Ogbourne St George Poor’s Land Charity
The Ogbourne St George Poor’s Land Charity is one of two ancient Charities which benefit the residents of Ogbourne St George, the other being the Wooldridge and Thomegay Charity. See below for links to more detailed historical documents.
Under an Inclosure Award dated 25th May 1796, an area of about 20 acres of Bytham Down was allotted to the Lord of the Manor for the purpose of raising furze for use as fuel by the poor inhabitants of the Parish of Ogbourne St George. The custom was that any poor parishioner could cut and take away as much furze as could be carried, but that no cart could be used to carry back the furze to the village. At that time, the Provost and Scholars of Kings College, Cambridge held of the Lordship of the Manor, which they retained until 1928.
Some of the land was used for raising furze from 1796 until the last war, and other parts were at various times leased for farming, with the money from rent and shooting rights applied for the purchase of coal for parishioners. This was done at irregular intervals, when enough money had accumulated, and for example in 1903, 5cwt. of coal was given to everyone in the village “other than the well-to-do” at a total cost of £22.
The land was requisitioned for arable use under the Defence Regulations in 1941. It is still leased for farming and there is no more furze for collection. After the war a new Charity was formed and a Scheme was officially registered with the Charity Commission in 1950. The land now belongs to the Charity, which collects rent and distributes income. The original Charity Scheme required that “the Trustees shall apply the yearly income of the Charity in providing fuel for the poor inhabitants of the Ancient Parish of Ogbourne St George”. When the Charity was re-established, so many types of fuel were in use that it was no longer practical to supply bags of coal, and the distribution has therefore been made in cash, but always with a note reminding the recipient of the original purpose.
The Trustees of the Charity are the Lord of the Manor, the Vicar of the Parish, and three Trustees appointed by the Parish Council. At a meeting each December the Trustees have decided who should have a share in the year’s income of the Charity. In the spirit of the original purpose, the Trustees have allocated shares in the income per household, not per person, the assumption being that people sharing a house also share the hearth and the costs of fuel for it.
Since 2009, and with the approval of the Charity Commission, the objects of the Charity have been broadened to include “the relief of financial hardship of people living in the Parish of Ogbourne St George” instead of being limited to the provision of fuel. However the provision of fuel is still explicitly mentioned as one of the permitted ways that this objective can be achieved.
The village website has documents relating to the history of both the Poor’s Land Charity and the other village Charity, the Wooldridge & Thomegay Charity, together with copies of the Charity Commission Schemes which govern them: