Yeovil charities

Yeovil charities

Leaving monies for the benefit of others


From very early times many townspeople had left lands or monies in their wills for the benefit of others. Such charities were usually administered by the churchwardens who usually invested the monies and employed the rents from donated lands and properties for the charities. The details of some of the later charities are inscribed on boards in the tower of St John’s church and the Churchwarden's Accounts make very frequent mention of the distribution of the charity gifts.

It should be noted that 'Second Poor' were those poor people not receiving assistance, financial or otherwise, from the Parish.


The gifts of William Hayne, Draper, 1558

William Hayne was a wealthy Yeovil draper. His will dated, 15 January 1558, is the first time I have come across an individual leaving cash (and, indeed, cloth) to the second poor of Yeovil. He also left money to the residents of Woborn Almshouse, and even left funds for the prisoners of the County Gaol at Ilchester. The following four paragraphs are taken from his will;

Money to the Second Poor
Item I geve and bequeath to the poore people of JevilL foure poundes [around £1,600 at today's value] to be distributed amonge them at some severall tymes after my deceas most convenient

Cloth for the Poor
Item I geve and bequeth to fyve poore people soe much coorse black or russett Clothe as will make them meete [word illegible] to be gyven unto them during fyve yeres after my deceas in Woorship of the fyve woundes of Jesus Christ my Saviour

Money for the Poor of the Almshouse
Item I gyve and bequethe to the poore people of the Allmes house of Yevill aforsaide Yevelle xvijs iijd [seventeen shillings and three pence - around £350 at today's value] during the terme of xxiiij [twenty four] yeares next comynge in manner and forme followinge that ys to saye [word illegible] duringe the said terme [two words illegible] under the Condicion that yf the same poore people have Wekelie other iiijd [fourpence] out of the Land of the same allmeshouse over and above their Wekelie stipend and wages duringe the said terme of xxiiij [twenty four] yeares that they the said poore people shall [two words illegible] charytablie dyne together duringe the said terme to be paid out of my lands in Yevill Otherwise this my legacie unto them to be voide and of noo effecte

Money for the prisoners in the County Gaol at Ilchester
Item I geve to the poore presoners of Yevill Chester [that is, Ilchester] vjs viijd [six shillings and eight pence] to be paid at my severall termes [two words illegible] next comynge


William Harbin's 1705 Gift to the Poor

In his will dated 8 June 1705, William Harbin of Newton Surmaville made the following bequest to fifty men and fifty women of the Second Poor and over the age of sixty; " Impri[im]is I give and bequeath unto the poore of the said parish of Yeovill the sum of five pounds [around £900 at today's value] to be disposed of as follows (vizt) Fifty Shillings there of to Fifty poore men which have no releife from the said parish and above Sixty Years of age and the other Fifty Shillings to Fifty poore Women which have no releife from the said parish and above Sixty Years of age".


John Jean's Gift to poor ploughmen and labourers

John Jean’s will of 15 March 1725 stipulated that five shillings be given to each of ten poor ploughmen and ten poor labourers, payable at Christmas and Easter, charged on lands of Mr Isaac. The annual value of this bequest in 1837 was estimated at £5 per annum (about £400 at today's value).

“John Jeans, by will, dated the 15th March 1725, gave the house in which he dwelt, with the malt-houses, &c., &c.. and his two grounds called Long Closes, and a ground called Beer Hill, all which premises are situated in Yeovil, (after certain estates for life intail) to Thomas Shane, in fee, to pay ten poor ploughmen of the parish of Yeovil, 5s a piece, the first payment to be made upon the Christmas-day next after the premises, or any part there of, should be vested in the said Thos. Shane; also ten other poor labouring men of the parish of Yeovil, 5s each on Easter-day. The sum of 5s is accordingly annually paid by Mr Isaac, to the ten poor ploughmen of Yeovil, at Christmas (old style), and 5s to ten poor labourers of Yeovil, at Easter (old style.)” (Vickery)


Andrew Ziles' Gift for 'decayed tradesmen'

Andrew Ziles’ will of 1727 gave £250 (about £32,000 at today's value) to the ‘Second Poor’ with an annual value of £12. His will stipulated that the money was “for the assistance of poor decayed tradesmen and such familys and particularly to regard poor respectable widows and orphans not having relief from the parish".

“Andrew Ziles, by will, dated 29th Sept., 1727, gave three trustees £250 in trust, to purchase therewith land in fee simple, the profits or rents to be distributed yearly amongst the poor of the parish of Yeovil, for the assistance of poor decayed tradesmen, and their families, - particularly to regard respectable widows and orphans; persons receiving parish relief to be excluded. He also directed that when one of his trustees should die another should be appointed. Previous to the year 1784, this sum of £250 had not been laid out in land, according to the donor's directions, but remained in the hands of trustees, at £4 per cent interest, of which only £9 were distributed amongst the poor, and £1 reserved for an annual dinner of the trustees. In 1784, Samuel Isaac and others purchased with the said £250, a close of meadow ground in the parish of Street, in the county of Somerset, containing by estimation seven acres, called Hound Wood. The land is now let for £14. The trustees meet annually at the house of one of them, and distribute the rent in small sums, generally from 3s to 10s, amongst decayed tradesfolk, widows, orphans, single persons, and some poor families. Persons who have once received this benefaction continue to do so if their conduct is approved.

