The Association of Dunstable Charities
The Association of Dunstable Charities


Dunstable Charities



Association Of Dunstable         Charities


Ashton Alsmhouses

Ashton School

Blandina Marshe Charity

Chew’s Foundation

Dunstable Poor's Land Charity

Mary Lockington Charity



The Dunstable Welfare Trust


Incorporating charities founded by

William Avery       Edward Thomas Burr

Blandina Marshe Henry Cooper Goude

Ann Norton                    William Strange


Briggs Charity

The British School Trust

Buckingham’s Bequest

Cart’s Charity

The Duncombe Charity

Osborn’s Trust

Dunstable Freeholder’s Charity

The Waterfield Trust Fund



By Mr Hugh Garrod




Before the Dissolution of the monasteries, Dunstable’s Augustinian Priory played an active part in the care of the poor of the parish and the pilgrims who passed through the town. Parishioners often left money in their wills to the Priory in order that those in need could be fed and sheltered. When the religious houses were dissolved, charity to those who needed it all but came to a halt.


There are no memorials to the nobility in Dunstable Priory. The town was fortunate in Georgian times to be home to an extended family of benefactors. Between them they endowed several almshouses and schools as well as establishing charities for the aid of the poor. Many of their memorials are in the south and north aisles of the church.


Their deeds are recorded in a variety of sources. This site is an attempt to bring all this material together and to show how it inter-connects. This is still a work in progress.


John Lunn constructed a family tree which shows the whole family through five generations. To make the connections clearer, I have made three smaller trees, based on John’s work, checking all the details.


I have also checked details in the material I have consulted in the production of this book.


Spellings of proper nouns vary in the sources I have consulted, i.e. Aynscomb or Aynscombe. I have used one spelling throughout in the hope of clarity.

Money is recorded in £ .s .d. There were 20 shillings in the pound and 12 pence (d) in the shilling. A guinea was £1. 1s. I have not put in modern-day equivalents. Appendix A shows the current value of the major bequest amounts and the effects of inflation over the centuries.

There were 2 ½ acres in a hectare.

A foot (1ft.) measured 30.48 cm.


Association Of Dunstable Charities


Chew’s Foundation

Mary Lockington Charity

Blandina Marshe Charity

Ashton Schools Foundation

Dunstable Poor’s Land Charity

Ashton Almshouse Charity



 William Marshe





     ///                     ///           ///              ///                   ///                              ///             ///

Daniel           Thomas     Jane      Elizabeth          John          William    Francis

1605             1608          1610      1613                 1617              1612          1624

   -38                -26                           -94                   -1700?          -                  -85

m 1639         m

Thomas      Blandina

Chew        Ironmonger

1614-87                   1634?-


///                   ///          ///        ///               ///              ///                               ///          ///

Elizabeth  Thomas  John  Elizabeth  Thomas  FRANCES           JANE  WILLIAM

1641          1642                  1646           1647                      1648              1653      1656

     -1667  -1711              -98                      -1727             -1736     -1712

    m                                                  m                m 1684

Henry                                          William          James

Aynscombe                                 Ashton           Cart

    -1696                                            1656              1660

                               -1715             -1706


     ///                 ///           ///               ///            ///                     ///    

Elizabeth             Ann        THOMAS            Jane      William                              Frances                       


During the turbulent years of the English Civil War and the Commonwealth, Dunstable was predominantly on the side of the Roundheads and the Dissenters. There were, however, families who remained loyal to the crown and the established church. They were in a minority in Bedfordshire.

London in these days was a very unhealthy place. Many better-off families established homes in the surrounding counties, which were healthier locations in which to bring up children. William Marshe was one such and he chose Dunstable as a suitable town, being within a reasonable distance of the capital. William Marshe married Elizabeth in Dunstable Priory Church in the early years of the 17th century. They had seven children, five boys and two girls, between 1605 and 1624. Their younger daughter, Elizabeth, married Thomas Chew, a Dunstable haberdasher in 1639. She was 26 and he was a year younger. Elizabeth and Thomas had eight children between 1641 and 1656, four boys and four girls. Thomas Chew is listed in the 1671 Hearth Tax Return as living in Dunstable and having a house with two hearths. The youngest children, Frances, Jane and William, are the originators of three of the charities covered in this study. Frances and Jane founded their own charities but were instrumental in establishing the one named after their youngest brother.

William Chew was born in Dunstable in 1656. He and his elder brother, Thomas, were apprenticed to distillers in London. Thomas was apprenticed in 1660, at the age of 13 and was in business on his own account by 1666. William started his apprenticeship in 1668, at the age of 12. Records state that William became a distiller, like his brother and it is evident that he was successful in this enterprise. He became a member of the Distillers Company, like his brother, on 6th December 1687. During his lifetime, William was concerned about the plight of poor boys in Dunstable. It is known that he annually provided clothing for thirty boys at his own expense. In 1703 he was granted a coat of arms showing a golden catherine wheel. This device became the badge of his Charity School and also part of the badge of Dunstable Grammar School. In this year he bought a farm, called Tewelsbury, in Gravenhurst. His sister Jane inherited this property, which became known as Carts farm. William became High Sheriff of Bedfordshire in 1709 and was important in the civic life of the City of London. He was reputed to have a dour countenance and there is supposed to have been a mural tablet in the Priory Church which read: -

            Here lies the body of William Chew

            That when alive was beloved by few,

            Now where he’s gone or how he fares,

            Nobody knows, nor nobody cares.

If this verse were ever written, its author must have been unaware of William’s charitable works during his lifetime and the value of the education provided by his school after his death.

During his life, William made it known that he intended to found a school for forty poor boys in Dunstable but died, unmarried, before he was able to do this. He left no will, which suggests that his death was sudden and unexpected. His two sisters, Frances and Jane, and Thomas Aynscombe, a nephew, were his co-heirs. The division of William’s estate was achieved by the drawing of lots. Between them, they set about establishing the school that they knew he had intended to found. William’s estate, valued at £28,000, included fifteen farms in Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire and properties in Dunstable and London. Sufficient of this was set aside to fund the running of the school. The remainder was shared between the three co-heirs. They paid for the land and the building of the school from their own resources.

Chew’s Charity School 1715-1880 The early 18th century saw the founding of many free schools, across England, by wealthy members of the Church of England. The Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge (SPCK) and the Anglican bishops encouraged this movement as a counter to social unrest and the growing influence of the dissenting churches. Locally, there was a large Baptist congregation based in Kensworth. This had developed from the Bunyan Free Church in Bedford. Queen Anne’s Letter, of 1711, also promoted the establishment of church affiliated schools to teach children the Catechism. This sets out the principles of Christianity in the form of question and answer.

William Chew died on 18th March 1712. His executors signed a Memorandum dated 25th March 1713 that William had intended to build a school for the education of forty boys and to settle an estate of £150 a year for the Master’s salary, clothing for the boys and for the maintenance of the building. They opened the Charity School in 1715 having identified the properties to produce enough rent, bought the land, erected the building in local brick, equipped it, appointed a Master and identified pupils. The clock tower was not in the original plan. Frances Ashton paid for its addition. In her will she left £1.10s. for maintenance and repair. The designated properties were mostly farms. One of these was Cowridge End Farm in Luton. The 1853/4 plans for a complete re-build of the farm show it to have cattle, pigs and poultry. The buildings are reported to be in an unsafe state of affairs. The road plan shows it to be in the Stopsley High School area.

Draft regulations for the running of the school were formulated while it was being built. The first formal deed of settlement was not drawn up until 1724. Frances Ashton, Jane Cart and Thomas Aynscombe are named as Founders while James Cart, Samuel Carte a lawyer from London, John Lord Rector of Dunstable, and William Ginger of Edlesborough are named as Trustees. The first settlement did not produce enough revenue to pay the costs of the school, so a second settlement was drawn up incorporating the purchase of farmlands in Houghton Regis and Totternhoe tenanted by William and Ruth Newman. These two settlements formed the basis on which the Free School was run until 1880.

The Master’s salary is £40 per year, to be paid in four equal parts on Quarter days. From this he has to buy pens and ink for the boys to use. He is also required to keep an Admissions Register, showing the dates on which boys started at the school and when they left. On the Thursday of Whitsun Week each year £37 was allocated for the boys’ clothing, fuel, books, paper and other requirements of the school. This was the day of the Trustees’ annual dinner, which was paid for out of the funds of the Charity. The Founders specified that these dinners should be held, in rotation, in the three Dunstable inns owned by the Charity. In 1725 they met in the Windmill and Still Inn, next year at the Sugar Loaf Inn and finally at the Black Lion and Maypole. At these meetings the Trustees received the rents from the Charity’s tenants, selected boys for admittance to the school, appointed a Treasurer for the following year and, in the event of a vacancy among themselves, elected a successor so that the total remained at seven. A maximum of £8 per year was allocated for placing a boy in an apprenticeship. They also received the audited accounts for the previous year and a report from the Master on the running of the school. The Founders kept the right to appoint and dismiss the Master until their deaths. After this, the duty fell to the Trustees. Any surplus should, each year, be spent on buying apprenticeships for boys leaving the school. After the initial Settlement, a set of Rules and Orders was composed to guide the future running of the school. It was to be closely associated with the Church of England and Master, Trustees and parents of pupils had to be communicant members. The forty boys were to be seven years old, the legitimate sons of parents who had been communicants in the Priory’s congregation for at least two years. Scholars were required to leave at the Whitsun after their fourteenth birthday. Entry required that each boy should be able to read from the New Testament. As the only approved version was the King James’ Bible, it shows that the school was intended for the sons of what was known as ‘the deserving poor.’ These were hard working traders and labourers who had sufficient education and determination to teach their sons to read. Some children had their entrance deferred until they were up to the required standard. In 1775 there were nine vacancies but only four boys were admitted. The Master was required to take the pupils to Divine Service at the Priory Church each Sunday. They sat in specially reserved pews in the west gallery. If parents refused on three occasions to allow this, the boy was expelled and the school clothes and books would have to be returned. Parents were expected to hear their boys read, hear them recite the Catechism, set them a good example of behaviour and allow the Master to maintain discipline at school in his own fashion. The free uniform was blue and consisted of suits lined with calico, two shirts of bleached linen, one pair of knitted stockings, shoes and caps with scarlet bands and tassels. By 1820 the free uniform was costing the Trustees £111 rather than the £37 mentioned in the will. If a boy suffered a bereavement in the family, he was loaned a black armband for two weeks. The school hours in Summer were 7am to 11am and 1pm to 5pm. In Winter the school opened an hour later and closed an hour earlier. Initially, there were no borders so all the boys went home during the lunch break. The Master lived in accommodation at the back of the building. The school was shut initially for two weeks in August so that the boys could earn valuable income for their families by helping to bring in the harvest. The boys were under strict instructions not to wear their uniform during this time. The school did not attract Dissenters to the Church of England; rather it maintained numbers and added to the sense of community among its members. Young boys were employable and potential wage earners. Sending a boy to school, therefore, was a financial sacrifice but an investment in the family’s future. As a result, only one boy per family was allowed to attend at any one time. This was a realistic rule as no eligible family could afford to be without the income of two boys at the same time. Records show that, typically, the eldest boy would attend from age seven to about fourteen. When he left, the second son would attend until he was fourteen, and so on. The shorter the gap between birthdays, the less education the younger boy received. Upon leaving the school, boys were given £5 apprenticeships to encourage local employers to take them on. Provision is made in Jane Cart’s will to augment this. When Frances Ashton died in 1727 new Trustees were appointed and a new Settlement signed. The annual rents amounted to only £111. A farm with land in Totternhoe and Houghton Regis was bought and its rent of £41 added to the income.


Under the settlement of 1724 the school was run by a board of seven Trustees who were nominally overseen by the Charity Commission. Up to 1880, the board had a fairly free hand, probably because they were seen to be running a successful and popular school. Initially, the Trustees were all local and included businessmen, solicitors and the Rector. They were untypical of most Trustees of the time in that they took good care of their land investments and managed the school well. The school’s finances rose and fell with the prosperity of the farms which provided the income. The Master’s salary was £60 in 1823 and £150 in 1880. The salary was eventually supplemented by the admission of fee-paying scholars, both boarders and dayboys. There was always a waiting list for places. By 1867 the number of boys had increased to 60. The school remained independent from the National Society, which built and ran the Church of England’s National Schools. The Trustees were also the school Governors and were answerable to the Rector and churchwardens at the Easter Vestry meeting. As the Rector was a Trustee, and in one case Master of the school, the annual inquisition was fairly friendly. Thomas Aynscombe was the Trustees’ first treasurer. When he died in 1740 Samuel Carte took over the role. Charles Lamborn records how popular the school was. When the London Trustees came to Dunstable for the annual meeting they were ‘met by the town governors and populace at the Half-Moon, when the horses being removed, and ropes attached to the carriage, they were drawn into the town with every sign of rejoicing.’ The Right Hon. Marshe Dickinson was elected as a Trustee in 1756. He was a great great grandson of William Marshe. In the same year he became Lord Mayor of London, having been Sheriff of London in 1752. He also became MP for Brackley in Northamptonshire. He only managed to attend one meeting of the Trustees in the sixteen years until his death in 1768. His son, John Marshe Dickinson became a Trustee in 1758 and served until he died in 1771. John was the last member of any of the Founders’ families to serve as a Trustee.

The school had eight Masters from 1715 until 1880.

  1. Moses Gratwick 1715-1741 Moses had no degree but was a ‘gentleman of substance.’ He was allowed by the trustees to have a few private pupils, four boarders and six dayboys, to augment his income. These ten boys were taught with the free scholars. The boarders lived in the schoolhouse with Mr. and Mrs. Gratwick. The curriculum, which was intended to prepare the boys for apprenticeships, consisted of reading, writing, spelling, arithmetic and keeping simple accounts. Intriguingly, an advert from this time adds ‘Also Latin and Greek taught by a Clergyman who lives in the same house.’ This was probably Thomas Hill, the next Master. Mr. Gratwick’s speciality was teaching spelling and script, commonly known as copperplate. He had married Ann Mitchell, in Dunstable Priory Church, on 29th May 1718. No apprenticeships were awarded from the funds of Chew’s Foundation after 1741. Such grants were later paid from the charities of Jane Cart and Frances Ashton. Such grants were usually on a two-year cycle. In the first year the boy was placed with a suitable employer and given two suits of clothing. In the second year he was given an equivalent sum of money with which to buy his own tools of the trade. Moses Gratwick died on 17th September 1741. Mrs. Gratwick had died in 1719, aged 42. Two of their children had died in infancy.
  2. Revd. Thomas Hill 1741-1754 Thomas was educated at Oxford University, became curate at the Priory in 1720 and Rector in 1728. Half way through his tenure, Thomas compiled ‘A Schedule of what things belong to the Charity School of Dunstable – 11th May 1747.’ There are two oak doors but most of the rest are made of deal. Two of the deal doors are painted. All the shutters on the windows are also made of deal. The doors either have thumb latches or brass bolts. There are a few dressers and cupboards, some shelving and an iron chest. The sink is wooden and lined with lead. Five chimneypieces are mentioned. The Cistern is in the yard next to the stable. Only the parlour has wallpaper. There is mention of a ‘Chamber’ and a ‘Maid’s room’ but neither contains a bed. Presumably, Masters had to bring their own furniture. The contents of the School Room are: - ‘A Desk; deal window shutters inside to three windows; three rows of pins to hang the boys’ caps on; ten forms for the boys to sit on, nine desks for the boys to write on, a small closet in one corner of the school to lay books in; the Orders of the school in a Black Frame with glass before it; two doors one with a spring lock and two bolts, the other a latch and two bolts, the outward door of oak, the other of deal.’ The ‘Desk’ was for the master and the ‘nine desks’ were for the boys to write at. For all other lessons they would sit on the forms. It sounds like a very cheerless classroom, but Georgian philanthropists did not want education to be enjoyable, they expected the recipients and their parents to be eternally grateful. As Thomas found it difficult to fulfil all his ecclesiastical, civic and educational duties, he employed, at his own expense, a succession of ushers at the school to help him, one of whom was the next master.
  3. Edward Snoxell 1754-1780 Edward was the last usher at the school under Thomas Hill. The Snoxells had a son, also called Edward, who was baptised on 9th August 1743. Although he was Master for 26 years, Edward was dismissed by the Governors for poor management. Samuel Carte, a Trustee, was convinced that Edward’s wife was a non-conformist and protested at her living in the schoolhouse. He had objected to Edward’s appointment and continued to make trouble for him. Mr. Carte died in 1758. Edward does not appear to have helped his own cause. The Governors disliked his apparent casual manner with the boys and were sure that they were learning very little. If Edward were as inept as reports suggest, it’s surprising that the Governors took so long to dismiss him. At the Annual Meeting of 1760, held in the Sugar Loaf Inn, there was not enough income to provide free clothes for the new intake. Provision continued the following year.
  4. William Ward 1780-1789 William, a Master from Cheshunt, was appointed from 56 applicants and was known for his strict discipline. It was during his tenure that fee payers and boarders were admitted on an organised basis. He had to resign due to ill health.
  5. John Gresham 1789-1812 John was appointed from 48 applicants and was a renowned musician. He was born in Swanbourne, Buckinghamshire, in 1745 and married Mary Ward there in 1765. They had three children, Ann, William and Leonora. William was organist at Dunstable Priory Church for many years and wrote his own settings for hymns and psalms. He wanted to encourage congregational singing. At the beginning of the 19th century William played the organ in the west gallery and his father brought the boys to the nearby pews. From 1791 onwards the school shut for four weeks in August so that the boys could help with harvesting. They were also granted a week’s holiday at Easter and one at Whitsun. In the same year John compiled his own ‘Schedule of what things belong to the Charity School at Dunstable’ and dated it 30th June 1791. It is not much different to Thomas Hill’s list of 1747. The School room contained ‘A Master’s Desk, and a cupboard for books etc., nine desks; ten forms and one long bench for the boys; one shorter bench for the boys to stand on to read; three rows of pins to hang caps on; the Orders of the School, as signed by the Founders, in a black frame with glass; two doors with a latch and two bolts each, deal inside shutters with iron fastenings the three windows.’ An oil painting of John Gresham is the currently in the possession of some of his descendants who live in New Zealand.
  6. John Puddephatt 1812-1836 John was an ex-pupil of the school and served as an assistant Master before his appointment. He was born in Eaton Bray and was Ann Gresham’s second husband. He and John Gresham are both buried in the Priory churchyard. By 1816 the main Cart apprenticeship had lapsed so Mark Brown, hat manufacturer and treasurer to the Trustees, wrote off a debt of £100 that the charity owed him on condition that the sum was invested for that purpose. His will is dated 9th February 1813 and says that the accumulated interest should be applied every four years to the provision of an apprenticeship. The Charity Commissioners visited the school in 1819 and reported on the financial situation. Income had increased from £150 to £330 10s. Expenditure amounted to £231 .15 .3d. The Master’s salary was still only £40 but was raised to £60 a few years later. £5 was allowed for ‘firings’; £6 .12 .3d for insurance; £41 for books, stationery, Bibles and Prayer Books; £110 for clothing; £27 .4 .6d for repairs; £1 .10s for the Trustees dinner and 8 .6d for sundry expenses. John Puddephatt had 35 private pupils at this time to supplement his income, although he had to employ his assistants out of his own pocket. From 1813, it became the custom for inscribed ‘Bibles and Prayer Books to be given to boys on leaving.’ The trustees, particularly ‘Revd Mead jun’ frequently inquired into the management of the school and appear to be well satisfied therewith.’

