Thursday, 27 August 2009

Deptford charities

In 1897, the Charity Commissioners compiled a report of parish charities. The Deptford publication thus gives a snapshot of the various charitable legacies and trusts then in place. Most are concerned either with educating poor children or providing bread, coal or small sums of cash to poor people.

Among all this rather austere dole, Lambourne's charity must have been a bright spot in the lives of local workhouse inmates. It provided rather more appetising buns and ale on Good Friday, and had been left by one Francis Lambourne who died on 21 November 1822. Annual dividends on £90 stock were indeed still being spent for the purpose, half on beer and half on buns. These purchases were supplemented by Allin Price's Charity, established in 1872, which also bought Good Friday buns for workhouse inhabitants.

Beef, beer and bread might also have provided a welcome change for the twelve poor people supposed to benefit from Scampion's Charity, but unfortunately the heir defaulted. By the late nineteenth century, there was no way of identifying the property whose income was supposed to pay for the meal.

As with other forms of philanthropy, the creation of a charity (usually by legacy) served several purposes. First, it of course benefitted the objects, usually local poor people. Second, it kept the legator's name alive. Third, it often ensured a more physical form of memorial: several charities such as that of Thomas Watkin, who died in 1892, stipulated that income first went to the maintenance of their graves with the remainder going to charitable purposes. And finally, charity was also of course a religious obligation so it provided good insurance for the afterlife.

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