Heston and Isleworth: Charities

A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 3, Shepperton, Staines, Stanwell, Sunbury, Teddington, Heston and Isleworth, Twickenham, Cowley, Cranford, West Drayton, Greenford, Hanwell, Harefield and Harlington. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1962.

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'Heston and Isleworth: Charities', in A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 3, Shepperton, Staines, Stanwell, Sunbury, Teddington, Heston and Isleworth, Twickenham, Cowley, Cranford, West Drayton, Greenford, Hanwell, Harefield and Harlington, (London, 1962) pp. 137-139. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol3/pp137-139 [accessed 12 April 2024]


In 1367 the Prior of St. Valéry, (fn. 1) as rector of Isleworth, was said to be bound to distribute two bushels of maslin a week among the poor of Isleworth, and three quarters of beans and peas on the first Sunday in Lent to the poor of Heston. His predecessors had performed these duties from time out of mind until twenty years before. (fn. 2) There is no later reference to the custom.

After the Dissolution some of the almshouses attached to All Angels' Chapel at Brentford End seem to have been used by the parish of Isleworth. A number of other almshouses belonged to the parish in the 17th century, and these are all discussed elsewhere. (fn. 3) In addition, Isleworth was, and is, well provided with endowed almshouses. Sir Thomas Ingram, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, built six almshouses in Mill Platt which he and his widow endowed by their wills (dated 1671 and 1676 respectively). Several persons left supplementary endowments, and in 1822 the six almswomen received £10 a year each, with coats and gowns. (fn. 4) The almshouses were thoroughly repaired in 1816 after eighty years of neglect and since then they appear to have been regularly maintained. They form one low single-storied range, built of red brick with a tiled roof. About 1738 Mary Bell built an almshouse for six women at the east end (then called Back Lane) of North Street. In her will (dated 1765) she endowed pensions for the inmates and founded other charities; by 1822 the whole income from her bequests (about £55) was used on the almshouses and almswomen. The houses were given up in 1841 and the site of the old workhouse in Link Lane was purchased instead. (fn. 5) The workhouse or part of it was converted into four dwellings and two more were built beside it. A pair of houses facing these on the same site was built by subscription in 1862. All these were being modernized in 1958. Anne Tolson (later Dash), by deed of 1741 which took effect after her death, provided for the erection and endowment of almshouses for six widows or spinsters and six bachelors. The almshouses were built in Church Street in 1756. In 1822 the almspeople received nearly £10 each in money every year, with coals and some clothes. In 1861 the almshouses were rebuilt, partly by subscription. By 1958 they had become very damp and liable to flooding and were up for sale, though six people were still living there. (fn. 6) In 1857 John Farnell built a vicarage and ten almshouses behind the new church of St. John the Baptist. (fn. 7) The almshouses were thought in 1893 to have been primarily intended for employees of the brewery. Sarah Sermon built six almshouses for women on the corner of Twickenham Road and North Street in 1849 and endowed them a year later. Elizabeth Butler built two in Byfield Road in 1885, and endowed them in 1886 and in her will (proved 1904). Samuel Rayment (d. 1903) left property subject to a life interest to build and endow almshouses for two married couples. (fn. 8) A pair of houses was built on the same site as Bell's almshouses in 1936. (fn. 9) Except for Farnell's, the existing almshouses were administered together in the later 19th century, when there were some complaints of the oligarchical character of the board of trustees. It was also objected that Hounslow people were virtually excluded from benefit. The fact that most candidates went to the Established Church was, however, attributed to their own belief that attendance would increase their chances of election rather than to exclusion of dissenters by the trustees. (fn. 10) Farnell's have continued to be administered separately but by 1958 all the other almshouses formed part of the Isleworth United Charities, which spent £2,277 on coal, repairs, and expenses, and £54 10s. on stipends. Farnell's had an income of £222 and spent £70 on repairs and gave £50 to the inmates. (fn. 11)

The other endowed charities are correspondingly numerous and valuable. The first extant one (Martha Barrett's) was founded in 1584 and a number date from the 17th century. The income from 'parish rents' in 1720 was over £80, and in 1822 the 'poor's lands', which comprised most of the charities apart from the almshouses, produced nearly £300. (fn. 12) In 1858 the endowed charities, excluding schools, were said to be worth 5s. for each member of the population. In 1958 the whole income of the United Charities, including the almshouses, was about £5,744. In addition to making more conventional distributions the 19th-century trustees gave a good deal of help to local schools, both by occasional gifts for buildings and by yearly grants. (fn. 13) In 1958, apart from the almshouse payments mentioned above, about £1,085 were given away in pensions. Among the donors of charities were Anne, widow of Sir Richard Wynn, bt. (d. 1649), Lady Cooper of Isleworth House, and several members of the Farnell family who owned the brewery in the 19th century. (fn. 14) In 1709 some charity lands were exchanged with the Duke of Somerset so that he could enlarge the park of Syon House. (fn. 15) This may have been the origin of a charity said to have been given by a lord of the manor of Isleworth Syon. (fn. 16) By 1958 most of the United Charities' income came from stock, but they still held some property in Isleworth and elsewhere, including the site of the Porch House by the church. (fn. 17) Among the lands which had been sold were the ten acres allotted for the benefit of the poor at the inclosure of 1818 to compensate them for their rights of cutting furze, and the four acres allotted at the same time for the building of a workhouse, which was not needed for that purpose. (fn. 18)