The Priory church at this time had a Sunday school of 110 boys and 130 girls. It was supported by voluntary contributions and the interest from a bequest by the late Sir John Knightley.

The Trustees in 1815 included Revd. W Mead, Henry Brandreth, Leonard Hampsen, the treasurer and Revd Thomas Winter Mead. The school was valued at £2 per year. Income from rents and investments was £330.10s, less £17.13.6d land tax. £3 pa was allowed for clothing each pupil.

A Bedfordshire survey of 1822 lists Dunstable as having two Infant schools, seven daily schools and four Sunday school. There is no indication of numbers of children or how many were plait schools.

The 1830 Directory contains the entry, ‘Free School and Gent’s Academy, High Street’. In the hundred years from 1789, 759 boys passed through the school, of these thirteen died, eleven were expelled, ten moved away, one was admitted to Christ’s Hospital in London and one joined the Wesleyan Day School. A third of the boys left early to become wage earners but the rest stayed until they were fourteen years old. Many sons of widows stayed on until the end. This suggests that bursaries were found for them. Labourers’ children benefited so much from their education that some of them became carpenters, shoe makers, tailors, butchers, blacksmiths, painters, ironmongers and one became a solicitor’s clerk.


  1. John Corfield 1836-1856 John was a ‘renowned botanist’ and 25 years old when appointed. He established a library and introduced bookkeeping, the study of science, drawing and poetry. He taught Geography, History, Mechanics and Algebra. His curriculum also included reading, writing, spelling, dictation, grammar and arithmetic. He was the first Master to teach the free scholars and the fee-payers in separate classes. The Ecclesiastical Commission’s enquiry of 1841 states there are 40 boys at the Charity School. An inspection of 1844 describes Mr. Corfield as ‘a capable and active master.’ It adds, ‘the boys on the foundation are kept separate from the pay scholars and are taught less.’ A survey of 1851 lists 50 free boys at the Endowed school, 97 children at the Wesleyan School and an Anglican Sunday School with 50 boys and 110 girls. It concludes that ‘an infant’s school is much wanted.’
  2. William Hambling  1856-1880 William was born in Snape, Suffolk, in 1831. He trained at Cheltenham Education College, was a churchwarden at the Priory Church and founded the Dunstable Rifle Corps. He was Colonel of the Bedfordshire Volunteers, a magistrate and Mayor of Dunstable in 1880/2 and 1887/9. He was President of the Dunstable Institute. The 1870 survey of education in Dunstable records 54 free boys at the Endowed school, 301 boys and 159 girls at the (Ashton) Elementary schools while the Wesleyan school had 228 boys and 117 Infants.

Besides all this, he propagated a variety of cooking apple, which was named after him. Hambling apples were first registered in 1894. They are large yellow apples, slightly acidic, can be picked in mid October and can be stored for use between November and March.

Descendants of William Hambling emigrated to Alberta, north of Edmonton. They were part of a community of five farms. The farmers decided that this settlement should have a name. Each family wrote the place they came from in England in a hat. The name pulled out of the hat was Dunstable.


None of the Masters left for another appointment. Four died in post, two retired, one was dismissed and the last oversaw the re-organisation of 1880.

Other schools opened in the town during the 19th century. The National School opened in 1838 in what is now the Priory church hall. The British School, the non-conformist alternative, opened in 1843 in West Street. The Wesleyan Day School began, in the Wesleyan Chapel in 1853, on the site of the Methodist Church on The Square. The Ashton Elementary Schools opened in 1865. None of these was a threat to the Charity School, either in the quality of education, the provision of free uniform or in the supply of apprenticeships. From the mid-1860s boys transferred from the Elementary School to the Charity School, if their New Testament reading was up to standard. There is nothing new, then, in determined parents trying to get their children into what they consider to be the best school. Families would also attend the Priory Church until admittance was granted, after which time they were not seen by the Rector again. Charles Lamborn records these latter occurrences in his book, Dunstaplelogia. He was Master of the town’s National School, before being appointed Master of Dunstable’s British School.

Two of the school’s most successful pupils were George Derbyshire and his son William Henry. George was a pupil from 1798 to 1805. He won one of Jane Cart’s apprenticeship awards which set him up to learn the shoe maker’s trade. His boot and shoe making shop was in Church Street. The writing skills that he learnt eventually led to his appointment as Dunstable’s parish clerk. He was an accomplished poet and an assiduous researcher into local history. William began his working life as a carpenter but later became an auctioneer and estate agent. In 1855 he became the editor of the Dunstable Chronicle. In 1872 he published his book ‘The History of Dunstable’ which incorporated his father’s researches. He instigated the first Fire Brigade in the town and retired as chief fire officer in 1882. He campaigned for the establishment of the Borough of Dunstable. He was town Mayor in 1879.

Chew’s Foundation School 1880-1905 The 1860s saw developments, which were to have a huge effect on the Charity School. Dunstable Borough Council was inaugurated in 1864 and took a keen interest in education in the town. Councillors and Aldermen were drawn from all denominations and many of them were not sympathetic to the Church of England. The Ashton Foundation accumulated a huge surplus, which led to the building of the Ashton Elementary Schools. A later surplus led to the establishment of Dunstable Grammar School. When Gladstone’s Liberal Party won the 1868 General Election, they passed, among other laws, The Endowed Schools Act (1869) and The Education Act (1870). Both Acts diminished the powers of the Trustees. The first Act established the Endowed Schools Commissioners. They investigated the school’s Trustees in 1874 and put forward the initial plans for secondary education in Dunstable. The Charity School was to be for the Primary education of boys. At age eleven they should either transfer to the proposed Grammar School or leave to become wage earners. Negotiations were protracted. Every new suggestion was opposed by the Trustees, as they said it was not in keeping with the settlements of 1724 and 1727.

Chew’s Foundation School was approved by the Queen in Council on 28th June 1880. The Charity School was wound up although the new school was in the same building. It was opened as a Secondary School, the first in south Bedfordshire. Boys came mostly from the Elementary and the National schools at eight years of age. Most left at 14 but could stay on till 15. The curriculum was to be that of a Grammar School and included Natural Sciences, Drill, Vocal Music, Latin, and one modern foreign language. The establishment was for 40 free scholars and 60 fee-payers. The maximum fee for boarders was £35 per annum. The free scholars, sons of poor Anglicans, received uniform, books and a deposit in a savings bank of £3. When boys left, they were each presented with inscribed and leather-bound copies of the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer. The Order in Council set out a Scheme for the appointment of Governors and the running of the school. Of the twelve Governors four were Ex-officio, two were Representative and six were Cooptative. The Ex-officio Governors were the Archdeacon of Bedford, the rector of Dunstable and the two churchwardens of the parish. The two representative Governors were appointed by the Town Council. Their period of office was five years. The six remaining Trustees of Chew’s Charity School were appointed as the Cooptative Governors of the new one and were allowed to serve for the rest of their lives. Upon the death of each original Cooptative Governor, the Ex-officio and Representative Governors were to appoint a replacement, to serve for eight years. A three-month transition period was allowed from the date of the Order in Council for the transfer of authority from one Governing body the other. The Governing body met at least twice a year and employed the services of a clerk. There were rules about quorum, casting votes, minute books and accounts. All land and other material assets had to be lodged with the Charity Commissioners’ Official Trustee of Charity Lands and all money and stocks with their Official Trustees of Charitable Funds who kept them in trust for the Foundation. Any land or buildings which were not required for the school could be let by the Governors and any money raised by the sale of timber or other materials which were surplice to requirement could be sold to further the aims of the Foundation. There was an annual external inspection by HMI and an audit by the Charity Commission. The Head Master’s salary was £100 but William Hambling was offered £150 to stay on. His alternative was a yearly pension of £60. The Scheme set out the respective roles of the Governors and Master in the running of the school and is similar to those used later on at the establishment of the Grammar School.

Boys wishing to be admitted were tested, by the Head Master in ‘reading; writing from dictation; sums in the first four simple rules of arithmetic, with the multiplication table.’ The curriculum consisted of Reading, Writing and Arithmetic; Geography and History; English Grammar, Composition and Literature; Elements of Natural Science as well as Drawing, Drill, Vocal Music and Religious Instruction. Parents and Guardians could submit written requests for boys to be excused from the latter and attending Assembly. If staff were available, Latin, mathematics and a modern foreign language could also be available. There were to be annual examinations conducted by external examiners, appointed by the Governors. The Master was required to submit an annual report to the Governors, who could award prizes at the end of the school year.

Besides apprenticeships, Governors could award Exhibitions, or bursaries, at places of Higher Education. The parents were required to produce the boy’s baptism certificate along with a reference of good character from the Master. Candidates then sat an examination, set by the Governors. Applicants had to be at least thirteen years old. The award was granted annually but for no more than three years to any one applicant.

The existing building was inadequate for its new role. The three next-door houses, 34, 35 and 36 South Street, were purchased from Munt and Brown, the straw-hat manufacturers, for the site of a new building. It cost £580 and was opened in 1883. It consisted of a schoolroom and two classrooms. The master continued to live in the old building.

There were two foundations stones, one on the right hand corner and one on the left. The right hand one was inscribed: -





? MAY 1883

The left hand one stated; -







The new school was in trouble from the start. In 1888 it was decided to cancel the issuing of free uniform, only the school cap would be provided free of charge. This reflects the declining income from agriculture. This continued into the 1890s and led to a slow diminution of income, year by year. The Grammar School opened in 1888 and was able to offer a more complete curriculum than Chew’s School. Prior to 1891 the Elementary Schools had been unpopular because the building was on boggy ground and was prone to unpleasant odours in wet weather. When this problem was solved, the schools established a good reputation so that boys stayed on instead of transferring. The Chew’s School was unpopular with those town Councillors who were not Anglicans. William Hambling had been an excellent Master of the Charity School but did not have the same success with his new school. He was 56 and probably set in his ways. Any change in the school’s use was opposed by two ex-pupils, Arthur William Nash and Edward Franklin. Both were now borough councillors. They were joined by Charles Boskett in wishing to maintain the status quo at any cost.

Throughout the 1890s there were further discussions and arguments between the Governors of the various Dunstable schools, the Charity Commissioners, HMI and the Town Council as to the use of the new building. In 1894 the Town Council suggested that the building be used as a Library, Reading Room and Evening Institute. In 1895 the Governors made the first suggestion that their school should be a girls’ Secondary School. They reasoned that boys were well catered for in the Elementary and Grammar schools and that there was no secondary education for girls in the town. The Town Council disagreed, saying that girls did not need education when they left Elementary school. The Governors were concerned that if their school shut the income would be diverted from poor families to the middle classes, the main beneficiaries of the Grammar School. After much discussion on the subject of girls’ secondary education, the consensus was that this would be better established in Luton. To reflect the fact that the boys came not just from Dunstable, it was suggested that each of the other parishes should have a representative on the Governing body.

William Hambling died in 1898, aged 74. George Griffin was appointed as temporary Master. He was born in Fulham in 1847. He was a good teacher and disciplinarian. In 1899 farm revenues had fallen so drastically that the income no longer allowed for the education of 40 boys or a similar number of girls. The Town Council proposed that the available funds be spent on clothing and books for 30 poor boys at Ashton Elementary Schools, 5 Chew’s scholars at the Grammar School, 2 apprenticeships for boys leaving the Elementary Schools and 5 ‘Luton Chew’s scholars’ attending the Luton School Board Higher Grade School. This was only one of many such schemes, all vigorously resisted by the Governors.

The County Council became the Local Education Authority (LEA) in May 1903 and so another voice was added to the continuing discussions and disagreements about the educational requirements of Dunstable.

At the turn of the century the rules governing apprenticeships were revised. They should not last longer than seven years. £5 pounds of the grant was for clothing. Payments to employers should be at least two in number and more than six months apart. A nominee of the Governors would call to check on the working conditions and to make sure that the apprentice was attending evening classes connected with the trade. The apprentice was to receive substantial yearly wage increases. Unsuitable employees would have their apprentices removed and be required to return any money already paid. No boy was to be placed with his parents or guardians or any other employers whom the Trustees considered unsuitable.

The Bedfordshire Agricultural College in Ridgmont needed to expand but the Duke of Bedford would not grant permission for the extra land. The College wanted to move to Dunstable with Rural Sciences at the Grammar School and the advanced course in the new Chew’s building. As a result, the idea of a Girls’ School was dropped in June 1904. The LEA proposed, in December 1904, that the funds of the charity be spent on the education of children from poor families in and around Dunstable: - five scholarships for boys at the Grammar School, five scholarships for girls attending the Luton Secondary School and ten places at the Agricultural Institute. The LEA also proposed that the Foundation should nominate one representative in the Institute’s board of Governors, and that any excess of funds be spent on maintaining the buildings of the Trust and the Institute. The Governors opposed the idea of the Agricultural College, as they had opposed every other suggestion, on the grounds that it did not comply with the settlements of 1724, 1727 or 1880.

By 1901 there were only 14 pupils on roll. By January 1905 this had fallen to three. The only advantages of attending the Chew’s School were the free cap and the savings account. Parents were no longer willing to pay for their sons to be educated alongside the free scholars when the Grammar School offered a superior curriculum. In January 1905 all parties were unanimous, for the first time ever, that the school should close at Easter 1905. The few remaining pupils were transferred to the Ashton Elementary School, with whatever Chew’s benefits they were entitled to. Mr. Griffin was given an extra month’s salary, £8.6.8d.

This was a sad end to a school that, for nearly two hundred years, was a prized asset of the town. It had provided a quality education for generations of boys from poor homes, many of whom remembered the school with affection and gratitude. It raised the standard of education in Dunstable for a whole stratum of society, fulfilling the expectations of its founders.

This was not quite the end of education on this site, though. When the Wesleyan Chapel burnt down in 1908, and its Day-School with it, the boys were educated for a while in Chew’s House. It is ironic that the last organised school in this building was for the sons of what William Chew would have regarded as ‘Dissenters’. Although the school closed, its assets remained, as did the Trustees.

The Settlement of 1910 was approved by ‘His Majesty in Council’ on 13th October. The new Governing body comprised twelve members. Four were Ex-officio, the Archdeacon of Bedford, the Rector and the two churchwardens of the Priory.  Two were Representative, appointed by the Town Council. Six were Cooptative Governors, appointed by the other six. These were assisted by the clerk of the existing Governors, who was charged with calling the first meeting. The quorum was set a four and the chairman had the casting vote. Bankrupts and those absent from meetings for a whole year ceased to be Governors. The buildings of the Foundation could be used for educational purposes or let to the LEA for similar uses. The schedule highlighted religious instruction, evening classes and physical instruction. The income of the Foundation, after expenses, should be used to benefit the education of children of poor families living in the parishes of Dunstable, Kensworth, Luton, Edlesborough, Caddington and Houghton Regis. These families should be from the Church of England and ‘not Dissenters’. This was later modified by a statement that no child should be deprived of any relevant benefit for being withdrawn from worship or RE classes. Besides providing grants for school uniform, funds were available for apprenticeships and Exhibitions. The former should not total more than a quarter of the available assets. Candidates had to be thoroughly vetted before and during the grant of money. Junior Exhibitions were available to any qualifying children as they transferred from Elementary to Secondary school. The grant was for £10 or less a year during their Secondary career. Senior Exhibitions provided grants of not more than £200 for attendance at a University or any Institute of ‘technical, professional or industrial instruction’. Senior Exhibitions could be rescinded if students did not maintain their studies. As there were likely to be more applicants than the funds could support, Exhibitions were subject to competition and examination by the Governors. The schedule also required that the Governors vest all their current and future freehold and leasehold lands in the Official Trustee of Charity Land and all stocks, shares, funds and securities in the Official Trustees of Charitable Funds. The Governors were able to approve any rule that did not infringe the schedule. The Governors were able to lease any part of their property so long as a legal leasing agreement was drawn up. No lease could be longer than 21 years. The scheme concluded by listing the property of the Foundation with tenants and income. Hill Farm at Caddington was the largest at 118 acres, was tenanted by George Chandler and produced £130 annually. Also listed were Sewell Farm, Houghton Regis, land at Sewell, Cowridge End Farm, Luton, a field at Caddington, a field at Chalgrave, two fields at Dunstable and Garden Land at Dunstable. The latter was worked by Frederick Thomas Young of Wellington Terrace who paid £4 per year. The total income from land in 1910 was £425 .0 .4d. Besides this, the Foundation held nearly £4,800 in stocks and consols (Consolidated Annuities). An estates committee of the Foundation was set up to decide how best to use the buildings now that they were no longer required for their original purposes. It was recommended that the 1883 school be rented out to the LEA for classroom use until the completion of Britain Street School in September 1911. After that it should be fitted out as a gymnasium so that the Priory Church could use it for its work ‘among lads’ of the parish. There were two suggestions for the house. The first option was that it could be restored and let as a dwelling. The second was that part of it be converted to a Cookery Centre and be let to the LEA, part of it be let the Dunstable branch of the Church of England Mens’ Society (CEMS) and that one room of the house would be kept for meetings of the Governors. It was calculated that the first option would cost more money and yield a lower return. Part of the building was leased as a Cookery Centre from 1906 to 1938. Accounts for 1911 show that, among the Foundation’s assets, the house produced £290 in rent, Hill farm £37, Cowridge End £50 and Sewell £25.10s. On 11th June that year, the Governors’ meeting commenced at Chew’s House at 11am and was followed at 1pm by lunch at the Old Sugar Loaf Inn. In 1916, the rules for Exhibitions were reviewed. The Governors decided to award, every other year, one Senior Exhibition of either £50 for four years duration or £60 for three years. The money was paid to the University or Institute, not the student. Candidates had to be under 19 at the time of the examination and give a full account of their course. Four Junior Exhibitions were awarded each year, two for boys and two for girls. Curiously, the boys’ awards were for £12 each while those for the girls were £8. Candidates who were approved by the Governors then had to sit and pass the County Junior Scholarships exam in July in order to qualify. Such children had to be under twelve years of age. In December 1926 the Governors agreed to install electric lighting in Chew’s House. First mention is made of selling Star Close, valued at £887.10s for the use by Britain Street School as a playing field. It was still being discussed in 1935, as there was a right of way across the land, which needed to be closed first.

