Northam Charities Board
Postal address: c/o Northam Town Council, Windmill Lane, Northam, Bideford, EX39 1BY.
The Northam Charities Board exists to administer a variety of amalgamated bequests made to the parish of Northam, some dating back to the early 1600s. These bequests were originally made to provide accommodation & relief for the poor of the parish, and to encourage reading & schooling of children. Today it is gratifying to note that these specific needs are no longer necessary, so the charity now administers the Almshouse accommodation, and makes donations to other good causes to benefit the community of Northam, Appledore and Westward Ho!
There are currently two separate charities administered by the Board of Trustees:
i) The Northam Almshouse Charity.
ii) The Relief in Need Fund.
The Almshouse Charity exists to “Provide accommodation for single residents in the localities of Northam, Appledore or Westward Ho!”
A building in Northam (Causey House) is owned outright by this charity. This building was erected in 1867 (see Appendix B for a full transcript of the deed assigning this land). In 1985, the building was altered and extended to convert six bed-sits into four self-contained flats. These are available for people who may not otherwise be able to obtain suitable affordable accommodation.
Almshouse Registered Charity No: 286354.
The Relief in Need Fund exists to "Respond to requests from Organisations or Individuals in need, to relieve either generally or individually persons resident in the ancient parish of Northam who are in conditions of need, hardship or distress."
Typically small donations (eg: £100 to £300) are made to those who may be in need of some temporary financial assistance due to reasons beyond their control, or to groups which provide a service or benefit to the community.
Relief in Need Registered Charity No: 217405.
An Educational Fund containing monies from various historic bequests also existed.
However, the income from this was just £40 per year, distributed amongst four schools. Because of the ‘petty cash’ amounts involved, this charity was wound up on 6th Dec 2011, and the final balance donated to the schools concerned.
The Constitution was confirmed and set out by a Scheme of the Charity Commissioners sealed on 4th October 1982. This allows for a total of nine trustees, one of which is ex-officio (the ‘Rector of the Benefice of Northam, with Westward Ho! and Appledore’) two are nominative trustees and the other six are co-optative.
The area covered by the charity consists of everything within the ancient parish of Northam, ie: Northam, Appledore, Westward Ho!, Orchard Hill, and Littleham Ridge (a detached part of Northam parish). Money can only be donated to groups or individuals who live in the parish, or have a strong connection to the parish.
The original bequests were made by benefactors who wanted to improve the conditions for the poor of the parish, or to ensure a better future for its children by providing education. Other benefactors provided money to build almshouses, generally so that homeless widows could be given accommodation.
Today, there are no remaining landholdings from which income is derived, these have all been disposed of over the years, and converted into liquid assets.
A list of these historic bequests is given below, with notes about each one researched as far as surviving documents allow:
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1616(?), Mules and others (no dates known)
The origins of this bequest are uncertain, but there are Northam wills for: George Mules (1616), Joan Mules widow (1623), and George Mules (1698), any of which might be the origin of this bequest. Of these only Joan Mules seems to have left money for the poor of Northam (10s.0d), but this amount of money is not unusual, and most people who left a will, bequeathed a sum such as this to ‘the poor of the parish’.
1622, Mr Berriman
By a deed of 20th June 1622, a Mr Berriman (first name unknown, but probably Christopher Beryman buried at Northam 22nd Jan 1624/25) gave £100.0s.0d to the poor, which was invested in nine closes of land (totalling 22 acres) at a tenement called Nethercote in Braunton, for the use of William Leigh. An annual rent of £6.0s.0d came from this land.
Since 1790 the monies were paid into the Northam Parish General Poor Account, but the Charity Commissions in the 1820s felt that this money should be distributed amongst the poor of the parish. The 1908 Charities Report for Northam no longer mentions this charity.
1626, John Strange
Philip Strange of Bideford instructed by a deed dated 10th Oct 1626 for his executor John Strange to provide relief and maintenance of the poor inhabitants of Northam.
The 20s.0d annual income from a tenement called Bennetts at Underborough in Northam was granted to William Leigh and four other trustees. Income payable quarterly, to be distributed to such poor and impotent inhabitants, to whom the trustees think most needy. John Strange died in 1632.
