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North Mymms - Parish and People
by Dorothy Colville

Chapter 9 - The Parish Charities

The records of the charities or gifts left by kindly people of days gone by make interesting reading. The benefactors were concerned for the welfare of their poorer neighbours and their gifts were intended to alleviate the, hardships of those then living and to make life easier for some members of future generations. It is always worth while when in an old church to look round for a charity list.

North Mymms charities are listed on a collection of blackboards that hang in the church porch. The earliest charity is of land given in 1604. This was a "messuage and garden called Barefords, near Welham, with three crofts of land adjoining thereto" and was for the use of the parishioners. On that land a workhouse was built and there the poor lived and worked (mainly at spinning if we are to believe Clutterbuck), the sick were given aid and the aged poor were given shelter for the rest of their days. The early Poor Law Acts of Victorian days closed all small workhouses and then the building became the village school, the forerunner of the present Church school.

In 1655 Sir Thomas Hyde, lord of the manor, left £100 to be invested and used for "putting forth children of the parish apprentices." The gift was " used to purchase a messuage with its appurtenances at Waterdell together with five closes of land and three pieces in Angerland Common … for the benefit of the poor of the parish and for putting forth children of the parish apprentices." At the 1815 election of trustees the wording of this charity was revised to read as follows: "To put out annually at Easter a boy apprentice to some tradesman with the fee of £20 and to furnish him with proper clothes at his first setting out." The master was to allow the boy "meat, drink, wearing apparel, washing, lodging and all other necessaries," while the boy for his part was not to "embezzle or waste his master’s goods; not play cards, dice or any other unlawful games; nor haunt or frequent taverns or ale-houses … nor contract matrimony." The master was to allow the boy to come home to North Mymms on the Saturday before Easter Sunday and to stay until the Tuesday following.

The churchwardens’ accounts have some interesting references to the apprentices of Victorian times. By this time girls were also eligible for apprenticeship to milliners or dressmakers, and in 1883 to the indentures of one girl the following was added: "and she shall not attend any classes for the purpose of learning dancing." The next year the trustees fitted out a boy with one pair of trousers 6/9, one suit 19/6, four shirts 8/8, three pairs of socks 2/-, six collars 2/- and two ties 1/1 - a total outlay of £2.

Although the Sabine charity does not appear on a board in the porch the widows of the parish were grateful to the kindly church-warden who left "two pounds of beef, a sixpenny loaf and a small quantity of potatoes" to all widows who went to church on Easter Eve.

Lady benefactors have always been generous. Dame Martha Coningsby, wife of the famous Sir Thomas Coningsby, was the first of a line of kindly ladies who have lived in our parish. Dame Martha had a very large family of six sons and twelve daughters and was responsible for the estate of North Mymms when her husband was in the Tower, a prisoner because of his loyalty to his king, but she thought of her poorer neighbours and in her will she left £105, the interest on which was "to pay the rent yearly on Shrove Tuesday, with the approbation of the churchwardens, to ten of the poorest inhabitants of the parish who receive no relief from the overseers." Dame Martha died in 1674.

Two ladies left money which was to be used to buy bread. Dame Lydia Mews, who died in 1751, desired that the bread should be "distributed every Sunday to such poor as should attend the service of the church at North Mimms," but Mistress Anne Hunter wished her charity to be given at Christmas, Easter and Whitsuntide in every year. Mistress Anne Hunter, who was the wife of John Hunter of Gubbins, died in 1786.

In 1847 Miss Holmes, a relation of Mistress Anne Hunter, left a small charity to the widows of the parish and Miss Caroline Lydia Casamajor started to build a school for girls at Water End. In addition to the endowment of the school she left a certain amount for clothing, and for a number of years the girls who attended her little school wore warm red cloaks in the winter and print dresses and chip hats in the summer.

In these days of the welfare state, however, there is no place for these relics of days gone by and the Charity Commissioners are persuading trustees to consolidate their charities and use the money in other ways. The North Mymms charities were consolidated under a scheme dated September 13, 1932, and the income was to be applied for the benefit of such poor persons as were qualified in making payments under one or both of the following heads: (a) for the assistance of young persons entering upon employment: (b) apprenticing of young persons. Today payments in grants towards equipment or special tools are more usual than premiums towards apprenticeships.

Dorothy Colville, 1971

Chapter 10 - Our Parish Magazine
Index - North Mymms Parish and People

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