The first move to sell the farm at Sewell is mentioned in 1946. The value is put at £2000 which, it was agreed, should be invested in 2½% Treasury Stock. It was sold in the summer of 1947. The 15th July 1948 saw the Trustees annual lunch at the Sugar Loaf Inn.

The scheme was amended on 10th February 1954 to promote grants towards books and tools, travel for educational purposes, the study of music, other arts and sport. The grants were for resources not provided by the LEA.

On 10th february 1954, the Foundation's scheme of representation was amemded. There were to be 4 ex-officio menbers, the rector, the archdeacon of Bedford and two churchwardens; four representative members, two from Dunstable Town Council, one from Luton Borough Council and one from Bedfordshire County Council and six co-optative members, elected by the ex-officio and representative members.

At the trustees meeting of 31st May 1955 it was proposed to sell the meadow in Bull Pond Road to the Ministry of Education. Mr Allcorn valued the land at £1500. Mr Oliver was the current tenant. The trustees decided not to sell at the moment. Enquiries were received from several local builders, who offered a better price. The Ministry was asked to withdraw its offer, as the Trustees wished to consider the other bids. Some land, valued at £20 was sold to the Corporation of Dunstable to enable the widening of Bull Pond Lane. In 1957 the remaining land was valued at £1726.

In the same year, approval was given for the construction of a Medway Hut as an extension to the Library.

The following year Mr Oliver is reported as paying £8 per year for the meadow but being 18 months in arrears. In September Mr Oliver offers to vacate the meadow if the Trustees will write off his debt. Bedfordshire County Council offer to buy the whole meadow for £11.500. The Trustees agree to invest in 3½% Funding Stock. The sale was completed by 23rd July 1959.

In the same year it is agreed to redecorate the Verger’s premises in Chew’s House. Central heating is installed in 1960. In May 1965 Hutchins & Hull Ltd re-decorated Chew's House for £550.

The Foundation was registered as part of the Association of Dunstable Charities on 13th October 1961. In 1966 there is talk of Chew’s House becoming the town’s museum.

A service of thanksgiving was held at the Priory Church on May 15th 1966 for William Chew and his family. Thanks were given to William and his sisters for their generosity to Dunstable over the previous two and a half centuries.

By the early 1970 a little over £2000 was available from investment to the Governors for distribution. Grants of between £10 and £60 were made for school uniforms or for books for ex-pupils going off to College or University. There were thirteen Governors and a Clerk.


The new extension became, on 24th October 1938, the Dunstable branch of the Bedfordshire County Library Service. It had a stock of 4,500 books including a ‘Lilliput Library’ of 800 books for children. There was also a reference section. The interior was light and airy, the dark green walls being painted cream. The first Librarian was Miss EED Stevenson MA. It was the first full-time branch library in the county. In 1968 it became the home of Dunstable Repertory Company and was called ‘The Little Theatre.’ It was officially opened in October of that year by Bernard Bresslaw. The initial lease was for £250 per year.

on 17th april 1979 land at the back of Chew's House and the Little Theatre was sold for development for £8,500. The Chew's Foundation Trustees that year wereVen. Robert saville Brown Archdeacon of Bedford, Revd Basil David Webb Rector, Anthony Charles Pilkingtonm and Eleanor Hunt churchwardens, Fredeick Harold Kenneth Ball Estate Agent and Auctioneer, Edward Stuart Clark gentleman, Edith Brownlie Pocknell housewife, Robert Stuart William Smith retired gentleman, Sheila Twivy housewife, Wilfred Thomas Lack retired teacher, Percy Neil Wainwright retired bank manager, Eric George Frederick Bullock local government officer, Eric george Baldock retired chemist and William Harry Copeland mayor of Luton.

Dry and wet rot was found in the roof of Chew's House in 1990. Costs were estimated at £1,455 & VAT. The brick pillars in the basement of Chew's Housem date from 1991. The roof of the Little Theatre was repaired in 1993

Early in November 1998, the figures of the two boys were stolen from the front of Chew’s House. There is no indication as to what happened to them, whether they were sold or melted down for their lead. The Governors took great care to have two new figures made, in fibreglass. Asbestos was removed from Chew's House in 2010.

The building has also featured in exchange visits with Dunstable’s twin cities of Portz in Germany and Brive-la Gaillard in France. It was also used, from the 1950s, when groups of young people from these twin towns came to stay with host families in Dunstable. Some rooms in Chew’s House are now used as church offices while others are let out to various clubs and societies as their venue.

Dr Pargeter, of Montpellier House, had for years rented land at the back of Chew’s House as a garden. In 1969 it was decided to sell this land for housing. The initial valuation was £2,800 but was sold in 1974 for £8,400.

The Charity School was famous for its provision of free uniform. The Foundation is a Christian charity. It provides grants for school uniform and other educational purposes to the children, boys and girls, of qualifying parents. Recipients must live in Dunstable, Houghton Regis, or the villages of Totternhoe or Caddington.


Elizabeth   Thomas   John   Elizabeth   Thomas   FRANCES   Jane   William






     ///        ///       ///      ///         ///           ///        ///         ///

Frances  William  Jane  Frances  Thomas  Elizabeth  Ann  ELIZABETH

1678         1680      1681   1682      1684-     1685          1687      1690

                                             -1705                                                       -1748


                                                                                                         John Raynor


Frances Ashton was born in 1648, the sixth child of Thomas and Elizabeth Chew. She married William Ashton, a London distiller. They had eight children, the oldest, also Frances, was born in 1678. Most died young. Her husband died in 1715. It was in this year that Frances built the almshouses in West Street, Dunstable, which bore her name. Only her youngest daughter, Elizabeth, survived her.

Her almshouses bore the legend: -


Thefe Six Alms houfes were Erected

And Endowed at the Charge of


of London. Widow

For the Relief & maintenance of Six poor

Widows of ye town of Dunftable for ever.

Anno Domi 1715


In 1714, at the age of 66, Frances, by deeds dated 24th and 25th September, conveyed much of her property to three members of her extended family: - John Dickinson, Thomas Aynscombe and James Cart. The property consisted of two farms in Edlesborough occupied by William Ginger and James Gardner, a farm near Luton and a farm with a malt-house in Luton both occupied by Matthew Gutteridge. The annual rents of these four properties totalled £219.10s. The three relatives and their heirs are instructed to pay this money to Frances each year for her own use. Upon her death the rents and profits are for the sole use of her daughter, Elizabeth. The indenture contained a proviso that Frances could add or subtract any properties or trustees at any time. John Dickinson died in 1719. Soon afterwards, Frances added Henry Hankey, James Osbaldeston and Samuel Troughton and their heirs as trustees and added more of her estate, including three properties in Dunstable, occupied by William Webb, Richard Smith and Humphrey Daniell and four properties in St. Sepulchre’s, London. Elizabeth had by now married John Rayner, against her mother’s wishes. The new deed states that the trustees are to pay the money to Elizabeth so long as she lives separately from her husband. If Elizabeth survives John and then makes a suitable marriage, her new husband shall receive the income and then Elizabeth again should she out live him. There are no specifications as to who is suitable. No reasons are given as to why John Rayner is unsuitable. Should Elizabeth have children by her second husband, they are to inherit after their parents. Elizabeth and John had no children and there was no second marriage. Elizabeth, born in 1690, died in 1748.


Frances Ashton’s will was dated 30th March 1727. She gives money for her funeral expenses and for the erection of a memorial near her grave. There is money for the poor people of the parishes of Dunstable, St. Giles Cripplegate and Little St. Bartholomew in London. She records her displeasure at her daughter’s choice of husband, that Elizabeth ‘by her undutifulness and marriage without her consent had disobliged her.’ Frances also makes arrangements should her daughter die without children. She establishes two charitable trusts.

The first is London based and has two main aims, the relief of those in prison for small amounts of debt and the support of poor clergy and clergy widows. The charity school in St. Giles is to receive £4 per annum for the rest of its existence. The Trustees are those named in the 1714 conveyance. They are to set aside £100 of the annual rents from properties in Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire. £95 is to be used each January for the release of inmates from the London prisons of Ludgate and Compters and Southwark’s Marshalsea prison, on condition that they have been imprisoned for debts not exceeding £5. The other £5 is to pay the trustees’ expenses in carrying out this work. The Trustees and their heirs are also appointed as the executors of the will. They are instructed to invest all rents and profits in Government securities, or East India bonds or South Sea bonds. Half the interest from these investments is to be used, in January of each year, to support ‘thirty poor clergymen of sober life and conversation.’ The other half is to be used, also in January, to support thirty clergy widows of similar probity. The Trustees are to decide the names on both lists. It is stated that only Church of England clergy and their widows are eligible. Upon the death of an executor, the survivors are empowered to appoint a replacement, so that the total number remains at five. All executors are to receive £15 expenses per annum. She authorises them to appoint a treasure who is responsible for collecting the rents and keeping the accounts.

The second trust is based on Dunstable and is for the upkeep of her almshouses and other local charitable work. The trustees are Thomas Aynscombe, James Cart, Henry Hankey, James Osbaldeston, and Samuel Troughton (all of London), and Thomas Groom and Humphrey Daniell of Dunstable as well as William Ginger, one of her tenants in Edlesborough, and their heirs. The assets are her farm lands and associated buildings in Luton which are occupied by Thomas Dorrington, a Close called Vinegar Acre which is near West Green in Dunstable and one acre of land in the Church Field, near England’s, also in Dunstable. The latter is occupied by Humphrey Daniell. From the income of these properties the trustees are to raise £6 per year for each of the six almswomen in her ‘lately built’ Dunstable almshouses. These ladies must be regular worshippers at the Priory Church. The money, to be paid quarterly, is to include the purchase of ‘a gown and petticoat, all of the same colour, and for their firings and other necessities.’ The almswomen were, therefore, wearing a uniform that would remind the people of Dunstable of Frances Ashton’s generosity. Any residue can be put towards small repairs of the almshouses. There are further bequests. £20 is for an annual dinner for the trustees. £5.4s per year is to be used at 2s a week for bread to be distributed each Sunday by the minister and churchwardens to the poor of the parish who have attended morning service. 30s. a year is for the repair and upkeep of the clock that she had recently given to Chew’s School. Any surplus from the investments should be shared equally among the occupants of her almshouses. She further gave, to the same Trustees the rent from another of her farms and lands in Edlesborough. The minister and churchwardens at Dunstable Priory Church are to use these funds to pay for apprenticeships for boys leaving Chew’s School. She also stipulates that if the number of Trustees falls to three, they should convey the assets of the last bequest to six other people to be nominated by the Rector and churchwardens of the Priory Church. The Trustees had the power to remove any almswoman who gave up regular attendance at the Priory church or who was guilty of poor behaviour.

Nine of her properties were sold at public auction in 1795. The Trustees are listed as Henry Troughton, Robert Hankey, James Palmer, Augustus Robert-Hankey and Bryan Troughton. The auction took place at the Crown Inn, Dunstable, on 14th August at 2pm. The properties were: -

  1. The Crown Inn, tenant widow Mary Smith.
  2. An Adjoining house, also occupied by Mary Smith.
  3. A shed or shop opposite the Crown Inn, used as a blacksmith’s, also occupied by Mary Smith. These three properties are let for £20 pa besides land tax and quit rent.
  4. The White Hart Inn, occupied by mark West, at £19 per year.
  5. A house occupied by Daniel Queenborough and a close at Leighton Gap, at £13.
  6. A third part of a house, occupied by Leeson Wright, at £6.
  7. A house occupied by Jeremiah Puddyphatt, at £6.10s.
  8. A house occupied by William Elliott, at £7.
  9. A barn used by Mr. Neale, at £7.

All rents are stated to be below current levels. These properties were sold by an order of the High Court of Chancery, dated 23.3.1795.


 The Charity Commissioners’ Report of 1830 Despite Frances Ashton’s best efforts, her charities were not well managed during the rest of the 18th century. Sometimes they were treated as one charity, at other times as two. Eleven Commissioners investigated the running of the charities and were very disturbed by what they found. They deal initially with the London based charity but some of their comments apply to both. They then deal with outstanding issues concerning the Dunstable charity. In 1799 James Palmer, who was the current treasurer, took a portion of the income ‘became embarrassed in his circumstances and left the kingdom.’ The other Trustees then appointed Robert Long, a solicitor, to be the treasurer, with an annual salary of £50. They entrusted him with the collection of income and the keeping of accounts. When the Commissioners asked the Trustees for details of the charities, they were referred to Mr. Long as the sole authority on these matters. Mr. Long told them that when he had become treasurer, all he received from Mr. Palmer’s counting house were the title deeds. The only accounts Mr. Long could produce were subsequent to 1799. Early in 1827 the Commissioners asked Robert Long to furnish accounts and to attend a meeting with them. They were told that Mr. Long lived in Dawlish, was in exceedingly bad health, and had taken all the relevant documents with him. The Commissioners sent requests, of increasing urgency, to see the documents and to meet Mr. Long. Despite ‘travelling through different parts of the country’ Robert Long did not come within range of the Commission. The only documents the Commissioners received were the trust deeds to the year 1800, the current leases and a book which seemed to be a copy of accounts from 1799 to 1828. Those for the two subsequent years were on separate sheets of paper. The documents were obtained through the other Trustees, who also wanted the treasurer to attend the meeting in London. The Commissioners make the point that without sight of the originals they are not in a position to give a satisfactory account of the charities. They add that they are unlikely ever to be able to produce a more complete report on the Frances Ashton bequests. These remarks primarily concern the handling of her London based assets but that the same applies to her Dunstable interests, which are under the control of the same Trustees and have a similar history.

James Cart, junior, had become a Trustee after his father, died in 1731. By deeds dated 4th and 5th April 1732, he and the surviving executors Henry Hankey, Thomas Aynscombe, James Osbaldeston and Samuel Troughton, appointed Philip Aynscombe to join them. He was Thomas Aynscombe’s son by his second marriage. The Dunstable properties are listed again. The only change is that Benjamin Gardner has succeeded his father as tenant of one of the Edlesborough farms. Some of the Dunstable properties were sold in 1795. This was done under an order of the Court of Chancery dated 23rd March of that year. The sale consisted of nine lots: the Crown Inn, the White Hart, four other houses, a third part of a fifth house, a blacksmith’s shop, a barn and a small garden. This produced £1,807. The Commissioners could not find what happened to the money and presumed it became part of the assets of the charity. The latest trust deeds they could find, dated 1816, listed five Trustees. They were Augustus Robert Hankey of Fenchurch Street, banker; Thomson Hankey of Mincing Lane, merchant; William Alers Hankey of Fenchurch Street, banker; Robert Long of Gray’s Inn and Thomas Hankey of Fenchurch Street, banker. By 1830, the first mentioned was dead. The Commissioners cannot account for properties, mentioned in the various deeds, which are not mentioned in the original will. Mr. Gutteridge’s farms in and around Luton are in the will and the 1717 deeds but receive no further mention. On all these matters the Commissioners say ‘We have no means of forming a conjecture.’ They are also unable to account for differences between properties listed in the trust deeds and those that contributed to the income of the charity in 1830.

The Charity Commission authorised new leases in 1817 and employed a surveyor to value the properties, assess repairs and set rents. They listed the current properties.

  1. Two farms in Edlesborough, held by Thomas Ginger, under a 14-year lease from 1826 at an annual rent of £213.12s. One farm, called Fitzhugh’s, had a dovecote, barns, outbuildings, yard, a garden, a cottage, 4 pastures and 147 acres of common fieldland with common rights on Edlesborough Green and in Studham 15 acres of arable land called Buckwood Close in Studham, 3 more parcels of arable land and tithes on further farmland. The total holding amounted to just under 200 acres. The other farm was called Bowell’s. It amounted to less than 20 acres and was formerly tenanted by Samuel Hawkins. Thomas Ginger became the tenant of both farms in 1810. The combined annual rent was £200, including land tax.
  2. The farm in Kensworth was originally called Kensworth Green Farm but was later renamed Dovehouse Farm. It was currently occupied by John Liberty at £100 per year. It consisted of a farmhouse with barns, stables, out-buildings and 21 parcels of land including Jeffries Wood. The whole amounted to 82 acres.
  3. In Dunstable a Close, called Leighton Gap, containing 6½ acres was let to Richard Gutteridge for 15 guineas annually. Mr Gutteridge also held other, unspecified, land in Dunstable and Sewell. For these he paid a further £13 per year.
  4. A Close near the Priory Church in Dunstable called Church Field of about 2 acres, let to Mary Smith for £18 per year. She also had to pay land tax and maintain the fences. The Commissioners also found mention of an acre of land ‘in the Church Field, near England’s’ for the maintenance of the almshouse. They are not sure if this is Mary Smith’s land or some other location, which had been lost to the charity.
  5. The Trustees also possessed the following sums in public stocks:



 £                         Annual income   £.    s.    d.