In the 1820s, the tenant of Bennetts (owned by John Pyke) was paying 16s.0d per annum to the Northam Overseers, the remaining 4s.0d being deducted as Land Tax.
It is not known what happened to this land, and the 1908 Charities Report for Northam no longer mentions this charity.
1661, Anne Britton
Anne Britton was a single-woman of Northam. In her will written 18th July 1661, when she was aged about 22, she left half her money to her nephew and the other half she directed should be used to buy coals which to be sold to ‘the most sober and godly poor of the parish’ at below the ordinary rates, so that the stock could be preserved (ref: NDRO-1843A/PF/1/1/12/1).
A subsequent document of 20th Jan 1664, shows that the residue was £30.0s.0d, but that it wasn’t felt practical to continue this purchase, and that the money should be used to buy an annuity, the income of 36s.0d was to be given to the same people.
In 1674 this money was shown to have been invested in tenements called Southcote and South Furze in the parish of Shebbear.
In the 1820s, again the Charity Commissions felt that this money should be distributed as coal amongst the poor of the parish, and should not go into the General Poor Rate.
The 1908 Charities Report for Northam no longer mentions this charity.
1687 & 1691, Berry and Cholwell
A lease dated 24th June 1691 confirmed that the Northam Parish Overseers had purchased land from the joint bequests left by John Berry (£50.0s.0d, for the benefit of the poor), and Richard Cholwill (left £60.0s.0d in his will of 22nd June 1687, for teaching poor children of the parish at school). The land was a tenement called ‘Colscott’ in West Putford (house, garden, orchard & seven fields, totalling 15 acres), and the income was divided into the necessary proportions. In 1792 these lands were conveyed to Augustus Saltren Willett upon the same trust.
In 1820, Colscott was let to William Brent at an annual rent of £7.0s.0d. A proportion of this went towards the salary of the Northam Schoolmaster and his wife, who taught 70 or 80 poor children.
The 1908 Charities Report for Northam no longer mentions this charity.
1695, the Poor Houses
On 8th July 1695, Sir Thomas Berry paid £60.0s.0d to the Northam Overseers, in consideration of three dwelling houses lately built on part of a garden in East Appledore, for the benefit of the poor. Term of 86 years, remaining from 99-year term. On 9th Sep 1695, John Bishop paid £14.0s.0d to Sir Thomas Berry for the fee-simple of premises (bought the freehold?).
However, it was stated in 1786 that Richard Branton gave £50.0s.0d for building almshouses, possibly part of these premises. We know that there were four small houses in East Appledore, provided rent-free to poor people of the parish, the fourth house having been built on the garden of the first three.
On Friday 13th May 1859 at 11:00am, fire broke out in these houses, and they were virtually destroyed, despite the efforts of the West of England Assurance Society Fire Brigade which was summoned from Bideford. However in 1867, it was said that the value of the four Almshouses was £16.0s.0d, but being in a deplorable state, this was merely the value of the land on which they stood. The houses were taken down in Aug 1867. This is now the site of the Appledore Community Hall.
The Almshouses for Poor Widows (no dates quoted)
In 1786, Ann Smith was paying 10s.0d per annum for the repair of the almshouses near to Northam Church. These houses contained two rooms on the ground floor, and two chambers above, each occupied by a poor widow. However, it is also recorded that William Leigh ‘gave an almshouse for four poor widows for ever’, and Thomas Leigh gave £2.0s.0d per annum to the poor widows (commemorated on walls of the church).
In 1908, it was recorded that this money came some while ago from an Elizabeth Smith who was accustomed to paying 10s.0d a year from stock, to the almswomen. By 1908, the house had fallen into disrepair, and a bricklayer was appointed to do repairs, but the money was insufficient, and the house was in ‘bad condition’.
1700 & 1702, Cocke & Langdon Charities
In his will of 3rd April 1700, James Cocke left £200.0s.0d to be invested, the profits to be given annually to the widows and orphans of Northam. This was invested in property at Tomouth and Stoophill (Pitt), Appledore, and gave an income of £10.0s.0d per annum. Details confirmed on his tombstone in Northam Churchyard.
