In his unpublished book on Hungerford Common Port Down, Mr EL "Jim" Davis included a chapter on the Old Charities of Hungerford, reproduced here:
Hungerford, over the years, has been richly endowed with charitable gifts; some of these gifts have been lost sight of and others have suffered through the slow erosion by inflation over the years, to say nothing of the disastrous record of the last decade.
It is only proposed here to deal with the Charities as they originally were, since they have become so prosaic in their modern shape. We are obliged to the Reports of Enquiries by the Charity Commissioners of 1819, 1837 and 1905 for the bulk of our information although some is derived from the various surveys of the Manor of Hungerford dated 1606, 1607 and 1609.
In spite of the foregoing, it may be as well to say something about the principal Charity in Hungerford, since the stranger will very likely be puzzled by hearing references to the Town and Manor of Hungerford Charity.
This is a Charity which originated in 1612 by a grant from James I to two London citizens of the Manor of Hungerford, complete with all manorial rights and properties, and subsequently, to put the matter shortly passed by them to a body of people representing the inhabitants of Hungerford, creating a charitable trust and feoffment which exists today, although today it is regulated by a Scheme formulated by the Charity Commissioners in 1908. The Trustees of the scheme, who are not required to be residents of Hungerford, are elected every three years by the rate paying residents of the Tithings of Hungerford and Sanden Fee.
The "Lost" Charities:
In the Charity Commissioners Report of 1837 three Charities were listed as last being heard of in 1786 and nothing further heard about them. These were
URSULA CURTIS, by Will dated 1622 gave land upon Trust, that the rent should be laid out by the Constable of Hungerford in shirts and shifts and given to the poor there; and further, that a sermon should be preached yearly on October 6th .
SIR EDWARD HUNGERFORD of Corsham, in the county of Wilts, by Deed dated the 19th February, 1692 gave a rent charge of £10 per annum out of his Manor of Iford for apprenticing two poor boys.
JEHOSAPHET LUCAS, by Deed dated 1693 gave £10 to the poor of Hungerford, the interest to be laid out in blue cloth for poor women.
This could have been the Jehosaphet Lucas who was Constable in 1634 and gave his name to the famous horn, but if so he became Constable at a very early age and lived a great many years! One Edward Lucas was Constable in 1693 and he may have made the bequest in the name of his father, or possibly his uncle. The Lucas family was very prominent in Hungerford affairs in the 17th and 18th century and were mercers by trade. John Lucas, brother to Jehosaphet, was beheaded at Salisbury in 1655 for his share in a rising in favour of Charles the Second; this was an act of grace on the part of the authorities, as his fellow conspirators who failed to escape were hanged, drawn and quartered.
Two pieces of land which are easily identifiable today were charitiable gifts:
1. The Town Croft:
The gift of John Undewes and his wife, described as being of one acre, payment to be made by a red rose each year, if demanded. The date of the gift is obscure, but it is shown in each of the Surveys of the Manor in 1606, 1607 and 1609.
2. Millmead (Myllmead):
The land to the East of the John O' Gaunt Inn and the Old Forge land was bequeathed in 1661 by one John Cooke of Newbury to Robert Cooke, his cousin, and his heirs subject to a payment of 1/6 a week to the poor of Newbury. In 1681 Robert Cooke conveyed this land, said to be six acres to the Feoffees of Hungerford in consideration of £40 and the obligation to continue the weekly payments to the poor of Newbury, known in recent years as Cook's Charity. In .the payment was commuted by the payment of ten years payments. It is of note that according to various surveys of the Manor the inhabitants already had Lammas Rights upon the land. The land was included in the Award (Enclosure) of 1819, but the only effect of this was to free the land of its Lammas rights. The East end of the mead is now very wet, owing to seepage from the K. and A. Canal, which now forms the Southern Boundary and which is at higher level, but this seems to suit the bat willows (Salix Coerula) which have been planted there and which have made astonishing growth. There is some ground for thinking that the site as acquired in 1618 included the present site of the John O'Gaunt Inn and garden, which was formerly the Workhouse until about 1800.
The Hungerford Grammar SChool - 1819 Report:
Thomas Sheaffe, DID, who had been a signatory to the Feoffment of 1617, gave a house in the Church Croft to be used for ever as a school house for a free grammar school, the schoolmaster to be appointed from time to time by the Vicar, Constable, Burgesses and Church Wardens.
John Hamblen by Will dated April 28th 1729, gave Chantry Mead of about five acres to the Minister, Church Wardens, Constable and Portreeve of Hungerford, out of the rents of which £4 per annum were to be given to the Master of the Free School of Hungerford for teaching four poor boys and £4 per annum were to be applied in buying the boys coats, hats and neck cloths. The boys were to be chosen once in three years by the trustees; and if the schoolmaster should neglect his duty in teaching the boys then the Trustees were to choose eight poor families of Hungerford and give each family twenty shillings, but no poor boy or family receiving parish relief was to receive any benefit from his gift.
We learn from the 1819 Report that the school was erected in 1782 and was paid for by a legacy from Mr Capps; in consideration of which two boys quinquennialy elected by the Minister and Church Wardens were to be instructed in grammar and the classics. [Mr Henry "Trusty" Capps was manservant to the Lord of Hungerford Engleford manor, John Hungerford Esq, in the 1720s. Both their memorials are in St Lawrence Church.] The report also informs us that the schoolmaster resides in the school house , pays the taxes and keeps the house in repair. It seems to be clear that the school was re-built in 1782 and was originally one of the educational establishments originated by one of the abolished Chantries.
