Tottenham: Charities for the poor

Pages 376-380

A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 5, Hendon, Kingsbury, Great Stanmore, Little Stanmore, Edmonton Enfield, Monken Hadley, South Mimms, Tottenham. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1976.

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Neglect of several charities was revealed in William Bedwell's description of 1631 and, more explicitly, in the history compiled mainly by Henry Hare, Lord Coleraine (d. 1708). In Bedwell's time the gift of herrings from William Dalby (fn. 2) had been discontinued and a then recent bequest of 40s. a year from Humphrey Westwood out of the profits of the rectory (fn. 3) had never been honoured. As early as 1634 three legacies had been used to buy property which became known as the charity estates; these lands had been improved but to no public benefit, according to Lord Coleraine, who also condemned the abatement of other sums due to the poor. (fn. 4) Similar maladministration, all the graver for the additional gifts made in the 18th and early 19th centuries, was discovered by the Brougham commissioners in 1825, when the estates were treated as common parish property and the rents, with several other payments, went into a general account. After the threat of legal action the charities were regulated by a succession of Schemes, until by 1893 an inspector could commend the unusual amount of local interest, which would make forthcoming reorganization relatively easy.

In 1896 the administrative division of the ancient parish led to the consolidation of most of its charities in two groups, one called the Alms-houses and the other the General charities. Together they were placed under two bodies, headed by the vicars of All Saints, Tottenham, and St. Michael's, Wood Green, and each with 5 of its 9 trustees appointed by the respective district council. The bodies were jointly to choose an estate committee, with 4 representatives from Tottenham and 2 from Wood Green, which would let and maintain all the property, paying stipends of 6s. to 10s. a week to the inmates of the three sets of parochial alms-houses; two-thirds of the remaining income was to go to the trustees for Tottenham and one third to those from Wood Green, for distribution in pensions and for the general benefit of the poor. Two out of every three alms-people were to be chosen by the Tottenham trustees and the remainder by those from Wood Green.

Under a further Scheme of 1917 most of the property and the funds were divided between the two local authorities, as the Tottenham (U.D.) charity and the Wood Green (U.D.) charity, while a small part of the land managed by the estate committee was left to a new Estate charity representing both councils, which shared its income as before. Tottenham took over the alms-houses and stock worth £9,620, while Wood Green received a few houses and £6,371.

In 1967-8 the Tottenham (U.D.) charity had an income of £2,660, most of it paid out in pensions of 8s. a week; £841, nearly a third of its revenue, came from ground-rents. The Wood Green (U.D.) charity, on the other hand, disposed of most of its property in the early 1960s, investing the proceeds in the borough's own stock; the last ground rents were sold in 1965 and the income rose to £8,362 in 1970-1.

The Tottenham (U.D.) and Wood Green (U.D.) charities.

Alms-house charities.

Phesaunt's, later also called the Pound, alms-houses originally comprised three tenements on the east side of the churchyard. They were founded for three poor widows by George Henningham (d. 1536) according to a brass formerly in the church, (fn. 5) on which Bedwell presumably based his statement that they had been built by a Mr. Phesaunt. (fn. 6) Lord Coleraine, c. 1705, complained that one of the alms-houses had become an alehouse. (fn. 7) The houses were demolished by the vestry c. 1744 and rebuilt on the east side of High Road, between the pound and the site later occupied by the Green school. (fn. 8) The vestry, which filled the vacancies, increased the accommodation to seven in 1847. (fn. 9) The Old and New Pound alms-houses, as thenceforth they were usually called, were considered cramped and inconvenient in 1893. After their inmates had chosen to move to Reynardson's almshouses rather than to receive bigger pensions, the sale of Phesaunt's alms-houses was sanctioned in 1925.

Phesaunt's alms-people benefited from several 19th-century bequests. Charles Saunders, by will dated 1817, left £300 stock from which each widow was supplied with 3 threepenny loaves a week until 1823, when distribution was temporarily stopped by a law-suit. Elizabeth Saunders, by will dated 1818, augmented the gift by consols worth nearly £223, on which half the income was spent on bread and half in cash. Pensions were further augmented out of part of the income of the charity estates from 1828, £200 from Richard Mountford (d.1833), £4 a head from William Odell, by will dated 1842, £500 from Thomas Barber, by will dated 1844, £500 from Caroline Dawson, by will dated 1879, and £320 net from James Saul, by will proved 1890. Residents in the three newer alms-houses also received the income from Jane Barkham's gift, (fn. 10) the interest on £204 stock bequeathed by George Gasson in 1866, and £210 given by Sarah and Mary Dawson in 1881.