            1,375 Bank stock,                                   110    -     -

            1,500 East India stock                          157   10    -

            4,771 New South Sea annuities          143     2    6

            4,115 Old South Sea annuities            123     9    -

            2,855 Three per cent consols                85   13    -

                                                        Total           £ 619   14    6


The Commissioners comment that there is no trail to show how stocks were bought or sold over the years. This is in line with the casual manner in which Mrs. Ashton’s charities have been conducted since her death. Dividends are received by Messrs. Hankeys’ banking house and are then transferred to the charities’ accounts. Rents are received by Mr. Long and are transferred at irregular intervals into the accounts. Mr. Long occasionally makes payments out before the money is transferred in. They state that this is bad practice; all funds should pass through the charities’ accounts. Total income was:

                                                                        £.      s.      d.

                        Rents                                     337     7       -

                        Dividends                             619   14       6

Total         957      1      6


The charitable uses of these funds are:

1.£4 per year to the managers of the charity for boys in Redcross Street in the parish of St. Giles, Cripplegate.

2.£95 per year for the release of debtors from Ludgate, Compter and Marshalsea prisons. The trustees had left this completely in the hands of Mr. Long. The Commissioners were unable to obtain any satisfactory account from him of how he had administered these funds. He said that, upon his appointment, he had found evidence of prisoners making fraudulent claims and had attempted to put in a better system. This involved working with a society which specialised in the relief of prisoners with small debts. He had sent claim forms to the prison Governors for distribution to in-mates. This had resulted in the release of up to 40 suitable debtors a year. Mr. Long was unable to produce any vouchers or accounts to support his claims. In the relief of debt, the Trustees allowed 5s in the pound for debts under £10, 3s in the pound for debts under £20 and 2.6d for those under £30. This is at variance with the original aims of the will and must have put an added burden on the prison authorities. The Commissioners suggest that the other Trustees should play a more active role in this fund.

3.Payments to poor clergy and clergy widows. The sums given were decided at the annual meeting of the trustees. After deducting £4 for the school, £95 for the relief of debt, £15 per head for the Trustees, £50 for Robert Long, other relevant expenses and an agreed sum for a sinking fund the remainder of the year’s income is divided equally among the 60 recipients. The average amount between 1799 and 1826 was £8.10s. The sinking fund was instigated in 1800 on finding that the charity was £260 in debt. This was largely due to the costs of repairs to the Kensworth property. It may also date from the time when James Palmer ‘left the kingdom.’ The Trustees noted that extensive repairs would soon be needed on many of the farm buildings. Besides this, several of the Trustees were of advanced age, which would need new deeds of conveyance to be drawn up after their deaths. This was not a cheap process. A sinking fund would ensure that the charity would be able to continue with its stated aims. The fund was established by transferring into it the surplus from each year’s income. This would entail annually fixing the allowance for the 60 recipients.

The Commissioners then publish the accounts for the last ten years, 1819 –1828, which they have received from Mr. Long and add their own comments. ‘Receipts’ lists rents and dividends. Farm rents also remained stable during the years of good harvests. In 1828, however, the tenant of the Kensworth farm was declared insolvent and so no rent was paid. Dividends received were £646.4.6d for the first three years and £619.14.6d for the other seven. ‘Disbursements’ shows how the income was spent. Besides previously noted items, they include: ‘Annual dinner’, £6.16.6d; ‘Chaise-hire and expenses to Dunstable on receiving rents twice a year’, ‘Allowances to tenants for repairs, quit rents etc.’, ‘Insurance’, ‘Crown rent’, ‘Stamps, postages and incidental expenses’, ‘Proportion of rent remitted’ for a few years only, ‘Surveyor’ for 1823 and 1824 £5.5s, ‘Printing and stationery’ 1823 and 1828 £3.16.6d. The excess of income over expenditure varied from £52 to £333 over the ten years and totalled £1259 altogether. Huge sums of money were spent, however, on the Kensworth property, repairs to other farms, surveyor’s fees, obtaining probate and the issuing of new deeds. In 1828 the sinking fund had a balance of only £262.6.7d.

The Commissioners make the following comments: There is much confusion regarding quit rents and repairs. The annual dinner is not mentioned in the will but its costs can be offset by the lack of mention of the £5 expenses for administrating the £95 debt relief. It had become custom that the five Trustees nominated six clergymen and six widows each. They were supposed to check references and to authorise payment in January. None knew whom their colleagues had chosen. The treasurer was supposed to make sure that no one received two nominations in any one year. There is no evidence that such checking took place. Most of the Trustees fulfilled these duties for the majority of the time but Mr. Long was the most lax in these matters. Some payments were eight years late in being paid. Receipts were supposed to be kept at Messrs. Hankey’s bank and be counter-signed by Mr. Long. This was not done. No effort is made to advertise the benefits of this bequest and yet it is so well know in ecclesiastical circles that the Trustees received far more applications than they can cope with.

The Commissioners make several recommendations for the better running of this trust and they suggest that a court order might be sought if the Trustees do not comply. Vacancies at the almshouses should be placed on a notice on the church door and the Trustees should bring their lists of nominees to the annual meeting. A minute book should be kept in which the approved names are recorded and that payment is made in January, as the will requires. Mr. Long should account for the debt relief funds and produce all the documents that the Commissioners are still asking for. The expenses of the charity should be drastically reduced. The salary of £50 paid to Mr. Long is quite unjustified, especially given that he is also a Trustee and that every activity of the trust is covered by its own expenses. Farms should not be surveyed every time a new tenant takes over. New probates and deeds need not be produced every time a Trustee dies. Each new probate restates the whole will and all the preceding grants of probate. The 1793 probate ran to ‘27 large skins of parchment’. The one dated 1810 cost £137. The last deed of conveyance cost £88. From 1732 to 1800 there had been 15 conveyances to new trustees and 15 probates. As there is one vacancy due to death and the anticipated vacancy caused by the resignation of Mr. Long, owing to ill health, some simpler and cheaper method should be devised when new Trustees are instituted.

The Commissioners finish by stating, rather ominously, that there are other matters which concern them about this charity and that when their investigations are complete they will be passing their findings to the attorney-general.

The Commissioners then turn their attention to the remaining issues concerning the almshouses’ charity. A similar, expensive, method of conveyances had been used every time there was a vacancy among the Trustees. In 1742 the names listed are: Thomas Groom, William Burton, Henry Daniell and Humphrey Daniell, haberdasher, all of Dunstable; Samuel Troughton, Sir Joseph Hankey, Thomas Hankey, Nathaniel Troughton, all of Fenchurch Street and James Turner of Stoke Newington, and their heirs. In 1786 the names are: Robert Hankey, John Hankey, Samuel Troughton and Thomas Hankey, all of London; Daniel Queneborough and Thomas Warren both of Dunstable, and their heirs. From at least 1799 the almshouse charity is managed by the Trustees of her other, London based, charity. The elimination of local Trustees is against the intentions of the will.

The Commissioners list the current properties:

  1. A farm at Luton, leased to Thomas Davis for 15 years from 1826 at a clear rent of £141 per year. This comprises a farmhouse and out buildings in Church Street and several parcels of land, mostly arable, some in Luton itself and others in Stopsley, amounting to 113 acres. Rents vary over the years from £80 to £160.
  2. A small amount of land in Dunstable called Vinegar Close, leased to John Farr, for £5 .10s.

The Commissioners publish the accounts from 1819 to 1828 and, again, comment upon items that disturb them. Only ‘Disbursements’ are listed. Outgoings not covered in the will include: coals, tea, refreshments, repairs, insurance, journeys and postage. They comment on the lack of records and the casual way in which the charity has been managed. The current income is £146.10s.They explain that the occupants of the almshouses are selected by the Trustees from among Dunstable’s poor widows, who are members of the Church of England. When vacancies arise, the Trustees consider applications that are vouched for by the minister, churchwardens and other notable residents. Applicants must state their current financial situation. Payments have not been made in full. Some years the ladies only received £4. The gowns are traditionally of blue serge. From 1816 they have each been given annually a cauldron of coals. Some years they were given half a guinea’s worth of tea. This tea would have been from China, not India. £100 pounds has recently been spent on major repairs of the almshouses. Minor repairs cost about £8 per year. The purchase and distribution of bread on Sundays is being carried out as requested in the will. The school clock is well maintained. In 1819 £13.2.6d is paid for the repair of the ‘altar piece’ in Dunstable Priory Church, which had been erected by Mrs. Ashton and Jane Cart in 1722. This is the Thornhill painting which is referred to later. In 1824 £12 is set aside to buy a new clock dial and repaint the turret. The clock face was purchased but the money for the repainting was unspent. Both accounts include expenses for journeys to and from Dunstable. The Trustees travelled to Dunstable from London to collect rents for the clergy charity. While they were there, they visited the almshouses to carry out an inspection and to consider applicants for vacancies. The almshouse accounts do not balance. The Commissioners assume that Mr. Long has the missing funds and that legal action may be needed to make sure he accounts for them. The report is signed by all eleven Commissioners, at 13 Great George Street, Westminster and dated 26th June 1830.


The Charity Commission considered this and subsequent reports. A settlement of Frances Ashton’s will, investments and bequests was finally made in 1848. It might be said that this was the first time her affairs had been properly managed and regulated since her death. It was to have a lasting effect on education in Dunstable. It was about this time that the London charity became completely separated from the one for Dunstable. In 1907 £9 was paid to each of 30 poor clergy and 30 poor clergy widows. £95 was paid to the Discharged Prisoners’ Aid Society and £4 to the school. All of this was funded from £114.5.9d Metropolitan 3½ stock under an order dated 18th October 1907. The London charity subsequently became even further split. The £4 for the school is now part of the Cripplegate Schools’ Foundation. This comprises 29 subsidiary charities that between them support secondary education for girls in the Cripplegate area of London. The rest, Frances Ashton’s Charity, is a national charity that supports retired clergy. In 1970 £1,200 was paid to poor clergy and poor clergy widows. The separation became so complete that neither London nor Dunstable charities knew of the other’s existence until recently. The London based charity currently has an income in excess of £70,000. Funds are used for the relief of discharged prisoners, poor clergymen and poor clergy widows.


General Attorney v Hankey, an order of the Court 11.8.1848 concerning Frances Ashton’s Charities. The Trustees of the London charity are Thomas Hankey, Rt. Hon Sir Edward Ryan Kt., Sir Robert Inglis Bart, Revd. Gilbert Elliott and Thomas Hankey the younger. These five were also Trustees of the Dunstable almshouses along with Edward Burr, Frederick Hose, rector, and Josiah Rogers. The order re-states the original rules and adds that the Receiver/Treasurer must have an iron box with lock and two padlocks for the keeping of documents and money. Separate accounts must be kept for each charity. Three proforma were specified. The first was to be used by clergy applying for aid; they had to send proof of ordination. The second was for widows; they had to supply details of their late husbands and any children. The last was for clergy and churchwardens writing in support of colleagues or their widows.

The First Schedule lists the properties whose rent supported the London charity. There are 133 separate parcels of land, including Bowell’s and Fitzhugh’s farmhouses, 15 areas of meadow and 116 areas of arable land. Five of these areas are in Studham. Of the 222 acres, 180 were open field land and 40 were in old inclosures. The year’s income totalled £265.18s.The farmhouses produced £10 each, the old inclosure land £80, the open field land £153, tithes on Studham land £6.18s and Common rights £6. John Liberty had paid £97.3s of this. Six acres of arable land at Leighton Gap, Dunstable was let to Richard Gutteridge at 15 guineas. The Trustees had a further £14,427 in stocks and Consols.

The Second Schedule lists the properties appropriate to Frances Ashton’s almshouses, most were let to Daniel Davis. There are 14 separate items, including Cowridge End farm and a ‘piece of Windsor common.’ This was one of two areas of meadow, the rest were arable. The land totalled 118 acres with income of £234.13.4d. There is also Vinegar Acre, let to Charles Farr for £5.10s pa and land of about an acre called Church Field, in Dunstable, let to Mr. Bass at £8 per year. There is also £718.4.8d in 4% annuities and undisclosed cash in hand from un-banked rents.


The Ashton Almshouses Although it was all one building, it was a terrace of six self-contained houses. The building was erected in 1715 and was intended to be administered in accordance with Frances Ashton’s wishes. The Charity Commissioners spelt out the problems caused by poor stewardship. Despite all this, the Almshouses provided much needed housing for over two centuries. There was a substantial restoration of the almshouses in 1848 and 1849.

By the 1930s the almshouses had become very dilapidated and, despite protests about their antiquity and architectural merit, they were pulled down in the 1960s. They had been boarded up for much of the previous decade. The last residents were moved into local residential care and the charity contributed towards their upkeep. The last tenant died in 1965.The sale of the land, to a property developer, enabled the Governors to build six new almshouses in Bull Pond Lane. Known as Frances Ashton House, they were officially opened on 30th October 1969. At noon each tenant was presented with a key to her new centrally heated home by Alderman Ronald Wyles, the Mayor of Dunstable. A short service of dedication was conducted by the Rt. Revd. John Hare, the Bishop of Bedford. The new accommodation was a great improvement on the old and was as much appreciated by the new tenants, as had been the old almshouses by their original occupants.

The plaque is inscribed: -

Ashton Almshouse Charity


Robert Smith  Chairman

The Rev Canon Edward Charles MA Rector

Reginald Hayes

The Rev Christopher Mackonochie MA

Martin Senior MRCVS

Jack Thomas

Percy Wainwright

Leslie Worby

Geoffrey Lyon                        clerk

The House

Was Built On This Site In



The Ashton Almshouse Charity currently has an annual income of about £20,000 and is applied to the Almshouse building and its residents.


The Ashton Elementary Schools In 1858, ten years after the settlement of Frances Ashton’s will, there was a surplus of £6,000 in the trust funds of the almshouses. This was mostly due to the increase in land values and the profitability of farming. The Trustees decided that there were three possible outcomes. They could increase the donations to the almswomen; they could transfer funds to the London Trust and increase the amount received by the 30 poor clergy and the 30 poor clergy widows; they could use the money for some other charitable cause, such as the establishment of a school. The Charity Commission referred the matter to the Court of Chancery and judgment was finally delivered by the Master of the Rolls on 26th March 1859. The court was aware of Frances Ashton’s involvement in the founding of the Chew’s School and therefore decreed that such a large surplus should be used to establish a school in Dunstable. They added that, as Mrs. Ashton belonged to the Church of England, so should the School. Children of Dissenters, however, should also be admitted. The admissions policy, when drafted, should come back to the court for approval. A piece of land was bought in Church Street. Building of ‘The Ashton Elementary Schools’ began in 1861 and they were opened just over three years later. There were two schools, one for boys and one for girls, in the same building. The Elementary Schools were complete in 1864 and opened at the beginning of the following year. There were about 90 children in each department. Mr. Frederick Hatt was Headmaster of the Boys’ School and had two pupil teachers. It consisted of one large schoolroom, 103ft by 20ft, and one smaller classroom, 14ft by 20ft. Miss Page was in charge of the Girls’ School with the help of three pupil teachers. They had three classrooms, one 51ft by 20 ft and two 14ft by 20ft. One of these latter was used as the Managers’ meeting room when needed. Both schools employed a few Monitors at a time, at 1s per week. Pupil teachers worked under the direction of the Head teachers. They had to teach in the style of their Head and keep control without shouting at or striking the children. Heads would give their pupil teachers private tuition after the children had gone home. The Head teachers kept separate Log books and give fascinating insights into the running of Elementary Schools. The logs run from 1865 to 1935. Payments from the Exchequer for one year were dictated by the results of the previous year’s examination. This had a constricting effect on the curriculum. The children were examined annually on basic skills and the Inspector’s report commented on the running and discipline of the school. Teachers were under pressure to ensure that their children met required standards in reading writing and arithmetic. The diocesan Inspector examined the children in knowledge of the Bible and the Catechism. The Rector of Dunstable taught the boys Scripture. There was a weekly lesson of Drill to keep the children fit. Boys and girls were taught songs, which they performed when visitors came to their schools.

In 1870 a survey of existing Elementary education provision shows that the Ashton schools catered for 301 boys and 159 girls. The Wesleyan school had 228 boys and 117 Infants. By and large, both Ashton schools were well served by their Head teachers and other staff, all, that is, except Mr. Alfred P Wire. He became Headmaster of the Boys’ School in 1873. Two years later standards had fallen so far that one-tenth of the Government grant was withheld from the school budget for the following year. Mr. Wire was a liberal minded teacher who wanted to broaden the curriculum. He introduced experiment-based science, opened a school library and gave educational lectures to adults in the evenings. As a result, standards in basis skills deteriorated. Mr. Wire threatened to resign but the Managers did not accept it. Mr. Wire left his post soon afterwards and the Headmistress of the Girls’ School was alarmed to find herself in charge of all the children. She sent all the boys home for the rest of the day because they were so ill disciplined. No one was able fully to control them and a new Headmaster had to be appointed quickly.

The schools were part of their community. The inhabitants of Ladies’ Lodge often visited, as did the daughters of the Rector, Frederick Hose. By 1894 the boys were studying History and all the children were learning poetry. By the beginning of the 20th century the girls were learning about cookery and the boys started woodwork classes.

The Health Visitor, on one occasion, brought a mother with a newborn baby and gave the girls a lesson in childcare. Pupil teachers usually stayed in post for four years and, if the Head teacher recommended it, went to College to study for a Teacher’s Certificate. Mr. Knight, a later headmaster, introduced agricultural studies. He was in post for 37 years and was commended by HMI for the way he trained his pupil teachers. This system was gradually augmented, during the 1880s, by the appointment of Assistant Masters and Mistresses. One of the greatest problems for schools in Victorian times was that of child absence. In 1871, for example, the average attendance at the Girls’ School was 2.6 days per week. Any attraction in the town, such as the Statty Fair, a circus, the harvest, a summer outing, or other events such as snow or heavy rain had an adverse effect on attendance. Parents had to pay a nominal sum for each child’s attendance so economic hardship had an effect as well. Attendance Officers were appointed but they did not really solve the problem. In 1907 the Girls’ School had three Assistant Mistresses, one pupil teacher and one monitor. Miss Wilkes organised the children into four classes of between 24 and 38 children. A similar arrangement pertained in the Boys’ School. Each classroom had some form of coal-fired stove but this still did not prevent ink freezing in the inkwell on particularly cold winter days. The Boys’ School was under-staffed during World War I because several of the Assistant Masters joined up and were not replaced.

