Yeovil coal and potato charity

Yeovil coal and potato charity


The "Yeovil Coal and Potatoe Charity" was formed on 15 August 1837 at the Church Sunday Schoolroom in Vicarage Street. The Rev Robert Phelips, Vicar of Yeovil, took the chair supported by John Ryall Mayo, John Batten, John Bide, William Bide, Robert Tucker, Elias Whitby and others.

The Charity was formed to supply the second poor (that is, those poor people not receiving Parish assistance, financial or otherwise) of Yeovil with "coal and other means of relief at a reasonable rate in the discretion of the Committee". The coal depot was opened "at the late Mr Daniell's Mansion House" on 1 January 1838 and families of four or more children, when the income was less than twelve shillings a week, were entitled to a weekly allocation of one hundredweight (50.8 kg) of coal. The operation of the charity was soon extended to include peas of which the second poor were allowed "not more than two quarts or less than one quart" each week and potatoes, with a maximum allowance of half a bag per week.

A system of coloured tickets with dated squares, similar to wartime ration books, was designed to ensure a fair distribution.

During the first year more than £200 (around £16,000 at today's value) was received in subscriptions from the wealthier Yeovilians and the first year's balance sheet showed a balance of £72. A total of 1,007 families had received support from the charity in this first year and between them received 231 tons of coal and 192 bushels (a measure of capacity equivalent to 8 gallons / 36.4 litres) of peas.

It was found necessary to employ an agent whose duty was to purchase the coal and weigh it out. Silas Griffin was employed as the agent and he was also required "generally to be subservient" to his employers.

The following year the balance in hand decreased to £26 but by 1843 a recovery had been made to £65. A decision was then taken to deliver the coal to homes of the poor and a cartage bill of £14 reduced the balance available in 1846 to £21.