Allotment and Charity land
The Church and Poors Land Charity
This Charity is derived from two small charitable estates of land – one which existed to raise income for the Poor and the other money for the Church. Today as a single Charity, the ‘Church and Poors Land’ Charity has a small property estate of just over 6 acres of land in the parish comprising:
 the Alley Gardens land in Church Lane let as village allotments, land let to the Brafield Charity for the Children’s Play Area (which fronts Church Lane and Bedford Road), and some garden ground.
 land off the Bedford Road on the west side of the road to Denton which is let on a farm business tenancy.
The present ‘Scheme’ – the Charity Commission document which sets the rules for running the Charity - was created in 2001 but it owes much to perpetual trusts created and recorded in a deed of 1731.
Annual income from the Charity is used for 2 purposes. After any expenses arising from running the Charity, one third is paid to the Church for repair and maintenance and the other two thirds is available and/or added to a fund for helping persons living in Brafield who are ‘in need, hardship or distress’.
The history of this Charity is very complex and this account here is simplified. The complexity stems from the fact that today’s Charity is the result of two charities – one for the Church fabric and one to support the poor in the village – becoming intertwined and difficult to separate out. For much of the 18th and 19th centuries they both seem to have been run by Parish Officers, the Overseers of the Poor and the Churchwardens. Today, it is linked to both the Church and Civil Parish (through links to the Parish Council). There is also an old Charity called Pendred’s which was created to help the Poor on which some notes are provided.
The County historian Bridges, writing in about 1720, refers to the existence of a Trust which he describes as an annual benefaction ‘amounting to the sum of about £3 13s. by the gift of several persons’. The origins of this Trust can be traced back to gifts of money left by villagers in wills in the early 18th century and before.
This Trust money was converted into a landed estate in 1731 when the Trustees purchased for £65, some pieces or ‘parcels’ of uninclosed land in the open fields of Brafield (and, a little, in Little Houghton. The Conveyance [NRO 44P/36], the deed which gave effect to the purchase was dated 23 and 24 June 1731. The land was sold by Valentine Ward of Bugbrooke and his wife Alice and the purchasers are recorded as Thomas Bliss, John Callis, William Higgins, John Naseby, James Hallowell, John Battison and Peter James, all of Brafield, yeomen, and Daniel Clason of Brafield, tailor. The deed transferred the land to them in trust:
The ‘wills’ referred to are not mentioned or ‘recited’ in the conveyance but clearly one or more people had bequeathed sums of money to be used
Arrangements were made in the deed for the trust to be ‘perpetuated’ i.e. for the nomination and appointment of new Trustees on a continuing basis.
The land conveyed in 1731 is quite different to the land owned by the Trust today. It comprised several pieces or ‘parcels’ of land scattered about the open and common fields of the uninclosed parish. As the owners of this land, in 1829 the Trustees took part in the process of Parliamentary inclosure [NRO Book O pp.123-168] when a large amount of land in the parish was redistributed amongst the several landowners in the parish at that time. They received two new pieces of land which are most of the land owned today.
The first area of land received – almost an acre in area – was allotted or awarded to the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor (as the Trustees) and came to form the full area of land owned by the Charity today which adjoins Church Lane and the Bedford Road that is used mainly as allotments and as a Children’s Play area. This was land which had formed part of the ancient Green (which was much bigger than the small area of Village Green which exists today).
In the main this land was new allotment (i.e. it was not land which the Trustees had owned before but land that they received in place of other land that they would have given up elsewhere in the parish). However, it did include, within its boundaries, six tenements and gardens of ‘old’ (i.e. existing) inclosed land. These amounted to just over a quarter of an acre – see the green plots numbered 86. This was, therefore, land which already belonged to the Parish and remained unchanged by the redistribution of land to which the Inclosure Award gave effect. It may have been some of the land purchased in 1731.
In 1830, the Charity Commissioners mention this in their report on the Charity [in NRO Library Vol.23 p.375]. They linked it with the second piece of land allotted to the Charity in 1829 for the Poor (see below). They described both as the Poors Land and recorded the land as having been let by auction to the best bidder for seven years from 21 December 1828. It describes the rent (at the rate of about 48 shillings per acre) as distributed by the parish officers, soon after Christmas, yearly among poor persons.
A piece of land was allotted and awarded to the Minister and Churchwardens of Brafield ‘in trust for the Church Land’ of the parish. This was an area of almost 4 acres in area situated on the west side of the Bedford Road between Brafield and Denton. It was described as being in Cherry Hedge Field. Bridges, in his County History, written c.1720, refers to ‘lands which are annually let for £1 6s....given to the repairs of the Church’. It is most likely that wherever these had been situated then, in 1829 they were replaced by this single new allotment of land. In 1830 the Charity Commissioners reported on this land which they described as ‘Church land’. They state that it was let in 1828 by auction for seven years, at the rate of about 48 shillings an acre, with the rental income being applied by the Churchwardens in the repair of the Church and of the Church clock
This Church land was situated next to a third piece of land, almost 2 acres in area, which formed the second ‘allotment for the Poor of Brafield’. Today this and the Church Land are one and there is no boundary between them.
