Dictionary definitions of the word ‘charity’ are:

  • the act of giving money, food, or other kinds of help to people who are poor, sick etc; and
  • an organization that helps people who are poor, sick, etc.

For many centuries the poor were perceived not as authors but as victims of their circumstances. Therefore, in more religious times, the wealthier members of a parish heeded the biblical teaching – “For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good:” (Mark 14:7 King James Version) – and many made some provision for the poor in their wills, no doubt in the hope that their place in heaven would be assured. In Goudhurst a number of wills made provision for the parish poor of which the following is a selection. Some bequests were for a one-off payment at the deceased’s burial, some were for ongoing benefit and others were a combination of the two.

The Love Family

In the 16th century the Love Family were wealthy Cloth Merchants living, or owning property, in Goudhurst. We can trace from their wills the provisions they made for the poor of the parish upon their deaths:

John Love the Elder – died 1516

‘My son John… … to distribute among the poor of Goudhurst in the two Lents following my decease “a barell of whyte heryng”.’

 John Love – died 1567

“I will and bequeath unto the poor mens box of Goudhurst three shillings and four pence… ..”

 John Love – died 1593

John Love was a merchant living in Winchelsea where, for a period, he was Mayor. He was related to the Love family of Goudhurst and by his will made a bequest to the poor of the parish. He is buried in Goudhurst.

John Love – died 1595

“I give to the poor people of Gowtherste aforesaid ten shillings to be distributed unto them at my buriall… …”

 Such charitable giving continued into the 17th century, as demonstrated by the following wills:

John Roberts –died 1606

John Roberts, a yeoman of Goudhurst, left money in his will to provide for the poor of Goudhurst. This was in the form of a lump sum…. …

“I give and bequeath unto the poor people of the parish of Goudhurst… … three pounds… … to be distributed by mine executors in the manner and form following… …to pay forty shillings thereof at the day of my buriall and the residue thereof within one whole year next immediately after my decease.”

 He also provided for an annual annuity payable from income arising from lands he owned in Goudhurst which he bequeathed to his nephew George… …

“I give and bequeath unto the poor people of the parish of Goudhurst for ever one Annuity or yearly rent of ten shillings… …”

 The annuity was to be paid annually on the Feast of St Michael the Archangel (29 September) and there were provisions for the overseers or officers of the parish to levy distress if part, or all, of the annuity was not paid within one month of the due date.

Edmund Roberts – died 1627

By his will Edmund made arrangements for the purchase of land that would yield an income to be distributed to the poor by the overseers of the parish of Goudhurst… …

“… I will … my said executor to purchase lands to the value of fortie shillings a year within one year after my decease, to remain forever to the use of the poor of the parish of Goudhurst, to be disposed of by the overseers of the said parish and my son Thomas … to have the oversight of the disposing of it forever.

Richard Bishop – died 1630

In his will Richard specified that a sum should be paid to the poor of Goudhurst on the day of his funeral … …

“I give to the poor of the parish of Goodhurst ten shillings to bee payd unto them on the day of my buriall”

 He also provided that some of the rental income of his house and lands at Risebridge should be paid half yearly to aged poor people of the parish of Goudhurst … …

“I give to certain poor and aged people of the parish of Goudhurst twenty shillings to be paid unto them yearly forever out of my house and lands at Risebridge in the said parish to be paid at two payments, ten shillings every half year to the Vicar and Churchwardens of the said parish for the time being and to their successors forever viz at the feast of St Michael the Archangel (29 September) ten shillings, and at the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary (25 March) ten shillings. And the Vicar and Churchwardens to give the said money so paid to them to ten poor, aged and impotent persons of the said parish every half year as it is paid unto them. … …”

 He further instructed that if any rent were unpaid by the due date, then the Churchwardens were given authority to levy distress until any debt be fully satisfied.