Sanchez's alms-houses, (fn. 11) for 8 old men or women of Tottenham, were founded by Balthasar Sanchez, a naturalized Spaniard who had been confectioner to King Philip II of Spain before moving from London to the George and Vulture inn in High Road. By will dated 1599 Sanchez set aside 7 a. at Stone Leas for alms-houses, which were to be built and endowed with money from his estate. In the event he himself completed the building work in 1600 and, by a codicil of 1601, left the 7 a., apart from the site of the alms-houses, together with the sums previously intended as an endowment and all other lands attached to Stone Leas, to his brother-in-law and executor Christopher Scurrow; in return Scurrow and all future owners of Stone Leas became responsible for repairing the alms-houses and paying each inmate £2 a year in quarterly sums, with 15s. every second year for a frieze gown. The vicar, churchwardens, and four other feoffees were to fill and regulate the alms-houses and visit them on St. Bartholomew's day.

The alms-houses consisted of a row of 8 singleroom tenements, each with its garden, built of brick and with an inscription beneath a central gable. (fn. 12) They were the oldest such buildings in Tottenham from the mid 18th century and in 1825 were habitable but damp and inconvenient from the raising of the road level. Despite work carried out by successive owners of Stone Leas, complete rebuilding was urged as early as 1868. The Stone Leas estate redeemed its liability for repairs in 1902 and sale of the alms-houses was sanctioned in 1919; six years later they were demolished to make way for Burgess's Stores. (fn. 13)

Sanchez's alms-people benefited from the interest on £1,400 stock from Thomas Cooke, by his will dated 1810; after litigation 2s. a week was paid to each inmate in 1825. Pensions were later augmented out of £100 from Mrs. Sarah Beachcroft, by will dated 1834, part of the rent from the charity estates, £500 from Caroline Dawson, by will dated 1879, and £320 net from James Saul, by will proved 1890.

Reynardson's alms-houses (fn. 14) for 6 men and 6 women were to be built and maintained with £2,000 from the estate of Nicholas Reynardson, by his will dated 1685. A chapel was to be provided for daily prayers and the instruction of 20 poor children, the minister or teacher was to have £20 a year and a black gown at Christmas, and each alms-person was to receive £4 a year in quarterly payments, with a black gown. Reynardson's executors, with the vicar and churchwardens, were to add to their number to make 12 trustees, who would manage the charity. The provisions were confirmed by a Scheme of 1730, after the death of Reynardson's widow, save that the master of the free school was to read the prayers for £10 a year. The alms-houses, accommodating 8 persons, were opened in 1737. In 1825 there were 5 men and 3 women, chosen under the mistaken impression that inmates should enjoy no other parish relief and each receiving coals worth 20s. a year in lieu of a gown. Prayers were then read twice weekly in winter by the assistant curate for £6, although by 1851 they were read only on Thursdays. (fn. 15)

The alms-houses, next to the free school, comprised a brick row of 8 two-storeyed apartments, with a central chapel bearing an inscription over its doorway. (fn. 16) In 1825 they were in poor repair, since the income was inadequate, but work was carried out in 1828 and 60 years later they were thought satisfactory. They were portrayed, in a kindly light, in Children of Gibeon (1886), Sir Walter Besant's novel on east London life. (fn. 17) Sale of the alms-houses was authorized in 1938, when the last inmates moved to two houses belonging to the Drapers' Company in Bruce Grove, but an auction in 1939 was unsuccessful. The site was requisitioned for allotments in the Second World War and a sale was finally effected in 1951.

Pensions for Reynardson's alms-people were first augmented when Dr. Matthew Clarke, by will dated 1777, left the reversion of £600 in trust, which supplied an income from stock worth £966 from 1788. Mrs. Sarah Dickinson, by will of unknown date, left money to buy stock worth £200, which was vested in trustees in 1803. Thomas Cooke, by will dated 1810, left the interest on £1,400 stock, Richard Mountford (d. 1833) left £100 in trust for the inmates and a similar sum for the officiating minister, John Marshall, by will dated 1838, left the reversion of dividends on stock which was worth £793 in 1880, and James Saul, by will proved 1890, left £320 net. Repairs were assisted by £50 given in trust by Isaac Guillemard in 1798 and £20 left by Sarah Beachcroft, by will dated 1834. Reynardson's alms-houses were the best endowed in Tottenham, with funds worth £4,469 in 1863 and £5,825 in 1896.