The Grammar school benefited greatly by the Will dated 18th January 1735, of Mrs. Elizabeth Cummins, who included in her many bequests the sum of £400 to the Town of Hungerford, the interest thereof or of any estate that should be purchased with it to be applied for the education of such number of poor boys and girls as the Ministers and Church Wardens should think fit. She expressed a wish that the poor boys of Hungerford should be educated in the Latin tongue and if this were not done then the legacy should pass to the charity school of Newbury in Berks.
This Will and a codicil thereto became the subject of a dispute ultimately settled by the Master of the Rolls, the upshot being that Hungerford became entitled to £20.10.7~ annually, £6.19.7b to be distributed in bread and £13.19.9 for education.
The 1819 Report gave details of the education provided at that date. The teacher at that time was Mr Jelfs who was said to teach writing in two other schools and to have eleven or twelve boarders and twenty day scholars.
Mr Jelfs is said to have rented Chantry Mead from its Trustees at the very high rent of £21.11s. let to him by tender. He received £4 from the rent as salary and £12 from Mrs. Cummins benefaction. A portion of the Chantry Mead being sold to the Kennet and Avon Canal Company for £30 the money was applied to repairs to the school.
Clothing for the Bluecoat boys cost about £5 per annum and the 1819 Report further informs us after paying for a new floor the Churchwardens had a balance in hand of £7.9s.
The Grammar School was closed down in 1884 and the Church House was later built on the approximate site.
The Report of the Charity Commissioners in 1837:
Henry Hobbes, by deed dated 1625 settled one moiety of a rent charge of £5.4s. to the use of the poor of Hungerford. Mr Eugene Hickes, proprietor of the estate subject thereto pays £2.12s. annually to the Church Wardens of'Hungerford and this sum is laid out by them in bread and distributed to the poor.
Sir Vincent Smith, by deed dated 1626 gave two rent charges of 20s. each to the Minister and Church Wardens of Hungerford to apprentice two poor boys; the first was on his Chantry lands and the second on a messuage called the Green Dragon, in Charnham Street. The Report states that all trace has been lost of the Chantry Lands, but that due from The Green Dragon was regularly paid by the Overseers of the Poor up to 1835 who rented the building as a Workhouse, but under the new Poor Law the guardians refused to pay the charge.
It is pleasant to read that the owner of the premises one Charles Alderman, on being asked, agreed to pay the charge as the Guardians hold the premises free of all outgoings.
This is the building now occupied by Bellis Antiques, formerly known as the High House. It ceased to be the Workhouse when the guardians built the present Hungerford Hospital. As The Green Dragon in 1626 it must rank with the oldest Inns in Hungerford possibly the one referred to as being in the possession of the Chocke family in 1494, in Charnham Street.
Robert Field, by deed, in 1626 gave 20s per annum for apprenticing poor boys, payable out of a messuage in Hungerford, then John Norris's, but now (1837) the property of Mr George Cundell. In the conveyance of this property to the last owner, the annuity of 20s. was reserved to the Church Wardens and stated to be the Charity of Robert Field. It is regularly paid and generally used to buy clothing for the poor.
The Reverend Ezekiel Lawrence, by Will dated November l lth 1698, charged his estate at Medstead, in the county of Hants, being copyhold in the Manor of Alresford, with the yearly paymentt of £5 to the Church Wardens of Hungerford for the apprenticeship of one poor boy
The property is now (1837) vested in the devisees of Mr J . Sayer, who sends years to the Church Wardens the sum of £4.4s., sixteen shillings being deducted for land tax. The sum is not used for apprenticeship, but is paid to the support of the National School.
SirJemmett Raymond, by deed, dated 1716, charged his lands at Kintbury with a yearly payment of 10s. to be distributed by the Church Wardens of Hungerford to thirty poor widows, in sums of 4d. each. This sum is regularly paid by Charles Dundas, the present owner of the property; the sums are regularly distributed (1837) and are known as the Widows Groats.
John Hamblin, see also under Hungerford Grammar School, by Will dated April 20th 1729 bequeathed the sum of £100, then due to him on bond from Thomas Lay, to be laid out in land by The Vicar, Church Wardens and Constable and Portreeve of Hungerford for the time being and directed the the interest of the money until so invested and the rents afterwards to be disposed of as follows:
10s. to the Vicar for performing divine service and preaching a sermon on the 9th January and six shillings to the singers; 2s. to the Clerks and 2s. to the Sexton for attending on the same day; and the residue of the yearly interest or rent to be expended in bread and given to such poor people only as should attend the parish church at the preaching of the said sermon.
About 1740 the money was spent on the purchase of six acres of Commonable land in a field called Everland, in Hungerford, which by deed dated April 11th 1803 was exchanged for a parcel of freehold land, containing three acres by estimation lying in that part of the parish of Hungerford that is in the county of Wilts and commonly called the East Fie ld; this was conveyed upon the trust of John Hamblin's will to Thomas Bostock, William Smith, Robert Smith, Benjamin Salisbury and Thomas Atherton, the last of whom now survives, but has left the town. The Report expresses the opinion that Atherton should execute a new trust deed without delay, and we learn further that East Field is let to Mr Cundle at £3.12.6 per annum, a high rent, that the payments to the Vicar are duly made and the sermon preached on the 9th January.
These old Charities still exist in some form or other, amalgamated with others to suit modern conditions. I have not followed them through, because to me, at least, the great interest lies in their origins, giving perfect illustrations of those times.