On 31st December 1935 the two schools ceased to exist. Some alterations were made to the building so that The Ashton Church of England Junior Mixed School could open on 6th January 1936. Besides the two Elementary schools, children were admitted from Britain Street Council Mixed School, Burr Street Council Infants’ School, Chiltern Road Junior School, and Houghton Regis C. of E. Mixed School. There were also a few new entrants who moved into the area. The initial roll was 329 children and Miss JM Mapley was the Headmistress. The rest of the staff consisted of three Certificated and five Uncertificated teachers. The first week was occupied in establishing the routines of the new school and Miss Mapley described the rain during this time as ‘incessant’. At eleven years of age the children transferred to one of the local senior schools.

During World War II education was much interrupted by air raids. Children were initially sent home at such times. Later, the corridors were strengthened to act as shelters. The passing of the 1944 Education Act resulted in the school becoming a Voluntary Aided (VA) Primary School, taking children from the age of five to eleven. In the 1960s the school was enlarged with two new classrooms, a new kitchen, new offices and a new Staff room. With the introduction of the Three Tier system in the 1970s (Lower, Middle and Upper Schools), the school became Ashton St. Peter’s Lower School, catering for children from five to nine years of age. By the end of the 20th century the building had become unfit for purpose. At the end of the Summer term 2006 the school moved to new buildings on part of Ashton Middle School’s playing field. This was only possible by allowing an Aldi store to be built on the Church Street site. Throughout their history, the succeeding schools have had strong support from the Ashton Foundation, active church representation on their boards of Managers and Governors as well as close connections with the Priory church and its Rectors. This has continued into the 21st century.


Dunstable Grammar School In 1868, the Trustees of the Frances Ashton Almshouses charity sold a piece of land in Luton to the Midland Railway Company. The sale price was £14,500, which through sound investment soon became £17,000. If this money were used on existing schools in the town the Government would reduce its support grant and the money would soon be gone. The judgement of 1859 stated that any further surplus should be used for the Elementary schools but no one had envisaged so large an amount. The Trustees suggested that a Grammar School should be founded for the able sons of the town. Wild rumours flew about the town that the Endowed Schools Commissioners were intent on using this money for a school in Luton. They were entreated to build the Grammar School before the Endowed Schools Commission took the money from them. The Trustees were divided among themselves as to the best course so they consulted the Charity Commission. Sense prevailed, eventually, and it became accepted that this money should be used to build a Grammar School in Dunstable. The Trustees drew up a draft scheme, which they submitted to the Commission. The latter were under considerable pressure from Luton Town Council to provide a similar school in their town. As the work of the Endowed Schools Commission was about to be taken over by the Charity Commission, the whole scheme was put into abeyance. This provoked further town meetings in Dunstable to protest at the delay. Eventually, Mr. Fearon, an Assistant Commissioner, came to Dunstable for a public meeting in the Town Hall. This lasted for four days. Further schemes were put forward by both sides. It was not until 1884 that a scheme was devised which was acceptable to all parties. It received official approval from Queen Victoria on 12th August 1885, seventeen years after the surplus was first identified. The new scheme established one board of Trustees to run the three Ashton Schools and the almshouses. The schools were administered by a single Board of eight Governors, meeting in Dunstable at least twice a year. The initial Governors were: - Thomas Hankey of Portland Place, Middlesex; Reginald Hankey of Ebury Street, Middlesex; The Right Honourable Arthur Wellesley Peel MP of The Lodge, Sandy, Speaker of the House of Commons; The Honourable Arthur John Edward Russell MP (Lord Arthur Russell) of Audley Square, Middlesex; Hugh Colin Smith of Prince’s Gate, Middlesex; Benjamin Bennett of Cheverells Park, Kensworth; Revd. Augustus Frederick Birch, Rector of Berkhampstead and John Heyrick Macaulay, Rector of Dunstable. The clergy were appointed during their tenure only. The others were appointed for life. When vacancies occurred the remaining Governors should name successors and notify the Charity Commissioners. The Elementary Schools were to continue as before. The Ashton Grammar School for boys, day and boarders, should be built as soon as possible. There should be accommodation for at least 100 boys and a House for the Headmaster and at least 20 boarders. The Grammar School’s headmaster shall receive a salary of between £100 and £200 pa. Although the three schools were Church of England, arrangements were made for boys to be excused Scripture, if their parents requested. It was not essential for Governors to be members of the Church of England. They were responsible for the management and finances of all three schools, for appointing staff at the Elementary Schools and the Headmaster of the Grammar School. The Governors had to appoint, annually, an external examiner to test the boys.

The Grammar School started with three boarders and 46 dayboys.  To enter, they had to show proficiency in Reading, Writing and Dictation, the four rules of Arithmetic and Multiplication tables. Besides these subjects, teaching was given in Religious Instruction, Geography, History, Composition, Latin, one European language, Natural Science, Drawing, Drill and Singing. Greek was an optional extra. The Governors were responsible for the admissions policy and for keeping a register of boys admitted. The Head master was responsible for appointing his own staff, organising the entrance examination and for the running of the school. He was required to give the Governors an annual report on the school’s activities. Boys could be admitted in the September after their eighth birthday and generally stayed until they were seventeen. Dayboys paid between £6 and £12 per year. The rates for boarders varied from £35 to £45. A limited number of scholarships were available which allowed boys to attend free of charge.

In 1887 the foundation stone of Dunstable Grammar School was laid by Thomson Hankey, the only surviving member of the original Almshouses Trustees. The Governors assembled at the Town Hall and processed along High Street North to the site of the new school. Both sides of the street were lined with cheering crowds. People waved from windows and were allowed time off work to see the event. The sun shone from a cloudless sky and a gentle breeze fluttered the flags and bunting. The ceremony was simple and dignified. Although all participants were members of the Church of England, the words used were acceptable to all denominations. Thanks were given to Frances Ashton and to God.

The school was quickly built. It cost £12,000 and was designed by ER Robinson FSA of Westminster. Besides the High Street site, the school had playing fields nearby in West Parade that boasted a pavilion and a groundsman’s house. The Governors appointed Mr. LCR Thring as the first Head Master and he remained in post for the first thirty-three of the school’s existence. The school instigated the Hankey Gold Medal in 1890, which was awarded for all round ability. The School Magazine dates from at least 1896 and the Old Dunstablians’ Club at least 1889. In 1903 the Almshouses were separated from the Ashton Schools and two boards of Trustees were established. The schools came under the authority of the Ashton Schools Foundation. By 1904 a boarding house had been built and the school had 64 boarders and 83 day boys, some of whom came from Luton. In 1905 scholarships of between £5 and £10 were introduced for boys at the Grammar School and girls at ‘any public secondary school, being resident in Dunstable, who declared an intention to become Pupil Teachers’. Each scholarship was to run for three years. In the same year a regulation was introduced that the whole school should be examined every two years. If not part of HMI’s schedule, the examination, written and oral, should be carried out by the teaching staff under the direction of a University. A report should then be sent to the Governors who would forward copies to the Head Master and the LEA. Also in 1905, Stocks producing £50 per year were set aside in a separate account called the ‘Repairs and Improvements Fund’. To this was added a further £1,000 by the Official trustees of Charitable Funds. The income was to be paid to the Governors for the upkeep of the Grammar School building. Any excess was to be kept in a sinking fund.

The Science Block was built in 1907. In 1910 the Ashton Schools Foundation became subject to a new scheme of governance. From the Foundation’s income £200 is to be paid annually to the Governing body of the Elementary schools. All other income is to be spent on the Grammar School. Their Governing body comprised of fifteen members. Of the ten Representative Governors three were appointed by Dunstable town Council, one by Luton Town Council, one by Leighton Buzzard Urban District Council, three by Bedford County Council, one by Buckingham County Council and one by Hertford County Council. This reflects the wide area from which pupils were drawn. The five Cooptative Governors were elected by the ten Representatives. No one’s religious opinion was a bar to membership. The quorum was four and the chairman had the casting vote. Members absent for a year or who became bankrupt ceased to be Governors. As with the Chew’s Foundation, Governors were required to vest land and funds with the Charity Commissioners. The school was classed as a day Secondary School for boys but could take boy boarders if the Governors thought fit. The scheme set out procedures for the appointment of a Head Master and Assistant teachers. The Head Master need not be in Holy Orders. The School House was provided for the Head Master and his family but only during his time in that post. He must have no other employment. He is to receive an annual stipend of at least £100 plus £2 for each pupil at the school. There were provisions for masters and Governors to contribute to a teachers’ pension scheme but the Governors’ contribution must not exceed that of the master. The Governors had jurisdiction over such matters as subjects for inclusion in the curriculum, term dates and holidays, the number of boarders, the sanitary conditions of the school and how much of the available funds should be spent on building maintenance and school prizes. The Head Master was free to submit to the Governors his comments on any of these matters. Religious Instruction was to be given in accordance with the doctrines of the Church of England. Parents and Guardians were able to withdraw a child from this Instruction without detriment to the boy’s education. The stipulation about biennial examinations was repeated. Admission was open to all boys ‘of good character and sufficient health’. If the school was over subscribed, priority was given to those resident in Dunstable, Luton or within six miles of the school. Boys were accepted once they were eight years old and had to leave by the end of the school year after their eighteenth birthday. Applications were received by the Head Master or the clerk to the Governors, who kept a record of all applicants. There was an entrance examination, graded according to age, and administered by the Head Master. Fees for Day Boys varied from £6 to £12 per year while that for boarders was £45. Boys who had their fees paid for them were called the Ashton Scholars. The Governors could award the scholars an extra £10 per year to help them stay at the school. The Governors were able to award Higher Exhibitions to boys going on to University or Institutes. The grants and conditions were similar to those in the Chew’s scheme. Governors were encouraged to make special provision for boys intending to train as Elementary school teachers. The Governors were allowed to set up a Preparatory department in the school if they thought fit. The Governing body was required to meet at least twice a year, to elect its own chairman, to keep minutes and accounts. Copies of the latter had to be sent to the LEA and made available for public inspection. They were required to maintain, repair and insure their property. The scheme ended by listing the Foundation’s properties and assets. Besides the three schools there was land near Cowbridge End Luton, cottages in Luton, shops and a cottage with garden in Dunstable, Millfield in Dunstable and four freehold ground rent sites in London. Head Master LCR Thring rented Millfield for £24 per year. Income from properties amounted to £777 in 1910. The Official Trustees of Charitable Funds also held 3% Local Loan stocks, which were the Head Master’s pension fund.

In 1911 separate Foundations were established for the Grammar School, with fifteen Governors, and the Elementary Schools, with eight Governors. The Grammar School entered candidates in the Cambridge Local Examinations, Seniors and Juniors. In his report for 1915, Headmaster Thring gives the total number of candidates for each exam and the position achieved by his pupils. His best successes were Boskett, who came 6th out of 4618 candidates in Seniors English language and Literature and Sang, who came first out of 3849 candidates in Junior French. In the same report Mr. Thring proposes to pay Mr. Apthorp £120 pa. He had started on £100 15 years previously and had a £10 increase after 9 years. The Grammar School lost past pupils in world conflicts, two in the Boer War, 63 in WWI and 45 in WWII. After World War I the Grammar School became a Direct Grant School and its financial situation improved drastically. After the War the number of boarders decreased gradually. After World War II it became a day school only. The two Ashton schools maintained close contacts. Scholarships were made available from the funds of the Ashton and Chew’s Foundations.

In 1958 the two Foundations were amalgamated again and called the Ashton Schools Foundation. Ten Governors were appointed and the school became Voluntary Aided (VA) under the terms of the 1944 Education Act. Religious Instruction should be ‘given in accordance with the doctrines of the Church of England.’ The new Science building opened in 1964. With the introduction of the Three Tier System, the Grammar School ceased to exist. Its building became Ashton Middle School which retained the playing fields. A new School, Manshead Upper School, was built on the northern edge of the town, on Dunstable Road, Caddington. The new Middle School (VA) and Upper School are both supported by the Ashton Foundation and have church representation on their Boards of Governors. Ashton Middle School currently has twenty Governors, four of whom are appointed by the Ashton Schools Foundation. Seven others have church connections. The Upper School has eighteen Governors, three appointed by the Ashton Schools Foundation and two others by the PCC. It is still counted as a Church of England School.


The Ashton Schools Foundation currently has an annual income of about £20,000. Funds are available to the Lower Middle and Upper School for education and training to individuals on application. Grants should not be made for purposes covered by other financial sources. Recipients should live within a six-mile radius of Ashton St. Peter’s Lower School. Forty years on from the move to a Three Tier system, moves are afoot to revert to the previous regime.


Elizabeth   Thomas   John   Elizabeth   Thomas   Frances   JANE     William






   ///        ///             ///      ///          ///           ///            ///                                    ///              ///

John Elizabeth Jane James Thomas William Elizabeth Thomas Chew Joseph

1685  1686         1688  1689    1690                   1691                       1693                 1694          1695

-1720    -89       -1717  -1731                 -1717                                 -1722                        -1717

                              m 1709





Jane Cart was born in 1653, the youngest daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Chew. She was probably born in Dunstable. There is no surviving record of her baptism, but several of her older brothers and sisters are known to have been baptised in the town. She was born during the Commonwealth, which followed the English Civil War.

Jane inherited her mother’s property. It was on the west side of the High Street (North), not far from the crossroads. This was probably the site of her father’s haberdashery business and also the family home. Jane married James Cart, of Soaper Lane in the parish of St. Pancras in the City of London, on 26th June 1684; she was 31 years old and he was nearly 25. James is described as being a citizen, a merchant and a distiller. The marriage took place in St. Michael’s Church, Cornhill, even though Jane was resident in Dunstable. Jane’s brothers, Thomas and William, were also London distillers and it seems reasonable to suppose that it was through them that she met her future husband. James served a seven-year apprenticeship and was admitted to the Distillers’ Company on 15th January 1681 when he was 21 years old. James was born in Leire, Leicestershire. His parents were John and Sara Cart. His mother was sister of the parish Rector, Revd James Farmer. Sara’s mother, Lady Grace Farmer, was the eldest daughter of Anthony Grey, Earl of Kent. James Cart was baptised by his uncle on 2nd October 1659. He inherited a farm with land in Leire. It is likely that James and Jane spent most of their married life in Bow in London. All nine of their children were baptised in the parish church, St. Mary le Bow. James and six of these children were also buried there. Three of these children died in infancy. James, who was a churchwarden at St. Mary le Bow for a time, died on 8th June 1706, aged 46. When her brother, William Chew, died in 1712 Jane inherited five farms in Studham, Upper Gravenhurst, Edlesborough and Kensworth, seven properties in Dunstable, a piece of land in the City of London, behind the Boar Inn, and William Chew’s London house. The whole was valued at £9216, producing annual income of £488.16.4d.

In 1715 Jane played an active part in the establishment of Chew’s Charity School and in 1717 was the major investor in the building of a luxury hotel called The Old Sugar Loaf. In this year, three of her six surviving children died. Of these three, Jane married John Church-Medcalf, a soap maker and died a widow in Windsor on 10th June.  They had no children. William, a grocer, died on 19th June, aged 25. Joseph died on 8th September, aged 22. They are buried and commemorated in the crypt of St. Mary le Bow.


Here lyeth interred the body of


Citizen of London who departed

This life the 8th of June 1706

Aged 46 years.

Here also lyeth the body of

William his son by Jane Cart,

Citizen and Grocer, he

Departed this life the 19th June

1717, aged 25 years,

Also the body of Joseph Cart

(one of his sons by Jane

his wife) who departed this life

the 8th September 1717

aged 21 years

also the Bodeys of one son and

two daughters who died infants.


The last three are the first Thomas and the two Elizabeths.

John died on 13th September 1720.

Jane Cart’s Gifts In 1722 Jane and her sister Frances Ashton bought a painting of the Last Supper for £500 and donated it to Dunstable Priory Church. The painting was executed by Sir James Thornhill, George I’s Sarjeant Painter. It was intended for the church of St. Mary le Bow but when the Rector there saw it he refused to have it in his church. Jane and her sister bought the picture and hung it on the bare east wall of the Dunstable church. It was said at the time to be the largest painting in the country, being about 30 feet high. It was also said that Sir James repainted the face of Judas as a grotesque likeness of St. Mary le Bow’s Rector. The painting is described as being a group seated beneath a triumphal arch and supported by composite columns. It had an imitation foliage frame and was inscribed, ‘1722 Ex Dono F Ashton and J Cart’. The description is similar to a Thornhill painting, which still hangs in St. Mary’s Church, Weymouth. During the Victorian restoration of the Priory Church, the painting was pierced by a scaffold pole and then exposed to the weather when the roof was removed. It was eventually rolled up and stored in the tower, where it gradually rotted away. It was thrown out about 20 years later.

Thomas Chew Cart was a member of the Inner Temple. He died at Caddington on 27th March 1722 and is buried in Dunstable Priory church. This death may have prompted his mother to found six almshouses as a memorial. The almshouses were built in High Street South in Dunstable, next door to Chew’s Charity School. The houses were for six poor women or spinsters who were communicant members of the Church of England in Dunstable. Applicants could be considered from residents of Caddington, Kensworth or Houghton Regis if there were not enough from Dunstable.

James, the last son, continued to run the family distillery firm with his mother. He died on 9th October 1731, aged 41, and was the longest-lived of her children. James was buried in the family vault in St. Mary le Bow. The Cart’s family home in London was in St. John Street, Smithfield, to the north of St Paul’s Cathedral. John Tallis’s drawing of this road in the early 19th century gives the house the number 113. Next-door is a public house, the Golden Lion. Jane lived 30 years as a widow and five years after the death of her last child. She was a wealthy woman, having inherited money from her parents, her husband and her younger brother, William. Besides this, the family distillery had been a great success. Jane had given away much money during her lifetime but she still had much to leave in her will.

