Kirby Cane Charity

  See Report of the Commissioners here for further background reading.


The preamble to the Ellingham United Charities story concerning the historic background to the period in question applies equally here. The Kirby Cane Charities story starts a little earlier and takes on a different direction to that of Ellingham United Charities.

The Kirby Cane Charities are:

·      Henry Bonfellow’s Charity, known also as the Partable Lands. Will dated 1650.

·      Thomas Potts Charity 1646 (Rector of Kirby Cane 1620-1646)

·      Enclosure lands.

·      John Hardwar’s Catechism money. (Rector of Kirby Cane 1661-1689)

In December 1893 the newly arrived Rector of Kirby Cane wrote to the Charity Commissioners concerning the two Charity Schemes for the Kirby Cane Charities. He mentions; “…there is still a considerable amount of dissatisfaction amongst the parishioners, as they consider the Poor do not derive the same amount of direct benefit as they did before the Schemes came into existence, specially in respect of the payment £15 annually for the maintenance and repair of the church, & £10 for the Books, etc:, for the use of the Public Elementary School.” He ends the letter; “…as I am very anxious to satisfy the Parishioners as far as I can. W Hay Chapman Rector of Kirby Cane.” This support for the Parishioners of Kirby Cane by the Rector will be seen to lead to an entirely different outcome for the management of the Kirby Cane Charities, as compared to the management of the Ellingham United Charities where the Rector opposed the Ellingham villagers. But, first we need to go back a bit:

The crux of the problem for both the Kirby Cane and Ellingham parishioners lies in the reply from the Charity Commissioners to Reverend Hay Chapman: “…the Commissioners think it will probably be sufficient if I inform you that the Scheme in question was not made until after consultation with the persons then acting in the administration of the charities…” In other words, the 1879 Scheme was put together by the previous Rector and trustees who, it seems, took this opportunity to write in a share for the church, much the same as had happened in Ellingham. But who were these trustees? The draft Scheme of October1879 for Kirby Cane Charities put together by the Charity Commissioners tells us they were;

·      Reverend Abbot Upcher of Sheringham

·      Henry Ramy Upcher of Sheringham (Abbots brother)

·      Reverend Arthur Wilson Upcher of Wrenningham (Abbots brother)

·      Reverend Roland Wilson of East Dereham (Earlier family connection: In 1809 Reverend Henry Wilson the 10th Baron Berners of Kirby Cane had officiated at the marriage of his daughter Charlotte to Abbot Upcher.) (Gooderham J 2000)

As an aside here relating to Roland Wilson; the records include a letter to Reverend Abbot Upcher from Roland stating; ”Dear Abbot, I was not aware that I was a trustee for your charity nor do I know how I became so but being so I have signed and returned your note.” The “note” was in fact a letter to the Charity Commissioners to sell some charity land to pay off copy-hold fines. So here we have it again, the charity lands are being raided to pay off debts, which were essentially monies claimed by the Lord of the Manor to give a right of freehold, and also we see strange goings on relating to who appoints the trustees. We might say ‘ever-twas-thus’ as even in modern times there has been a failure to comply with the correct procedure for appointing trustees.


Perhaps the family Upcher are a part of the problem here too for; “Canon (Abbot Roland) Upcher hailed from Kirby Cane, in Norfolk where his family had lived for many years. Both his grandfather and his father were vicars there for 54 years and 64 years respectively [Obituary, Eastern Daily Press, 28-10-1929].” As an aside the reference for this quotation comes from http://www.homeoint.org/morrell/british/upcher.htm where there is information about Abbot, including his holding the world record for running the mile and his interest in homeopathy.  So it was that the Upcher’s, very well known in Sheringham Norfolk, had controlled matters in Kirby Cane for many generations. Indeed in Kelly’s Directory of 1883 Reverend Upcher is named as one of the two principle landowners in the village. Probably quite unwittingly, the Rector had carried on with the business of running the charities as always without even a thought to correct procedures.

