Sunday 14 February 2016

Charities of the Parish of Eton - The Baldwin's Bridge Trust

The other early parish charity was the Baldwin's Bridge Trust. The original bridge must have been built by the early Middle Ages, but the Trust to ensure its maintenance was not founded until the year 1592. Thirteen parishioners made up the original trustees and among them were three members of the Bell family, Henry, John and Matthew, all possibly from the Wick. In the centuries since other members of the village have served, both as trustees and Bridgemaster (Chairman of the Trust); William Woolhouse in the eighteenth century, Edward Pote Williams in the nineteenth and Mrs Florence Wilson in 20th century.

The income of the Trust comes from the rent of houses built on land owned by the Trust just south of the bridge in Eton High Street. The trustees are empowered to spend the money on repairing the bridge and its surface or erecting a new one when necessary, and to spend any excess money 'in such ways as seem to be best and to the most advantage of the inhabitants and parishioners of Eton'.  For many decades there was apparently no balance to spend, in fact not until 1668 when the apprenticeship fees of four boys were paid. There followed another long period of inactivity until the middle of the eighteenth century, when for a short period bundles of flax were bought and given to needy parishioners for spinning. This was not a very common method of giving help, but had been tried for many years with varying degrees of success in Windsor. In 1714 and 1764 twenty six families were given gifts of food and later in the century £20 was expended on the poor. At the turn of the century flour and faggots were given to the workhouse and a few years later clothing and blankets were sent to cottagers suffering from the floods.  As the century progressed the number and variety of causes helped by the Trust increased considerably. Many of the old causes are now  irrelevant to the modern way of life, but numerous clubs and societies have benefited from financial help from the Trust, and in 1947 many people were grateful for contributions from it to alleviate the damage caused by the floods of that year.

Since 1773 the trustees have also been responsible for disposing of the interest from the £150 left in the will of Joseph Benwell, and since 1787 for the interest from Joseph Pote's legacy. The way in which Benwell's money is spent is at the discretion of the trustees and was usually expended in providing coals for elderly people. On the other hand Joseph Pote directed that the income from his legacy should be spent twice yearly on bread to be given to poor parishioners attending particular church services. For well over sixty years the terms of the will were complied with literally, but during the last century this became unpractical and instead the bread was distributed to the houses of the poor. Today, with the change in the value of money, the combine income from the two legacies is too small to do even that. In recent years further donations have been received and they, together with money from the Baldwin Bridge Trust itself, is used so that over a hundred senior citizens each year at Christmas receive a voucher which can be spent at one of three shops in the parish selling not only bread but also other groceries.

A history of the Baldwin's Bridge Trust of Eton was published in 1976 by F.I. Wilson. Mrs Wilson became Bridgemaster in 1956, the first woman to be appointed to the post.

Monday 8 February 2016

Charities of the Parish of Eton

Charities established before modern times were almost always based on parishes; the incumbent and churchwardens frequently being made responsible for their administrations. Several ancient Eton charities still exist and because of these even today the boundaries of the old ecclesiastical parish has a relevance, for the money and gifts paid out from the old charities can only be given to those residing within that parish. The greater part of Eton Wick lying west of the Village Hall is outside the old Eton Parish.

The earliest known benefactors were both Provosts, Henry Bost (1477-1504) and Roger Lupton (1504-1535), whose legacies provided that 13s 4d and 10s should each year be given to the poor of Eton. Many of the other donors were Provosts, Fellows and Masters of Eton College, notably Dr Henry Godolphin, who founded the almshouses in 1695, and Mark Anthony Porny, whose will made possible the establishment of the Porny School in 1813. Although both buildings are in the town, people from Eton Wick are of course eligible to go to both, and the Porny Bibles given to prize -winning children at Eton Wick School are the modern practical compromise for the gifts of bibles and prayer books once given to all Porny school leavers of good character.

Money left as legacies was often invested in Consuls or property so that the interest and rents could be used for the benefit of the poor after the necessary deductions for expenses and taxes.  In 1612 the Provost, Henry Savile, and ten other feoffees or trustees for the poor of Eton, including Matthew Bell of the Wick, purchased two houses in Windsor. This became the basis of the trust known as the Eton Poor Estate. The money for this came from legacies, and further gifts made it possible later in the century to buy land in Langley Marish and in 1716 'all that messuage and close of land known as Wheatbutts'. Wheatbutts remained the property of the trust until sold at public auction by Mr Vaughan, himself a well remembered benefactor of the village.

Account books and deeds have survived from the early seventeenth century and show clearly how the income was spent.  Each year £2 was given to the overseers of the poor to be distributed as bread or vouchers while the rest was used to help individuals in times of need, to help clothe boys just starting work, to pay the rent of the almshouses and to apprentice boys to a good master. Two or three hundred years ago apprenticeship involved far more than it does today. Indentures had to be signed and a premium paid by the boy's parents or some charitable body such as the Poor Estate. In the seventeenth century the premium could be as much as £ 5 and tradesmen and farmers as well as poor parents availed themselves of the charity. The master promised to teach the boy his trade and to house and feed him for the full seven years of his apprenticeship. In the archaic language of the indenture the boy agreed not only to serve his master well and keep his secrets but to refrain from playing unlawful games and contracting marriage. So must have read the indenture of Francis Cox of Eton Wick, who was apprenticed to Joseph Piper, basket maker of Eton. Three years later his younger brother, John, was apprenticed to a 'joyner' of Pall Mall, London.

Of the people who received help in times of distress, Elizabeth Fennel can be recognised as living in the Wick. In 1725 she had been a widow for several years when she was allowed £1 by the Trust. Her husband, William, had been farmer of Dairy Farm and in the same year another widow, Joan Fennel, received the same amount. Neither woman could write and merely made her mark.

In the second half of the nineteenth century the Trustees widened the scope for which the money could be spent. From 1867 money was set aside to pay for outfits for selected girls when entering service. In later years this was extended to include shop girls and even a monitor at Eton Wick School though it was never thought right to include factory girls. Thirty shillings (£1.50) was
the amount usually given to each girl and in 1903 one village girl who went to work at the Greyhound spent her money as follows:

£ s d
Jacket           13 11
Nightdress      3 11
Flannelette     5 11 ½
Silk                3 11
Stockings       1 2 ½
Gloves           1 0
                £1 10 0

The same lucky girls, about eight a year, were rewarded with a further with a further thirty shillings if their work was satisfactory to their employers during that year.

In 1883 the momentous decision was made to use the charity's funds to pay the salary of a qualified nurse who would attend to the sick poor in the parish. They had first claim on her time and attention. Others could ask for help in times of emergency or for periodic visits, but were expected to contribute to a Parish Nurse Fund. There were plenty of patients in town and village who needed her help. Scarlet fever and diphtheria were killers and epidemics of these and other infectious diseases still occurred. Flooding too left its aftermath of illness, especially in the terrible year of 1894 when the Queen sent soup and carts to help with the relief of those affected. In 1912 the nurse took it upon herself to examine the school children, then still quite a new idea, and in 1916 it was found necessary, and possible, to employ a second nurse who would be responsible only for those living in Eton Wick. Few villages were as fortunate.

At the turn of the century the trustees of the Eton Poor Estate began another charitable venture, that of giving weekly pensions to 'aged poor persons'. In the first year five shillings (25p) was given to each of six pensioners though it was not always possible to maintain this number. Today there is no need for apprenticeship money or girls' outfits or even a parish nurse, but still about thirty elderly people from Eton Wick benefit from the extras that a pension from the Poor Estate can buy.

This is an extract from The Story of a Village: Eton Wick 1217 to 1977 by Judith Hunter.