Long before 1829 (indeed shortly after 1731), the running of the Poors Trust Estate seems to have been taken over by parish officials, the Overseers of the Poor in particular; hence the Award to the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor in 1829 in trust for the poor in Brafield.
It is clear from documents in the parish archives that the parish officials had long been involved in the trusteeship of the Poors Land. The earliest surviving Accounts of the Overseers of the Poor cover the period 1721-1760 [NRO 44P/15]. They include, at the back of the book, entries for the period 1731-1758 relating to the leasing out of the Poors Land (described as 7 acres 2 roods of arable land in three fields with other rights). The rent recorded in 1731 was £1 10s. when William Higgins was tenant. This entry includes signature and witnessing by John Callis, James Hallowell, Thomas Bliss, John Naseby, Peter James, Daniel Clason and John Battison (the trustees in the original 1731 Conveyance along with Higgins).
Subsequently there are receipts for the years 1732-1734, 1737-1740, 1753, 1756 and 1758. From 1732, each of the receipts is signed by two Overseers, those in 1732 being Peter James and John Battison nominated and approved, according to an entry dated May 1732, by five of the other Trustees (Daniel Clason not being included). These entries make it clear that from the beginning of the operation of the Trust estate, its running or administration appears to have formed part of the duties of the Overseers of the Poor although the rental income from the Poors Land was kept quite separate from the Poor Rate and its expenditure.
The Accounts of the Overseers of the Poor for the period 1789-1802 [NRO 44P/33] also include several receipts signed by the Overseers for rent of the Poors Land) as do the Accounts for 1805-1811 [NRO 44P/16]. These entries after 1789, which again show the Overseers of the Poor as clearly involved to some degree in the administration of the Poors Land, are all recorded on the end pages of the Account books.
It is not surprising therefore that in 1829 the Inclosure Commissioners awarded two allotments to the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor (i.e. parish officials) although clearly in trust for the Poor of Brafield.
Thereafter this land was administered with the other land allotted to the parish ‘in trust for the Church’ – i.e. the 4 acre piece on the Bedford Road. No strict differentiation of the land allotted for the Church and the Poor is evident in the surviving archives and today the Charity splits its overall income from the three areas that were awarded in 1829 to make contributions to the Church fabric and the Poor in the parish.
After 1829 the two pieces of land on the Bedford Road seem to have been let together and the boundary fence between them had possibly been removed well before 1884 when the first Ordnance Survey (O.S) records its absence and links the ‘two parcels’ together as O.S. piece number 45 (area - 5.762 acres.). On subsequent editions of this map of 1900 and 1926 the land is labelled ‘Allotments’ and ‘Allotment Gardens’.
The Vestry Minute Book for the parish, covering the period 1843-1870 [NRO 44P/32], records agreement that the Church and Poors Land (meaning the Bedford Road land) should be let together to the highest bidder to be occupied on a seven year lease from, in the first reference, 21 December 1842. An entry for 11 April 1850 records its letting for seven years from 21 December 1849 at £3 5s. per annum. The same tenant was again lessee in 1870 when he took a seven year lease from 21 December 1870.
The Churchwardens’ Accounts from 1876 [NRO 44P/14] include entries recording receipt of monies for the rent of ‘Church Land’ meaning, presumably, parish land embracing both the ‘Church’ and ‘Poor’ allotments i.e. all 6 acres. An 1877 entry records £3 5s. (i.e. the same sum as above as recorded in the Vestry Minutes) but the 1876 figure recorded is £6 and after 1877/8-1880/1, the amount varied from £3 13s. 8d. (1895/6) to £5 4s. 10d. (1922) in the annual record of its payment up to 1927. The last recorded tenant is [Job] Billing in 1885/6.
Whilst the Bedford Road land was being let as a single unit from 1870 as is recorded in surviving parish records, the Church Lane land seems to have been let (certainly from about 1870), as now in the main, as individual allotments. The parish archives include several annual tenancy agreements (Tenants’ agreements) [NRO 44P/22-23]. Each includes a printed series of ‘Rules under which Allotments of land are let to the poor by the Trustees of the Poor’s Land’. The annual rental then was 4 and a half pence per pole (there are 160 poles to the acres). The vicar seems to have been instrumental in administering the lettings and the land seems to have been parcelled up into at least 44 different holdings.
The first minute book of the Parish Council includes several significant references to the Poors Land and its administration. In 1894, following the Local Government Act, ‘ the Churchwardens and Overseers ceased to be Trustees of purely parochial charities and the duty of appointing new trustees vested with the Parish Council’. Four trustees were appointed by the Parish Council with the rector ex officio (i.e. appointed by virtue of holding the office of rector) as ‘permanent trustee’. An ‘abstract of the original deed of the Charity called Poor Land’ was read and approved in September 1895.