In 1702 Elizabeth Langdon instructed her brother Mark Cocke by a nuncupative will that £100 should be invested, the profits to be used for the relief of any pious or poor persons. This was also invested in the same property at Tomouth and Stoophill, and in 1820 this consisted of four houses, a rope walk, an orchard, and four fields – ten acres in total, which was let to Thomas Hogg. The estate was exonerated from paying Land Tax in 1806. In 1822, 138 widows and 23 children benefitted from this.
It is believed that the income from these lands also went to supporting the four Appledore almshouses which were on this site. A fire which destroyed the Almshouses in 1859, led to the eventual sale of the whole Tomouth Estate, as the land which supported the almshouses no longer had this financial purpose. The land was sold in 1866 to William Yeo for £2,500, who intended to develop the site.
On 10th October 1702, Thomas & Joan Melhuish conveyed in trust to Roger Melhuish, a tenement called Cox’s (6 fields, containing 10 acres) and an adjoining field called Gutter Meadow (1½ acres). The income was to support Joan Melhuish during her life, and after her death to be used to augment the income of the vicar of Northam, and for 40s.0d to be paid yearly for a schoolmaster at Northam to instruct six poor children (for 3 years) to learn writing & arithmetic. Also to pay 40s.0d to four seamen’s widows to live in an almshouse which Joan Melhuish was about to erect in Northam, these houses to always be kept full, and to be maintained and repaired for ever.
In 1786 it was stated that the Gutter Meadow was retained by the Melhuish family, and that the schooling charity paid only £1.10s.0d a year. The Cox tenement was in possession of the vicar. The Old Maids Almshouse at Northam consists of two rooms on ground floor and 2 chambers above.
1716, Ann Berry
Dame Ann Berry gave in her will of 1716, £30.0s.0d to buy land, the profits should be paid to the parson’s widow, or if there was no widow, then to be paid annually for the schooling of poor boys to be taught the A.B.C. If there were not sufficient boys, then girls are to be educated instead. No lands ever seem to have been purchased, and the custodian in 1820 (William Hatherley) agreed to invest £50.0s.0d for these purposes. This annuity paid 30s.0d to the minister, and 20s.0d to the schoolmistress.
1791, Best's Gift
On 28th May 1791, it was stated that David Best of Newport in Bishops Tawton, had for the last 18 years educated 20 poor children of Northam, and wanted this to continue for ever. He granted an annuity of £4.0s.0d from a messuage called 'Commons' in Northam, to educate 14 children of Appledore, and 6 of Northam.
In 1806, David Best and the trustees agreed that the income was insufficient for its stated purpose, so a further annuity was granted out of five fields called ‘Calvesford’ and ‘Honey Bags’ at Hathmoor in Great Torrington.
In 1819 a schoolmistress in Appledore received 14s.0d each quarter day for schooling these 14 children, paid out of a tenement called ‘Commons’.
1882, Educational Foundation of Richard Cholwell
This is believed to be the source of the investments for the Education Fund, which was wound up in 2011. No details have been determined about this at the present time.
1902, William Pickard
By deed of 28th Oct 1902, William Pickard, owner of 3 houses in Cross Street, left instructions that the rents from these were to be given to widows and aged of the parishes of Northam and Appledore.
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Transcript of original deeds for Causey House:
Indenture dated 9th May 1867, between Mr Jonathan MILL and another, to Trustees of Proposed Almshouse.
Assignment of land in parish of Northam, County of Devon.
Enrolled in her Majesty’s High Court of Chancery the 19th day of August in the year of our Lord 1867, being first duly stamped according to the tenor of the statutes made for that purpose.