The chanty estates. (fn. 18)

Balthasar Sanchez, in addition to endowing his alms-houses, left £100 in trust to provide bread for the poor. Dame Mary Woodhouse, by will proved in 1609, left £30 in trust for ten poor persons, (fn. 19) and Anne, countess of Dorset (d. 1618), gave £50. In 1634 all three sums were used to buy a house, the 5-acre close of Coombes Croft, the 5½-acre Hill Pond field at Downhills, and other property of Thomas Lock, which thereupon was vested in the vicar and other trustees to form the Tottenham charity estates. Lord Coleraine, c. 1705, complained that the property was neglected (fn. 20) and commissioners in 1825 noted that, apart from the weekly bread-dole, the profits were not applied directly to charitable uses. The lands, which were leased out by a committee of the vestry, nonetheless had gained in value: the house, divided by 1725 when it had been called the Three Conies, had become the Bell and Hare inn, a workhouse and infirmary had been built on part of Coombes Croft, (fn. 21) and further houses had been bought in 1807 with part of the accumulated income. Under an Order of 1828 the 4 women in Phesaunt's alms-houses were each to have 4s. a week from the charity estates; a Scheme of 1833 allowed the sum to be raised to 6s. and another of 1842 awarded 2s. a week to Sanchez's alms-people. Hill Pond field was leased to the local board as the site for a reservoir in 1853, (fn. 22) several houses along High Road were bought in 1862 with surplus funds, and a site in Park Lane was leased out for St. Paul's National school in 1869. The Coombes Croft estate was developed under a building lease granted in 1882 to C. J. Childs and by 1888 the charity had a net annual income of £260. The trustees of the Tottenham (U.D.) charity were authorized to sell the house and grounds of Coombes Croft in 1920 and Hill Pond field four years later but they retained property in Park Lane, Bromley, and High roads, including a drill hall and St. Paul's school, in 1967-8.

Other distributive charities.

William Dalby, a fishmonger of London whose will was proved in 1593, (fn. 23) ordered that barrels of herrings should be distributed in Lent among the poor. Although Bedwell reported that nothing was provided, (fn. 24) Lord Coleraine recalled having seen a tablet in the church valuing the fish at £10. According to Coleraine Sir Edward Barkham, who acquired Dalby's property in Tottenham and the City, had agreed to pay 50s. a year but Sir William Barkham, after the Great Fire, had secured an abatement to 34s. 8d. (fn. 25) A rent-charge of £2 2s., on houses in Cheapside, was paid by 1825 and still paid 60 years later.

Thomas Wheeler, by will proved 1611, left 12 pennyworth of bread for the vicar and churchwardens to distribute every Sunday, preferably in 1d. loaves, to the poor of Tottenham and especially those of Wood Green. (fn. 26) Accordingly £2 12s. a year was thereafter charged on his former property in the parish.

Sir Robert Barkham, by indenture of 1648, (fn. 27) secured a burial place in fee in the church. In return he assigned a rent-charge on land near Blackhope Lane, which was to provide 10s. a year for the poor and 2s. for the sexton. Payments ceased in 1782, perhaps because of an imperfect instrument which in 1825 was thought to make it hard to secure enforcement.

Lucy, Lady Coleraine, by will dated 1680, left £100 on which the interest was to be distributed by the vicar, overseers, and churchwardens at Christmas.

Mrs. Jane Barkham, by will dated 1724, left three tenements on the west side of High Road north of White Hart Lane, from which the rent was to benefit the poor. The houses were replaced by two others, leased out for 61 years in 1764 and still retained, as nos. 809 and 811 High Road, in 1896. The annual rent, £6 16s., had been assigned to supporting the inmates of the New Pound alms-houses by 1863.

Mrs. Barbara Skinner, by will dated 1759, left £100 to furnish clothing and other necessities for the poor. Richard Toll, by will dated 1767, left £100 stock, on which the dividends were to provide bread. Philip de la Haize, by will dated 1768, left the interest on £100. William Wood, in the same year, bequeathed a turnpike bill for £100, on which the interest was to provide bread. Stock representing the four bequests, with that of Lucy, Lady Coleraine, was valued at £740 in 1786. The sum was later reduced by sale but was raised to £525 when John Ardesoif, by will dated 1789, left £100 for a bread dole. All six benefactions, representing stock worth £629 in 1825 and £939 in 1863, continued to be listed together until the reorganization which led to the establishment of Tottenham (U.D.) charity.