The Upcher’s employed a firm of solicitors, Messrs. Hartcup and Sons, in 1879 to negotiate a new Scheme for the Kirby Cane Charities with the Charity Commissioners. Not to be outdone perhaps, a number of the villagers of Kirby Cane instructed the solicitors Sadd and Linay of Norwich in 1881 to enquire of the Charity Commissioners why; “It appears that the Rector (the Revd. Upcher) and the Churchwarden (James Morris) occupy the pieces of land ‘Lees Close’ and ‘Stockton Field’ respectively but as to the distribution of any monies for the rent of the same they cannot obtain any particulars. There is also Bonfellows Charity and Hardwars Charity in the same parish the particulars as to the receipts and expenditure of which, the persons who apply to us are unable to get any satisfactory information and feel sure that you will cause enquiries to be made as to the several matters mentioned and if necessary for a new Scheme to be formed.” 

Now back to the arrival of Reverend W Hay Chapman:

So the wrangle between the church and the villagers in Kirby Cane had already been going on for some time before the Reverend W Hay Chapman arrived. He must have wondered what he had let himself in for and we might ask; was the wrangle and irregularities that existed under the Reverend Upcher’s management of the charities the reason for him leaving Kirby Cane?

By the time of the 1894 Local Government Act, and the introduction of Parish Councils in both villages, we see the parishioners up in arms about the church taking money from the poor. Had the church authorities nationally foreseen this shift of power? Unlike the Reverend Hendley in Ellingham, who was prepared to bully the parishioners there to take charity money for the church, Reverend Hay Chapman was determined to defend the rights of the Kirby Cane parishioners. So much so, that after much correspondence with the Charity Commissioners on the parishioners’ behalf, and with negative results, he will have nothing more to do with the charities and resigns as chairman in March 1895. This of course forced the Charity Commissions hand as the sitting Rector of Kirby Cane was written into the 1879 Scheme of Management as chairman of the Kirby Cane Charities.

In July 1895, perhaps triggered by the resignation of Reverend Hay Chapman, the Charity Commissioners report to the Trustees of the Charity of Henry Bonfellow; “The report of the former Commissioners of Inquiry states that the profits were to be bestowed upon the poor people of Ellingham and Kirby, and makes no mention of other charitable uses.” The Charity Commissioners, also in this letter, demand that the Parish Council are kept informed. By this time the newly elected Parish Councillors had joined the fray and were also strongly questioning the 1879 Scheme. So much so, that they were writing to the Charity Commissioners and keeping handwritten copies of their letters. Charles Gordon Kemball of Kirby Cane Hall had become Chairman of the Kirby Cane Parish Council and was very much on the side of the parishioners too. Mr Kemball, a Justice of the Peace, had also, like Reverend Hay Chapman, refused to take on Chair of Trustees of the Kirby Cane Charities under the 1879 Scheme.

By 1896 the struggle for the control of the Kirby Cane charities was won and the new Charity Commissioners Scheme of 1897 removed the payments to the church altogether, other than the small amount allowed for by the original benefactors towards the work of the church. The role of the Rector in the management of the Kirby Cane Charities was also removed entirely and left in the hands of the churchwardens and the Parish Council. So on April 10th 1897 there is the first meeting of the newly appointed trustees at the house of Edward Clare; who becomes chairman of the trustees. They resolve there to; “…purchase a deed chest to preserve the documents of the Charity Trusts to be kept at the Parish Council room.” Over the next few months these new trustees set about collecting the rents due; setting up arrangements with the bank for receiving dividends; deciding upon how to distribute the funds in the way of fuel; attending meetings in Loddon to protest against land tax, and winning; arranging a public meeting with an expert speaker to explain fully the charities for the parishioners; a Clothing and Boot Club was established; coal was purchased for distribution and an Evening Continuation School established. By December 22nd 1897, a matter of eight months, all this had been achieved under the new leadership. So then the charities trustees continued to operate in this business-like manner for the next decade during which time they allowed the Rector to become a trustee.


After further revisions the Kirby Cane Charities are now managed by a Scheme introduced in 1999. This scheme continues to allow the Parish Council to appoint a majority of the trustee’s positions and demands that income from the charities assets should be shared 95.3% to the charitable objects and 4.7% towards the church.

