The borough of Tewkesbury: Charities

Pages 167-169

A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 8. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1968.

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The leper hospital commonly said to have been in Tewkesbury in 1200 (fn. 1) was not there but at Touques (Calvados) in Normandy. (fn. 2) At that time, however, another charitable foundation may have existed, for up to the Dissolution the Abbot of Tewkesbury was obliged to provide money in fixed proportions for the food, clothing, and rent of 13 almsmen or beadsmen belonging to the town and parish of Tewkesbury, and the almsmen were known as the founder's almsmen. Between 1540 and 1554 the allowances were paid to the receiver general of the monastery, and meanwhile nine of the almsmen died; in 1554 the queen refounded the charity, appointing nine new almsmen and declaring that when a vacancy occurred the queen's vicechamberlain should fill it, as formerly the abbot had, by choosing one of three candidates nominated by the bailiffs of the town. (fn. 3) The charity thereafter became known as Queen Mary's Almsmen. The borough chamberlain received a lump sum for the allowances from the auditor for the county, who deducted £2 0s. 8d. for a stamp for the receipt: the bailiffs paid the remaining £33 16s. to the almsmen in the form of a simple 1s. a week each, which also overcame the difficulty that there was no house for the almsmen for which the rent was to be paid. (fn. 4) By the late 17th century the choice of new almsmen appears to have lain entirely with the corporation, (fn. 5) so that the charity had become in effect merely one of several doles under the management of the corporation.

Another medieval endowment comprised lands and tenements called Baldwin's lands, which were worth £7 14s. 3d. a year in 1549, when the rents were spent on various things including poor relief. (fn. 6) Part of the endowment may have escaped forfeiture and survived among the houses and gardens which Giles Geast, by his will dated 1558, gave to trustees who were to distribute the rents to the poor and be accountable to the bailiffs of the town. (fn. 7) The income in the late 17th century was c. £20, and the trustees were then also responsible for two smaller charities for the poor, land producing c. £6 a year given by a Mr. Mince and John Carver before 1683, and a house producing c. £4 a year given by Margaret Hicks by will dated 1562. (fn. 8) Mince and Carver's charity is not subsequently recorded; Mince may have been the Richard Mince who by will dated 1665 gave a rent-charge for the repair of the Long Bridge. (fn. 9) In the 18th century the trustees became responsible also for the charity of Anne Slaughter, being the rent of a garden and a rent-charge of 10s., given by deed in 1618; the rent-charge appears to have been replaced by a piece of meadow in Severn Ham. In the late 18th century the Geast trustees distributed the charities in sixpenny pieces which they gave to supplicants as they walked about the town. Although the practice, known as the running sixpences, was abandoned, distribution in sixpences continued until 1808. In 1813 the trustees pulled down three of their houses and built three new ones with a loan, on the repayment of which they were spending £100 out of their aggregate income of £251 a year in 1828; the remaining income was spent on repairs to the property and on blankets and sheets for the poor. (fn. 10) In 1874 the Geast charity was regulated by a Scheme of the Charity Commissioners, and in 1881 another Scheme, consolidating the small charities of the town as the Tewkesbury Consolidated Charities, included the Hicks and Slaughter charities. In 1961 the Geast charity had an income of £448, of which a quarter came from stock representing the proceeds of sale of some of the houses, and the whole income was spent on administration and on repairs and improvements to the remaining houses. (fn. 11)

Although the Geast trustees were under the supervision of the corporation, and the corporation had direct control of most of the other eleemosynary charities, the charities were small and numerous enough to cause overlapping and inequalities in their distribution. In 1821 a committee of inhabitants was appointed to examine the state of the charities, (fn. 12) anticipating the work of the Charity Commissioners. In 1881 it was said that some 3,000 of the inhabitants, well over half the total population, were receiving charitable doles. (fn. 13) A Scheme of that year consolidated all the charities in the town that were worth less than £50 a year and were limited to the maintenance of the poor and the upkeep of the churches. The income and expenditure was divided between three branches: Queen Mary's Almsmen, the almshouse branch, and the church branch. (fn. 14)