One or two charitable endowments are recorded in Heston which did not long survive the Middle Ages. North Hyde Hall was charged, probably in the late 15th century, (fn. 19) with an obit at which bread, ale, and cheese were distributed to the poor, the choir, and the churchwardens, and 2s. from another acre of land was given each Good Friday to the poor, with 4d. for the churchwardens. Both these endowments were in existence in 1547 but are not referred to again. (fn. 20) Another payment made in 1547 was charged on 14 acres of Groveplace which had been given to the vicar to provide wafers for the parishioners on Easter Sunday. The vicar was still using the rents for this purpose in 1561 and possibly about forty years later. (fn. 21)

Heston has no almshouses, (fn. 22) but it has a number of charities for the poor, of which the earliest extant (William Millett's) dates from 1631. Among the donors were Henry Collins of Hallplace (will dated 1704) and Elisha Biscoe of Spring Grove (will dated 1761). As in Isleworth, allotments for furze-cutting rights (33 a.) and for a workhouse (4 a.) were made at the inclosure of 1818. In 1824 most of the charities were given away in bread. (fn. 23) In 1860 the vestry decided that the distribution of bread and fuel which was then customary had a pernicious effect on the recipients, and resolved to use all the charities to form fuel and clothing clubs. This seems to have been done in 1863. The Parochial Charities, as they were called, had an income of about £1,850 in 1956-7, mostly arising from stock. Of this £790 were spent on pensions. (fn. 24)

Charities which have not been merged in the Parochial Charities include eleven founded since 1913 (about £1,490 stock in 1952) for the upkeep of the churchyard, one founded in 1916 from which about £160 was given in 1952 in financial and medical help, and the Westbrook Memorial Institute. (fn. 25) This was opened in 1867 by the widow of Edward Westbrook (d. 1864) to be a working men's club. In 1871 she endowed it with furniture, books, and £1,000 stock. By 1956 it was felt to have outlived its usefulness, but it was still in existence in 1958: there were one or two boarders and the downstair rooms were used for meetings of local societies, &c. (fn. 26)

Two charities relate to smaller areas than the two ancient parishes. Emily Cobb (will proved 1919) left £500 for the poor of St. Stephen's, Hounslow, and Jane Woods (will proved 1929) left £200 for those of St. John, Isleworth. (fn. 27)


  • 1. See p. 106, n. 81.
  • 2. Cal. Inq. Misc. iii, p. 246.
  • 3. See p. 120.
  • 4. Inscription on building; Syon Ho., MS. D. xiv. 13. c; 6th Rep. Com. Char. H.C. 12, pp. 352-5 (1822), ix. For Ingram's house in Isleworth, see p. 130. Badges formerly worn by Ingram's and Tolson's almspeople are preserved in Hounslow Libr.
  • 5. See p. 121.
  • 6. 6th Rep. Com. Char. 355-60; Char. Com. files (reports on Isleworth charities, 1858, 1893).
  • 7. Illus. Lond. News, 24 Jan. 1857; personal observation.
  • 8. Char. Com. files (report, 1893).
  • 9. Mdx. Chron. 21 Nov. 1936; Char. Com. files.
  • 10. Char. Com. files (report, 1893).
  • 11. Char. Com. files.
  • 12. 6th Rep. Com. Char. 361-3; Hounslow Libr., Isleworth Vestry Order and Rate Bk., 1712-22.
  • 13. See p. 135, and also Aungier, Hist. of Syon, 187-90.
  • 14. Char. Com. files.
  • 15. Hounslow Libr., Isleworth Vestry Order and Rate Bk. 1654-1712, p. 432.
  • 16. 6th Rep. Com. Char. 366.
  • 17. Char. Com. files.
  • 18. M.R.O., Isleworth Incl. Award.
  • 19. See C 1/198/52.
  • 20. E 301/34, no. 187.
  • 21. Ibid.; Guildhall MS. 9531/13, f. 271b. For Groveplace, see p. 110.
  • 22. For parish poorhouses, see p. 121.
  • 23. 10th Rep. Com. Char. H.C. 103, pp. 310-18 (1824), xiii.
  • 24. Char. Com. files.
  • 25. Ibid.; Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1890); dates on building; local information.
  • 26. Ibid.
  • 27. Char. Com. files.