Shearsby, 21 December 1836: St. Thomas’s Day distribution of coals for the poor

The Parliamentary papers of 1839 list the various charities across the county of Leicestershire providing for the relief of the poor. The account for the parish of Shearsby notes two such charities and the efforts those responsible for them were making to ensure that their efforts would be, in our terms, sustainable.
Both the charities of John Seale and Simon Ward started out with a capital of 30 pounds each, with the interest to be distributed to the poor of the parish at set times of the year. Seale’s Charity provided coals on St. Thomas’s day, appropriately the shortest day of the year; while Ward’s charity gave out bread on Christmas day.

Some 50 years before 1839 Seale’s charity had evolved to provide ongoing and practical help for the housing needs of the parish. Three tenements had been built, sharing one roof and a small garden at the entrance to the village from the Leicester road. By 1836 these were in bad repair, but had been bringing in a rent of £1 10s a year. It was this rental charge that had been used to buy the coal distributed each December by the churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor, with a preference for the most aged and widows. However the tenants had recently been given notice to quit and the charge increased to a fair annual rent of £3 per year.

Ward’s Charity had followed a similar path in 1832. £20 had been spent on the purchase of a house and carpenter’s shop in the lane leading to the Old Crown pub. An additional £4 0s 2d had been spent on legal expenses and 9s on journeys to Lutterworth to arrange the purchase. The balance of £5 10s 10d was retained by the parish at 5% interest. From the interest on the capital and the rent from the carpenter’s shop the charity gained the £1 10s it distributed as bread on Christmas day. The plan was to charge £1 10s as rent so that the charity could keep up its commitments.

Great Britain. Commissioners Appointed to Enquire concerning Charities in England and Wales. (1839) The reports of the Commissioners Appointed in pursuance of Various Acts of Parliament, to Enquire concerning Charities in England and Wales [Leicester]
https://hdl.handle.net/2027/hvd.32044106491384?urlappend=%3Bseq=333

Note

I found this information searching through the digitised books through the HathiTrust Digital Library. I am sure there are more interesting nuggets to be found there.

Nigel Walker has also found and transcribed the same report on the Shearsby charities and added his thoughts on the Shearsby parish history group site. The formation of the Lutterworth Poor Law Union in December 1835 would have had an impact on the continuation of the village charities.

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