The Kirby Cane Charities records are relatively intact from the 1700’s but do include deeds back to the 1600’s. It is from these that the following snippets of local history are taken:

·      There is controversy surrounding a bequest made by Lititia Dawson in 1745; “…a cook in service (?) Turner’s Family…” It seems that £2 each year was to be; “…laid out for bread for the poor…” A scrawled entry under the details of this bequest, made in the later 1700’s it would seem, states; “This mony (sic) expended for the making new seats in the church.” A later entry, 1768 tells us a bit more about the money being used for paving in the church. Who wrote this we will never know and we can only guess at what the real story behind these notes was.


·      In 1759, and onwards, somebody called Widow Fryar crops up in the record relatively regularly; “…fetching flags 2/-...Goody Fryar for shoes 2/-…Widow Fryar having been ill 2/-” and other amounts regularly sent by “her girl”. In 1772 there is the following entry; “Breaking ground and burying Widow Fryar 5/-“. She had been sick for a good number of years and we are left to wonder how she and her family had coped throughout all these years.

·      Throughout the early records it is very clear that the sick in the village could expect to receive some help (“To Mr Wright being ill 2/-; To Eliz. Howes being very ill 2/6”) from the Kirby Cane Charities and there is note of regular payments to widowed ladies. Whilst regular sums were also paid out for bread there were also payments for more unusual, or regular daily use items, such as: “spinning wheel, payment for making gowns, washing surplice, gate making, new pew, paying peoples rent, travel money, wood for poor”. Entries in 1788 and one in 1789 lead us to hope that they are in all innocence; “( i.) To John Marjirom for the use of Sarah Jay a girl from the House of Industry for one year £2..0..0 by Mr Ayreres. (ii.) To Jefford Clerk for the use of a girl from the House of Industry £2.00.00 by Mr Ayeres. (iii.)Paid Mr Clarke for the use of a girl from the house of Industry £2..0..0.” From time to time there are complete lists of the people who received the money from the Charities such as those shown in Appendices 3-8. In 1801 a clue to the numbers regarded as entitled to a share of the charity funds in Kirby Cane is given when an entry reads: “April 20th Gave to each in family 6d. in all 97 £2..8s..6d.”

·      In the summer of 1794 charity proceeds were given to poor of Kirby Cane in; “money and hemp cloth”. Looking at national statistics from a Google search for the weather in the 1700’s we find that the winter of 1794-95 was the coldest since records began in 1659. Frost fairs were held again on the frozen Thames. This might give a clue to the reasons for the next little story the records show from the winter of 1794-95: “Received of James Richmond one guinea for the poor of the Parish; it being a fine set upon him for stealing wood out of the Hall yard. 10/6 of which was given to the informer & 2/- for a search warrant. Remains for poor 8/6.” So we are left to wonder was James Richmond badly in need of wood, or was he out to make a profit by stealing and selling on? Perhaps, in that he paid the fine, he was not so poor as to need the wood for himself. What is sure from this entry in the records is that justice was swift and local.

·      December 23rd 1776 the burial of one called Daines was “…charged on the parish…” , the coffin, grave digging and certificate cost twelve shillings; the coffin bearers for “…carrying to church…” four shillings; a Mrs Laws was paid four shillings and fourpence hapenny for something which is indecipherable, but perhaps mourning; the Rector took one shilling for “…burying him…” and finally there was a charge of two shillings for “…Jay going to Lodon(sic) for certificate…”; in today’s money the grand sum of £1.25.

Returning to the national picture again for a moment, it was seen in the preamble to the Ellingham United Charities story that: “All the inhabitants of Geldeston, Ellingham and Stockton had the liberty of Common in Micklefen which stretched from Pewter Hill to Dunburgh. But, as the historian E Thornhill noted: ‘Alas, it has long since been taken from them.’” (Suffolk and Norfolk Magazine, April. 2011) Looking at the lie of the land, it is obvious that the commoners of Kirby Cane might be included in with those who had been dispossessed of their common land by the local dignitaries. Here comes the rub however; in 1806 the charity accounts are raided to pay; “Messrs Taylor and Browne the Commissioners charges for Inclosure. £14..11s..0d.” So not only did the poor lose their land, but were also made to pay for the privilege.