This indenture made 9th May 1867 between Elizabeth LESLEY of Appledore within the parish of Northam in the county of Devon widow of the first part; Jonathan MILL of the same place joiner of the second part; and the Reverend Isaac Henry GOSSETT (clerk, vicar of Northam aforesaid), the Reverend Edward REYNOLDS (clerk incumbent of Appledore aforesaid), Thomas WREN (esquire), Cockshutt HEATHCOTE (esquire), James Brodie GORDON (esquire), Bartholomew PICKARD (yeoman), John RODD (gentleman), all of Northam aforesaid, William COCK (maltster and yeoman), Thomas Brown BENSON (esquire), John DARRACOTT (merchant), and William PICKARD (shipbuilder), all of Appledore aforesaid Trustees for the purposes hereinafter appearing and hereinafter for the sake of brevity designated “The Trustees” of the third part.
Whereas the said Jonathan MILL being the absolute owner of a certain messuage and land thereto belonging (part whereof is intended to be hereby assigned) for the residue of a term of 2000 years which commenced on or about the 20th March 1813 did by indenture of mortgage bearing date 13th March 1866 made between himself the said Jonathan MILL of the one part, and the said Elizabeth LESLEY of the other part, assign the same to the said Elizabeth LESLEY her executors administrators and assigns for the residue of the said term to secure £300 then advanced by her to him and interest as therein mentioned.
And whereas the said principal sum still remains owing upon the said indenture of mortgage besides a small arrear of interest.
And whereas the said Trustees have contracted and agreed with the said Jonathan MILL for the absolute purchase of the piece of land hereinafter particularly described and hereby assigned for the residue of the said term of 2000 years for the purpose of building two almshouses thereon as or for the price or sum of £30. And the said Elizabeth LESLEY hath at the request of the said Jonathan MILL agreed to join in and execute these presents as hereinafter mentioned.
Now this indenture witnesseth that in pursuance of the said contract and agreement and in consideration of the sum of £30 of lawful British money to the said Elizabeth LESLEY paid by the said Trustees by the direction of the said Jonathan MILL testified by his execution of these presents immediately before the execution of the same the receipt of which sum in part discharge of her said mortgage debt and complete exoneration of the premises hereby assigned the said Elizabeth LESLEY doth hereby acknowledge and there from doth release and discharge the said Trustees and also the said Jonathan MILL their respective heirs executors administrators and assigns for ever by these presents.
The said Elizabeth LESELY at the request and by the direction of the said Jonathan MILL testified as aforesaid but do far only as she can or lawfully may doth grant bargain sell and assign.
And the said Jonathan MILL doth grant bargain sell assign ratify and confirm unto the said Trustees their executors administrators and assigns All that piece or parcel of land situate and being in the parish of Northam aforesaid formerly part of a tenement there-heretofore called Arscotts and further delineated in the map or plan drawn in the margin of these presents and therein distinguished by a pink colour together with a right of way 8 feet wide over an adjoining strip of land coloured green in the said plan.
And all the estate and interest of them the said Elizabeth LESLEY and Jonathan MILL respectively in the same.
To hold the premises hereby assigned unto the said Trustees their executors administrators and assigns henceforth for all the residue now to come and unexpired of the said term of 2000 years therein without impeachment of waste freed and discharged from the aforesaid mortgage security and all claims and demands in respect thereof.
And the said Jonathan MILL doth hereby for himself his heirs executors and administrators covenant with the said Trustees their executors administrators and assigns in manner following (that is to say) that (not withstanding any act or thing whatsoever by him the said Jonathan MILL at any time heretofore done or suffered to the contrary) they the said Elizabeth LESLEY and Jonathan MILL now have or one of them hath good right by these presents to assign the premises hereby assigned unto the said Trustees their executors administrators and assigns in manner hereinbefore mentioned.
And further that it shall be lawful for the said Trustees their executors administrators and assigns at all times peaceably and quietly to enter into an upon possess and enjoy the premises hereby assigned without any lawful claim or demand by him the said Jonathan MILL his executors administrators or assigns or any person lawfully claiming under or in trust for him or them.
All that free from all encumbrances whatsoever made or suffered by him the said Jonathan MILL or by any person or persons lawfully claiming from by under or in trust for him or them or by or through his acts defaults privety or procurement.
And likewise that he the said Jonathan MILL his executors and administrators and every other person or persons claiming from by under or in trust for him or them will at all times upon every reasonable request and at the costs of the said Trustees their executors administrators or assigns make do and execute all such further assurances of the premises as maybe reasonably required by them.
And moreover that he the said Jonathan MILL his executors administrators or assigns will at all times unless prevented by fire or other inevitable accident produce unto and at the request and costs of the said Trustees their executors administrators or assigns or otherwise as occasion shall require the above recited indenture and also all other title deeds relating to the premises in the custody or power of the said Jonathan MILL his executors administrators or assigns for the defence of the title of the Trustees their executors administrators and assigns to the premises hereby assigned and also shall and will at such like request and costs deliver to them attested or other copies of or extracts from the same indenture and deeds or either of them and permit the said Trustees their executors administrators and assigns or their solicitor to compare such copies or extracts with the originals.
And the said Elizabeth LESLEY doth hereby for herself her heirs executors and administrators covenant with the said Trustees their executors administrators and assigns that she the said Elizabeth LESLEY hath not done or suffered any act or deed whereby the premises hereby assigned are can shall or maybe encumbered in title estate or otherwise howsoever.
And this indenture further witnesseth and it is hereby declared that the said Trustees their executors administrators and assigns shall stand possessed of the premises hereby assigned and of the almshouses that are intended to be forthwith erected thereon, Upon trust to permit four poor widows of the said parish to dwell in the front house to be erected on the said piece of land and the like number of indigent old maids of the said parish (being members of the established church) and for want of such then that number of poor widows of the said parish (being members of the established church) do dwell in the other of such houses such widows and old maids to have the common use of the garden and offices intended to be formed on the said piece of land and of the said strip of land for an entrance thereto such numbers respectively to be always kept full by the order and appointment of the Trustees for the time being or the major part of them with the approbation of the vicar or minister for the time being of the said parish duly signified in writing.
Provided always that when and so often as the said Trustees shall by death incapacity refusal to act or otherwise be reduced to the number of three then the said three or the survivors or survivor of them shall forthwith elect so many other fit and proper persons to be Trustees together with the remaining Trustees or Trustee for the purposes aforesaid and shall then complete and make up the original number of Trustees and that thereupon the said remaining Trustees or Trustee shall do and execute all necessary acts and deeds for vesting the said premises in such remaining Trustees or Trustee and such new Trustees to be elected as aforesaid upon the trusts aforesaid and so from time to time as often as the Trustees for the time being shall be reduced to the number of three as aforesaid to the end that the said trust might not at any time thereafter come to or vest in the executors or administrators of any single surviving Trustee.
In witness whereof the said parties hereto have hereunto set their hands and seals the day and year first above written. Signed:
I H GOSSETT
James B GORDON
Thomas B BENSON
Received on the day and year first within written of the within named Trustees the sum of £30 being the full consideration money within expressed to be paid by them to me: attested by: Elizabeth LESLEY, signed R H BUSE, Alex BEARA.
Signed sealed and delivered by the within name Elizabeth LESLEY and Jonathan MILL in presence of: R H BUSE solicitor, Bideford, Devon; Alex BEARA, draper, Appledore, Devon.
The within indenture was signed and acknowledged by the within named Elizabeth LESLEY and Jonathan MILL the grantors on the 9th May 1867 at Northam in the county of Devon before me: R H BUSE a commissioner to administer oaths in Chancery in England.
Signed sealed and delivered by the within named Isaac Henry GOSSETT, Edward REYNOLDS, Thomas WREN, Cockshutt HEATHCOTE, Thomas B BENSON, Bartholomew PICKARD, John RODD, William COCK, James B GORDON, John DARRACOTT and William PICKARD in presence of us: John MILL yeoman of Northam Devon, Richard PENNINGTON shoemaker of Northam.
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Research by David Carter 2016
Devon Record Office
North Devon Record Office
North Devon Journal
Northam Parish Registers and Church documents
Devon Wills Project
Northam Churchyard Monuments
Report of the Commissioners Concerning Charities, containing that part which relates to the County of Devon, Volume 2 (1826-30) by T Besley
Endowed Charities (County of Devon), 26th July 1905, printed 24th March 1908. Ordered by the House of Commons.
Documents in possession of Northam Charities Trustees.
This document last revised June 2016
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