Mrs. Mary Tyler, by will dated 1802 and a codicil of 1804, left the interest on £50 for bread. Richard Patmore, by will dated 1816, left the interest on £100 for bread. Both sums were sold and jointly reinvested in 1824. John Field, by will dated 1820, left the reversion of £1,000 after the deaths of his son and daughter to provide bread and coals, together with a further £500. Mrs. Field, by will of unknown date but before 1863, augmented the charity with £500 stock for coals. In 1868 the total income amounted to £45, distributed in tickets for coals to some 15 persons. William Wallis, by will dated 1825, left the interest on £100, which was distributed in bread at the churches of All Saints, Holy Trinity, and St. Michael in 1868. Daniel Silver, by will of c. 1833, left the interest on £100, which in 1868 was distributed like Wallis's legacy.

Richard Mountford (d. 1833), in addition to his alms-house bequests, left £100 to the churchwardens for a bread dole. Thomas Barber, by will proved 1844, in addition to his gift to Phesaunt's alms-houses, left £500 for bread and clothing. Henry Scambler, by will proved 1845, left the interest on £1,000 for half-yearly payments to 3 poor persons, who would be chosen by the householders. In 1868 elections took place at the lecture hall and were criticized as noisy and inconvenient in an inspector's report. Robert James Seagoe, by will proved 1851, left £100 stock to the churchwardens. The sexton was to receive 5s. a year, Park Lane National school was to have 10s., and the residue was to provide bread for the poor. From 1896 sums due to the school were paid into a separate account, in the name of Seagoe's educational foundation. John Priest, by will of unknown date but before 1863, left stock worth £90 to provide coals.

Lord Coleraine's charity. (fn. 28)

Henry, Lord Coleraine, by will dated 1702, left £100 for the purchase of land, the income from which was to be used in the first instance to maintain a vault and vestry which he had built in the church and thereafter at the vestry's discretion. His widow Elizabeth added £40 to help buy 4 a. at Drayner's Grove, which was settled in trust in 1710. The land was exchanged for 6 a. opposite Duckett's farm, Hornsey, in 1792 and an additional plot with two houses in Fortis Green Road was allotted under the Inclosure Act for Finchley Common. The profits went into parish funds in 1825, when the income far exceeded the repair costs, and part of the surplus was paid towards the demolition of the Coleraine vault and the reinterment of the family fifty years later. A building lease was granted from 1886 for the field at Ducketts Green, where Coleraine Terrace and neighbouring roads had been laid out within five years. The increasing value of Lord Coleraine's lands, applied to no public purpose, was one of the main reasons for reorganizing the parochial charities in 1896.

Other charities for the poor.

Mary Overend of Chitts Hill, by indenture dated 1859, conveyed stock worth £1,250 to four trustees, including Josiah Forster. The trustees, who were to be members of the Society of Friends, were to distribute the income in sums not exceeding £5 among old or sick residents of Tottenham, especially widows or those needing help with their rent. Under a Scheme of 1960 the managers of Josiah Forster's trust were placed in charge of Mary Overend's charity, which in 1966 had stock worth £1,670 and paid out £57 10s. in gifts.

Josiah Forster's trust was established in 1862, when Forster and his wife conveyed four cottages and £500 stock to W. E. Forster, M.P., and others, who should belong to the Tottenham Monthly Meeting. The cottages had then recently been built by the grantor on land inclosed out of an orchard on the north side of Philip Lane. They were to be maintained by the trustees, who should choose the inmates from Tottenham inhabitants, not necessarily Quakers, giving preference to widows or spinsters aged at least 55. Each resident was to have ½ ton of coal a year but was expected to have enough personal resources to ensure some degree of comfort. Under a Scheme of 1955 Friends Trusts Ltd. became custodian trustees and six members of the Devonshire House and Tottenham Monthly Meeting became managing trustees. Residents could be required to pay up to 5s. a week towards the upkeep of the cottages, which had recently been repaired, in 1960 and up to 15s. in 1967. In 1970 assets consisted of the four cottages, nos. 88, 90, 92, and 94 Philip Lane, and stock worth £1,672, producing an income of £40.

