Charities for the sick and poor

contents. . .

Sickness and Poverty

The Goldhanger Poorhouse



Sir Stephen Beckingham's Trust

Sir Thomas Huett's Trust

Newland St Almshouses, Witham

Sir Christopher Clitherow's Trust

Captain John Sammes Trust

Revd Dr Daniel Williams Trusts

The Burnham Trust

St. Botolph's Poor Widows

The Gurton Trust

A summary of the Trusts

Sickness and Poverty

In the past, before the introduction of national unemployment benefit, pensions and health service, the public health of the community was inseparable from unemployment and poverty, and was a major factor in the life of every village. The sick, those with disabilities, mental health and learning difficulties, the unemployed, the widowed, and those in poverty (then called paupers) were frequently accommodated in a poorhouse, also called the workhouse, and relied on support from local charities or organisations such as the Friendly Brothers Society (which was not a charity). The scale of local poverty and an indication of the way it was treated by the authorities in the past can be seen from these extracts. . .

from Essex Records Office Q/SR 53/50 1575 . . .

Hundred of Lexden Sessions held at Stanway before the high constables. . . Nicholas Colfeld was summoned by the constables to bring in Thomas Colfeld his son; Henry Rampton of Copford to bring in Margery Rampton his daughter; and Richard Davenyshe, singleman, was likewise summoned by the constables of Inworth. None of them appeared, therefore they are to be punished in the stocks on Sunday next for four hours because they are paupers.

from. . .

Badging the Poor - The 1697 Act "For supplying some Defects in the Laws for the Relief of the Poor " required the "badging of the poor". Those in receipt of poor relief were required to wear, in red or blue cloth on their right shoulder, the letter "P" preceded by the initial letter of their parish. Badging was taken up by some parishes and not by others. The procedure was eventually discontinued in an Act of 1810.

in Goldhanger - an Estuary Village  Maura Benham wrote. . .

from. . .

Joseph Prentice of Heybridge, appears as a widower and lodger in the 1881 census. in the home of Joseph Crow. Both he and Crow's occupations are given as "Outdoor Pauper". This was a poor person who did not live in the poor workhouse but received money from the parish to support himself.


The Goldhanger Poorhouse

The terms Poorhouse, Workhouse and Almshouse have had varying and overlapping meanings: Those that belonged to the Church were generally known as Poorhouses, and were first enabled by the Poor Laws of 1601. Poorhouse residents were frequently physically incapacitated. However, In 1722, a law was passed which permitted the parish to buy or build accommodations within which the paupers could be installed and encouraged to work for the benefit of the parish. Generally, the term poorhouse has been used in rural areas, whereas workhouse was a term used in towns and cities.

The Churchwarden Accounts for the Parish in the period between 1750-1930 indicate only one direct payment to the poorhouse in 1754: "A load of bushes for the poorhouse". However, the accounts show many payments of "Relieve for Messrs . . . with apabs" (or "pabuls"). These are terms for the abbreviation of the Latin word "pabulum" which translates as: food, nourishment, sustenance, fodder, etc.

from. . .

The 1776-7, Parliamentary survey of poor-relief expenditure in England and Wales, Abstract of returns made by the Overseers of the Poor included an inventory of workhouse provision. Below gives a the parishes or townships operating workhouses and, where available, the number of places available in each: Goldhanger 18, Great Totham 20, Little Totham 16 Tollesbury 30, Tolleshunt Darcy 10, Tolleshunt Major 10.

In Goldhanger - an Estuary Village Maura Benham wrote. . .

In 1837 one John Argent, malster, Churchwarden and "Overseer of the Poor", was removed from the village by the Essex courts and conveyed to Glemsford, Suffolk. Papers in the Essex Records Office (Q/SBb 528/53/1,2&3) appear to give the reason as medical, but this seems unlikely to be the full story. For example from: we learn. . .

The operation of the 1662 Settlement Act, and subsequent amendments, proved complex, confusing and contentious. Expensive legal battles often took place between a parish attempting to remove a pauper whom it claimed it had no duty to support, and the parish that it claimed did have responsibility.

A "Parish Poor House" is shown on the 1841 Goldhanger Tithe map and identified on the Tithe Awards listing with three named occupants. Several "workhouse fields" are also shown on the map, however the Tithe Awards assign these to the Burnham and Witham Parishes. The building on this site today, dates from 1842, so there must have an earlier building used as poorhouse on the same site.

The Goldhanger Poorhouse seems to have been sold by the Poor Law Commission in 1842 and the funds raised were used to support the Maldon Union Workhouse. . .

This seems to indicate that in 1841-2 the Goldhanger Poorhouse was closed and the building sold off, and the money raised transferred to the Maldon Workhouse.

The Poorhouse building today

Given the size and position of the building today (8 & 10 Head St.) it is most likely that its original function was as an Almshouse, providing accommodation for a very small number of villagers who were infirm and/or had nowhere else to live, and was funded by the Parish Church from tithes. It is said that the reason why the building is set so far back on the plot, giving a large front gardens but little at the back, was so the occupants could be observed from the street tending their vegetable plots. Perhaps it is more than a coincidence that the Friendly Brothers Society was originally formed at around the time the Poorhouse ceased to function.

After the building was sold around 1842 it seems to have found a new use as a community facility, as records show No.8 became the home of the village policeman and No.10 accommodated the school headmistress.



There was a tradition for wealthy families to leave both one-off legacies and to create long-term Trusts in their Wills for the poor in the vicinity in which they lived and worshipped. Firstly, here are some examples of past bequests taken from in Wills in and around Goldhanger, the extracts also give an interesting insight into attitudes and the way of life of the donors at that period of time. . .

In Goldhanger - an Estuary Village Maura Benham wrote . . .

from The Commissionary Court - Original Wills. . .


from Essex Wills 1587-1599. . .

from The New England Historical and Genealogical Register 1908. . .


Local long-term Trusts were frequently created in associated with both the Church of England and non-conformist churches, and were intended to be permanent arrangements where funds were invested and regularly payments were made from the returns by the church authorities. Some of the trusts identified supported the needy of the parish, however a greater number supported those in poverty elsewhere using income from lands held in and around the parish. In some cases the locations mentioned can be identified in House & Farm names. The Trusts are presented here in approximate chronological order. . .

Sir Stephen Beckingham's Trust

from. . .

. . .a seat of the Beckinghams was erected here in the time of Henry VIII., and is now represented only by an embattled gateway. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Rochester. Value, ₤187. Patron, the Rev. H. A. Carwardine. The church is tolerable. There is an Independent chapel, and charities ₤8.


from. . .

Charity 275200 - Beckingham Association For Age Concern

To promote and assist the general welfare of all old people in the parishes of Tollesbury, Tolleshunt D'arcy, Tolleshunt knights, Tolleshunt Major, Goldhanger, Little Totham, Great Totham, Great Braxted, Little Braxted, Wickham Bishops, Langford and Ulting by assisting the work of statutory authorities and voluntary organisations engaged in providing facilites for physical and mental recreation, developing physical improvement, furthering health, relieving poverty, distress or sickness, or in pursuing any objects for old people which are now or hereafter may be deemed by law to be charitable.

17 March 1978 Registered - 24 September 2003 ceased to exist

Stephen Beckingham

Several generations of the Beckingham family owned Beckingham Hall between 1518 and 1790, and it is not clear whether this particular Stephen Beckingham created the trust.


Sir Thomas Huett's Trust

Newland Street Almshouses, Witham

from Essex Records Office D/P 30/25/65 14 July 1626

Deeds - Feoffment on trust for poor of Witham in exchange for property. . .Cottage and 4 crofts of land (10 acres) called Scotts, and lands (30 acres) called Motts in occupation of Thomas Whitnall; all in Goldhanger.

