Registered charity no 204378
Founded by a scheme of incorporation dated 26th July, 1968
"For the relief of need, hardship or distress in the Ancient Parish of Whitchurch"
incorporating the following charities:
Richard Woollaston Bequest (share) 1688
William Walton, Junior, Charity 1844
George Twynham Charity 1846
Constance Blyth Watson Charity 1934
The James T Bingham Charities 1951
THE TRUST'S OBJECTIVES
The Whitchurch Welfare Trust was founded to provide financial help, mainly to residents of Whitchurch who may be suffering hardship or distress, including the elderly, infirm or disabled.
The Trust is funded from the generous bequests of the benefactors shown above.
The trustees work closely with local organizations, such as the Churches, schools and the Citizens Advice Bureau to try to identify individuals who may need help.
The trustees are particularly keen to help young people and mature students entering further education or training courses, who may require financial assistance. A fund has been set up called "The Richard Woollaston Bursary Fund", to meet such needs.
The Whitchurch Welfare Trust was set up under a Scheme prepared by The Charity Commissioners, in July 1968. The main object of the Trust is “to relieve either generally or individually persons resident in the area of the Ancient Parish of Whitchurch who are in conditions of need, hardship or distress”.
The Scheme is an amalgamation of six earlier charities
In addition, there was a subsidiary charity for the Maintenance of Roadside Seats, also founded by Cecilia Ann Bingham in memory of her father, J T Bingham JP. Seven of the eight seats (or their replacements) can still be found around the town, particularly on Newbury Hill where there are two seats which still bear the original commemorative plaque. Sadly all the other plaques are gone. Maintenance of the seats is now the responsibility of the Town Council.
By 1968, the year of amalgamation, the value of the first five charities had been significantly eroded by inflation, and the only charity to represent any real value was The Richard Woollaston Bequest.
This charity was founded by a codicil (dated 27th February, 1689) to Richard Woollaston’s will dated 1688. The codicil left “a hundred pounds a yeare for poore distressed people to buy cloth to cloth(e) such of them as really want clothing and are by my exequeter really judged to feare God tho’ of different opinions …….. soe long as any of my estate lasts”. The codicil did not specify how this money was to be raised or paid. The “exequeter” was his son John, who unfortunately died a year or two later, without having made any arrangements to set up the charity.
After a number of appeals before the Attorney General, it was decreed in 1705 that £2,000 (a substantial amount, in today’s values) should be taken from the estate, and invested in two farms to generate rental income of £100 p.a. This income was to be used to buy cloth for poor people in accordance with the codicil, in the name of The Richard Woollaston Estate Charity. The court also decided that the £100 should be apportioned between three parish groups, of which Whitchurch should get three tenths - £30.00 p.a. The basis of the apportionment is not stated in the decree but may relate to places where Richard Woollaston lived or worked throughout his life.
The story was told by John Clarke, well-known local solicitor in his day, and one of the original trustees, of how his grandfather, Spencer Clarke, used to sit at a table outside the Town Hall, once a year, surrounded by yards of cloth, and ask poor people passing, “Do you fear God?” If the answer was “Yes” he gave them a yard of cloth!
Over the years, the original farms were sold and, in the early part of the 20th century, the proceeds were invested in property leases. As these leases matured, the Richard Woollaston Charity began to accumulate significant amounts of capital, and in 2005 this capital was distributed to the three beneficiary charities. The Whitchurch Welfare Trust received over £250,000 capital, compared to the £600 which its original share was worth in 1705!
The management of the Trust, which is set out in its governing document, is by a board of eight trustees. The vicar of All Hallows is a permanent ex officio trustee, four others are appointed for four years by the Town Council, and three are co-opted for five years by the chairperson. The trustees are all voluntary appointments. Finally, there is the Clerk to the Trustees, who is not a trustee, and receives a small honorarium. The Clerk maintains the secretarial records.
The trustees work with the CAB, local churches, schools and other groups to identify individuals who are in need. The trustees also encourage applications for financial assistance from young people and mature students starting courses of study or training. Total investment income is currently in the region of £10,000 pa. At Christmas, the Trust distributes approximately half its income as “Christmas Cheer” in the form of small gifts of money, flowers or fruit etc to individuals, including people who are ill or have been recently bereaved, and to local community organisations in the form of donations. The balance of the income is awarded to individuals in the form of education and hardship grants throughout the year. The sizes of the grants awarded vary considerably depending on individual circumstances but will typically range from £50 to £500.
The Trust advertises in the Parish Magazine from time to time, and on the. Information leaflets are displayed in local churches, the Town Hall, and the library. One of the objectives of the trustees is to make the work of the Trust as widely known as possible in the local community.
The Trust’s investments are managed by a firm of national stockbrokers with an office in Newbury. The Trust Accounts are subject to annual examination by local accountants, Wheeler & Co. Copies of the annual accounts and governing document are held in the Whitchurch Library. Details of the Trust’s constitution etc can also be viewed on the Charity Commission website.
For the future, the Trust’s objectives include maintaining the value of the investments in real terms, while continuing to fully support its charitable activities. This may also involve attracting additional endowments from time to time, through making the Trust’s activities better known. Richard Woollaston made his bequest “soe long as any of my estate lasts” and part of the Trustees’ responsibilities are to the hand the Trust over to the next generation in as sound a financial state as possible.
Prepared by Martin Watson, Hon. Treasurer, The Whitchurch Welfare Trust. November 2010
Requests for assistance should be made
by letter to Clerk to the Trustees -
Whitchurch Welfare Trust
Whitchurch Town Hall
via the Citizens Advice Bureau, which meets on Tuesday mornings in the Whitchurch Town Hall.
A copy of the Trust's Annual Report and Accounts are held in the Whitchurch Library.