Eynsham: Charities for the poor

Pages 156-158

A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 12, Wootton Hundred (South) Including Woodstock. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1990.

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Charities for the poor (fn. 14)

St. Thomas's bread charity, sometimes referred to as the poor's estate, was an amalgamation of many small charities administered by the churchwardens and overseers. In 1658 the poor's stock of £58, presumably made up of earlier charitable donations, was invested in c. 2 a. of pasture near Mill Street, later Poor's close, the site of the workhouse. A Commission of Charitable Uses in 1701 nominated trustees to call in and invest in land £66 acquired from Catherine Butler (d. 1682, £5 by gift), Francis Perrott (£10 by will proved 1684), Christopher Maund (£10 by will proved 1697), Eleanor Fulkes (d. 1699, £6 by gift), and recent gifts of £30 by George Castell of Tunbridge Wells (Kent) and £5 by William Wilkins of London. The income was to be distributed to the poor with special care that five widows benefited from the Butler charity. (fn. 15) In 1711 £86 from those and other charities were invested in Bitterall close. Meadow in Spareacre (c. 3a.) was purchased with £200 given as a bread charity by Edward Goddard of London by will of 1709. In 1753 the charities of George Castell (£10 by will proved 1739), (fn. 16) John Wise (£10 by will of 1729), and Anne Ayres (£10 for widows by will of 1752) were used, with c. £15 from the sale of timber from charity lands, to buy meadow in Mill mead. In 1770 a further £44 was spent on a close and orchard near Spareacre.

By 1787 a total of £376 had been laid out in land producing £9 16s. for the poor: (fn. 17) the estate represented all the above-named donations, together with sums of £10 each given by Joan Blackman (? d. 1635), (fn. 18) Joan Olive (fl. 1652), John Green (will proved 1653), (fn. 19) and James Quartermain (will proved 1704), (fn. 20) and £5 each from Stephen and Margaret Wise, Thomas Smith, and Richard Berry at unknown dates, and from Richard Castell (? d. 1705), Susannah Saywell (will proved 1707), George Knapp (will proved 1711), and Thomas Wastie of Cowley (fl. mid 18th century). (fn. 21) The St. Thomas's fund also received rent charges of 5s. given as a bread charity for 10 poor widows by John Wastie (will of 1667), (fn. 22) and 5s. from the Bolds (later Bowles farm) granted by Richard Castell in 1694 to be given to the poor on Good Friday; there was also a stock of £10 for 10 poor widows given by Esther Bartholomew (will proved 1762). (fn. 23)

In 1786 it was decided to raise the rent of the poor's estate and distribute bread at the rate of £1 worth each week from Christmas until Lady Day; lists of those qualified for bread were drawn up by the vestry. (fn. 24) Not all the above benefactions were for bread, notably those of Richard Castell (1694), George Castell, Esther Bartholomew, and probably several others, which were meant to be distributed in cash on Good Friday: in the later 18th century the overseers regularly disbursed 'Good Friday money' arising from benefactions which had been invested in a house which they may have been using as a poor house. (fn. 25) At inclosure in 1802 annual payments to the Eynsham commoners of £2 12s. 6d. from Twelve Acre farm and £1 1s. from Newfield farm, to free those lands from common rights, were turned into rent charges paid into the St. Thomas's fund. (fn. 26) After inclosure the poor's estate comprised c. 18 a., which in 1823 was let for c. £45; with the rent charges and 15s. a year from the Esther Bartholomew and Catherine Butler charities the total income of the St. Thomas's charity was over £50, from which £6 was held back for cash payments to poor widows and widowers, and the rest distributed in bread on nine Sundays after Christmas.