Despite his generosity it is known that Andrew Ziles lived in one of the more humble properties in Yeovil Borough since in 1729 his house was only charged two shillings in the Window Tax because it had less than ten windows.

Hodges' Gift

"This gift appears to have been received by the Churchwardens in 1730, of Mrs D Clarke, being in full for principal and interest of £25, part of Hodges' money lodged in the hands of Mr John Clarke, deceased. £17 appear to have been handed down to each successive Churchwarden by his predecessors, and 17s are entered as " paid by order of vestry, being a charitable legacy left in trust to the poor of the parish." In 1784 Mr George Shew and Mr W Rowe, were appointed Churchwardens. Mr Rowe living at a distance, paid Mr Shew five guineas in consideration of his performing the duties. Mr Shew became insolvent in 1784. Application was made for the payment of the money to Mr Rowe, as the parish considered him responsible for the acts of his deputy. Mr Rowe subsequently paid the money." (Vickery)


Thomas Cheeseman's Gift

Thomas Cheeseman’s will of 20 March 1730 gave fifty shillings yearly (about £350 at today's value), charged on lands of John Hooper at Hummer, payable at Easter - "Item I unto the poor of the parish of Yeovill the Sume of Fifty shillings a yeare to be paid every Easter after my decease out of my Estate at Hom[m]er [that is, today's Hummer] to be paid by my Executrix".

"Thomas Cheesman, by will, dated 20th March, 1730, gave to the poor of the parish of Yeovil, 50s. per annum, to be paid every Easter after his decease, by his executrix, out of his estate at Homer. John Hooper, Esq., is the proprietor of the estates charged, and distributes annually, on the day after Christmas day, £2 10s in sums varying from 2s to 6d." (Vickery)

In 1837 this charity was estimated at two pounds ten shillings a year.


William Neal's Gift of Butcher's Meat

William Neal's will provided for the interest of £500 to be disposed of annually, the day after Christmas Day, in beef. The Churchwardens' Accounts for 1833 recorded the following -

Extract from the will of William Neale Esq dated 25th December 1833 "To the Churchwardens of Yeovil in the County of Somerset the sum of £500 (about £40,000 at today's value) to be invested by them at Interest in the name of three trustees to be appointed at a Public Vestry in the said town and the annual produce thereof to be given to poor persons of the said Town of Yeovil in Butcher's Meat on the 23rd day of December in every year for ever, as the Churchwardens and overseers for the time being of Yeovil aforesaid may seem most deserving not exceeding twenty pounds of meat in one year to each family and I hereby direct that the number of trustees shall be always kept up and the said trust fund kept transferred and vested in the names of the several trustees for the time being." The testator died on 1st March 1834 and his will was proved by the executors thereof in the prerogative Court on the 22nd of the same month.


Dorothy Bull's Gift of Sixpenny Loaves and a Good Friday Sermon

"The payment of £3 11s per annum is charged upon an estate at Yeovil, now the property of Mr. Prowse; 21 shillings to be given to a clergyman, for preaching a sermon on Good Friday, and the remainder to be expended in the purchase of one hundred sixpenny loaves, which are distributed in each year, on the same day, to one hundred of the 'Second Poor' of the parish; this distribution is annually made by Mr Prowse's steward. The tradition in the parish is that this donation was made by a Mr Clarke, who was the father of Dorothy Bull." (Vickery)


James Clarke's Gift of Sixpenny Loaves and a Good Friday Sermon

James Clarke "Gave fifty shillings Yearly to one hundred of the Second Poor to be delivered in sixpenny Loaves on Good Friday, besides one Pound to the Clergyman for preaching a Sermon on that day; charged on Lands of Geo. Prowse Esq."4


John Nowes Charity

John Nowes was born in Alvington during the fifteenth century. We don't know how he made his fortune but, by the time of his death in 1718, he owned and lived at the Manor of Lee, in Romsey, between Salisbury and Southampton. By his will dated 8 August 1718, he devised his manor of Lee, and all his real estates within the Parish of Romsey-extra, to three trustees "to apply £120 per annum (around £250,000 at today's value) in the decent clothing and schooling 40 poor boys under the age of 13 years. The John Nowes Charity was to establish three schools; the first at Romsey for twenty boys from the town of Romsey-infra and the parish of Romsey-extra, the second for ten boys at Fisherton Anger, now part of the suburbs of Salisbury, and the third at Yeovil - preferentially for ten boys of Preston Plucknett and Alvington, but also including Yeovil.


.... and finally

"It would not be doing justice to the present inhabitants of this town, were it not also to be recorded that there are various local charities to which they liberally contribute, such as Day and Sunday Schools, Coal Charities, District Visiting, Dorcas, and other Societies. There are also well organised and generously supported Auxiliaries to all the religious Societies of the Metropolis; and it may be safely said, that in proportion to its size and population, Yeovil is not, in this respect, behind any other town in England. It is stated by Mr Tompkins, Secretary of the Yeovil Guardian Friendly Society, an excellent authority upon these matters, that there exist in Yeovil more than thirty Benefit Societies. He states he has received returns from eighteen, from which it appeared that in one year 1,165 sick members had received pay, amounting to £445 17s 9d, and on account of funerals, £242 1s, making a total of relief afforded, £687 15s 9d (in excess of £56,000 at today's value)." (Vickery).




The Charity Board, dated 1837, outlining some of Yeovil's benefactors. The board hangs on the wall of the tower of St John's church.