The evidence of administration after 1894 suggests that the estate began to be administered according to a ‘scheme’ closer than ever before to the original intention in the 1731 conveyance with Trustees, elected by but otherwise independent of both the Parish Council and the ecclesiastical or Church parish authorities (i.e. the vestry, later the Parochial Church Council), directly in control of the income of the Trust estate and its annual distribution. This has continued to the present.
The minutes of the meetings of the Trustees of the Poors Land are detailed in their recording of the actual administration of the income annually arising from rents received for the land let by the Trust and the distribution of the monies arising from the same.
The first appointment of Trustees was made to the Poors Land Charity on 21 June 1897. An entry in the minutes for 1906 records that appointment of Trustees were for four year periods. Later minutes of the Parish Council confirm that election of Trustees was regularly for four years although occasionally for two years.
In 1937 the Victoria County History for the County (Vol. IV at p.228), in its entry for Charities in Brafield, restated the wording of the 1830 Charity Commissioners’ report on the origin of the Poors Land. It added, however, that ‘the land is now let in allotments and the rent is distributed by four trustees appointed by the Parish Council’.
In 1951 the Parish Council minutes (with accompanying correspondence) record that the Council was appointing four ‘Poors Charity Trustees’ for four year periods to administer the Charity including allocation of the plots and distribution of the rent at Christmas time. It is clear from the minutes that the Council itself was not involved in receiving and distributing the income from the Charity.
Today the Church Lane land is called the Alley Gardens allotments. There is a mention in the records of the Charity to ‘garden tenants’ in 1895 and a purchase of rails ‘for repairing Aly Garden[s] fence’ in 1896. This is the earliest written reference to this name. There is mention in 1916 to a ‘plot of Ally Garden’. .
Thereafter there are plenty of references to Alley Garden[s] and the Poors Close ‘allotments’ (or ‘Denton Rd. allotments’ (1953) now known as the Bedford Road land). They were divided into several plots, each individually let and in 1934 generated enough annual rent to pay 2 shillings each to 138 parishioners.
A manuscript book entitled ‘List of tenants of 1. Poor’s Charity Land 2. Alley Gardens‘, in the Charity’s archives, spanning the period 1921 to 1986, makes it clear that during this period the Poors Land and Alley Gardens allotments in area each amounted to up to 30 poles and 25 poles respectively
Note: this is a much abridged version of the original account written by Kevin Ward in 1995 to provide evidence of title to the land belonging to the Charity Estate.
Although originally discrete from the Poors Land Trust, this small charity, which also existed to raise money for the poor, came in time to be administered by the same Trustees. The first two references to it are in 1720 and 1830.
Bridges’ County History published in 1791, but written c.1720, refers to a benefaction of 5 shillings yearly, income from land in the possession of Lord Halifax, described as distributed amongst the Poor at Christmas along with the income of the Poors Land Trust.
In 1830 the Charity Commissioners’ Reports for Brafield describe ‘Pendrid’s Dole’ as:
I have undertaken searches for Hannah Pendrid’s gift without success. Pendred wills in the 17th century do exist and include charitable gifts but none refer to collaterals named Hannah or Anna or include anything in the form of an annuity or rent charge which the Charity appears to be. It may be that the Charity originated as a donation between living people (inter vivos). This would be unusual, as most such donations involve wills but it is possible. If so, the deed is not amongst the parish archives even in copy form. To trace it would involve looking at the deeds to the land and property charged with the payment to see if they include mention of the creation of rent charge affecting it. It could also be that Hannah Pendred’s will was ‘proved’ at a church court outside Northamptonshire after 1700 (which I have not searched) or possibly in Lincoln before 1541 (given the size of the sum involved, an ancient origin is possible). I have not searched any of these possibilities. It could also be that the ‘Hannah Pendrid’ tag is simply incorrect and is a misrepresentation of the actual donor’s name.
So do we know which land was burdened with the rent charge? The minute book referred to above records in 1897: ‘distribution of [the] Poor’s money. And also [that] relating to Pendrid’s Charity’. The latter is described as 5s. paid annually by the tenant of the farm now in the occupation of Mr. W.P. Mackaness. In 1906, according to the minute book of the Parish Council the Trustees of the Charity Land lodged a complaint with the Council that the tenant of the land, S.Geo. Mackaness, had refused to pay the 5s. The Council asked the Charity Commissioners to take action and their letter to C. Smyth at Little Houghton House was read at the Council’s meeting. It stated: ‘it is understood that it can be shown that the sum in question has been paid for fifty years or more by tenants of the land now occupied by Mr. Mackaness’ and the ‘List of Tenants Book’ above includes entries for Pendreds Charity for 1934 -1950 and records it as payable ‘by the executors of C. Smyth esq. And late by C.V.Davidge’. The land concerned is almost certainly the field known as Pendred’s Chair (a corruption of Char(i)(ty)) which is just south west of Mere Barn Farm on the parish boundary with Denton. It was part of the land let to the tenants of the Old Farm in Brafield.
Note: this too is also mainly taken from the account of the evidence of title to the Charity land written by Kevin Ward in 1995.
Date last updated: 11 Feb 2007 Valid until: 31 Dec 2007