Frances Ashton died in 1727. In the following year, Jane gave a set of Communion plate to the Priory Church. The gift may well have been in memory of her sister. The set consisted of two silver chalices and covers, two silver flagons and a silver alms dish. Only the flagons and the alms dish survive, the rest having been stolen early in the 20th century. Each piece is inscribed:

‘1 Aug AD 1728 Offered to God and Given to the CHURCH of Dunstable by JANE CART, Widow & Relic of JAMES CART late Citizen of LONDON, and Daughter of THOMAS CHEW formerly of Dunstable and Elizabeth his wife.’ For many years these items were kept in a bank vault. Early in the 21st century they were presented to St Albans Abbey, where they may still be seen.

In 1731 Jane gave a set of Communion plate to Kensworth church. Several of Dunstable’s rectors had also been vicar of Kensworth at this time. They had lived in the Kensworth vicarage, as there was no parsonage in Dunstable. The Kensworth plate remains complete in its original box. It is only used at Easter and Christmas. At other times, it, also, is on display in the Abbey.

In 1732 Jane gave money for the introduction of a weekly sermon every Sunday afternoon, its aim, to promote the worship of God and the spiritual life of the people of Dunstable. The first preacher was James Broadshaw. He was licensed on 4th July of that year by the Bishop of Lincoln. The Rector at the time was Thomas Hill AB. He presumably did not preach sermons, although he was not yet also Master of Chew’s School. The gentleman’s magazine reported that in 1805 ‘an excellent sermon, commemorating the extensive charities of the two sisters Ashton and Chew (sic) to the town of Dunstable was preached there, according to annual usage by the Revd Thomas Alston Warren BD, fellow of St. John’s College, Oxford, lecturer of the church and curate of Flamstead and Kensworth.’ Why Jane Cart is referred to by her maiden name is unclear. In 1836 Solomon Piggott petitioned the Ecclesiastical Commission for England because he is not receiving Jane Cart’s £20, despite the fact that he has conscientiously delivered the sermons for the last ten years. The reply quotes his diocesan bishop, Lincoln, that his stipends are sufficient and that he does not need the Cart money. Piggott has petitioned the Cart trustees but they ignore his requests. The trustees had nominated Dr. Bowen but the bishop refused to licence him to enter the Priory. Some of the parishioners had signed a petition in support of their Rector.

In the same year, 1732, Jane donated a three-decker pulpit to the church and it was from here that James Broadshaw spoke. The pulpit was on the second pillar from the east, on the north side of the church. The pulpit was declared redundant during the Victorian restoration. The sounding board was made into a hexagonal table. The base, allegedly, was used by in the Market Square as a podium for the auctioneer as he sold cattle. There is also a chair which, it is claimed, is made from some of the wood from the Georgian pulpit. She also gave a pulpit fall of velvet with gold thread. At the top it has the letters D S P V – Dominus Supplicantis Pax Vobiscum – ‘O God, we pray for your peace’. The fringe was burnt soon after but was restored in 1822. The fall, too, was declared redundant during the Victorian restoration and was thought to have been destroyed. It was found in June 1955 by the Rector, Canon HW Orton, in the bottom of the parish chest. The fall is now preserved in a glass-fronted case on the south wall of the Lady Chapel.

Also in 1732, Jane gave a bell to Leire parish church. Around the rim of number 3 bell it says, ‘Given by Jane Cart relict of James Cart of Leire, daughter of Thomas Chew and Elizabeth his wife which Elizabeth was daughter of Wm Marsh (sic) of Dunstable, AD 1732.’

Two years later Jane ‘presented to the Minister and Churchwardens of the Parish a Compleat new Large Clock. She settled £1 a year of its repair ‘for ever.’ It bore the inscription ‘Ex dono Joennis Cart 1734.’ The clock was mounted in the Tower and struck only the hours and could be heard all across Dunstable. About this time, the medieval screen was moved to the west end of the Priory to support a western gallery. This later housed the organ and a slave clock which showed the time inside the church. The slave clock, bearing the name Seddon of London, disappeared during the Victorian restoration. Jane’s original clock underwent major repairs in 1747. It had no hands or external face. These were added, along with a mechanism for striking the quarter hours in 1899, to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee two years previously. In 1972 an electric mechanism was fitted to eliminate the weekly winding, which took an hour and for which £3 per year was still being paid. Jane gave a second gift to her husband’s parish. By a deed, dated 20th May 1735, Jane gave the rents from Bloodacres Close, which contained about four acres, to the Rector and churchwardens, for the purchase of loaves of bread for distribution to the poor of the parish who were regular church attendants.

Jane Cart’s Bequests On 22nd June 1736, four months before she died, Jane appointed five Trustees. They were: -

Thomas Aynscombe of Charter House Square, Middlesex, haberdasher, (This is the same Thomas Aynscombe who features in Frances Ashton’s will), Samuel Carte, bachelor of Laws of Symond’s, Middlesex. He is not thought to be a relative and his surname is always spelt with the final ‘e’. John Potter, Gentleman of the Haymarket, Middlesex. James Osbaldeston, Gentleman, of the parish of St. Alphage, London. He also figures in Frances Ashton’s will, and Murdock Broomer, citizen and soap maker of London. She sold them all her property, in two separate deeds, for 5s each. In return, they were required to act as Trustees to administer her estate and to ensure that her charitable gifts continued, during her life and afterwards. The deeds were enrolled in the Court of Chancery in 1736. She decreed that, when the number of trustees was reduced to three, replacements should be appointed who were resident in the cities of London and Westminster.

The first deed was funded by income from a farm and land in the parishes of Upper Gravenhurst and Meppershall and property in Edlesborough occupied by Richard Durrand.

The annual expenditure was to be: -

  1. £20 to continue the James Broadshaw sermons each Sunday.
  2. £5.4s for each occupant of the almshouses.
  3. £1.10s each to buy ‘a gown, a petticoat, two shifts, one pair of stockings and one pair of shoes.’
  4. £2 per head for fuel and other necessities.
  5. Up to £1.10s extra could be paid the residents at the Trustees’ discretion.
  6. £5.4s to continue the distribution of bread to the poor each Sunday.
  7. £4 to the Trustees of St. Sepulchre’s Charity School for boys and £6 to the similar school for girls.
  8. One lucky pupil at Chew’s School was to receive £16 for each of two years. The first grant was for his apprenticeship and clothes, the second was to set him up in a trade.
  9. £3 for the repair and cleaning of James Cart’s memorial in St. Mary le Bow Church.
  10. £2 for the repair and cleaning of her own memorial when it had been erected.
  11. £3 for the winding of the Priory Church clock and £1 for its repair.
  12. £1 for the annual dinner of the Trustees, in Easter Week.
  13. The disposal of any surplus is left to the discretion of the Trustees.

Jane also stipulates how the Deed is to be administered and includes insurance, the appointment of a Treasurer and the replacement of Trustees so that the total remains at five. All must be members of the Church of England.

The second Deed was funded by income from land in Edlesborough, Studham and Kensworth, the Sugar Loaf and three other properties in Dunstable, property in Cardington and her home in St. John’s Street, Smithfield and a nearby stable. It has similarities to her sister’s first Deed.

The annual expenditure was to be: -

  1. £95 to release from prison, poor in-mates who owed no more than £5. The prisons included, Ludgate, Wood Street, Bread Street, Newgate, Fleet, Whitechapel, Gate House, the Marshalsea and the King’s Bench prison.
  2. £5 expenses for the above.
  3. The residue to be divided equally between ten poor Church of England clergy and ten poor clergy widows or maiden clergy daughters, aged forty-five or more, whom the Trustees considered most deserving.

Jane Cart’s will was dated 28th July 1736, a little over a month after her deeds. The five Trustees were also executors of her will. The money came from the sale of the business and any money not committed to the two deeds. The will was proved on 15th October, six days after her death in Dunstable. Jane directed that if she died in London she should be buried in St. Mary le Bow Church, near to her husband. If she died in Dunstable she should be buried near to her brother, William Chew. Not more than £700 to be spent on funereal expenses. The pulpits of Dunstable Priory Church, St Mary le Bow and St Sepulchre are to be hung with black cloth and her coat of arms. The table of benefactors in the Priory Church should be updated within eighteen months of her death.

Jane left money to her relatives.

  1. £500 to Elizabeth Gilbert, her eldest niece, also her easy chair, the trunk in her bedroom, her gold watch, the diamond funeral ring of the brother Thomas Chew, the picture of her late son, Thomas Chew Cart and her best dresses.
  2. £100 to Philip Aynscombe, the only surviving son of her cousin Thomas Aynscombe and his second wife, Ann.
  3. £100 to Marshe Dickinson, gentleman of London, a very distant relative, an attorney and MP for Brackley in Northamptonshire.
  4. An annuity of £100 to Thomas Chew Gilbert (1703-39) son of the above. The money was to be paid weekly each Saturday between noon and 1pm at the Cloisters under the chapel at Lincoln’s Inn. He is to be debarred from receiving any of the annuity ‘if he should profess the Romish religion.’
  5. £100 to Elizabeth Rayner. It would seem that Jane felt sorry for her niece, who was debarred from inheriting anything under her mother’s will.

Jane left money to her servants.

  1. £300 to Mary Parry. If she is still in Jane’s employ at the time of her death. She also receives ‘the looking glass in my blue room, a chest of drawers and other furniture.’
  2. £100 to John Thomas. He was probably her chief manservant.
  3. £30 to James Thomas, the youngest son of the above, to be paid in three equal parts for his education, apprenticeship and setting him up in a trade. His father should receive the residue if his son died before the three years were completed.
  4. £50 to the footmen in service at her death.
  5. £50 to her nurse, Margaret Norris, as well as a mirror, a chest of drawers and various beds and bedding. All this is to go to Margaret’s son and two daughters should Margaret die before Jane.
  6. She forgave all money owed to her.
  7. £10 to all her servants at the time of her death.

Jane left money to other people.

  1. £100 to Ann Farmer, daughter of the late Revd. John Farmer.
  2. 20 guineas to Robert, son of James Osbaldeston and the clock in the dining room to his father.
  3. £5 to Mrs. Mary Stafford of Leicester, possibly a relative of James Cart.
  4. £30 a year for life to Samuel Carte, over and above everything else he receives from the will, also all her books and bookcases.
  5. £100 each to her Executors and Trustees, also all household goods not previously dealt with to be divided equally between them.

Other bequests.

  1. £100 each to Dunstable Priory, St. Sepulchre’s and St Mary le Bow. The money is to be distributed to the poor of the three parishes by the respective ministers and churchwardens within sixty days of her death.
  2. £20 to Thomas Heathcott to set him up in trade, having previously paid for his education and apprenticeship to a silk weaver in Coventry.
  3. £2 per year to Ann Chalkwell, having apprenticed her for five years to Elizabeth Wagstaffe of Cow Cross, a widow. The money is for Ann’s clothing until she finishes her apprenticeship or until she reaches fifteen years of age. Cow Cross is near Jane’s London home.
  4. Expenses to Mrs. Eleanor Lee, of the Sugar Loaf Inn, to pay for a poor boy, Copeland, to receive teaching, shoes and stockings so that he can be admitted to Chew’s School. If Copeland fails to gain admittance by the Whitsun after Jane’s death, the payments are to stop.
  5. £50 per year to pay a Treasurer, over and above what he might receive as an Executor. James Osbaldeston is to be the first appointment. He is to keep an Account Book and a Minute Book of meetings.
  6. £20 per year to each of the five Executors and their successors for their care of the various Trusts.
  7. Any residue from any source to be divided equally for the relief of twenty poor Church of England clergy, twenty poor clergy widows or maiden daughters of such clergy who are at least forty five years old.

Jane made further provisions.

  1. The servants in her house at the time of her death are to continue living there for not more than three months and to be paid 7s. a week for board and wages.
  2. Mr. John Darker to be the first replacement Executor. He was appointed when Thomas Aynscombe died in 1740.
  3. Jane was in the process of selling three houses in Addle Hill, near St. Paul’s Wharf, to Elizabeth Richardson, a widow. The executors are to complete the sale and add the money to her personal estate.
  4. All legacies to be paid within a year of her death.
  5. Eleanor Lee to be given preference to renew the lease on the Sugar Loaf Inn after the present fourteen-year lease expires.
  6. The executors to pay up to £10 per year for repairs to the Old Sugar Loaf Inn.
  7. Nothing in her St. John’s Street home is to be sold.

The Executors also inherited further property after Jane’s death.

  1. In 1741, on the death of Blandina Marshe, a third share in a house ‘on the Market Hill in Dunstable.’ The property originally belonged to Blandina’s brother, John. Jane was a cousin.
  2. In 1748, on the death of her niece Elizabeth Rayner, two houses in St. John Street, one next to and the other near to Jane’s main residence.

Jane wrote a codicil to her will, dated 9th September 1736. In July or August of that year Jane left London, on health grounds, and was living in the Sugar Loaf Inn in Dunstable, which she owned. She attended Sunday worship at the Priory Church whenever her health allowed. The codicil gives detailed arrangements for her burial and commemoration.

  1. Her body is to be buried in the north aisle, as near the east end as possible.
  2. The body of her son, James is to be taken from St. Mary le Bow church and interred in her own grave. (Jane died on 15th October but was not buried until 24th October.)
  3. A monument, costing not more than two hundred guineas, is to be designed by John Potter of the Haymarket, (one of her executors.) This is to be fenced with iron rails and to include the nearby monument to her son, Thomas Chew Cart. Parts of these rails are now at the entrance to the current Lady Chapel, in the south aisle.
  4. The expense of setting up the monument to be paid from her estate and not from the two hundred guineas mentioned above.
  5. Her monument is to be inspected by her executors at their annual Whitsun meeting. £2 a year is to be allowed for its cleaning and repair.
  6. A table of Benefactors had been provided by Jane in the north wall of the north aisle in 1733. This is to be updated by John Potter and re-sited in a more prominent position.
  7. The executors to pay for alterations to the inscription in Bow church after the removal of James’ body.

Item 3 aroused some controversy. The erection of this monument was supported by a petition signed by 153 residents, extolling Jane Cart’s benefactions to the town. A counter petition, originated by Blandina Marshe, claimed it would cause the removal of some of the Marshe family monuments. This was signed by 55 residents and was unsuccessful when the two were considered by the Archdeaconry Court of Bedford. The will and codicil were proved on 15th October 1736 by Samuel Carte, John Potter, James Osbaldeston and Michael Brown.


The Trustees had an annual dinner and meeting, usually at the Sugar Loaf Inn. They received the accounts of the previous year and the rents for the current one. Tenants were held to account for the good repair of their farms. If there were vacancies at the almshouses, they decided on new residents. They interviewed boys from the Charity School who wished to apply for an apprenticeship from Jane Cart’s estate. They checked that the Sunday sermon was still being preached, that Jane’s gifts were well maintained and that the bread was still being distributed after morning service each Sunday. If they were satisfied, the Sexton was paid 10s. for his work. The Trustees decided that wooden shelves should be installed at the west end of the church on which the loaves were stored during the service. This distribution continued for many years. It ceased at the beginning of World War II when bread rationing was introduced. There were attempts in the 1940s and 1950s to revive this practice but it was later abandoned. The shelves were then used for the storage of service books for several decades, but were moved when the glass porch was installed and are currently in the bell tower.

The Trustees of her charity granted a lease on the Gravenhurst farm for £128 per year, for twelve years, to Richard Sibley and his eldest son, also called Richard. A later insurance policy lists the property as being a farmhouse with a brew house, wheat barn, barley barn, granary, peas barn, oat barn, hay barn, chaff house, lime barn, henhouse, cowhouse and hogstye. The total acreage was 220 acres mostly for pasture and arable farming. Much was enclosed but 68 acres were un-enclosed and dotted all around the village, not fenced and not necessarily connected to any other of the farm’s land.

Accounts survive for Jane Cart’s Deeds and Estate in 1748. The first deed generated a surplus of £36, the second a surplus of £341 and her personal estate, invested in stocks and annuities, was worth £12,035. Her Trustees were apparently doing a better job than those administering her sister’s affairs.

In 1821 the Charity Commissioners list her Trustees as, Sir William Curtis, Fenton Lowther, Felix Ladbrook, William Curtis, Robert Harpur and Thomas Hastings the treasurer. The charity’s properties in the first trust deed are listed as: -

  1. Property with adjoining malthouse and pasture in Streetfield, Caddington, occupied by Thomas Osborn leased to Daniel Queenborough for 19 years from Michaelmas1802 at £2 pa.
  2. A cottage in North Street, Dunstable, leased to Mary Smith for 14 years from Christmas 1808 at £11 pa.
  3. Another cottage in North Street, leased to Thomas Coates for 14 years from Michaelmas 1813 at £100 pa.
  4. The Sugar Loaf, leased to Thomas Coates for 14 years from Michaelmas 1813 at £100 pa.
  5. Two properties in West Street, between the Black Horse and the Nags Head, leased to Thomas Limbrey for 21 years from Lady Day 1815 at £15 pa.

They note that all the above are in good condition and let at full rent.

  1. A third share in a house on Market Hill, Dunstable, to which the Trustees succeeded on the death of Blandina Marshe. It is occupied by? Scriven at two guineas a year.
  2. A farm of 259 acres in Gravenhurst, leased to Elizabeth Humberstone, widow, for 21 years at £190 pa.
  3. A farmhouse at Cotton End, Cardington, leased to William Whitbread at £80 pa.
  4. A farm at Limbury, leased to William Gregory, from year to year, at £64. 8s pa.
  5. A farmhouse of 112 acres at Edlesborough Green and Sparrow Hill Farm, both let to Bartholomew Pearson from Michaelmas 1818 at 3100pa.
  6. Two dwellings at Church End, Kensworth, and a cottage at Kensworth Green with 268 acres, let to Abraham Fossey for 12 years from Michaelmas 1810 at £300 pa.
  7. 100 St. John Street, Clerkenwell, let to Messrs. Crosby, Young and Clay for 21 years from Lady Day 1820 for £150 pa.
  8. 111 St. John Street, near the former, leased to Thomas Manley for 20 year from Midsummer1821 at £56 .15s pa.
  9. Two houses, 98 & 99 Smithfield Bars; the former to James Gall for 21 years from Lady Day 1820 for £43.12s pa. And the latter to James Borington for 20 years at £44.17s.

Total rent for 1821 from her real estate was £1197.14s, along with income from £972.18s of bonds, stocks, annuities and mortgages. The total income for the year was £1614.14s.