It is particularly significant that this Witham Town Assessment Report refer to "The Grove", as a "Grove Chapel" is referred to in Goldhanger property sale adverts below that also refers to members of the Gurton family.


from. . . SEAX Monument, SMR Number 46262 - Charity cottage

Along the Maldon Road, west of the village, a house stands on the same site as a farmhouse named as Scotts and Motts on the tithe map (c.1841). Early deeds dating back to 1626 reveal that a 'messuage with 4 crofts called Scotts, lands called Motts (ERO D/DHt 354/1) was being used as a 'feoffment on trust' (ERO D/P 30/25/65) for the poor of Witham (ERO D/P 30/25/81) by the Bridge Street Almshouse Charity, whose donor is unknown. The house and land seems to have been used up to at least 1803 and possibly later as in 1848 there is a mention of a farm at Goldhanger used for the endowment of 10 widows. There appears to have been a house on the same site until now (2007) but it is unclear whether this is the original house used by the charity.


See also the reference to the Newland Street Almshouses in "Accounts and Papers"


Sir Christopher Clitherow's Trust

Sir Christopher Clitherow

from. . . White's Directory of Essex 1848

For distribution among twelve poor parishioners, Sir. Cphr. Clitherow left two yearly rent-charges, viz., ₤2 out of Joyces Farm, and ₤1 out of Highams Farm. A yearly rent of ₤2 left to the poor by Sir Stephen Beckingham, out of of a messuage called Freme, at Tolleshunt Darcy, has not been paid during the last 35 years.

See also the reference to Sir Christopher Clitherow and Goldhanger in the Essex Standard article


from. . .,_Christopher

Sir Christopher Clitherow (10 January 1578 - 11 November 1641)

An English merchant and politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1628 to 1629 and was Lord Mayor of London in 1635. He was a prominent member of the East India Company. . .possessed estates in Essex and Hertfordshire, besides his residence of Pinner Hill. . .other than bequests to the Iron-mongers' Company, he left annuities to the poor of St. Andrew Undershaft and Beckingham, Essex, and two scholarships for poor scholars of Christ's Hospital at Oxford University.


from. . .

Charity 243634 - The Charity of Sir Christopher Clitherow

Income or the benefit for the poor of the parish of Tolleshunt Major at Christmas.

July 1967 - Registered

Sept 2009 - Removed - does not operate

The Captain John Sammes Trust

In Goldhanger - an Estuary Village Maura Benham wrote of the Sammes family. . .

The Revd Dr Daniel Williams Trusts

Revd Dr Daniel Williams

The various Trusts created by Dr Williams were set up "for 2000 years" and are still in operation, and more details about Dr Williams, and his many bequests, trusts and writings are at. . . The Revd Dr Daniel Williams


The Burnham Trust

from. . .

The poor of Burnham parish have ₤4.17s.ld. yearly from William Ayletts Charity. "The Poor's Land" were mostly given by Lord Fitzwalter in 1681, and partly by unknown donors. They comprise about 58 acres in various parcels, mostly in this parish and partly in Cricksea and Goldhanger; several houses, etc, a wharf and quay, and a copyhold Oyster laying in the river near Burnham, 120 yards in length and breadth.

The whole produces a yearly income of about ₤130, exclusive of a house occupied rent free by the master of the National School. The income is applied as follows :- ₤45 to the master, and ₤28 to the mistress of the National Schools, ₤4 to the Sunday Schools; ₤5 in coals for the schoolmaster; and the remainder in repairs, coals and books for the schools, and occasional distributions of blankets, coals, etc., to the poor parishioners. The Girl's School was built by the trustees about 1785, and the Boy's School was erected by subscription in 1815. They are attended by about 70 boys and 80 girls, and one of them is used for divine service on Sunday evenings.


