The Age of Reform: Appointment of Ludlow Municipal Charity Trustees

In the early 19th century concern was expressed in many parts of England and Wales about the way that charitable endowments were used. Commissioners were appointed in 1818 and visited Ludlow in 1820. They found many of the charities in good order, but on Charles Foxe's charity they felt there were points that 'deserve some explanation'.

The 1832 Reform Act had tremendous results for Ludlow and for its charities. It led to the Municipal Reform Act of 1835; which caused oligarchic Borough Corporations, like that at Ludlow, to be replaced by elected Borough Councils. The 1835 Act also insisted that charity and municipal property should be separated. Two years afterwards officers of the Lord High Chancellor visited Ludlow and appointed 17 Municipal Charity Trustees.

The trustees were responsible for what were called the King Edward the Sixth charities, that is all those derived from the Palmers Guild, which included Hosyer's Almshouses. They took over the Charles Foxe Almshouses. They were also responsible for a large number of other charities, including those listed on previous pages, to be known as the Ludlow Minor Charities. One trustee was Sir Edward Thomason, a Birmingham manufacturer who had retired to Ludlow. The rest were all Ludlow residents — nine of them tradesmen, the rest either annuitants or members of one of the professions.

Sadly, the division of the former Borough Corporation property between the new Borough Council and the Trustees proved difficult and acrimonious. This led to a protracted and expensive lawsuit, resulting in the enforced sale of a large proportion of the estate to cover legal charges. By a scheme of 1848 the Trustees were left with just over 1,000 acres of land and capital of some £6,000.

The Trustees introduced a number of changes in the administration of Hosyer's Almshouses. The 1848 Scheme required residents to have lived in Ludlow for at least ten years and to be of good repute. They received stipends of 7s. a week and every third year they were given dark blue coats or cloaks. Residents were expected to attend church daily but this does not seem to have been enforced. A warden and matron, usually a married couple, were regularly appointed after 1852. There was a major refurbishment in 1857, as testified by the dated rainheads which are still on the College Street front.

Following negotiations between the Trustees and the Charity Commissioners, a new scheme for the Charles Foxe Almshouses was introduced in 1863. The almspeople were to be poor persons, of either sex, who were to be not less than sixty years of age at the time of appointment. Three of them were to come from Ludlow and one from Bromfield. They too were to receive 7s. a week. The buildings were 'heavily restored', with new plank doors in moulded ashlar doorcases, and with a new coat of Foxe arms in the centre of the building.

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