John Horsemonden – died 1636

John was a clothier living in Goudhurst. He was more specific in his will … …

 “I will that my executor shall deliver unto the Churchwardens and Overseers for the poor of the parish of Goudhurst within one month next after my decease ten pounds to be paid for a continual stock to provide wood or faggots for some poor people about the town at their discretion.”

 Richard Thomas – died 1639

Richard was a gentleman living in Goudhurst and with extensive land and property holdings in Kent and Sussex. In his will he made two bequests to the poor of Goudhurst … …

“I give and bequeath unto the poor people of the said parish of Goudhurst twenty nobles* to be paid within one year after my decease.”


 “I give to the use of the said poor people for ever all my right title and interest whatsoever which I have or ought to have in or to three cottages with their appurtenances situate and being in Goudhurst aforesaid at the lower end of Flimwell Street near adjoining to my land there called Poundfields.”

 *Richard is probably referring to angel-nobles as the original noble was no longer in circulation. However, a new gold coin, called the angel, had been introduced by Edward IV in 1465; the image on the coin being a representation of the Archangel Michael slaying a Dragon. As it was considered a new issue of the noble it was commonly called the angel-noble. It remained in circulation until the reign of Charles ll and was worth approx. ten shillings.

During the 17th century it was increasingly recognised that education should be made available to all children. This is reflected in the wills of John Horsmonden and Thomas Bathurst.

Charity Board in porch of St Mary's Church

Charity Board in porch of St Mary’s Church

John Horsemonden – died 1671

In his will, made in 1670, John Horsmonden bequeathed a sum of money to be distributed to the poor of Goudhurst after his death.

He also ordered that the sum of £40 per annum arising from land and premises he owned in Tenterden should be paid to twelve of his “loving friends” and that sum should be used to provide a  [grammar] school for the youth of Goudhurst .

“I give them the said annuity… …that they… … procure and provide that one pious and learned man, well grounded in the Protestant Episcopal Religion now established in this realm of England, who is able to teach youth to read, write and understand the Latin and Greek tongues and all other tongues, arts and sciences usually required in youth for their admission into the Universities of this land, do keep one school within the said parish of Goudhurst and also do carefully and industriously teach all such youths of this parish… …to read write and understand so many of the said tongues, arts and sciences as the said youth shall be willing to learn and that my said twelve friends… … do yearly forever pay unto such persons so teaching as is aforesaid thirty five pounds… … of the said annuity of forty pounds.”

He further ordered that the remaining £5.00 from the annuity should be paid to “one pious and learned person of the Protestant Episcopal Religion [to] carefully and industriously teach all such poor children of this parish of Goudhurst as my said twelve friends… … shall direct and appoint, to read English perfectly.”

John’s daughter Catherine inherited the lands on which the annuity was charged, but after her death and following the marriages of her daughters, the land was divided and by the early 1800s the annuity was made payable out of a farm at Winchet Hill and other lands allotted to Mrs Clarke.

No provision had been made by John Horsmonden for the purchase of premises to accommodate the school. However, in due course, the school was housed in premises leased from the Dean and Chapter of Rochester. By the 1860s pupil numbers had reduced significantly despite advertisements in the South Eastern Gazette promoting the school and, in 1858, amending the curriculum. It eventually closed in about 1864 because the rent on the property had not been paid, with the result that the lease had lapsed and the Dean and Chapter of Rochester had refused to renew it.

While the schoolhouse was closed the income from the annuity was accumulated and, under an order of The Charity Commissioners in 1884, transferred to the Official Trustees of Charitable Funds. The funds were to be administered by a governing body known as “Horsemonden’s School Endowment”. The income of the endowment was to be used in maintaining exhibitions to the yearly value of between ten and twenty pounds each at any place of education higher than elementary and to be awarded, on examination or such other test of merit as the governors thought fit, to boys of the parish of Goudhurst.

The further amount of five pounds specified in John Horsmonden’s will to provide elementary education to the poor children of Goudhurst was to be paid to the National School (latterly the Church of England School) at Clay Hill.