Of the 32 charities comprised in the Tewkesbury Consolidated Charities there were three, apart from Queen Mary's Almsmen, that were almshouse charities. Edward Richardson by will dated 1652 gave £60 stock for the poor, with which in 1653 the officers of the corporation bought a row of seven cottages in Gander Lane. (fn. 15) The cottages were repaired in 1739 with money belonging to the town charities. (fn. 16) There was no other endowment than the almshouses themselves, and in 1828, when they were occupied by seven poor persons and their families, they were overcrowded. (fn. 17) The Scheme of 1881 ruled that the seven occupants should be either single or man and wife alone; in 1922 the number of occupants was reduced to five, and in 1957 was raised again to seven. (fn. 18) Sir Francis Russell, by deed of 1674, gave a range of buildings north of the abbey church, together with various plots of land, for the use of 10 poor widows aged 50 or more. (fn. 19) The buildings comprised five rooms up and five rooms down c. 1700. (fn. 20) In 1828, when there were 10 apartments under one roof occupied by 10 widows, the buildings were said to be so ruinous that they would soon need to be demolished. (fn. 21) They were rebuilt in 1831–2 (fn. 22) as a range of 10 two-room dwellings on two floors; the building is brick with a slate roof, and has a Gothic, ashlar front, with the two entrance porches carried up to form parapeted gables. In 1957 the trustees were authorized to mortgage property to enable them to improve the almshouses, and the Scheme of that year reduced the number of occupants to six. The other property given by the founder was represented by a yard for which a rent of £3 10s. was paid. (fn. 23) In 1830 Samuel Barnes built a three-story block of almshouses in the Oldbury, comprising 24 apartments of two rooms each. (fn. 24) His gift of them to the corporation in his will was void, but his heirs gave them to the corporation in 1834. (fn. 25) The charity included an endowment of £348 stock. Under the Scheme of 1881 there were to be 32 inmates including at least 16 single women; the other 16 could include married couples. By 1955, however, Barnes's almshouses were in such a poor condition that they housed only one old woman, and it was said to be too late to save the building; (fn. 26) it was demolished soon afterwards.

Richardson's and Russell's almshouses were among those under the management of the borough corporation in 1828. (fn. 27) For the benefit of Russell's almshouses, Henry Collett by will dated 1803 gave the reversion of £250 stock, but the gift had not taken effect by 1828; (fn. 28) and Elizabeth Dillon (d. 1847) (fn. 29) gave £1,000 by codicil to her will. For the benefit of Richardson's almshouses Mary Terrett by will proved in 1866 gave £448 stock; by the same will she also gave £223 stock for coals for the poor. (fn. 30) The eleemosynary charities consolidated in 1881 included another three which were vested in the corporation by 1706: William Alley's of £100 given by will dated 1625, of which the capital was invested in rent-charges; William Ferrers's, who by his will dated 1625 gave not only an endowment for the grammar school but also £5 a year for the poor; and Baptist Hicks, Viscount Campden's (d. 1629), of half the profits of the rectory of St. Ishmael's (Pembs.), which was worth in all over £80 clear in 1828 and of which the other half was paid to the Vicar of Tewkesbury. By 1828 the corporation had in addition the management of four other charitable funds: John Wright by deed of 1635 gave a rent-charge of 20s. for the poor for bread; Thomas Coventry, Lord Coventry (d. 1661) gave by will £300 for the poor, which was laid out in a rent-charge of £15; William Wilson by will dated 1726 gave £100 stock for the poor; and in 1734 £70, which was all that remained of £200 given in 1651 by the same Lord Coventry to buy materials for putting the poor to work was added to £30 belonging to the poor from other sources, £100 given to the corporation for the poor by Daniel Kemble by will dated 1732, and £100 given to the churchwardens and overseers by Elizabeth Hopton by will dated also 1732, the sum being invested in land from which the rent went one-third to the churchwardens and overseers and two-thirds to the corporation's general fund for the poor, which received all the income for the charities (except Queen Mary's Almsmen) under the management of the corporation. The gross income in 1828 was nearly £100, of which £60, called the bailiffs' shillings, was distributed by the bailiffs, the four justices, and the town clerk, each disposing of an equal share at his own discretion but within one of the three districts into which the town was divided for this purpose. Some of the remaining income was spent on repairs to the almshouses. Several recent events gave a bad impression of the administration of the general fund. (fn. 31)

All the above charities were included in the Scheme of 1881, though William Alley's was afterwards lost and was not included in the later Schemes of 1922, 1932, and 1957. (fn. 32) The other eleemosynary charities included in the Tewkesbury Consolidated Charities were those of Margaret Hicks and of Anne Slaughter, mentioned earlier; of Juliana Best, who by deed of 1567 gave a rent-charge of 6s. 8d. of which half was for the poor; of William Curtis, who by deed of 1681 gave the reversion of 5 a. for poor widows of Tewkesbury, from which the rent of £10 was said in 1828 to be too diffusely and indiscriminately administered; of William Wakeman (d. c. 1681), who by will gave a rent-charge of 20s. for the poor; of John Read who gave by will dated 1682 £50 to be spent on land for the poor; of John Porter and Daniel Kemble, who by wills dated respectively 1699 and 1732 gave their several shares of 2 a. for bread for the poor; of Robert Wriggan who by will dated 1701 gave £5 which was laid out in land with Read's gift; of Charles Wynde (d. 1716) who by will gave a rent-charge out of which £5 5s. was to be spent on bread and 10s. to be distributed in cash among the poor attending the parish church; of Edward Popham (d. 1753) who by will gave £200 for the poor; of Sarah Hall who by will dated 1776 gave £200 for women's gowns; (fn. 33) and of Thomas Blizzard (d. 1855) who gave £300, governed by a trust deed of 1859, for bread for the poor. (fn. 34) Some of the charities included gifts for the church, and others included in the Tewkesbury Consolidated Charities were purely ecclesiastical. (fn. 35) In 1960 the combined gross income of the charities was £430 (excluding a grant of £136 from the Ministry of Housing and Local Government); expenditure on the almshouse branch was £401, and on Queen Mary's Almsmen £30. (fn. 36)