Total expenditure for the year was £1545.8.9d: -

                                                                                                                                      £    s   d

1. Stipend for 6 almswomen @ £5.4s                                                                  31    4   0

2. Clothing for each @ £1.10s                                                                                 9    0   0

3. Allowance for gowns and shoes for each @ £1.6.6d                                     7   19   0

4. Allowance for Fuel @ £2 for each                                                                   12    0   0

5. Salary for Dunstable lecturer.                                                                         20    0   0

6. Bread for the poor of Dunstable.                                                                      5    4   0

7. Apprenticeship scheme for Chew’s boys.                                                      16    0   0

8. For cleaning her Dunstable monument and clock.                                      6    0   0

9. For Sexton at Bow to clean her monuments there.                                      3    0   0

10. To Treasures of boys’ and girls’ schools in St. Sepulchre parish            10    0   0

11. To five trustees at £20.                                                                                  100    0   0

12. Trustees’ Treasurer                                                                                          50    0   0

13. Land tax on part of Luton farm.                                                                      2    0   0

14. Insurance on Dunstable properties.                                                              15    1   9

15. Trustees expenses in Dunstable and London.                                           30    0   0

16. Trustees’ travel expenses to attend half-yearly meetings                        28    0   0

17. Pensions for 30 poor clergy @ £20                                                            300    0   0

18. Pensions for 30 poor clergy widows or maiden daughters @ £20.     300    0   0


This produced a surplus of £69.5.3d. The Commissioners comment that some of this would be needed for repairs to buildings. The accounts were audited by the treasurer for half-yearly meetings of the Trustees, December in London and Whitsun in Dunstable. A balance at December 1820, of £665.14.4d, was held by the Trustees’ bank, Messrs. Ladbrook & Co. The Commissioners further comment that most of this would be paid out in annuities before more income was received. They also say that the Dunstable almshouses are in good repair and that vacancies are filled during the Whitsun visitation. Stipends are paid quarterly and gowns bought annually. The lecturer is chosen by a ballot of the trustees. Money for the bread is paid to a Dunstable baker. Apprenticeships are agreed at and paid at the Dunstable meeting. Applicants for pensions submit an application form. These require three signatures of clergy or other ‘persons of good repute.’ Trustees nominate six individuals in each category. Pensioners only received payment in consecutive years in exceptional circumstances. They further comment that, initially, separate accounts were kept for Jane Cart’s first and second deeds. From 1798 they were combined into one account. Annuities to clergy, widows and daughters were raised from £10 to £12 in 1805, to £15 in 1809 and currently to £20 in 1816.

In 1908 the occupants of the almshouses received £100 in stipends and allowances.

In 1920 the Trustees put Cart’s Farm, Gravenhurst, up for sale. The auction of the freehold took place at 4pm at the White Hart Hotel Shefford on 30th September. Benning and Son conducted the auction. The estate consisted of 176 acres. The farmhouse is of brick and plaster with tiled roofs. It contains a paved hall, dining, drawing and breakfast rooms with bay windows, kitchen, scullery, dairy, pantry, five bedrooms, two attics and a cellar. There are also two tied cottages which are two up and two down, with kitchen. They are built of brick and roofed in slate. The tenants are Francis and Roland George, who pay £175 in rent between them. The farm also has barns, outhouses, an orchard with dovecote and walled kitchen and flower gardens. There were 120 acres of arable land, 40 acres of pasture and nearly 5 acres of woodland. This was mostly in the parish of Gravenhurst with some in Clophill and the rest in Meppershall. The new owners of the estate were still required to pay £1.14.5d per annum in tithes to Meppershall parish and honour all existing rights of way.

With the setting up of the Welfare State, the residents of Jane Cart’s Almshouses were so poor and their maintenance by the charity so limited that they were entitled to receive pensions from the Department of Social Security (DSS). The steps at the front of the property made it unsuitable for elderly people. The almshouses were sold in 2005 and converted into small private accommodation. The proceeds were invested and the interest used to support poor retired clergy and clergy widows. The intention is that, eventually, a property will be bought for the accommodation of poor clergy and clergy widows, in accordance with Jane Cart’s will.



Jane Cart’s memorials Jane erected five memorials, two in St Mary le Bow and three in Dunstable Priory. In 1732 Jane paid for the erection of a large monument, by Samuel Tufnell, on the north end of the west wall of St. Mary le Bow. It depicted a man recumbent on a sarcophagus. The monument commemorated her husband and the six children buried there with him. The inscription, which was added after her death, gave details of the people interred there and the fact that her son James had been removed for re-burial in Dunstable. This monument was destroyed during the bombing raids of World War II. Its text had been recorded by Arthur John Jewers in his survey of inscriptions in the City of London churches. The survey was compiled between 1910 and 1919 and is in five volumes. In the crypt Chapel there is a ledger slab on the site of the burials.

In 1722 Jane erected a memorial to Thomas Chew Cart, her fifth son, in Dunstable Priory church. John Potter was the designer. It includes a bust on a grey sarcophagus. It is presumed that the bust is a likeness of her son, who is buried under an incised slab in the current choir vestry. John Potter designed Jane’s own memorial, which is also in the north aisle. It gives a full account of her life, her piety and her charity. The arms at the top of the monument show the Cart arms with those of Chew surcharged. The Chew arms are three griffins and a catherine wheel. Those of Cart contain a red saltire and four sugar cane plants. When Jewers copied the arms for his manuscript, he mistook the wheels for leopard heads and the sugar cane for palm trees. The executors of her will also erected a memorial to the Cart family at the west end on Leire parish church after her death. Jane’s bequests to Leire were incorporated into the Leire Parochial Charities on 16th November 1917. Nine other small charities were also subsumed into it on the same date.



Daniel   Thomas                              Jane      Elizabeth             JOHN   William                   Francis







   ///              ///          ///                ///                      ///                          ///

John      Daniel  Daniel   BLANDINA        Elizabeth             MARY

1654      1656      1661      1663                     1664                     1665

-1706                                   -1741                       -66                     -1730







Mary Lockington and Blandina Marshe



John Marshe, fifth child of William and Elizabeth, married Blandina Ironmonger, possibly of Leighton Buzzard. She was the daughter of Humphrey Ironmonger. In his will John left six acres of land, the rents from which were to be used by his surviving children for the benefit of the poor of Dunstable. They had six children, three of whom survived into adulthood. John, the father, died in 1700 John, the eldest child, died in 1706. The two surviving daughters, Blandina (1663-1741) and Mary (1665-1730) inherited the family estate as co-heirs. Blandina remained single all her life. Mary married Thomas Lockington but they had no children. Mary outlived her husband. The sisters each inherited half of their father’s estate. There, is therefore, much over-lap between the wills of Mary Lockington and Blandina Marshe but they are treated separately here, as far as possible.


The Marshe family are commemorated by the memorial in the Priory Church.





Of an antient family in the

Parish of Dunstable Dyed 19

January 1651 And left issue by

ELIZABETH his Wife two Sons

JOHN and FRANCIS and one Daughter named ELIZABETH.

The said JOHN married BLANDINA Daughter of HUMPHRY

IRONMONGER Gentleman and left Issue by her JOHN his only Son

Who Dyed without Issue and two Daughters BLANDINA and Mary.

The said BLANDINA Daughter of the said JOHN MARSHE founded

And endowed within this Parish a Lodge for harbouring therein Six poor

Maiden Gentlewomen, descended of reputable parents and members of

The Church of England, and Dyed unmarried 28 December 1741 having

Left several Charities for the benefit of the Minister and poor of this Town.

And of other parishes in the County of Bedford

The said MARY married THOMAS LOCKINGTON and survived him and dyed

21Oct 1730 without issue and considerably augmented this and two other Livings

And made several Charitable provisions for the poor of this parish and elsewhere

The said FRANCIS MARSHE married REBECCA the daughter of JOHN BRIGGS.

Gentleman heretofore of the Town and had Issue by her, two Sons

Daniel and JOHN and two Daughters REBECCA and JANE since


TO THE MEMORY of all whome and pursuant

To the Desire of the late named BLANDINA MARSHE.

This Monument hath been set up.



Mary Lockington’s will Mary died in 1730, aged 65. The will is dated 1st June 1730. She directs that her half of the estate be granted to the Governors of Christ’s Hospital in London and their successors, to act as her Trustees. They are to pay all rents and profits from the estate to he older sister Blandina Marshe for her lifetime. She, in turn, must pay £20 per year to Thomas Ironmonger for his lifetime. He was related to the sisters on their mother’s side. Should Blandina die first the Trustees are to give Thomas £50 per year. If Thomas has children at the time of his death, the £50 is then to be shared equally between them. Upon the death of Blandina, the Trustees are to make the following annual payments: -

  1. £20 to the Rector of Dunstable for the ‘augmentation’ of the rectory income.
  2. £10 to the churchwardens and overseers of Dunstable parish for distribution among the poor housekeepers of the parish who have no other ‘relief or pension.’ This sum is to be paid in two amounts, £5 during December and £5 during January.
  3. £20 to the vicar of Leighton Buzzard.
  4. £10 to the churchwardens and overseers of Leighton Buzzard parish for distribution among the poor housekeepers of the parish who have no ‘relief or pension.’ This sum to be paid in two amounts, £5 during December and £5 during January.
  5. £10 the vicar of Hockliffe.
  6. £20 equally between ten ‘honest maids or widows, to be recommended by persons of repute.’
  7. £5 each to five poor clergymen of the Church of England.
  8. £5 each to five poor widows of Church of England clergymen.
  9. Any surplus to be spent on the upkeep of poor children at Christ’s Hospital.

Mary appointed her sister, Blandina, as her executor.


On the death of her sister, Blandina wrote her own will, which will be dealt with later.

After the death of the two sisters, hearings were commenced in the Court of Chancery on behalf of the Rector, church wardens and overseers of Dunstable and the vicar of Leighton Buzzard involving the Mayor and Corporation of the City of London, who were Governor’s of Christ’s Hospital. Marshe Dickinson was also present as a personal representative of Blandina Marshe and Mary Lockington. The London Governors said that the Hospital did not benefit by much from the trust as little was left over after the bequests in Dunstable, Leighton Buzzard and Hockliffe had been honoured. By a deed of 1st June 1742 the City of London authorities release all control over the estate.


In a decree, dated 2nd April 1743, the wills of Mary Lockington and Blandina Marshe were established. It directs the partition of the estate to support two separate charities. A master of the court is to appoint four Trustees in place of the Christ Hospital Governors. The £50 to Thomas Ironmonger and other bequests will be paid out of the income. Any surplus is to be used for repairs to properties or kept in a sinking fund to make up any fall of income in subsequent years. The transfer of assets was completed on 17th June 1742.

By the beginning of the 19th century income from the estate had so far outstripped expenditure that the charity was again reviewed by the Court of Chancery. By then, John Miller a descendant of the last surviving Trustee was in sole control of the charity. The court heard that the surplus stood at £826.12.2d. A decree dated 9th March 1808 stated that a master of the court should appoint three more Trustees and that the purposes of the trust should be revised, so long as they are in accordance with the general directions of the will. By deeds dated 3rd and 4th February 1811 James Cocks, Thomas Somers Cocks and John Crawley joined John Miller as Trustees. These are also trustees of Blandina Marshe’s charity. The sum was invested, through the Accountant General in 3% consols. The court received a report, dated 26th November 1813, that the annual income from the properties totalled £308.5s. The court concluded that the only use to which any surplus could be put, however large, was the upkeep of poor children at Christ’s Hospital, as stated in Mary Lockington’s will. It was decided to extend the provisions of the will.

  1. £2 to each of four additional ‘poor maids or widows’ recommended to the Trustees by ‘persons of repute’.
  2. £5 the each of four additional poor Church of England clergymen.
  3. £5 to each of four additional poor widows of Church of England clergymen.
  4. Any surplus to be used by the Trustees to increase the number of recipients in the above categories, but not the amounts paid to each individual.


New deeds, dated 5th and 6th July 1816, name the Trustees as being James Cocks, Thomas Somers Cocks, Henry Berens and Sir John Osborne Bart. The estate consists at the time of: -

  1. A farm at Toddington, in Bedfordshire, called Herne Farm, consisting of a house, arable, meadow and pastureland of about 96 acres, let to Richard Attwood for 21 years from Michaelmas 1819 at £125 per year.
  2. A similar farm at Soulbury, in Buckinghamshire, of about 60 acres, let to Henry Taylor, for 21 years from Michaelmas 1819 at £85 per year.
  3. A similar farm in Hockliffe of about 47 acres; a meadow in the parish of Eggington called Marshall’s Close of 4 acres let to John Inwards for 21 years from Michaelmas 1818, at £116 per year.
  4. A similar farm in Totternhoe of about 97 acres, let to Jonathan Purton for three years from Michaelmas 1818 at £70 per year.
  5. Fisher’s Close of 4 acres in Hockliffe, next to the house and land of Richard Gilpin, given temporarily in exchange for his White’s Close, also in Hockliffe. White’s close is also let by the Trustees to John Inwards for 21 years for an additional £14 per year.
  6. A close of meadow land in Stanbridge, of about three acres, let to Charles Petitt from year to year for six guineas per year, clear of all taxes except land tax.

Income from rents amounted to £416.6s and dividends were £17.19s, totalling £434.5s. All payments were made, including £50 to Thomas Ironmonger. The trustees meet every year and appoint replacements for any vacancies in the lists of recipients, having first consulted widely. £10 is paid to the Trustee’s treasurer; £23.0.4d for land tax and quit rent; £8 on insurance for farm buildings and £20 for travel and other expenses. Considerable sums have been spent in previous years on repair of buildings and land surveys. The sinking fund amounts to £77.10.6d. The Charity Commissioners carried out a review of Mary Lockington’s charity and concluded that it was by and large well administered. Their report is dated 30th June 1821.

As dividends increased, the number of clergymen and widows was increased to ten in each group and the sum received by each individual to £40. This was incorporated in a new scheme dated 25th January 1876. By this time Mary’s and Blandina’s charities were in the hands of the same Trustees: - Thomas Somers Cocks of 43 Charing Cross in Middlesex, Thomas Somers Vernon Cocks of the same address, Sir George Robert Osborn of Chicksands Priory Bedfordshire, Charles Cyril Hicks of Dunstable, in association with William Stuart of Tempsford Hall Sandy, a colonel in the Bedfordshire Militia and William Cooper Cooper of Toddington Manor, a major in HM Army. Henry M Vane was the Secretary. It became the custom to supplement the shortfall on the Marshe accounts from the Lockington surplus. In his 1861 return to the Ecclesiastical Commission, Revd Frederick Hose records an income of £20 from the Lockington Trustees.

In 1882 the property of the Lockington charity included Soulbury Farm, Buckinghamshire; Church Farm Hockliffe; Herne Farm, Toddington; Lockington Farm, Totternhoe; Pastures Close, Stanbridge Ford and two cottages in Dunstable. New land agents, at Stony Stratford, had been appointed and they submitted a report on 29th May to the Trustees in this year. The tenant of Soulbury Farm was W Mead. Most of the farm was on ‘stiff clay’ and so has suffered through the succession of wet summers. The four areas of the farm had produced clover after wheat, wheat after turnips and vetches, peas after barley and wheat after barley and clover. Part of the farm roof needed to be re-thatched. Mr. Mead assured the agents he would attend to it after the harvest. Church Farm was tenanted by James Inward. The farm was in good condition but the Old Stocks field required new drainage. Three new gates and some posts were also required. The agent suggested that the three elms, which had blown down in the gales, should be sold to pay for the work. Concern was expressed that a neighbour, Mr. Adams, had planted a hedge in front of the farmhouse and claimed the land on the other side of it. No map could be found to show to whom the land really belonged. A large area had been planted with mangel, a beet for cattle fodder. Ann Attwood was the tenant of Hearne Farm. Despite the heavy clay the farm was very productive. Crop descriptions included beans after oats, fallow for mangel, naked fallow after wheat, tares after wheat, clover after barley, barley after turnips, oats after beans, fallow after turnips, wheat, clover and beans after mangels and one area left fallow. Ann Attwood had repeatedly asked the previous agent for six new gates and posts. The agent judged that three were urgent and the others could be mended. Other improvements suggested were the drainage of five acres, a cesspool at the foot of the cattle yard, new fences and a cart shed. The Stanbridge land is tenanted by James Petit and was mostly put to grass. The agents again warn that neighbours may be encroaching on the Trustees’ land by erecting fences and planting hedges. The Totternhoe Farm is in the hands of John Pratt and Elizabeth Purton, who are the executors of the late James Purton. Much of the land is in small isolated parcels, interspersed with land belonging to the Brownlow estate. The agents recommend that an arrangement be made with the estate to swap fields of equal value and so make the farm more compact. The farm and building were reported as in quite good condition. The agents also inspected the Ladies’ Lodge. The main building was in good condition but some of the outhouses were in need of immediate attention. The income for this year, 1882, is £243.14s.

At the beginning of the 20th century the charities of the two sisters, although separate, were administered by the same Trustees. By a deed dated 4.3.1909, William Harry Healey, of Lower End Totternhoe, took on the tenancy of a pasture close of 2½ acres at Stanbridge. The previous tenant had been William Abraham. The annual rent was £6.14s, paid quarterly, as well as rates and tenant’s taxes. Responsibilities included maintaining hedges, gate, ditches and using local materials for repairs. There were injunctions against lopping trees, subletting, or selling grass without permission.