By 1907 the annual income from the endowment consisted of forty pounds bequeathed by John Horsmonden and twenty-five pounds five shillings and eight pence from investments. In 1910 it became part of the Goudhurst Educational Foundation, now a registered charity.

Sir James Hayes – died 1693

Sir James purchased ‘Great Bedgebury’ from Thomas Culpeper in 1682 and rebuilt the manor house in its new location. He was secretary to Prince Rupert and first Deputy-Governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company. The Hayes River that flows into Hudson Bay was named after him in 1684. He died in February 1693 and is buried in St James’ Church, Westminster. His wife, Rachel Lady Falkland died in 1718 and is buried in St Mary’s Churchyard, Goudhurst.

In his will he bequeathed a sum to the poor of the parish …

“I give to the poor of the parish of Goudhurst in Kent … … ten pounds…”

Thomas Bathurst – died 1718

Thomas Bathurst of Finchcocks died a bachelor on 29th September 1718 at the age of 77 years. There is a memorial to him in St Mary’s Church where he is buried. The memorial states that he was … …“educated at London in the practice of the Common Law to which he applied himself with a great industry, vigilance and fidelity thus he gained the favour and esteem of the wise and good men and crowned his early labours with deserved success. In him the poor found a friend.”

 His will, written in 1709, states… …

 “I give unto the poor people of the aforesaid parish of Gowdhurst ten pounds lawfull money of Great Britain to be distributed amongst them within three months after my decease… … “

 “Whereas I am desirous and minded that some poor children of the said parish of Gowdhurst in the said county of Kent should be taught their letters and distinctly and properly to read their mother English tongue or language in any common English book or author which cannot be done without some charge and expense… “

 Thomas left some farmland in Horsmonden in trust, and income from the land was to be paid by the Trustees to a nominated poor person of Goudhurst at the rate of five pounds per annum, payable twice yearly at Christmas and the Nativity of John the Baptist (24 June), who would teach the poor children living at Riseden Quarter or Kilndown, to read and write. A maximum number of twenty children at a time were to be taught, but as each child learned another would take his place.

“… … that my said trustees shall also out of the rents and profits of the said premises for ever annually raise the further sum of twenty shillings of like money and shall lay out the same in purchasing some Religious and good books… …”

A sum of twenty shillings was also to be paid annually to purchase religious and good books for the poor people of Riseden Quarter and Kilndown to read.

In the 18th century thoughts appear to have turned to providing food for the poor and needy. Henry Fermor willed that wheat should be delivered to the poor of the parish annually whereas Thomas Paris, Thomas Groombridge and Stephen Groombridge willed that loaves of bread should be given to the poor at regular intervals. The latter three were collectively known as the Bread Charities.

Sir Henry Fermor – died 1734

Sir Henry Fermor was created Baronet of Welches (Walshes, Rotherfield) and of Sevenoaks in 1725. He had married twice but had no children to succeed him.

 “I will that after the death of Sir William Twisden, Bt. all my lands and hereditaments in Hadlow and Great Peckham (East Peckham) in the county of Kent shall be forever charged with and subject to the yearly payment and delivery of three loads of the best wheat bread corn which I will shall be yearly forever on the 10th day of October delivered by the owners of the freehold of that estate for the time being at the several parishes following that is to say one load thereof at the parish of Goudhurst in the county of Kent… …. I will that the said wheat shall be yearly delivered to the churchwardens of the respective parishes to be disposed of to forty industrious poor people men and women who do not receive alms of the parish… … such poor people to be chosen and such distribution to be made by the freeholders of the respective parishes at their respective vestries.”