The Tewkesbury Baptist charities, specified above, (fn. 37) included gifts for poor Baptists, and a Scheme of 1889 by which further charities were regulated provided that 2/5 of the income remaining after the cost of repairs and administration had been met and certain fixed sums had been set aside should be spent on the poor. In 1959, however, almost the whole income was spent on repairs and rates. (fn. 38) Thomas Bevan's Congregational charity was partly for the poor. (fn. 39) The Thomas Collins Almshouse Trust, founded by deed of 1891, was endowed with land and property which was sold in or after 1919; the proceeds of sale, £1,050 stock, was held in trust to provide houses for aged Wesleyans. (fn. 40)

Anne and Elizabeth Mines, by wills proved respectively in 1874 and 1865, gave £500 stock each, the income to be for vouchers for goods in kind and for the general benefit of the poor; the income was distributed in the form of vouchers in 1960. Michael Cray Smart, by will proved 1901, gave £473 stock for coal for the poor of Holy Trinity parish; the income was so spent in 1960. (fn. 41)

In 1890 the Revd. Charles William Grove built and endowed a range of four almshouses in the Oldbury as a memorial to his wife, Frances Emily (d. 1886). The endowment yielded £461 in 1961, of which part was spent on the almsmen's stipends but most on repairs and administrative costs. (fn. 42)

Lost charities include that of Mince and Carver, mentioned above, and a rent-charge of 22s. 4d. given by a Mr. Galley before 1683 and not recorded after 1706. (fn. 43) John Roberts of Fiddington (d. 1632) gave by will £20 for coal for the poor, which appears to have been lost soon afterwards. (fn. 44) The ambitious plan for almshouses in Tewkesbury under the will of Lt.-Col. John Harvey Ollney (d. 1836) never took effect. (fn. 45)


  • 1. E.g. V.C.H. Glos. ii. 126.
  • 2. Rot. Chart. (Rec. Com.), i. 57.
  • 3. Cal. Pat. 1553–4, 264–5.
  • 4. 21st Rep. Com. Char. 191–2.
  • 5. G.D.R. Tewkesbury terrier, 1708.
  • 6. Chantry Certificates, Trans. B.G.A.S. viii. 282.
  • 7. 21st Rep. Com. Char. 203; cf. Giles Geast char. bk.
  • 8. G.D.R. Tewkesbury terrier, 1708.
  • 9. 21st Rep. Com. Char. 211.
  • 10. Ibid. 203–4.
  • 11. Char. Com. files.
  • 12. Manual of Glos. Lit. ii. 341.
  • 13. Glos. N. & Q. ii. 548.
  • 14. Char. Com. files.
  • 15. 21st Rep. Com. Char. 193.
  • 16. Inscr. on bldg.; cf. Giles Geast char. bk.
  • 17. 21st Rep. Com. Char. 193.
  • 18. Char. Com. files. The cottages were demolished in 1965 to make room for four modern almshouses.
  • 19. 21st Rep. Com. Char. 192.
  • 20. Bodl. MS. Rawl. B. 323, f. 227.
  • 21. 21st Rep. Com. Char. 192.
  • 22. Tewkes. Yearly Reg. i. 88; inscr. on bldg.
  • 23. Char. Com. files.
  • 24. Tewkes. Yearly Reg. i. 40.
  • 25. Ibid. 179.
  • 26. Char. Com. files.
  • 27. 21st Rep. Com. Char. 192–3.
  • 28. Ibid. 210.
  • 29. Glos. R.O., Q/RC 2.
  • 30. Char. Com. files.
  • 31. 21st Rep. Com. Char. 193–201.
  • 32. Char. Com. files.
  • 33. 21st Rep. Com. Char. 201, 205–8, 210. In the 1850's Porter and Kemble's charity was administered by the Geast trustees: Glos. R.O., Q/RC 2.
  • 34. Glos. R.O., D 1957/C 8.
  • 35. See p. 158.
  • 36. Char. Com. files.
  • 37. See p. 164.
  • 38. Char. Com. files.
  • 39. See p. 164.
  • 40. Char. Com files.
  • 41. Ibid.
  • 42. Ibid.; inscr. on bldg.
  • 43. G.D.R. Tewkesbury terrier, 1706.
  • 44. 21st Rep. Com. Char. 197; mon. in church; the charity is not mentioned in G.D.R. Tewkesbury terrier, 1706.
  • 45. Tewkes. Yearly Reg. i. 266, 365; ii. 259, 263–5.