The Poor Widows in St. Botolph's


from. . . A History of the County of Essex: Volume 9: The Borough of Colchester

Charities For The Poor - ST. BOTOLPH'S

By 1734 the parishes of St. Botolph and St. Giles were each receiving ₤2 12s. a year known as the Poor Widows' Gift out of a house and 42 a. in Little Totham, Great Totham, and Goldhanger. The payments were confirmed by a Chancery decree in 1740. In 1851 the charity bought bread for 12 widows in each parish. Money was received as late as 1958, but no further reference to the charity has been found.


from. . . Essex Records Office D/P 44/25/3

Heybridge, St Andrew Charities 13 Dec. 1740

Copy order in Chancery in case of Attorney General (at relation of John Strutt and Thomas Sheed churchwardens of Heybridge, and Stephen Goslin churchwardens of St. Botolph Colchester, and John Gilson and James Porter churchwardens of St. Giles Colchester) informant and Samuel Cater defendant. Recites, and makes into order of court, agreement 4 Dec. 1740 between relators and defendant for latter to pay six years' arrears - amounting to ₤46 16s. - of three annual rents of ₤2 12s., payable for the support of the poor of Heybridge and the poor widows of St. Botolph and St. Giles Colchester from messuage and land called Longs or Londons (42a.) in Great Totham, Little Totham and Goldhanger.


The Gurton Trust

In 1913 Edward Walter Gurton bequeathed a Trust to the Rector and churchwardens of Goldhanger Parish Church: "to distribute the interest every Christmas for the benefit of the sick, ages and poor of the village". The Gurton Trust still exists today and is registered with the Charities Commission, Charity No.210841.

Edward Gurton is buried at Goldhanger although he lived in Harrogate. This is from the Harrogate newspaper of 1913. . .

It appears that the Edward Gurton who created the Trust was the 4th or 5th generation of the Gurton family with that same name:

Edward Gurton    1745 - 1829

Edward Gurton     1773-? (maybe died at birth)

Edward Gurton     1775-? probably the one listed in the Tithe Awards as farmer in 1830 farming Burnham Trust land

Edward Gurton     Landlord of the Hope Inn at Tollesbury in 1908

Edward Gurton     listed on the Tollesbury WW-1 war memorial

Edward Gurton  1831-1913 the person who created the Trust and whose obituary is given above

The following newspaper advertisements indicated an strong association between the Gurton family and the Grove Chapel & cottages, which were near to Chappel Farm in Wash Lane. The Grove Chapel would have been non-conformist, with links to Witham (see "Witham Town Assessment Report" above). This was where Edward Walter Gurton, creator of the Trust, was probably born in 1831 and grew up. . .


A summary of the trusts

Of the nine local trusts identified, three appear to be still in operation, but only one distributes funds within Goldhanger Parish. Remarkably, some of the trusts have been in operation for over three hundred years.

It appears that a connection of kind existed between some of the Trusts donors involved: The Witham, Burnham and St Botolph's Trusts and members of the Gurton family all owned or resided in adjacent properties to the west of the Parish, ie Little London Farm, Grove Chapel and Cottages, and Charity Farm / Scotts & Motts. One can only speculate as to the nature of the relationship between them, be it: family ties, land ownership, church affiliation, their Poor Law Overseer roles, or it could be just a coincidence.

A separate connection between three of the other Trusts donors also existed which is perhaps more obvious: Sir Stephen Beckingham, Sir Christopher Clitherow and The Revd Dr Daniel Williams at different times in the past all owned what was once the imposing Beckingham Hall with all its surrounding farms and lands.

Finally, it would seem that these Trusts are gradual disappearing, and there appears to be several reasons for this . . .

o    the long-term investments have not kept up with inflation

o    a gradually closing of the gap between the wealthiest and poorest of society

o    the introduction of state benefits, pensions and a health service

o    a declining influence of churches on the wealthy section of society

o    the rigours and cost of annual accounts required by the Charity Commission

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