Banbury: Charities

A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 10, Banbury Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1972.

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Christina Colvin. Janet Cooper. N H Cooper. P D A Harvey. Marjory Hollings. Judith Hook. Mary Jessup. Mary D Lobel. J F A Mason. B S Trinder. Hilary Turner, 'Banbury: Charities', A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 10, Banbury Hundred, (London, 1972), pp. 124-127. British History Online [accessed 23 June 2024].

Christina Colvin. Janet Cooper. N H Cooper. P D A Harvey. Marjory Hollings. Judith Hook. Mary Jessup. Mary D Lobel. J F A Mason. B S Trinder. Hilary Turner. "Banbury: Charities", in A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 10, Banbury Hundred, (London, 1972) 124-127. British History Online, accessed June 23, 2024,

Colvin, Christina. Cooper, Janet. Cooper, N H. Harvey, P D A. Hollings, Marjory. Hook, Judith. Jessup, Mary. Lobel, Mary D. Mason, J F A. Trinder, B S. Turner, Hilary. "Banbury: Charities", A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 10, Banbury Hundred, (London, 1972). 124-127. British History Online. Web. 23 June 2024,

Charities for the Poor.

By will dated 1443 John Forest, Prebendary of Banbury (d. 1446), bequeathed £66 13s. 4d. for 20 years to support 4 persons 'in my almshouse at Banbury' at the rate of 4d. a week. (fn. 1) In 1448 the newly founded guild of St. Mary was authorized to hold property worth 100 marks a year for the support of three chaplains and eight poor persons dwelling in the almshouse. (fn. 2) In 1535 £6 18s. 8d. was distributed to 8 poor men and women at a groat a week; at the dissolution of the chantries in 1548 the guild was paying £10 8s. a year to 12 poor people at the same rate and provision was made to continue the payment. (fn. 3) A decree of the Exchequer in 1572 confirmed that the £10 8s. was to be paid to the corporation from the revenues of the castle or manor of Banbury or of dissolved chantries. (fn. 4) In 1653 the corporation rejected the suggestion that payments should be replaced by a grant of rents in the town. (fn. 5) In 1824 the corporation was receiving £10 10s. a year less fees (7s. 2d.) charged upon the land revenues of the Crown, and the charity was distributed at 4d. a week, known as the Widow's Groat, to 12 poor widows, of whom 8 lived in the almshouse. (fn. 6) In 1443 the almshouse stood near the churchyard. By 1711 it was ruinous and was repaired by Francis, Lord North and Guilford. In 1793 the vestry discussed rebuilding it again. Repairs were paid for out of the poor rate. In 1824 the almshouse contained 12 apartments for the most poor, old, and impotent people in Banbury, recommended by the overseers of the poor. (fn. 7) The almshouse stood in a low, damp, and confined position, and consisted in 1868 of two blocks of dilapidated buildings scarcely fit for human habitation. By 1877 the buildings were unsafe: eventually the smaller block was abandoned and a new almshouse for 4 persons was acquired for £270, the gift of a private donor. (fn. 8)

In 1882 the almshouse was amalgamated with the charities of Joshua Sprigge, Mr. Metcalfe, and Captain Smith to form the Almshouse Charity, the last three charities providing income for the almshouse, which was rebuilt at a cost of £440. (fn. 9) Joshua Sprigge of Crayford (Kent) by will dated 1684 had left the corporation of Banbury £400 to build a workhouse and £100 for a stock to set the poor to work. (fn. 10) In 1706, after a Chancery case, William Sprigge was ordered to pay the corporation the £500 together with the £515 interest due thereon. Mr. Metcalfe, probably Thomas Abraham alias Metcalfe whose will was dated 1712, (fn. 11) left £100, and before 1738 Captain Smith gave £112 12s., for the benefit of the workhouse. By 1750 Francis, Lord North and Guilford, held £750 of the capital and interest on loan, paying £30 a year interest to the corporation. (fn. 12) Of that money £4 was spent each year to provide fourpenny loaves monthly for 20 poor widows, part of the bequest of Captain Smith, and the balance went to the poor rate. (fn. 13) After 1882 the £30 was used to maintain 12 people resident in the almshouse, who had to be over 60 years of age and unable to work, and to have lived in Banbury for 3 years. (fn. 14)

