Bourne United Charities still providing help for the community in many areas

Philanthropy in past times is well documented and much of that we enjoy today comes from the generosity of those who were wealthy but mindful of the needs of those who were not. For this reason, the town benefits in many ways from bequests left for the good of the people and to make life easier and more enjoyable for those less fortunate than themselves.

Bourne United Charities administers fifteen individual charities, mostly founded in the 17th century through endowments for the benefit of the poor of the town as well as land that has been left to the community.

The largest single endowment is the Charity of Robert Harrington (1589-1654). He is reputed to have left Bourne as a lad and walked to London to seek his fortune, becoming a gentleman landowner who left land and property in the Leytonstone area of London producing an annual income to be used for the benefit and education of the poor. In 1830, this was bringing in £300 a year but by the end of the century, as Harrington's estate at Leytonstone began to be developed, the value of his charity started to increase in a spectacular way and by 1909 it had reached more than £2,000 a year while burgeoning property values in recent years has made this the most important source of income for BUC today.

Some of the income was distributed in quarterly or half-yearly payments to "the deserving poor" who did not receive parish relief, by the provision of clothing and coal at Christmas time. Money from his charity was also used to assist in the furtherance of education in the town and when the National School in North Street was built in 1829, an annual grant of £42 was made and this was most likely provided to cover the schoolmaster's salary.

The tradition of distributing financial assistance continues through the administration of weekly payments that have become known as “The Essex” after the county where Robert Harrington made his fortune. Two hundred people were recipients until recently when the figure was reduced to 190, each now getting £10 a week, although in the light of current social conditions, the entire system is now under review by the Trustees. In addition, individual grants are made after careful and sympathetic consideration by the Trustees of each application.

Twelve almshouses were built in West Street in 1931 to provide homes for elderly inhabitants and tenancies are still much sought after because these houses are situated in an attractive setting just off the main road and ranged on four sides around lawns and flowers beds. A bronze plaque has been erected at the front of the almshouses to perpetuate the memory of local benefactors whose money helped finance the scheme, among them Robert Harrington.

The nine Charities included in the 1978 Charity Commissioners' Scheme are:

A further six small Charities are not included in the 1978 Charity Commissioners' Scheme and are administered separately:

Bourne United Charities also administer a plot of 13 gardening allotments at the corner of Meadow Drove and Spalding Road, the Wellhead Cottage, which is occupied by the park manager, and several other restored buildings that are leased at nominal rents to youth organisations, including Scouts, Guides and other community activities. These include the Shippon Barn on the edge of the Wellhead Gardens and the early 19th century Baldock's Mill in South Street that is now leased to the Civic Society whose members have restored the building and turned it into a Heritage Centre and museum.

Historical Images:

Bourne United Charities is administered by fifteen Trustees and a clerk. The current Trustees are:

with three members nominated by Bourne Town Council,
Councillors Shirley Cliffe, Trevor Holmes, and John Smith

and the Vicar of Bourne, currently the Rev Christopher Atkinson, who is co-opted by tradition.

The Charity Correspondent or clerk is Mrs Gail Stephanie Clingo.

* Chairman 2014-15
** Vice-chairman

Text and photographs © REX NEEDLE 2010.