Ellingham United Charities – The Bonfellow Legacy.

Background and research parameters:

In 1919 the Vicar of Ellingham, Reverend J T Hendley, was locked into a fierce argument with Ellingham Parish Council (EPC) about the management of Ellingham United Charities (EUC). This story has been recounted elsewhere www.kirbycaneandellingham.com and is not the subject of this present research. Briefly however, despite an investigation by the Charity Commission finding that there were no ecclesiastical financial interests what-so-ever in EUC, they still awarded a substantial yearly income from the charity to St Mary’s Church Parochial Church Council. In 1918/19 Rev. Hendley decided to go ahead and organise the distribution of funds from EUC even though EPC had refused to appoint trustees to the charity. The Charity Commission had failed to communicate with EPC concerning the issue of the new Scheme of Governance. At that time Rev. Hendley published a full account of the lands, property and investments of EUC along with the receipts and payments for each branch. Regardless of the complaints of EPC at that time (Eastern Daily Press 18th April 1917 reports nearly all villagers against the new Scheme), these details provide a good starting point for research into the management of EUC from the inception of EPC in 1894.

Rev. Hendley predicated all of his actions upon the Scheme of Governance that had been drawn up in 1918 by the Charity Commissioners for the management of EUC. Again, leaving aside the arguments that had been strongly put by the then parish councillors and villagers against the Scheme, it does provide a framework (albeit disputed) of management for EUC against which to carry out research. The object of the following research is to identify the assets of the Bonfellow Charity part of EUC; details of the Charity Commission Scheme of Governance for EUC as they relate to the Bonfellow Charity; and the manner in which the failure, it seems, to adhere to the Scheme has led to a loss of funds to the Town and Poor’s Branch of EUC. It should also be noted here that much has been written at www.kirbycanandellingham.com  concerning mismanagement of the land assets of EUC; this research is concerned solely with the legacy relating to the Bonfellow Charity. The questions being: What has happened to the Bonfellow legacy? Was the Bonfellow section of EUC wrongly transferred to the Estate branch of EUC sometime during the period prior to 1983?

Let us start with two quotations from the account that was published by Rev. Hendley in 1919.

·       Writing about the new Scheme of Governance he said: The advantage of a Charity Scheme is that there are no ‘ifs’ and ‘mays’ and ‘buts’ but definiteness……..I look upon the scheme not as an instrument to rob the poor, (EPC accused his predecessor of this in a council meeting in 1917) but as an instrument to protect the poor.

·       With regards to the future management of EUC he said: As far as I am concerned, and I know that I can speak for the other trustees, we shall have no hole and corner business about the Charity. Everything will be done above board and we fear no investigation or criticism.

It can be shown that, despite these fine sentiments expressed by Rev. Hendley, just how wrong both of these statements have been over the course of the next nearly 100 years. It was a failure by successive bodies of trustees, even up to modern times, to apply these two ground rules – to protect the poor and no hole and corner business…everything will be done above board - that has emerged during the research. Evidence shows that the “poor” have indeed been “robbed” and, far from being “above board”, the charity has been operated as a secret society for decades. The evidence shows that these failures do seem to lead to a serious bias towards the church in the distribution of funds between the Church Branch and the Town and Poor’s Branch of EUC.

The Charity Commission EUC Scheme of Governance 8th January 1918:

Before continuing here it is important to state that this Scheme of Governance is a legal document and was still in force in 2012 with the only change being an additional clause, added in the 1920’s, to enforce the fact that no trustee should rent charity land. (This clause has been ignored by trustees for decades – ibid.)

The EUC Scheme of Governance contains a Schedule of Property belonging to the charity and here we can quote directly from the document for the subject of this research:

Charity of Henry Bonfellow otherwise the Partable Lands – Consols £813 (to the nearest pound.)

This indicates that the Partable Lands had at some time been sold and the money invested in consols with the Charity Commission.

Here we should point out that the EUC Scheme of Governance Property Schedule also mentions two other amounts of consols held in EUC accounts: Charity of John Packard – Consols £40 and an amount just called Consols £55 (Rounded to nearest pound). Unfortunately, as we shall see below, these items cannot be researched at present.

The background to the Bonfellow lands can be found in a deed dated 1st March 23rd Henry 8th, or as we might say, 1st March 1532, where we see an enclosure named Dulles* being given as gift and grant to Richard Chamberlain and four others. This gift and grant was to the use and benefit of the parishioners of Ellingham viz, to the discharge and payment of subsidies, taxes and other burthens which should be given to the King. (Norwich Record Office Box 4) This deed shows that in 1633 the land was granted, in trust, to John Childs, Robert Bonfellow and 21 others and their heirs with the same conditions concerning payments out of the rents and profits. (An historical aside here: Whilst we see later in this deed mention of Bonfellows Charity nowhere does the name Henry appear other than that of King Henry 8th.) We might surmise here, without going to great lengths to find out who lived in Ellingham in 1633, that these people were the main inhabitants at that time. (* The Bonfellow endowment seems originally to have been 42 acres of land lying along the Loddon road. Half of the endowment was to Kirby Cane and so we see that in 1918 Kirby Cane Charity had a similar endowment of £813 in the name of Bonfellow.)

Accounts (ibid.) show that in 1934 the Bonfellow endowment dividend was still being accounted for within the Town and Poor’s Branch.

However:-

Accounts (EUC accounts book) show that in 1974 the Bonfellow prefix is missing and that the Town and Poor’s Branch dividend is now a mere £21 compared to £292 for the Estate Charity.

The accounts for these intervening years need to be scrutinised to find the reason for this loss of funds to the Town and Poor’s Branch and the gain in funds to the branch of the charity of which half goes to the church. (We can note here that the present trustees are withholding the charity records from researcher; they have blocked research for the next 100 years on most of the archive.)