A further amalgamation took place in 1895 when the Almshouse Charity, the Bridge Estate, (fn. 15) and the Arran Estate were placed under a single administration, known as the Banbury Municipal Charities. (fn. 16) The Arran Estate had been founded by Elizabeth, Countess of Arran (d. 1756) for the education and support of children from the workhouse, and was operative by 1767. In 1825 the endowment consisted of £100 stock and 2 houses, producing a total income of £33 a year. In 1872 one house was sold for £250. The income was spent on apprenticing children, mostly from the National school, with premiums first of £10, then of £15, and after 1857, of £20. In 1889 the charity was opened to children from the extended borough, and in 1893 to those born but no longer resident in Banbury. In 1867–8 the Charity Commissioners suggested amalgamating the Arran Estate, the Bridge Estate, and the Sprigge Charities (i.e. those of Sprigge, Metcalfe, and Smith, later amalgamated with the almshouse) to found a grammar school, but the project was abandoned after bitter opposition from Banbury residents. In 1960 the stock belonging to the charity was worth £2,150. (fn. 17)

In 1603, after apparently ill-founded complaints had been received about the corporation's administration, the corporation was authorized to cooperate with the vicar and churchwardents in the general administration of the town charities, and to appoint 2 bridgemasters, overseers, or receivers to supervise them, and to render an annual account. Fourteen endowments were involved: as well as the Bridge Estate, the Almshouse, and the Church Estate (fn. 18) there were 6 annuities (4 of 20s. each, one of 10s., and one of 3s.), 3 capital sums to be lent to the poor, a stock to buy coal for the poor, and a tenement. (fn. 19) Of those charities, the tenement (in Colebar Street) left by John Knight (d. 1587) and later rented for 26s. 6d., (fn. 20) a 20s. annuity charged on a meadow in Eynsham left by John Knight's relict Joan, and an annuity of 20s. from a tenement in Barkhill Street left by Edward Brightwell, had disappeared by 1825. (fn. 21)

Of the other annuities Henry Halhead left two, one of 20s. from a tenement in Sheep Street to buy frieze for the poor, and one of 10s. from a shop in Barkhill Street for the weekly preaching of the Gospel, or else for the teaching of poor children in Banbury parish. The 20s. annuity was paid regularly until 1812, and clothing was bought for 3 poor widows. In 1825 the tenant of the property agreed to pay the annuity, if it proved legal, but in 1843 no money had been received. In 1825 the parish clerk was collecting 2 sums of 10s. from property in the borough, and one of these may have been Halhead's other annuity. An annuity of 3s. given by Thomas Hall of Bodicote to buy bread for the poor was still in existence in 1825 when bread was distributed to the poor on Good Friday. (fn. 22) The remaining annuity, of 20s. was charged on the interest of the £100 which Walter Calcott, by will dated 1574, left to be lent at 5 per cent. in sums of £10 and £20 to poor artificers of Banbury. (fn. 23)

There were two other loan funds in 1603; Thomas Oken of Warwick (d. 1573) left £40 to be lent to 8 poor, honest men for 3 or 4 years, each man paying 4d. to the poor and 4d. for a sermon and merrymaking afterwards for every pound borrowed. Payments were still being made from this fund in 1714. (fn. 24) Edward Brightwell, before 1592, left £50 to be lent to poor artificers and occupiers of Banbury. (fn. 25) A further loan fund, described as Harding's money, existed in 1662. (fn. 26) In 1786 the sum of £14 was available for interest-free loans to young tradesmen and £40 similarly to anyone who employed a number of poor persons, (fn. 27) but all the loan charities had been lost by 1825. (fn. 28)

The last of the charities covered by the 1603 decree was a stock of £22 18s. 6d. given by several persons to buy coal for sale to the poor at a price sufficient to maintain the stock. The stock had fallen to £16 by 1750, but was increased to £41 by two donations from William Holbech. In 1770 deficiencies were made up out of the poor rate. In 1778 William Holbech, Francis, Lord Guilford, who had subscribed £25, and the vestry decided to give the money, then amounting to £56 16s., to the charity school. (fn. 29)

