In 1899, however, the whole income was being received by the central charity board, and was treated as part of the income of the Distributive Charities. Mary Battailhey's vault could no longer be identified. The payments for ecclesiastical and educational purposes were subsequently resumed. When Battailhey's rent-charge was redeemed in 1925 the Ecclesiastical Charities received £100 as their share of the endowment, in respect of the sermon and vault. (fn. 39)

Other Church Charities.

Mary Ann Tickell Scott, by will proved 1922, gave to the vicar of St. John's, Stratford, £400 in trust for the maintenance of the church fabric. (fn. 40)

Col. Thomas Vernon, by will proved 1919, left £1,000 to the vicar of All Saints' for the poor of the parish. After a lawsuit the legacy was received in 1925 and the interest used to rent a house (no. 134 Portway) for parish women workers. In 1932 the house was bought for £615, the balance of the capital providing an endowment. In 1960 the house was sold for £2,150, which was invested for the ultimate purpose of providing a flat for a woman worker in one of the church halls. In 1964 the investments amounted to £2,217. The income was £141, of which £121 was spent during the year. (fn. 41)

Clock Charity.

Samuel Gurney, by will proved 1856, gave £800 for the maintenance and winding of clocks on places of public worship, including one to be put up on Forest Gate Congregational church. In 1961 the income of £20 was paid to the borough treasurer. (fn. 42)


  • 1. Unless otherwise stated this section is based on the following sources: Rep. Com. Char. (Essex), H.C. 216, PP. 133–56 (1835) xxi (1); Charity Commission, West Ham Charities, Assistant Commissioner's Report (1899) [photocopy in W.H.L.]: this report, printed but not published, contains full historical accounts of all the charities up to that date; Records of the W.Ham United Non-Ecclesiastical Charities.
  • 2. Char. Com. File 207309 now combines all the files relating jointly or severally to the United Non-Ecclesiastical Charities.
  • 3. E.R. lxii (Jan.), 48.
  • 4. W.H.L., W. Ham Vestry Mins. 24 Apr. 1810.
  • 5. Ibid. 19 Mar. 1745, cf. 13 Sept. 1748. Shown on plate f.p. 116 above.
  • 6. For pictures, 1933 and 1940, see W.H.L., Illus. Coll., Alms-houses. Two plaques from the old building, recording the gifts of Cooper (1745) and Gouge (1755) are in P.E.M.
  • 7. For the date see Lysons, London, iv. 257.
  • 8. For pictures, 1926 and 1940, see W.H.L., Illus. Coll. Alms-houses.
  • 9. Lysons, London, iv. 261, gives his date of death.
  • 10. Char. Com. File 31558; E. Willmore, Nicholas Avenon's Charity and What Became of it (1915).
  • 11. C.B.C. Mins and Ctee. Reps. 7 July 1911; cf. ibid. 1901–3, passim, for Banes's compensation.
  • 12. See p. 123.
  • 13. See p. 72.
  • 14. For Garrard's charity see also p. 43.
  • 15. Cf. Lysons, London, iv. 267.
  • 16. Ibid. 260.
  • 17. Ogborne, Hist. Essex, 27.
  • 18. Char. Com. File 247079.
  • 19. Ibid. 68802; 207309; inf. from the Vicar of Plaistow.
  • 20. Inf. from the Secretary, Mary Curtis Charity; Char. Com. File 235036.
  • 21. Ibid. 207774; inf. from Town Clerk of Newham.
  • 22. Char. Com. File 240257.
  • 23. Ibid. 208783; inf. from Vicar of Emmanuel.
  • 24. Ibid. 212350; inf. from Town Clerk of Newham.
  • 25. Char. Com. File 240256.
  • 26. Ibid. 245754.
  • 27. Ibid. 239928.
  • 28. Ibid. 68802 and 87532. No other information appears to be available.
  • 29. Char. Com. File 209034; inf. from Town Clerk of Newham.
  • 30. Ibid.
  • 31. Inf. from Mr. M. J. Kindred and the Vicar of St. John's.
  • 32. Char. Com. File 245752.
  • 33. Char. Com. File 247077.
  • 34. Ibid. 208349; inf. from the Mayor of Newham.
  • 35. Char. Com. File 227349. Some preliminary work on this article was done by Dr. Cyril Hart and Miss Audrey Taylor.
  • 36. Ibid. 245755.
  • 37. Ibid. 127534; inf. from Town Clerk of Newham.
  • 38. See p. 130.
  • 39. Char. Com. File 209034.
  • 40. Ibid.
  • 41. Ibid. 247078.
  • 42. Ibid. 105140 and G22.