Thomas Paris – died 1782

Thomas Paris was a Gentleman who was born in Goudhurst and died here aged 75. He was buried on 27 May 1782 in St Mary’s churchyard. The majority of his estate was left to his spinster sister Elizabeth but he also made some provision for the poor of the parish… …

 “… … I direct to be paid by my executrix hereinafter named within six months next after my decease and I direct my said executrix as soon as maybe after my decease to transfer the capital sum of one hundred pounds three per cent East India Annuities to three or more substantial inhabitants of the said parish of Goudhurst to be named and appointed by the minister and churchwardens of the said parish upon the trusts hereinafter mentioned… … and I hereby direct that such trustees shall from time to time pay the interest and dividends and such annuities to the minister and churchwardens of the said parish for the time being to be by them laid out in the purchase of ten sixpenny loaves of bread once in every calendar month to be by them distributed amongst and given to ten such poor inhabitants of the said parish as they in their discretion shall think fit.”

 By codicil dated 15 January 1773 Thomas added the following;

“I give to the parish of Goudhurst in Kent three hundred pounds three per cent India Annuities for ever the interest thereof for the like use as the former I have before given.”

Thomas Groombridge –died 1797

Thomas was a gentleman living in Goudhurst and was father to Stephen Groombridge (see below). His will states:

“I give and bequeath in trust to three persons to be nominated and appointed by the Church Wardens for the time being of the parish of Goudhurst aforesaid two hundred pounds three per cent South Sea Annuities for ever the interest arising therefrom to be laid out on the third Sunday in each month in the purchase of twenty sixpenny loaves to be distributed on that day to twenty poor housekeepers of the said parish who do not receive alms of the parish at the discretion of the aforesaid Church Wardens.”

Stephen Groombridge –died 1832

Stephen Groombridge, the son of Thomas Groombridge (see above), was a successful West India merchant but is best known for his work on astronomy. He is buried in Goudhurst and his will made similar provision to that of his father’s:

“I give and bequeath to such persons as shall be the Vicar and Churchwardens of the said parish of Goudhurst at the time of my decease the sum of two hundred pounds South Sea Annuities clear of legacy duty upon trust to receive and lay out the interest to accrue due thereon at all times hereafter in the purchase of twenty sixpenny loaves to be distributed on the 3rd Sunday in every month ……    amongst twenty poor housekeepers of the said parish not receiving alms at the discretion of the said Vicar and Churchwardens but as my late father Thomas Groombridge by his will… … gave a like sum for the same purpose. It is my will and I direct that the distribution to be made under this my will may not be made to the same poor families at the discretion of the Vicar and Churchwardens and I direct that the same two hundred pounds South Sea Annuities shall be transferred to the Vicar and Churchwardens for the time being of the said parish of Goudhurst upon the trust aforesaid within three months after my decease provided always that I do herein assert that if I shall not at the time of my decease be possessed of South Sea Stock to answer the several legacies of such stock herein before bequeathed then I direct that the same shall be purchased out of my personal estate”. 

 John Pope – died 1821

In his will John Pope left a sum of money to be distributed to the poor;

“… … I give to them [my executors] fifty pounds to be distributed to the poor of Goudhurst at the discretion of them and my dear wife within two months next after my death and also the further sum of fifty pounds to be distributed to the same poor persons at the like discretion within one year after my death.”

 He made a further bequest in the form of income from annuities he held;

“… … and the sum of one thousand pounds stock in four per cent annuities being the residue of the stock in said settlement I give to my executors in trust to transfer the sum to the Vicar of the parish of Goudhurst aforesaid and to the owners for the time being of the houses in Goudhurst aforesaid called Trowswell (wherein I now live) Taywell… …Paynetts… … upon trust for such vicar and owners for the time being to dispose of the dividends and interest of such last mentioned stock as the same shall be divided into and among such poor persons of Goudhurst aforesaid in such manner and at such time or times and in such proportions as they shall think proper but my will and desire is that the sum be given to such poor whose grandfathers were parishioners of Goudhurst aforesaid if such can be found worthy and that widows and single women turned of fifty be preferred and that such four per cent annuities be confirmed in the names of the vicar and owners of such before mentioned houses for the purposes aforesaid for ever.”