To continue with the identification of the Bonfellow charity; the Charities Investment Fund reported to EUC in 2011 that there were now 5,648.76 units held in an account called United Charities, Town Lands Estate and a further 741.11 units held in an account called United Charities, Town and Poor’s Branch. As has been seen above, there are three consols accounts mentioned in the 1918 Scheme of Governance. The Bonfellow and Packard accounts are both endowed to the Town and Poor’s Charity, whilst those to the value of £54 are endowed to the Estate Charity; this was money for the sale of land to the Waveney Valley Railway which was invested in Consols. Despite the loss of the Bonfellow and Packard identifying headings for the investments with the Charity Commission, it would seem perfectly in order that the account with the greater sum of units should be attributed to the Town and Poor’s Charity.

The importance of identifying Bonfellow investments will become clear at this point where the 1918 Scheme of Governance sets out the property attributed to each of the charities and the conditions for Application of Income.

Clause 8 of the EUC 1918 Scheme of Governance states as follows:

The Town and Poor’s Branch

The endowment of the Town and Poor’s Branch shall consist of

a.     The remaining half part of the net yearly income of the Estate Charity and

b.     The endowments of :

·       The Charity of Henry Bonfellow, otherwise The Partable Lands

·       The Charity of John Packard

·       The Poor’s Allotment, and

·       The Leet House Charity

This is unambiguous; Bonfellow Charity is endowed to The Town and Poor’s Branch of EUC and it is this charity, combined with the Packard Charity, which contain by far and away the largest percentage of EUC investments in 1918.

The terms set for the Application of Income by the Scheme of Governance of EUC provide further evidence concerning the investment income of the Estate Branch of EUC.

Clause 33 of the EUC 1918 Scheme of Governance states as follows:

Application of Income – (After expenses)…the yearly income of the Estate Charity shall be divided by the Estate trustees into two equal parts whereof one part shall be paid to the trustees for the time being of the Church Branch for application by them as the income of that Branch as herein-after prescribed, and the remaining part shall be paid to the trustees for the time being of the Town and Poor’s Branch for application by them as part of the income of that Branch as herein-after prescribed.

Here we see that half of the net proceeds from the Estate Charity are transferred to the Church Branch which is for the benefit and application of St Mary’s Church Parochial Church Council (PCC). This is the point at which it can be seen that, by moving the endowment of the Bonfellow Charity from the Town and Poor’s Branch to the Estate Charity, the Church Branch would become the beneficiary of a half of the proceeds of the Bonfellow investments.

The accounts were available (for a very short period of time before being blocked for 100 years) at cost and inconvenience to do this research cover the period from 1983 up to 2009. They show that in 1983 the largest share investment, 5648.76 shares, was held in the Estate Charity with just 741.11 shares now held in the Town and Poor’s Branch. There are other factors that can be taken into account (see below**) with regard to share holdings by EUC but at this stage of the research it is important perhaps to look at the amounts of money involved.

As stated above, the accounts made available for a limited period cover 27 years from 1983 to 2009 inclusive. During this time the Charities Commission COIF Charities Investment Fund has reported year on year dividends from the larger fund amounting in total to approximately £46,000. All of these dividends have been paid into the Estate Charity throughout these 27 years. As has also been seen above, Clause 33 requires one half of the net proceeds of the Estate Charity to be transferred to the Church Branch and one half to the Town and Poor’s Branch. However, the Scheme of Governance for EUC quite clearly states that the Bonfellow legacy is endowed to the Town and Poor’s Branch. This gives rise to the research question; was there a time prior to the 1983 accounts when the Bonfellow charity was transferred to the Estate charity? This question can only be answered by inspection of the accounts that are being withheld by the trustees.

We note here also that just 27 years of accounts have been used for this research exercise. Research of accounts prior to 1983 and after 2009 would, of course, give a wider view of these matters. Accounts seen during this research for the years ending 2013 and 2014, prepared after much controversy and intervention by the Charity Commission, appear to show that transfers from the Estate Charity to the Church Branch no longer include sums related to investment income. Although, as the present day accounts are not specific, this can only be conjectured.

**There are other matters that could have an effect on the EUC investment portfolio that this research is attributing to the Bonfellow Charity; i.e. the sale of land and property where the proceeds have been invested with the Charity Commissioners investment funds (COIF). These are as follows:

·       1950’s Land at Crossways £237 invested by Charity Commission in 3.5% War Bonds

·       1982 Land at Crossways £3000 invested with Charity Commission COIF

·       1946 Norfolk County Council compulsory purchase £10 in War Bonds

·       1967 Post Office Exchange land £110 in 3.5% War Bonds

·       1970 Townland Cottages £3,700 invested with COIF

All of these investments relate to the land and property endowed to the Estate Charity.

·       1968 Leet House £1,539 invested by Charity Commissioners in 6.7% Treasury Stock

This is property endowed to the Town and Poor’s Branch.

Throughout the period 1983 to 2009 the accounts show investment returns, based upon 741.11 units, for the Town and Poor’s Branch. Using the same logic as applied to the investment holdings of the Estate Charity, which suggests the larger portfolio applies to Bonfellow and Packard, then the smaller portfolio relates to the original £55 Consols and some of the investments made in the 1900’s. Even taking the later investments into account, it seems a huge stretch of the imagination to believe that between 1918 and 1983 the Estate Charity investment could have increased to a massive1500% more than the Town and Poor’s.

For this research to be concluded with some degree of satisfaction it is necessary that the accounts being withheld by the trustees are made available to the researchers and then placed into the public arena, where they rightfully belong.