Bayly's charity comprised stock worth £90 in 1867, when the income of £2 14s. was distributed. In 1886, when the stock was transferred to the Official Trustees, its origins were unknown: J. W. Robins stated that he had regularly handed over the dividends to the vicar of Holy Trinity, whose predecessor, George Twining Brewster, declared that the charity had existed on his own arrival in Tottenham some 40 years earlier. In the early 1950s £2 5s. was shared among five recipients annually at Christmas.

The Revd. E. R. Larken of Burton by Lincoln (Lincs.), by will proved 1895, left £140 in memory of his sister to the vicar and churchwardens of Tottenham, who were to spend the interest on the poor. By 1899 £114 had been invested in stock. In the early 1950s there was an income of nearly £8 a year but no money was distributed.

The Wilson fund was endowed by Alexander Wilson, vicar of Tottenham, whose will was proved in 1898. Proceeds from the sale of his real and the residue of his personal estate were to be invested by the next incumbent, who should distribute the income twice yearly among poor communicants. Accordingly £8,491 was invested in 1898. In the 1950s the fund's income was £227 and by 1972 it had reached £1,000 (fn. 29) a year, paid out by the vicar in pensions and gifts.

Mrs. Sophia Parry, by will proved 1901, left the proceeds from the sale of her real and the residue of her personal estate to the vicar and churchwardens of St. Ann's, on behalf of the poor. Stock worth £1,000 and £677 was transferred to the Official Trustees in 1903. In 1966 the Charity Commissioners approved the practice of devoting the income of £41 18s. 4d. towards the stipend of the parish sister, a social worker serving St. Ann's and neighbouring parishes.


  • 1. Except where otherwise stated, the section is based on Char. Com. files; D. Avery, Poverty and Philanthropy in Tottenham in the 16th and 17th cents. (Edmonton Hund. Hist. Soc. 1963), 5; 14th Rep. Com. Char. H.C. 382, pp. 157-69 (1826), xii; Gen. Digest Endowed Chars. H.C. 433, pp. 68-9 (1867-8), lii(1); Endowed Chars. Mdx. H.C. 306, pp. 24-5 (1899), lxx.
  • 2. See below.
  • 3. Prob. 11/139 (P.C.C. 139 Savile).
  • 4. Oldfield and Dyson, Hist. Tottenham, 15-29.
  • 5. Robinson, Tottenham, ii. 266.
  • 6. Roe, op. cit. 118. Henningham's daughter Margaret married Jasper Phesaunt: Prob. 11/27 (P.C.C. 13 Dyngeley).
  • 7. Fisk, Tottenham, ii. 125.
  • 8. Robinson, op. cit. ii, plate facing p. 306.
  • 9. Bruce Castle Mus., Tottenham Chars. 1888 [rep. by cttee. of vestry].
  • 10. See below.
  • 11. A 19th-cent. min. bk. and other recs. from 1619 to 1895 are in Bruce Castle Mus., D/PT/7A/1-11.
  • 12. Robinson, Tottenham, ii. 255 and plate facing p. 214.
  • 13. W. J. Roe, Tottenham, Edmonton and Enfield Hist. Notebk. 123.
  • 14. Mins. and accts. of the trustees from 1734 to 1869 are in Bruce Castle Mus., D/PT/7C/1-2.
  • 15. H.O. 129/137/2/1/1.
  • 16. Robinson, Tottenham, ii. 265 and plate facing p. 257.
  • 17. Bruce Castle Mus., 988 [newspaper cutting].
  • 18. Recs. of the lands and the charity from 1484 to 1916 are in Bruce Castle Mus., D/PT/7F/1-57.
  • 19. Prob. 11/113 (P.C.C. 47 Dorset).
  • 20. Oldfield and Dyson, op. cit. 22.
  • 21. See p. 343.
  • 22. Bruce Castle Mus., D/PT/7F/25; /26.
  • 23. Prob. 11/82 (P.C.C. 84 Neville).
  • 24. Roe, Ancient Tottenham, 118.
  • 25. Oldfield and Dyson, op. cit. 23.
  • 26. Prob. 11/118 (P.C.C. 79 Wood).
  • 27. Bruce Castle Mus., D/PT/7E.
  • 28. Recs of Drayners Grove and Ld. Coleraine's char. from 1658 to 1855 are in Bruce Castle Mus., D/PT/7B/1- 21.
  • 29. Ex_inf. the vicar.