Dorothy Bathurst – died 1837

Dorothy was the daughter of Edward and Dorothy Bathurst of Finchcocks. She died on 10th December 1837 at the age of 94. When her death was reported in The Gentleman’s Magazine for January 1838, she was described as “A lady of exemplary piety”.

 “I give the following legacies… … to the poor of the parish of Goudhurst … … the sum of fifty pounds to be distributed in the winter next after my decease… … To the Treasurers for the time being of the Goudhurst and Horsmonden National Schools ten pounds each for the benefit of the said schools respectively… … I also give and bequeath unto the Vicar of Goudhurst aforesaid and the owner of the Mansion House of Bedgbury within the said parish respectively for the time being the sum of one thousand eight hundred and thirty three pounds six shillings and eight pence three per cent consolidated bank annuities… … upon trust to pay and apply five pounds per annum part of the dividends and income thereof unto the Treasurer for the time being of the National School at Goudhurst aforesaid… … for the use of the said school for ever or so long as the same shall continue to exist but in case the said school shall at any time be discontinued then to pay and apply the same sum of five pounds per annum towards the support of such other institution for the education of poor children within the said parish as the said Vicar for the time being shall in his discretion think proper… …Upon further trust to pay and apply all residue and remainder of the said dividends and interest to become due and payable in respect of that last mentioned trust annuities for ever unto and amongst fifty poor persons of the said parish of Goudhurst in easter week in every year such poor persons to be from time to time nominated and selected at the sole discretion of the said vicar for the time being… …”

 Viscountess Beresford’s Charity – died 1851

Viscountess Beresford died in July 1851. By a codicil to her will, proved in September 1851, she directed that the trustees of her marriage settlement should, out of the trust monies belonging to her at her decease, purchase or transfer into the names of the trustees of the school in Kilndown sufficient stock to provide dividends clearing the yearly sum of £210.

The sum would then be distributed as follows:

To pay to the Committee of Management of the school the sum of £60 to be used for the annual salaries of the master and mistress by half-yearly payments.

To pay the sum of £100 yearly at such times and in such manner:

  • For the clothing of the children of such schools as the committee might think fit.
  • £10 for a dinner for the children of the school on every Christmas Day.
  • £17-10s yearly in or towards the expenses of an annual commemoration of the foundation of the school on St Bartholomew’s Day (24 August) every year. The £17 10s to be distributed viz:
    • £1 to a clergyman for preaching a sermon on the anniversary;
    • £2-10s for the purchase of books as prizes for the teachers (exclusive of the master and mistress);
    • £4 for the purchase of books and prizes for the children and
    • £10 for a dinner for the children.
  • To provide £4 10s yearly for coal, wood, fuel and lighting of the said schoolrooms.
  • To apply £3 annually for copybooks, slates and stationery.
  • To apply £6 yearly for the purchase of Bibles, Prayer, and other books.
  • To apply £1 10s annually for insuring the buildings.
  • To apply yearly £1 10s for whitewashing the schoolrooms,
  • 10s for sweeping the chimneys and
  • £1-10s in the purchase of: brooms, brushes, pails, flannels and doormats for keeping the schoolhouse and schoolrooms properly clean.

To apply the residue for keeping the buildings in repair or towards a fund for such purpose. If any residue is unapplied then the sum should be used to keep the school in Goudhurst in good repair.

 Mary Cramer Roberts (Cramer Roberts Charity) – died 1869

Anne Frances Mary “Fanny” Cramer Roberts had founded an infants school at Brandfold in 1844. Fanny died in 1847 at the age of twenty one years.