Another bread charity was given by John Bartholomew (will proved 1701), who charged his estate with the provision of a 3d. loaf weekly to each of 10 poor widows or widowers. (fn. 27) By 1823 the estate, though divided, yielded £6 10s. a year which was distributed in cash on the distribution days of St. Thomas's charity and in bread on the other Sundays; arrangements were unchanged in 1852 but by 1871 the £6 10s. was administered with the St. Thomas's charity. (fn. 28)

Thomas Walker (will of 1789) gave the income from £100 to provide bread. A plan of 1814 to sell the stock for a parish fire engine and fund the charity from the overseers' accounts (fn. 29) seems not to have been implemented, and in 1823 the income of £4 4s. 6d. a year was distributed in bread on Sundays when there was no St. Thomas's charity distribution. The charity was linked with two other bread charities, £40 given by Thomas Castell in 1830 and £100 by Robert Day in 1831, and all were invested in stock yielding c. £7 10s. in 1852; by 1871 the stock of £235 was absorbed in the St. Thomas's account. (fn. 30)

In 1852 the income of the St. Thomas's charity, with balances from the other bread charities, was c. £57, of which £7 was disbursed on Good Friday and at Whitsun, presumably to poor widows and widowers; there were four large distributions of bread in January. (fn. 31) In 1871 the income of the St. Thomas's charity (excluding the £6 10s. from John Bartholomew's charity) was c. £71. (fn. 32)

Several other charities not recorded by 1871 may have been merged in the St. Thomas's fund. A bread charity of 10s. a year was given by Joseph Druce (will proved 1822) and another of £5 was given by Elizabeth Scarsbrook (will proved 1819). (fn. 33) The income from £100 left by James Lord (d. 1809) to provide coal or bread was being distributed in bread in 1823 but was recorded as lost in 1871.

Another lost charity was that of Francis Wastie (will of 1775), who gave the interest of £10 to clothe two fatherless children; in 1823 the interest had not been paid for 30 years, and although an agreement was made over arrears the charity was not recorded thereafter.

A bread charity was given by Elizabeth West (will of 1638) and her brother and executor John Walter (will proved 1640), who left an estate at Appleton (formerly Berks.) in trust for the poor of Witney, Standlake, and Eynsham; Eynsham received a quarter share of the charity. In the 1650s the income, spent on bread, was usually between £2 and £3 but rents rose (fn. 34) and in the late 18th century Eynsham's share was between £6 and £7 half-yearly. (fn. 35) In 1823 bread worth c. £17 was distributed on Sundays when there was no St. Thomas's distribution. In 1852 and 1871 Eynsham's share of the Appleton rent was c. £20. (fn. 36) The estate was sold in 1931 and the capital invested. (fn. 37)

At inclosure in 1802 Foxley farm (c 83 a.) was awarded as a fuel allotment to the poor in compensation for their former common rights; (fn. 38) the rent was distributed in coal on St. Thomas's day. The rent fell from c. £125 to £70 by the 1820s, (fn. 39) and later fluctuated from £185 in 1863 to only £86 in 1890. (fn. 40)

From the 1860s the administration of Eynsham's charities caused bitter dispute. In 1865 the vicar, W. S. Bricknell, refused to produce accounts of the bread and coal charities for the previous six years, (fn. 41) and shortly afterwards came to blows at a meeting of the Bartholomew charity trustees. (fn. 42) In 1873 Bricknell's leading opponent, Joseph Druce, secured a Chancery investigation and under threat of prison Bricknell eventually rendered accounts in 1875; (fn. 43) quarrels over the charities continued into the 1880s. (fn. 44) A Scheme of 1878 amalgamated the St. Thomas's charity with the fuel allotment and directed that bread distributions should be phased out and income devoted to the sick poor; to pensions, to educational purposes, and to provident institutions. The fuel allotment was to be distributed in coal. (fn. 45) During the next ten years up to £95 a year were spent on coal, up to £75 on education, and up to £25 on the sick poor and donations to local hospitals. (fn. 46) In 1911 the charity commissioners rejected the parish council's plea that the fuel allotment was not a charity, (fn. 47) and under a revised Scheme transferred £400 from the St. Thomas's charity into a separate educational foundation, leaving the Consolidated Charities with an income of c. £217 for the general benefit of the poor. (fn. 48) The distribution of bread and fuel continued; grants for tools, false teeth, and spectacles were made, but in recent times cash payments to old age pensioners were favoured. (fn. 49) After various land sales, notably that of Foxley farm in 1923 and the Appleton estate in 1931, (fn. 50) the Consolidated Charities by 1970 retained only 4 a. of land and rent charges of less than £5; investment income, however, rose to £995 by 1979. (fn. 51)