·      1808 sees the first deliveries of coal to the poor by a Mr Dowson, but wood deliveries also continue for some time. Evidence for use of barges to bring in the coal to Ellingham up river is seen in 1818; “To Mr Kerrison Lockage £1..0..0 … To Mr Man for warfage 5/-“ These payments can be seen for a while after this first entry in the records.

·      In 1821 there is the first examination of the Breadland accounts of the Kirby Cane Charities since this record book began in 1759. The accounts were examined at a Town Meeting on April 9th 1822 and signed by the Rector Henry Wilson, Thomas Williams and another whose signature is illegible. There are mentions of Town Meetings at other times when the rents for the charity lands were collected and some money given to the poor. The other charity accounts seem to be regularly signed by the Rector and the Overseers for the Poor.

·      We get an idea of the way in which society was divided by class in the charity minutes of September 1891 when the trustees considered the wishes of three of the “Labouring Parishioners” to have some of the Pott’s Charity Land for allotments.

·      In the early 1900’s the Kirby Cane trustees are quite happy to take on the Charity Commissioners again to protect the rights of the parishioners to the proceeds of the charities. There had been demands from the Charity Commissioners that part of the Kirby Cane charity proceeds be given to the Education Department as a result of the 1902 Education Act. The dispute rumbles on and in 1909 the trustees write to the Charity Commissioners: “…as they (the trustees) are quite willing to expend annually such a sum (£10) whenever the circumstances of the parish seem in their judgement to demand it…” This proposal, basically telling the Education Department to take their hands off Kirby Cane charity proceeds was carried unanimously. Whilst an Educational Endowment was set up by the trustees at that time, it is still encouraging today, in the twenty-first century, to see such steadfast defence of local rights by our forebears.

·      In 1908 the trustees can be seen to taking their guardianship of the charity lands seriously when they remind the tenant, Mr Tiles, not to grow corn on the field two years in succession.

·      Three people were questioned closely about their earnings by the trustees in December of 1911 whilst making decisions about whether or not they would be entitled to coal tickets. They were asked to leave the room whilst the trustees conferred and; “…after considerable discussion it was finally and unanimously decided that their applications be refused.” This seems to be quite a draconian way of handling matters and we can imagine that there might be some bad feeling after such a decision.

·      1919 saw Peace Celebration Day being mentioned and agreement being reached with the Charity Commissioners that a meal for children of the village be provided for out of charity funds. £10 was eventually spent on books and prizes for the children. There had been no mention of the 1914 -18 War in the minutes apart from one in 1917 when the trustees gave school children of the parish £10; “…towards assisting them to purchase War Loan Certificates.” In 1919 the trustees agreed to give 10/- for clothing for a girl; “…on entering service.”

·      It was agreed in 1923 that all Master Tradesmen and property owners would not be given coal tickets in future and in 1932 the trustees refused to give coal tickets to a Mr Snowden because he was receiving Parish Relief. Again, there was no mention of the Second World War 1939-1945 until in December 1942 it was decided to give cash instead of coal owing to the; “Fuel War Rationing Act.”

·      Part of the land owned by the Kirby Cane Charities is Mudd Hall Field, off School Road towards Stockton. Proposals were put to the trustees in 1947 that Loddon Rural District Council buy some of the field in order to build council houses. The piece was to be 1.162 acres and was; “…between Mr J Randlesome’s and the Well area.” The sale was agreed at £75. There was no knowledge about the “Well area” apparently at that time, but memory of the well lives on in the name for the row of houses; Well Terrace.

·      At the meeting of the trustees in May 1955 Mr Osborne, clerk to the trustees, tendered his resignation. He had given 58 years service to the Kirby Cane Charities.

·      The value of the Kirby Cane charities to the village does vary from age to age, so we find that in 1983 the then Chairman of the charities, Major John Crisp, suggested selling off all of the charity land and investing the money. This idea was not taken up, we might say fortunately, although enquiries were made with the Charity Commissioners at that time. In 1995 Major Crisp suggested winding up the Kirby Cane Charities entirely and giving the money to; …something deserving in the parish” 

This is as far as we can go until the present trustees release the minute books of the charity for academic study. The following pictures are taken from the old accounts books: