In medieval times, most charitable giving was done through the church. Money could be left to pay priests to chant mass for the souls of the departed. In some cases, the amount was large enough to build a special chapel, or chantry, for the purpose. This, along with giving to the poor during one’s lifetime was seen as a way easing the path through Purgatory into Heaven. At this time the “settled” poor were defined as widows, the unemployed, the low paid and the sick – wandering vagrants were looked upon less kindly. Donations were also made during this period for use by colleges, hospitals and monasteries all, of course, under the control of the church. In Elizabethan England, an increasing population and the effects of the dissolution of the monasteries led to an increase in poverty and prompted a series of laws made between 1563 and 1601 to alleviate the problem. The parish was made responsible for the support of its poor and for providing them with work. This was funded by parish rates collected by the appointed Overseers of the Poor who were often the churchwardens and the incumbent. The earliest record we have, so far, of charitable giving in Langham is contained in the Will of William Smyth dated 1512 where he left 20s to the church, a “good beast” to the Guild and 6s 8d to “Our Lady of ??” (words indecipherable). Gifts to the church and the mother church (cathedral) were common and money was also left to repair bridges and roads as seen in the wills of Nicholas Watson 1572, Cuthbert Fawcett 1574 and James Hubbard 1589. The first mention of a gift to the poor is in the will of William Beeson in 1557. William leaves 12d to the parish church, towards repairing the body of the church, and 6s 8d to the poor people of my parish. Most bequests were single payments and often contained very specific instructions. Thomas Palmer 1614 required 3s 4d to be given to the poor on St Thomas’s Day after his death; Richard Spell 1615 left 60s to be distributed to the poor of Langham and to “everie poor bodie” who attended his burial “from other places”. Of more than forty transcribed 16th century wills on this website, thirty-seven contain some charitable bequests. 17th century wills studied, numbering over one hundred and fifty, record eighteen bequests. During the 18th century, from over forty transcribed wills, we have noted five bequests - all to the poor, while in the 19th century, in over fifty wills so far seen, five recorded gifts include benefits to the poor, the church, bishop, Wesleyan Missionary Society, the Rutland Dispensary and Stamford Hospital. Where a charity was to continue over the years, responsibility for its administration was normally given to the minister and/or churchwardens. John Walmsley 1611 left three pounds to be “a perpetuytie forever” administered by his wife throughout her lifetime and then by the minister and churchwardens. Five shillings was to be given to the poor on the “next Sunday after Easter usually called Loe Sunday ... whereof Jone Curtes shalbe one and to have foure pence of the saide money”. The will of William Andrew 1638 gave forty shillings to the poor of Langham on the day of his burial and seven pounds and ten shillings to be paid on St James’s Day after his death. The churchwardens held the responsibility to provide bread on St James’s Day thereafter. Langham also benefited in 1692, as did many other Rutland parishes, from Rev. Henry Forster’s charity for teaching poor children. In 1896 the Charity Commissioners split the administration of Langham Charities between the Church and the Parochial Charities administered by the Parish - The Parochial Charities took on the “The Billesdon Poor's Land and The Frances Clarke gift” for which they still hold responsibility in 2017. Please select from the list below for specific charitable donations and to see which are still active today. Thomas Busby The Frances Clarke Gift The Bainton Poor Land : Click here to see the 1682/3 Indenture Click here to see the 1684/5 Indenture : Click here to see a transcription Part 1 : Part 2 The Billesdon Poor Land Henry Hubbard’s Gift Thomas Watkins William Sharrad References: Langham Wills; Supplementary Returns – for the Benefit of Poor Persons, County of Rutland 1786; Further report of the Commissioners [County of Rutland] for Inquiries Concerning charities 1821; Langham Church Wardens’ Accounts; The Life and Families of 17th Century Langham - Langham Village History Group; VCH of Rutland Vol II;
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Langham Charities
Langham Village History Group