  • 14. Except where stated otherwise inf. before 1823 is derived from 10th Rep. Com. Char. 399-405.
  • 15. P.R.O., C 93/46/25. For Fulkes and Maund, Index of P.C.C. Wills, xii. 155, 274; for Perrott, O.R.O., MS. Wills Oxon. 52/4/7.
  • 16. O.R.O., MS. Wills Oxon. 122/4/50.
  • 17. Char. Don. 994-5.
  • 18. O.R.O., MS. Wills Oxon. 107, f.35 (no bequest to poor).
  • 19. P.R.O., PROB 11/229, ff. 317-18 (will of John Green referring to his mother, Joan Olive).
  • 20. O.R.O., MS. Wills Oxon. 146/4/14.
  • 21. Char. Don. 994-5; O.R.O., MSS. Wills Oxon. 138/3/7 (Knapp); 150/2/49 (Saywell); benefactions board in Bartholomew Room.
  • 22. O.R.O., MS. Wills Oxon. 71/4/21.
  • 23. Ibid. 9/3/2.
  • 24. Ibid. MS. d.d. Par. Eynsham e 1, f. 17v.
  • 25. Ibid. b 15, passim. The overseers' payments were said in 1768 to represent the chars. of Esther Bartholomew and Thos. Wastie, and later those of Esther Bartholomew and Cath. Butler: ibid. f. 32v.; 10th Rep. Com. Char. 401-2.
  • 26. Cf. O.R.O., MS. d.d. Par. Eynsham b 12, f. 2; benefactions board in Bartholomew Room.
  • 27. O.R.O., MS. Wills Oxon. 116/1/9.
  • 28. Ibid. QSD/C. 25; Digest of Endowed Chars. 1869-70, H.C. 292-II, Oxon. pp. 26-7 (1871), lv.
  • 29. O.R.O., MS. d.d. Par. Eynsham e 1, f. 100.
  • 30. Ibid. QSD/C. 25; benefactions board in Bartholomew Room; Digest of Endowed Chars. 1869-70, Oxon. pp. 26-7.
  • 31. O.R.O., QSD/C. 25.
  • 32. Digest of Endowed Chars. 1869-70, Oxon. pp. 26-7.
  • 33. O.R.O., Acc. 2361; ibid. Colvin IV/ii/1.
  • 34. Ibid. MS. d.d. Par. Eynsham b 12, passim.
  • 35. Ibid. b 13, pp. 220-3.
  • 36. Ibid. QSD/C. 25; Digest of Endowed Chars. 1869-70, Oxon. pp. 26-7.
  • 37. e.g. O.R.C.C., Kimber files (schedule of 1911).
  • 38. O.R.O., incl. award.
  • 39. Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. b 275, p. 155.
  • 40. O.R.O., MS. d.d. Par. Eynsham d 12, p. 197; ibid. Misc. Eynsham I/1, p. 109; Suppl. Digest of Endowed Chars. 1889-90, H.C. 247, p. 8 (1890), lv.
  • 41. Cf. ibid. MS. d.d. Par. Eynsham d 12, pp. 197-233; Oxf. Jnl. 20 May 1865.
  • 42. Oxf. Chron. 24 June 1865.
  • 43. O.R.O., Misc. Druce IX/i/1; ibid. MS. d.d. Par. Eynsham c 23, item c; Bodl. MS. Don. b 34, f. 39; Oxf. Jnl. 8 Sept. 1877.
  • 44. O.R.O., MS. d.d. Par. Eynsham e 2, pp. 62, 84 and passim
  • 45. Ibid. c 23, item b.
  • 46. Ibid. e 3, ff. 61, 94, 126.
  • 47. Ibid. Misc. Eynsham I/1, pp. 94, 103, 105, 109, 116, 131; Kelly's Dir. Oxon. (1903 and later edns.).
  • 48. O.R.O., Misc. Eynsham 1/2, passim; O.R.C.C., Kimber files; above, Educ.
  • 49. O.R.C.C., Kimber files; O.R.O., MS. d.d. Par. Eynsham c 24, ff. 5v., 43v., 50.
  • 50. O.R.O., Misc. Eynsham I/1, p. 249; 1/2, pp. 194-5.
  • 51. O.R.C.C., TS. review of Oxon. chars. 1979.