By will dated 1627 Henry Smith granted to the poor of Banbury part of the rents of an estate in Telscombe (Sussex). In 1822 and 1823 £35 5s. 6d. was received by the churchwardens and distributed in gifts of flannel to 70 or 80 people, most of them above the status of pauper. (fn. 30) By a Scheme of 1926 a wide range of objects for the charity was defined, including donations to a provident club, aid to poor patients, premiums for apprenticeships, and gifts in kind and in money. In 1960 the income of £15 provided coal for 20 people. (fn. 31)

In 1681 Richard Plestow gave £2 a year, charged on land in Williamscot (in Cropredy), to provide bread for the poor at Christmas and Easter. (fn. 32) In 1858 the rent-charge was redeedmed for £66 13s. 4d., and loaves were still being distributed twice yearly in 1868. The charity was later administered with those of Brownsill, Conant, and Cooke, under the collective name of Plestow. (fn. 33) John Brownsill, by will proved in 1849, gave £400 to the poor; between 1953 and 1961 the annual income, c. £9 10s., was distributed in 5s. tickets for groceries or drapers' goods to 25 poor people; the capital was then £383. (fn. 34) Paynton Pigott Stainsby Conant, by will dated 1861, left £200 to provide bread or money for the poor of Banbury and Neithrop. Between 1959 and 1961 the income of £7 14s. a year was distributed in 5s. tickets to 20 poor people. (fn. 35) Stephen Cooke, by will dated 1885, gave £500 as a coal and bread charity for the poor of all denominations. In 1955 the income was £12 4s., and about 30 people benefited from 2 tons of coal. (fn. 36)

Thomas Abraham alias Metcalfe, by will dated 1712, left an annual rent-charge of £13 on his property in Banbury and Bodicote of which £2 a year was to be given to the charity school, and £10 a year alternately to apprentice 2 boys and to clothe 6 poor widows. The remaining £1 was left to the trustees. Until 1819 £10 was used every other year to buy clothing for 6 poor widows in the almshouse, but the property was sold that year, and by 1825 the rent-charge was £61 15s. in arrears. The trustees were ordered to ensure the regular application of the charity in future. There were few applications for apprenticeships, however, and in 1877 £115 accumulated income was invested. (fn. 37) In 1888 the charity was amalgamated with that founded by Henry Abraham alias Metcalfe, nephew of Thomas, who, by will dated 1746, gave the interest of £100 to be disposed of annually on St. Thomas's Day among the poor of Banbury, and the interest of a further £50 to the charity school. In 1825 £3 income from the £100 was distributed in bread to poor women. (fn. 38) In 1889 the amalgamated charities were divided into two branches, educational and eleemosynary. The income for the second branch derived from a rent-charge and from £115 stock. In 1914 £5 was spent annually on clothes for poor widows and £5 on coal. By 1958 the £10 was either spent on clothes for 10 poor widows, or it was divided into two, and £5 given to needy patients in Horton General Hospital and the other £5 spent on clothes for the poor. (fn. 39) Mary, relict of Thomas Abraham alias Metcalfe, by her will dated 1723, left an annuity of £17 charged on estates in Culworth and Eydon (Northants.), of which £5 was to be given to the sick poor, £5 distributed as shilling loaves weekly to church-going poor, £5 paid to the schoolmaster of the church school, and £2 given to the charity school. The £5 for the sick poor was regularly paid, and in 1825 was being added to money collected by voluntary subscription, which amounted to nearly £200 a year. (fn. 40) The bread charity, which provided 6 fourpenny loaves for 6 widows weekly, was altered in 1906 so that the money might be distributed to the poor generally. In 1959 it was given in cash or kind, and in 1960 there was a capital sum of £150 accumulated income. (fn. 41)

The Old Charitable Society was formed in 1782 for the relief of persons in distressed circumstances, especially those who had tried to support themselves without parochial aid, and those who, because of age, accident, or other cause beyond their control, were in need of aid. The society was at first supported entirely by voluntary subscription, each member paying not less than 10s., and by the proceeds of special collections in churches and chapels. Latter, however, legacies were received; John Brownsill left £50 to the society in 1849, and Stephen Cooke left £200 in 1885. In that year the income of the society was £126 from subscriptions and £35 from church collections, and 452 persons were given relief. By 1960 subscriptions had fallen to £100, but the society's stock was worth £3,727, and in 1964 the income was between £250 and £500 a year. (fn. 42)

The Visiting Charitable Society was founded, probably in 1820, to visit and relieve the sick and distressed poor of all creeds. During the cold winter of 1886 it helped 740 people, and 583 in 1889. In that year the society's capital amounted to £810, most of it invested. By 1919, however, the society had outlived its usefulness, as many of its functions had been taken over by the Banbury Nursing Association, which had existed since 1871. By a scheme of the Charity Commissioners in 1926 the Visiting Charitable Society and its endowments were administered by the Nursing Association, and after 1948 both were administered by the Banbury Sick Poor Fund, which supplied extra fuel, bedding, and domestic help to the sick and convalescent. In 1954 the Visiting Charitable Society held £1,034 stock producing £25 27s. a year, and the Nursing Association's assets amounted to £1,600. Susan Page, by will dated 1955, left £50 to this fund, and in 1961 the total income was £84 10s. 10d. (fn. 43)


  • 1. Somerset Medieval Wills (Som. Rec. Soc. xvi), p. 154.
  • 2. Cal. Pat. 1446–52, 152–3; Beesley, Hist. Banbury, 177–8.
  • 3. Chant. Cert. 44–45, 55–56; Beesley, Hist. Banbury, 177–8.
  • 4. L.R. 2/196, f. 183v; Beesley, Hist. Banbury, 253. The weekly groat was known as the Queen's pension in 1592: Cal. Corpn. Accts. iii, p. 142.
  • 5. B.M. Stowe MSS. 184, ff. 260, 278; 185, f. 5.
  • 6. 12th Rep. Com. Char. 170.
  • 7. Ibid. 167; Beesley, Hist. Banbury, 177; Banbury Public Libr., vestry bk. 1708–97.
  • 8. Char. Com. files.
  • 9. Ibid.
  • 10. 12th Rep. Com. Char. 170–1.
  • 11. See below.
  • 12. 12th Rep. Com. Char. 170–1.
  • 13. Banbury Borough Recs., corpn. jnl. 1722–61.
  • 14. Char. Com. files.
  • 15. See pp. 75–76.
  • 16. Char. Com. files.
  • 17. 12th Rep. Com. Char. 174–6; Char. Com. files.
  • 18. See p. 105.
  • 19. Beesley, Hist. Banbury, 248–50.
  • 20. Cal. Corpn. Accts. iii, p. 154.
  • 21. 12th Rep. Com. Char. 167–8.
  • 22. Ibid.
  • 23. Cal. Corpn. Accts. iii, pp. 133–4; 12th Rep. Com. Char. 169.
  • 24. For the terms of the bequest see The Black Book of Warwick, ed. Thomas Kemp, 165–6, 177. See also Cal. Corpn. Accts. i, p. 64; 12th Rep. Com. Char. 169.
  • 25. Cal. Corpn. Accts. iii, p. 143; 12th Rep. Com. Char. 169.
  • 26. Cal. Corpn. Accts. ii, pp. 120, 142, 153.
  • 27. Abs. of Rtns. of Char. Donations, 1786–8, H.C. 511, pp. 972–3 (1816), xvi.
  • 28. 12th Rep. Com. Char. 169.
  • 29. Ibid. 169–70; Banbury Public Libr., vestry bk. 1708–97.
  • 30. 4th Rep. Com. Char. H.C. 312, p. 459 (1820), v; 12th Rep. Com. Char. 176.
  • 31. Char. Com. files.
  • 32. 12th Rep. Com. Char. 170.
  • 33. Char. Com. files; no date has been found for the initiation of this scheme.
  • 34. Char. Com., Unrep. vol. 5, p. 434.
  • 35. Ibid. 17, p. 355.
  • 36. Ibid. 56, p. 34.
  • 37. 12th Rep. Com. Char. 171–3; Char. Com. files.
  • 38. 12th Rep. Com. Char. 174.
  • 39. Char. Com. files.
  • 40. 12th Rep. Com. Char. 173–4. The voluntary subscriptions were possibly from the Visiting Charitable Society, founded c. 1820.
  • 41. Char. Com. files.
  • 42. Reps. of Banbury Old Charitable Soc. (1892–5): copy in Bodl. G.A. Oxon. c 100; Char. Com. files; Beesley, Hist. Banbury, 559.
  • 43. General Accts. of Banbury Charitable Society for Visiting . . . the Poor (1841, 1899): copy in Bodl. G.A. Oxon. 8° 635(8);' Char. Com. files.