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High Littleton & Hallatrow
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Mary Jones' charity

Transcription of the second book

HL Mary JONES Charity Records 1891-1994.pdf

In the latter part of the eighteenth century the Manor of High Littleton was owned jointly by two spinster sisters, Elizabeth and Mary JONES of Stowey, who inherited it on the death of their father William JONES in 1748. When Elizabeth died in 1783, Mary became entitled to the whole of the Manor, which, at the time of Mary's death, represented 366 of High Littleton's 683 acres (excluding Hallatrow). With Jacob MOGG owning 234 acres, there was only 83 acres of High Littleton in other hands.

Mary JONES died on 13th Sep 1791 at the aged of 86 and by her Will dated 18th Jan 1787 left 1,500 in trust, to be invested in the Public Funds 6 months after her death, in four separate amounts of 500, 500, 300 and 200, the income of which was to be used for the benefit of the necessitous poor of the parishes of Stowey, High Littleton, St. Michael in the City of Bristol and East Cranmore respectively.

By a codicil to her Will, dated 26th April 1791, Mary JONES charged the High Littleton Estate, including Mearns Coal Work, with the payment of the 1,500, thereby discharging her Executors from the liability for payment, as a result of which her charitable intentions towards the poor of the four parishes became liable to be defeated. The principal beneficiary under Mary JONES' Will was Dame Elizabeth JONES, late wife of Sir William JONES Bt.  Dame Elizabeth was Mary's second cousin once removed, being the daughter of William and Eleanora JONES of Ramsbury Manor in Wiltshire and was already a wealthy woman in her own right. Having inherited High Littleton Manor and Estate from Mary and supporting the latter's intentions, Dame Elizabeth paid from her own pocket the sum of 1,500 to the trustees nominated by Mary, and the High Littleton Estate was discharged.

As far as the High Littleton part of the Charity was concerned, a Deed dated 6th July 1792 established a trust for the uses declared in Mary JONES' Will and the sum of 500 was utilised in purchasing 532. 9.10 of 3% Consolidated Bank Annuities. The first year's dividend of 15.19. 5 was received on 5th July 1793. After deduction of the initial legal expenses, 14.13. 6 was spent in purchasing various articles, namely 2 coats, 1 waistcoat, 26 shifts, 1 apron, 4 shirts, 4 handkerchiefs, 1 bedgown, 21 blankets, 2 pairs of sheets and a quantity of linen for making sheets and shirts, which were distributed to 30 poor people in December 1793.

In subsequent years there was less selectivity in catering for individual needs and a blanket for each recipient became the norm, which made it possible to assist more people. In order to widen the scope even further, it became the practise to rotate the beneficiaries, so that one was unlikely to receive a blanket more than once every two or three years. At Christmas 1874 the trustees provided blankets for 47 persons, who comprised 21 coal miners, 6 labourers, 5 old men, 12 widows, 1 single woman and even the village postman and policeman. Since there were then only about 175 occupied dwellings in the parish, the occupants of 1 in every 4 houses benefited from Mary JONES' charity each year.

In 1891 the trust came under the overall control of the Charity Commissioners. There was little inflation during the nineteenth century and although the interest from the Consols. was reduced from 2% in 1892 to 2% in 1903, there was sufficient income for 59 blankets to be purchased and distributed in the latter year. In 1912 the Trustees departed from the long-standing tradition of distributing blankets and distributed coal, clothing and groceries instead.

Until the passing of the Trustee Investment Act, trustees had no option but to invest in Government stocks and the value of such stock dwindled over the years. The ravages of inflation meant that the fixed income from 2% Consols. in 1961 would not buy many blankets or similar and was only sufficient to distribute in cash 12/6d. to 6 couples and 8/- to 25 individuals. In 1962 Trustees were empowered to invest in a wider range of investments and the Charity Commissioners set up appropriate funds in which individual charities could reinvest the proceeds of sale of their government stocks. The matter was discussed by the Mary JONES trustees in December 1962, who decided to retain the Consols. A similar decision was taken at several subsequent meetings.

Inflation continued to take its toll and in 1987 the fixed income of 13 was distributed in the form of a plant, cash and Christmas card to 3 elderly ladies. In 1988 - 26 years too late - the trustees finally decided to sell the Consols. and reinvest in Charinco units. By this time the capital of the trust was worth a fraction of the original bequest in monetary terms and, in terms of what it would buy, the income was derisory. Whilst halting the erosion of the capital, the investment change meant the acceptance of a reduced income for several years, as a result of which the trustees decided not to distribute anything between 1988 and 1994, when 60, representing 6 years' income, was distributed to 3 couples and 9 individuals. If the right decision had been taken in 1962 the trust capital would now be worth over three times the amount of the original bequest and the annual income about 75. How wonderful is hindsight!

The first Mary JONES Charity book was deposited at Somerset Record Office many years ago and covered the period from 1793 to 1871. From the latter date until 1891 no book appears to have been kept and the records of the Charity consist of a bundle of the original lists of recipients as pinned up in the Schoolroom each year.

The second book was started in 1891, when the trust was reconstituted under the auspices of the Charity Commissioners, and was still in use in 1996. Whilst generally transcribing the narrative faithfully, it was decided to place recipients' names in alphabetical order each year for easier reference. In addition the format of some statements of account and minutes have been modified for the sake of consistency and obvious errors or additions have been highlighted by brackets or italics. A further bundle of original annual lists, covering the period 1891 to 1909, has been preserved at Somerset Record Office. For most years these lists incorporate a record or signature of persons actually collecting the blankets. A comparison of the annual lists with the book also revealed minor discrepancies and extra information. Where relevant, the extra detail for the period 1891-1909 and names of collectors of blankets have been included in this transcription.

The annual list of names is useful as an "alternative directory" of many of the inhabitants of High Littleton, who do not figure amongst the tradesmen and minor gentry to whom Kelly's Directory restricts itself. No overall index has been prepared.

The charity is ongoing. Current information can be found on the charity commission website - Charity no: 238473.