Harefield: Charities

Pages 257-258

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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Alice, Dowager Countess of Derby (d. 1636), left property to build almshouses for a master and six poor women, all of whom were to be chosen by Lord Chandos, the lord of the manor. (fn. 1) Richard Newdigate, later first baronet (d. 1678), by his will (dated 1674) charged his estate with a rent of £36, of which £5 were to be given to each of the almswomen and to the curate for reading prayers daily, and £1 was to be allowed for repairs. (fn. 2) By about 1930 there were only three almswomen resident. The rooms were dark and damp, the chimneys smoked, there was no sanitation, and it was considered that no new applications would be received. In 1954 the Uxbridge Urban District Council threatened to demolish the almshouses, although there were two occupants, but since that date efforts to preserve them have been successful. The building stands on Church Hill and was being thoroughly restored in 1959. The almshouses consisted of a ground-floor and first-floor room for each of the women, a house originally designed for the curate of the parish, who was to act as chaplain, and a 'waitinghouse', which was a room given to someone waiting to be admitted. (fn. 3)

In 1664 Mrs. Mary Ashby gave to the poor £100 (fn. 4) which were invested in tithes which raised £7 10s. p.a. (fn. 5) In 1849 a £12 2s. rent-charge was allotted in place of tithes on 80½ acres. This rent-charge was redeemed in 1879 for £467 stock. (fn. 6) The proceeds were joined to the charity of Solomon Burbery which was founded by will (dated 1697), in which Burbery left 12½ acres to the poor. At that date the proceeds from the Ashby and Burbery charities were distributed in money to the almswomen and the rest of the poor. (fn. 7) Later in the century the land included a house, and in 1954 was said to be a large dairy-farm which had been recently improved by the trustees, and was let at between £70 and £90 a year.

The fuel charity was founded by the inclosure commissioners, who allotted 20 acres in place of rights over the common. The inclosure award specifically excluded from benefit those who were in receipt of parish relief. The charity was later known as the poor's land. (fn. 8) In 1912 a violent attack on the trustees was made in a public meeting, in which it was claimed that the poor's land was not a charity at all but an inalienable right. (fn. 9) By 1957 the land had been compulsorily acquired by the county and borough councils. (fn. 10) During the 19th century these three charities, Ashby, Burbery, and the fuel charity, were distributed together in coal, and were subject to two public inquiries by the Charity Commission. The first, in 1866, followed complaints that at least a third of the recipients were not resident in the parish. The second inquiry was held in 1875 after accusations of unfair distribution of coal and the exclusion of people who normally received it. In 1874 coal had been received by 232 people on the scale of 8 cwt. to a widow or man and wife, and 1 cwt. for each child. (fn. 11) After this inquiry the trustees excluded people earning more than 30s. to £2 per week, and were consequently threatened with legal proceedings. In 1954 about 150 people received 2-3 cwt. each. (fn. 12)

The charity of Mrs. Charlotte Williams was founded by her will (dated 1793) in which she bequeathed £600 to distribute bread to the poor each Sunday from September to May. The almswomen received a small loaf every week throughout the year. (fn. 13)

By his will (proved 1858) Henry Goodman left £500 to provide flour, raisins, and beer for 50 poor families of the parish. The capital was reduced by legal difficulties to £277 stock by 1868. (fn. 14) The beer was distributed on Christmas Eve and in 1875 the vicar was bitterly complaining that it very much increased drunkenness in the parish. (fn. 15) In 1930 the beer money was being used to pay for cleaning the schoolroom. (fn. 16)

The Ashford charity was founded by the will of John Ashford (proved 1867) and provided £600 stock for meat, bread, fuel, or clothes. In 1954 the Goodman and Ashford charities both issued tickets that could be exchanged for goods.

All the charities were co-ordinated by schemes in 1932 and 1956, (fn. 17) and in 1951 the income was disbursed on the almshouse, the providing of medical facilities, and the assisting of young people to learn a trade. (fn. 18) The total income of the charities in 1957 was £631 odd. (fn. 19)


  • 1. 12th Rep. Com. Char. H.C. 348, p. 127 (1825), x.
  • 2. Char. Com. files; Vernon, Notes on Harefield par. 21-22.
  • 3. Char. Com. files.
  • 4. Charity board in St. Mary's ch., Harefield.
  • 5. 12th Rep. Com. Char. 127.
  • 6. Char. Com. files.
  • 7. 12th Rep. Com. Char. 127.
  • 8. Char. Com. files.
  • 9. Uxbridge Gaz. 29 Mar. 1912.
  • 10. Char. Com. files.
  • 11. Mdx. and Bucks. Advertiser, 27 Feb. 1875.
  • 12. Char. Com. files.
  • 13. 12th Rep. Com. Char. 127.
  • 14. Ibid.
  • 15. Mdx. and Bucks. Advertiser, 27 Feb. 1875.
  • 16. Char. Com. files.
  • 17. Char. Com. files.
  • 18. Uxbridge U.D.C., Petition for Incorporation, 1951 (copy penes Uxbridge B.C.), para. 43.
  • 19. Char. Com. files. For other references to unidentified charities, see M.R.O., Acc. 312/536; Col. Top. et Gen. v. 133; 12th Rep. Com. Char. 129; H. S. Cochran, More about Harefield church and par. (copy in B.M.) i. 18.