Her mother, Mrs Mary Cramer Roberts, widowed in 1843, continued to run the school. In 1852 she granted to Rev. Walter Cramer Roberts, Martha Roberts, Rev. Richard Davis and Elizabeth Harrison (the trustees)… … “a messuage or tenement with the infants school room thereunto attached and the garden thereunto belonging, upon trust to permit the premises to be forever thereafter appropriated and used as and for a school for the education of infant children of the labouring, manufacturing and other poorer classes in the parish of Goudhurst… … and for the residence of… … the schoolmistress for the time being and for no other purpose.” She directed that the school should be called The Brandfold Infant School and “should be conducted in such manner that the education therein given should be conformable to and in harmony with the principles of the Established Church.” Furthermore no person was to be appointed or allowed to continue to be a mistress or assistant who was not a member of the Church of England.

At the same time Mary Cramer Roberts transferred £800 consols to the trustees with the proviso that she should receive the income therefrom during her life for the purposes of the school. After her death the income was to be applied by the trustees for the support and maintenance of the school.

Mary Cramer Roberts died in 1869. In 1885 the £800 consols were transferred to the Official Trustees of Charitable Funds and in 1886 the school premises were vested in the Official Trustee of Charity Lands, with the Vicar and Churchwardens of the Parish of Goudhurst, along with one other person, being trustees of the charity. However, as a National School had opened at Winchet Hill in 1872, the school at Brandfold was no longer required and the trustees were authorised to sell the school for not less than £120. The trustees were permitted to use a sum of £120 towards the cost of a site and building to be used as a classroom for infants at the Winchet Hill School. Any residue from the sale was to be used to provide a pension of £12 per year to the former schoolmistress (who subsequently died in 1897) and then for payments to advance the education of children resident in the parish of Goudhurst.

 The Ladbury Trust – 1895

This trust was not created as part of a will, it was founded s a memorial while the benefactor was still alive.

 The Parish Magazine for April 1929 stated:-

“The Ladbury Trust (or Miller’s Gift) was founded in 1895 by the late Miss Ladbury, as a Memorial to the late Miss Mary Miller, whose family lived at Jetwells. The funds consist of £99 12s 2d India 3% stock. There is no trust deed or scheme regulating the fund, and the income is paid yearly to the Vicar for disposal by him. But as far back as we can remember it has been pretty regularly applied in making small gifts of coal to deserving parishioners. Mr E W Hussey, the late Mr Clarke, the late Major Atkin Roberts and Mr G P Hinds were the original trustees.”

Mary Miller was sister to Giles Miller, a solicitor who lived at Jetwells. She was a lady of independent means who lived for many years at Park Place, Maidstone, where she died at the great age of ninety-eight in 1894. Her companion, living with her at the Maidstone address for many years, was Fanny Louisa Ladbury.

 Elizabeth Wickham Charity – died 1910

The Parish Magazine for December 1928 stated:

“Mrs Wickham’s Gift consists of £628 17s. 0d. Consols., the interest on which is to be divided in sums of 10/- each to poor widows and poor men and women of Goudhurst who are 65 years old or more, as the Vicar and Churchwardens and the owners of Summerhill and Finchcocks may select.”

Local newspapers inform us that:-

In December 1935, six parishioners in Kilndown and 26 in Goudhurst each received ten shillings and in 1940 the same amount of ten shillings was distributed to six parishioners in Kilndown and twenty-five in Goudhurst.

 Edwin Burr for Winchet Hill Sunday School Foundation – died 1916

Edwin Burr was a farmer, who lived at The Poplars, Winchet Hill. He died in August 1916.

Burr’s Gift arises under the Will of the late Mr Edwin Burr. By it he gave the sum of £50, the interest on which was to be laid out every year in the purchase of prizes for the Sunday School Children at Winchet Hill. The fund stands in the names of Mr Burr’s trustees, and the income is paid either to the Vicar or the School Managers who expend it in accordance with the bequest.

 John Henry Barton Charity – died 1931

John Barton made a bequest in his will for a sum to be paid to deserving poor people resident in the parish of Goudhurst at Easter annually.

Over time the value of the sums bequeathed by most of these benefactors became so insignificant that they have been ceased as individual charities. They have been incorporated into either the Dorothy Bathurst Trust or the Goudhurst Educational Foundation.