Bequests from the 16th to 19th centuries forming the Harpenden United Charities and the James Marshall Foundation
During the 16th century there was a decline in bequests to the church and an increase in bequests to the poor. Wills show that a number of local residents left money for the benefit of poor parishioners in Harpenden and/or Wheathampstead:
William Cressy (d. 1571), left 3s 4d “to the poore men’s box” of Wheathampstead parish.
Grace Johnson (d. 1571), left £6 13s 4d “to the poore people that shal be at my buriall”.
William Hunt (d. 1592), provided for regular payments from his land which were “to be faythfyllye imployed by [the Churchwardens] godlye discretions to the use and benefit of the poor people of Harpeden”.
Edward Bardolf (d. 1630), left £3 6s 8d “emongst such of the poorest and neediest people of the hamlet or parish of Harpeden aforesaid”.
James Marshall (d. 1719), left lands of the benefit of the poor in Harpenden and Wheathampstead “to put out poor men’s children out prentice to some trade and to no other use or purpose whatever.”
Francis House Kingston (d. 1869), “bread blankets coals or warm clothing … among deserving poor widows of the age of 60 years and upwards and among fatherless girls under the age of sixteen … and among deserving poor widowers … of 70 years and upwards who shall have resided in the parish for seven years.”
William Hunt Charity
William Hunt, who died in 1592 “sick in bodye but of good and perfecte remembrance” lived at Lower Top Street Farm (now 28 Crabtree Lane) was a churchwarden and overseer of the poor. In his will he left £6 3s 4d per annum for the benefit of the poor people of Harpenden.
In 1845 this amounted to 9d for every child under 10 years of age, and one shilling to poor widows and distressed people. In 1857 it was a Quarter of Bread for every child under ten, and a loaf of Bread to poor widows, 197 families were listed as receiving this.
By 1973 it was administered by the Harpenden United Charities and took the form of grocery vouchers. It was recently wound up as worth only £25 and netted less than £4 in interest.
Most these charities are now administered by the Harpenden Trust. (http://www.theharpendentrust.org.uk/ ). The James Marshall charity is administered by The James Marshall Foundation : https://www.jamesmarshallfoundation.co.uk/
Note; information from New Men and a New Society and The Age of Independence – volumes 2 and 3 of our series of booklets on the History of Wheathampstead and Harpenden, published in the 1970s, based on research work carried out by members of WEA classes (see Publications).