In the 17th Century there was virtually no support for people who had little or no income, and pensions, certainly for old age, did not exist. Any support for those in dire straits was basic and by today’s standards, harsh. However a few wealthy individuals were very concerned about those who struggled to survive and had little food or fuel for themselves or their families, and in villages these people set up charities to provide some aid to the poorest in the local community.
In Cockfield the first of these charities, The Charity of John Corder in the Parish of Cockfield was followed in 1671 by The Charity of Edward Nice, and in 1720 by The Charity of The Reverend Francis Robins. The final two charities were created in 1848 and 1895, and all apply to the parish of Cockfield only. The assets and stocks of these charities provided income and it was (and still is) the only amount that could be given to those whose needs fulfilled the Charities’ conditions. These charities remained unchanged until the 24th June 1938 when a new deed prepared in accordance of the auspices of the Charity Commission effectively amalgamated the five charities retaining their main provisions and intentions. This deed confirms that there should be five trustees (one ex-officio – the Rector) and there are rules about appointments, meetings and investment of the Charities. The deed confirms that the income should be for the general benefit of the poor (but excludes regular payments for specific purposes) which include clothing, food, fuel, some types of medical related expenses and also some temporary financial assistance arising from illness or unexpected events. One charity, the 1671 charity, has a clause that it’s income be used exclusively for the benefit of four of the poorest widows in Cockfield.
The most significant change that occurred under the 1938 deed was in April 1986. Following guidance and advice from The Charities Commission, the charities’ trustees sold all stocks and assets and invested the proceeds in a recommended investment fund called Charinco which still provides a reasonable rate of return of about £300 – £400 per annum.
In recent years it has been difficult to support some people in need, due partly to assistance from governments since 1938 and to social changes, which have made parts of the current deed outdated. The trustees have not distributed all of the income but have accrued it so that we have just over £1900 available for distribution. Under the new Charities Act 2015 we have applied to change the terms of reference by removing the 4 widows stipulation above. We have proposed widening the areas where assistance may be given to include limited educational books and equipment, some help for the unemployed, some assistance for those affected by crime or related matters, additional help for those who are in poor health and widening the conditions for bereavement expenses.
Should anybody be aware of a family or person in Cockfield who may need assistance please contact the Cockfield Parish Council clerk. Any approaches will be treated in strict confidence and we would not disclose those who have contacted us unless they agree.
With these changes the trustees hope that more help can be given to those who are in need. This is likely to mean that the income for the Charities will need to improve and more funds will be required. Should anybody wish to make a donation please contact the trustees, again in confidence.