In 1921 it was proposed to sell the majority of the Lockington property. They are listed as: -

  1. Soulbury Farm, tenant Mr. Conquest since 1905. It is a dairy farm of about 60 acres. The rent is £100 with land tax of £4.15s. The house is old and £38.13s had been spent on repairs over the past three years. The rent should be £120 but is valued at £2,000.
  2. Church Farm, Hockliffe, tenant Mrs. Inwards and her husband since about 1894. Its size is about 60 acres. The rent is £116 with land tax of £5.17.2d and tithes payable to the Rector of Hockliffe and the vicar of Eggington. £24.18s have been paid on repairs. The rent ought to be increased to £180 but is valued at £2,750.
  3. Herne Farm, Toddington, tenant Mr. Attwood who had succeeded his mother. It is a dairy farm of about 94 acres. The house is very old. The rent is £100 with land tax of £4.15s and tithes of £11.10.2d. Repairs of £40 have been spent recently. The rent should be £125 and the value is £2,150.
  4. Lockington Farm, Totternhoe, tenant Mr. Turvey, mostly corn production on 101 acres. The house is old and few repairs have been carried out. The rent is £100; with no land tax but tithes of £5.7.3d payable to Trinity College, Cambridge. Recent repairs of £21.5.7d. The rent should be £137.10s and the value is £1,700.
  5. Pasture Close, Stanbridge ford, tenant W Healey at just over 2 acres. The rent is £6.14s with land tax of £7.9s and tithes of 12s. It should be sold for £100.
  6. Two cottages in Church Street, Dunstable, let to Mrs Cleaver and Mrs Dyer at 8 guineas each. They are brick, tiled and in good repair. The tenants pay rates of £3.14.8d and tithes of 1.6d to the Rector. The new rent should be £12 but both should be sold at £400 for the pair.

£9,100 would be realised by this sale, or £8750 nett. Invested at 5%, this would produce £437.10. After deductions, this was calculated to be £250 to £260 nett. Tenants should be given the first offer on their properties. This report was sent to the Trustees c/o Trower Still and Co., 5 new Square, Lincolns Inn, London  WC2.

In the aftermath of the First World War, the Government was eager that ex-servicemen should be helped to buy land for cultivation. This could range from smallholdings to medium sized farms. Applications were made to Local Authorities who were responsible for the selection process. The Ministry funded part of the land’s purchase price. The Charity Commissioners gave permission for the above farmland to be available under the scheme.


In a report dated 19.5.1930, the Trustees considered the state of Lockington farm, Totternhoe. Yields had been poor the previous year due to bad weather. The farm was growing wheat, peas, (sainfoin), hay, winter oats and beet. The main barn had been repaired. The coal and wood barn now had a new roof. The tenant was Mr. Turvey. The same report stated that the cottages and Ladies’ Lodge were in good repair. Miss Harvey’s wooden water butt was beyond repair and it was proposed to supply her with a galvanised iron replacement. The pollarded trees at the front of the Lodge were growing well.

The two cottages in Church Street were subject to new agreements dated 23.4.1946. Mrs. G Surety, of 2 Walnut Tree Terrace, rented No. 111 for 7.6d per week. She also had to pay the rates. Mr. Ronald Victor Tilcock, of 115 Church Street, rented No. 109 at the same rate. He had to pay rates and provide dustbins.

In a review dated 1959, £18,688 is invested in 2½% Consols and 3% Savings Bonds. The trustees also own the two cottages in Dunstable, let in total at £58.10s and Herne Farm Toddington still let at £80.3s. There are six Trustees and their duties are not onerous as most of the work is carried out in London by the Receiver of Rents. The trustees meet once a year at the Old Sugar Loaf Hotel during May or June. Mary Lockington’s charity was divided into two separate entities at about this time. The Leighton Buzzard commitments were taken care of by the Mary Lockington Charity for the Poor. This became part of the Leighton Buzzard United Charities on 14th April 1964. This consisted of 23 small charities. They were finally amalgamated on 30th May 2007. The Dunstable portion eventually became part of the Association of Dunstable Charities in 1993.


Under new orders dated 5th February 1992, the Charity Commissioners agreed that the Trustees should be the same as those for the Lockington charity. They are to manage and let the land belonging to the charity, draw up leases, ensure proper maintenance and defray their own expenses. They are to continue the annual payments of £20 to the Rector of Dunstable, £20 to the vicar of Leighton Buzzard, £10 to the vicar of Hockliffe. They are also to continue to pay £5 to the 4 remaining clergy widows until their deaths. The residue of the income is for the relief of the poor in and around Dunstable, including the occupants of Ladies’ Lodge and occasional contributions towards the upkeep of the building. Relief in Need includes: - weekly allowances for a specific purpose for a limited time; special one-off payments to ‘relieve sudden distress’; travel expenses to attend hospital or to visit people in hospital, care homes, children’s homes or prison and associated accommodation, meals and child-minding; other local charities supplying similar care; assistance with utility bills or tv licence fees; purchase of or loan towards purchase of furniture, bedding, clothing, food, fuel, white goods; radio or televisions for the housebound or bedridden; house repair; adapting homes for the disabled; care respite; invalid chairs and special diets. The Trustees were given a wide remit as to the use of their funds so long as the money was not directly used to pay rates or taxes. They must work closely with the statutory authorities, in particular local Social Security and Social Services officers. They must not allow their funds to be used for purposes, which can be financed from elsewhere. The only land the charity owned by this time was Lockington Farm in Totternhoe.

The Mary Lockington Charity currently has an income of about £10,000 per year. Grants are made to elderly people who are eligible and who live in the parishes of Dunstable, Leighton Buzzard or Hockliffe


Blandina Marshe’s will. Dated 25th November 1730 She names Marshe Dickinson as her executor and directs her Trustees to erect her Ladies’ Lodge, as near to the Priory Church as possible. The six separate ‘apartments’ are each for one ‘poor gentlewoman who should be upwards of forty years of age and descended of reputable parents and who had lived a virtuous life and could be recommended by persons of reputation and who frequent the Public Worship of the Church of England as by law established.’ She expresses a desire that two of the six ladies should be daughters of attorneys. She also makes provision for the upkeep of the building. Blandina died in 1741, aged 78. She bequeaths her half of the estate to John Dickinson, Marshe Dickinson, Philip Aynscombe and their heirs. She names her Trustees as Henshaw Halsey, Thomas Aynscombe, James Cart and Charles Bayliff and their heirs. The estate consists of land and buildings mainly in Dunstable, Hockliffe and Stanbridge. The Trustees are charged to ensure that the Lodge is built and administered according to her will. Each resident is to receive £10 per year, in four equal payments on Quarter days and £2 each annually, at Michaelmas, for fuel. She provides annually, three guineas for her Trustees’ dinner, £5 for repairs to the building and a further £5 as a sinking fund for emergencies. At their annual meeting the Trustees are to receive audited accounts, check the state of the Lodge and fill any vacancies. Should any occupant marry, she would no longer be eligible and would have to vacate her house. When the number of Trustees falls to two, the survivors are to identify ‘four other substantial gentlemen’ to be Trustees with them. Such a person would own land worth £50 or more in land tax. No Dissenter could be appointed. The Trustees are to be reimbursed for their expenses on the trust’s behalf. Any residue is for the use of Marshe Dickinson and his heirs. Marshe Dickinson proved her will and the two estates were established on 2nd April 1743.

 Deeds dated 21st March 1744 state that all the Trustees, with the exception of Marshe Dickinson, are dead. Francis Dickinson of London, John Marshe Dickinson of London, John Miller the elder and John Miller the younger of Dunstable are named, along with Marshe Dickinson as the new Trustees. It is agreed by the court that Trustees should receive £80.3s out of the profit already accrued by the investments. As the Lodge was built in 1743, it would appear that the would-be Trustees had already bought a plot of land in ‘East Street’ Dunstable for this sum, ‘as close to the Priory church as possible’. Upon this land Marshe Dickinson ‘at his own expense’ erected the Lodge, as directed in the will.


The inscription on the front of Ladies Lodge surrounds the Marshe coat of arms and says,


This Lodge was built and Endowed

in 1743


To the Will of Blandina Marshe


The building is described as being in the front part of The Great Close, adjoining to Colt’s Acre. There is a courtyard at the front and gardens at the back. On the west side of the building was a fenced path leading to the well, which was specially dug for the residents. Most of the income to support the Lodge came from Hearne Farm in Toddington tenanted by William Fane. There were also a few pieces of ground in Hockliffe. All this was let for £80.3s per year. The amount paid to the ‘gentlewomen’ was not enough for their entire expenses. They were envisaged as refined ladies now living in reduced circumstances but who had a little income of their own. In a will dated May 1770, Mrs. Millicent Mathews left a legacy of £1,000 to be invested by Lawrence Smyth, Charles John Clarke, James Cocks and William Willshire in 5% navy stocks. This produced £52.10s per year and Mrs. Mathews directed that the interest should be shared equally, on 29th September, between the six occupants of Ladies’ Lodge.

By the beginning of the 19th century, the annual amount paid was £12 each and, bizarrely, the fuel payment was made in June. £100 had been spent on repairs and the building was in a good condition. The insurance premium had risen to £2.10s and, as there was a deficit in the budget, the Trustees had to pay for the annual dinner themselves.

By deeds dated 4th February 1811, John Miller, heir of the last surviving Trustee appointed James Cock and Thomas Somers Cocks of Charing Cross, ‘in the County of Middlesex’; John Crawley of Stockwood and George Miller of ‘His Majesty’s Navy’ to be his co-Trustees. On 18th August 1865, by order of the Charity Commissioners, Ladies’ Lodge and its land was vested in the Official Custodian for Charities.

It became the custom that, when residents died, they were buried in the northeast corner of the Priory churchyard, opposite the Lodge. This practice was discontinued when the churchyards of Dunstable were closed in 1860.


By 1876 the charities of the two sisters were united in the same board of Trustees. An order, dated 25th January 1876 authorises the payment to each inhabitant to be increased from £23.8.7d to £30 per annum. The income from the Blandina Marshe properties is insufficient to meet its commitments whereas the Mary Lockington charity is accumulating a substantial surplus. The order allows the Trustees to switch resources from one to the other as necessary and codified what had been happening un-officially for some years.


On Friday 17th August 1883 WH Derbyshire made a speech to the Town Council. In it he deplored the fact that none of the Trustees now resided in Dunstable. Dr. Hicks had moved to Wokingham and the nearest was Major William Cooper Cooper of Toddington Manor. The major was 72 years old. Mr. Derbyshire moved a resolution that the Town Clerk be instructed to write to the Charity Commissioners requesting them to form a new body of Trustees who are locally resident.

Orders and Rules for management, dated 1885, state that every ‘inmate’ shall employ a domestic servant if required by the trustees. Inhabitants were expected to be impoverished gentlewomen of restricted means, who had employed a large staff in better times. Ladies’ Lodge was not seen as an almshouse for women who had absolutely nothing. The Trustees provided them with a roof over their heads and what might be called pocket money. The ladies were expected to have a small independent income of their own. A Chancery order of 30th July 1890 directed that three-quarters of the income be paid to the charity and the rest to the descendants of Thomas Ironmonger. In 1907 the ladies received £25 each. Correspondence from the Charity Commissioners in 1916 reports that the owners of Kingsbury Farm are charged to pay £35 per year, £15 of it to the Rector of Dunstable. The new owners are three years in arrears. The Commission promises the Ecclesiastical Commission that their own solicitors will instruct the owners to pay but they are unable to find details of the original will. In 1932 George Carter Rolfe, the Rector, reports that the £10 from Kingsbury House has not been received for some years. The Ecclesiastical Commission reply that the payment to the poor of Dunstable from this charity was last paid in 1928. They cannot find the appropriate deed to prove that this payment should be made. The habit of combining the income of the two charities continued well into the 1950s. By this time the charities are producing combined accounts. In a review of the two charities dated 1959, the farm in Totternhoe is let at £237.10s per year.  The Lodge is described as ‘a charming old building divided into six small dwellings, each with a sitting room, two bedrooms, a kitchen and a bathroom.’ The trustees meet at the Sugar Loaf Hotel in May or June. At this time the Lodge is inspected and the ladies receive their £40. In the 1970s income amounted to £1200 per year. Most of this was spent on the maintenance of the Lodge. The building needed constant attention. The Trustees installed central heating and a communal tv aerial. The occupants still received £2 annually for fuel. This amount was also paid to 14 widows of the parish. Six poor clergymen’s widows and eight poor clergy received £5 each year. The small statutory payments were still made to the incumbents of Dunstable, Leighton Buzzard and Hockliffe. This continued until the late 1980s when the next review was undertaken. Occupants were required to be single ladies, of not less than 40 years of age, but they could be unmarried, divorced or widowed. The benefits of living in Ladies’ Lodge diminished with advances in provision under the Welfare State. Because the income was so limited, residents were chosen from among ladies who had good pensions but lacked accommodation. These would be senior nurses, matrons and possibly missionaries. They would be expected to help with the costs of internal decorations and repairs. They were also asked to contribute £24 per week maintenance. This would preclude them from receiving Housing Benefit. Such ladies were probably eligible for a more modern flat from the Local Authority or a Housing Association at about the same rent. The Trustees asked the Charity Commissioners to review the running of these two charities and to issue new orders, which would legalise the un-official situation, which had developed out of necessity over the years.

 In a letter dated 1st July 1991 the Commissioners agreed the following: - that the two charities should have the same trustees, the rector of Dunstable or his nominee, two representatives of the Town Council and four co-opted Trustees; qualification for residence should remain unchanged; residents should be charged a weekly amount for maintenance and the establishment of a repair fund and that this charity should receive surplus from the Lockington charity to preserve the Lodge. A form was included on which the Trustees could apply for this agreement to be implemented. This they duly did. New orders were issued on 5th February 1992. It authorises the trustees to secure a mortgage on the Lodge of £34,000 from Barclays Bank in order to carry out essential repairs to the building. It incorporates arrangements for the appointment of Trustees and the management of meetings. A clerk is to be appointed to keep the Minutes and maintain records. Trustees are able to claim their own expenses, undertake regular maintenance, accumulate a sinking fund and make payments to benefit the residents of the Lodge. They are able to appoint new residents after vacancies have been adequately advertised. All six ladies are to contribute towards the upkeep of the Lodge as well as the cost of lighting, heating and hot water. Contributions are to be affordable and not exceed £20 per week. Residents are not allowed to let or sub-let their accommodation. They may be replaced if they marry, persistently upset other residents or need medical care that cannot be provided on site. The Trustees may make other regulations so long as they do not conflict with the Order. They may also appoint and pay a Superintendent of the Lodge. The assets of the charity are: - ‘land containing 12,880 square feet’ ‘having a frontage of 92 feet’ in Church Street, known as Ladies’ Lodge; 376.05 Accumulated shares in the Charities Official Investment Fund (COIF); 2099.65 Income shares in COIF; £14,211.52 cash on Business Premium account at the Dunstable branch of Barclays Bank plc; £3269.89 cash on current at the same bank. At the turn of the century, the assets were divided into two separate funds. One became part of the Association of Dunstable Charities while the other became part of The Dunstable Welfare Trust. The funds, however, are still applied in accordance with the will. Annual income usually exceeds £10,000 and is applied to the inhabitants of Ladies’ Lodge.


The Poor’s Land Charity.

This charity is a combination of five smaller charities, the earliest of which dates from 1577. They all had similar aims. The constituent charities were founded by Richard Finch, Richard Mantell, John Heath, Matthew Hickson and Elizabeth Finch.

Richard Finch’s will is dated 2nd March 1639. In it he leaves a dwelling in West Street, Dunstable, to be occupied by two families of ‘honest well-disposed poor people’ or two widows. Tenants must frequently attend the Priory church. He also left the rent from half an acre of land in Houghton Regis towards the repair of these two houses. From the rent of another property in the west of the town, he left 3s.4d a year to buy bread for the poor, to be distributed on the day after ‘the feast day of St Michael the Archangel, for ever.’

Richard Mantell was a Trustee of Richard Finch’s charity. He owned small pieces of land in Dunstable, Luton, Houghton Regis, Caddington, Kensworth and Flamstead that amounted to seventeen acres. These included the site of the old spital house and the adjacent close, called The Chapel Close. His will, of 1577, established a board of Trustees whose responsibility it was to share the annual rents, valued at £7. 14 .8d, between the poor of the parish of Dunstable. John Chester was the last surviving member of this board. When he died, His son, Richard, by deeds dated 13th February 1755, conveyed the lands of Richard Mantell and Richard Finch, to new Trustees, led by James Grant. It would seem that there were thirteen Trustees because the new trust deeds state that when there are fewer than four surviving Trustees, the number is to be made up to thirteen.

There are few records of how many recipients benefited from these charities. In 1834 they had a combined income of £73. .9d. In 1847 the Court of Chancery was petitioned to amalgamate the five charities under the title of The Poor’s Land Charity. This was granted three years later. The cottages in West Street, which were now in a poor state of repair, were sold. Other land was sold in 1881 to the Great Northern Railway Company for the building of the railway line between Dunstable and Luton. The assets of the five charities amounted to £2,815.9.6d and this sum was invested in Government stocks, producing an annual income of about £83. This rose to £182.15s in 1875 but was only £46.1s in 1908. There have been further sales of land near Half Moon Lane, the Luton Road Industrial estate and in Houghton Regis. This produced a further £57,000. By the early 1970s the capital amounted to nearly £100,000 with income of £5,000 per year. Beneficiaries were defined as elderly residents of limited means who lived within the 1907 boundary of Dunstable. About four hundred people received money. Distributions of £6 per head were made twice a year, on Maunday Thursday and St. Thomas’ Day.

John Heath, by his will dated 23rd January 1640, left £100 for the purchase of land. The profits and rents from these lands were to be distributed annually among the poor of Dunstable on St. Thomas’ Day. In 1642 Trustees were appointed who bought land in Houghton Regis and Kensworth. The annual income was £5. By 1755 John Miller was among the Trustees of this charity. In deeds dated 8th March of that year, the land was vested in Marshe Dickinson and others who became the new Trustees. They also were thirteen in number because a clause states that when the surviving Trustees are fewer that four, they are to appoint replacements.

In his will Matthew Hickson left £30 that was used, in 1647, to buy 7½ acres of land in Houghton Regis. The rents, around £2, were to be distributed among the poor of Dunstable, especially the widows. The land was vested in James Grant and other Trustees on 8th March 1755. At this time half an acre of land in Dunstable was bought and added to the charity’s assets.

By deeds dated 16th April 1691 William Fossey left land with buildings in West Street and an acre of arable land in Houghton Regis in trust to be administered by his son Joseph Fossey and his descendants. The rents were for the benefit of his family and other Dunstable freeholders. By deeds also dated 8th March 1755, the Fossey land and the Hickson land came under the control of James Grant and twelve other Trustees. The aims of the bequests remained the same and provision was made to maintain the number of Trustees.

Elizabeth Finch, a widow, owned one dwelling and three closes in West Street. By her will, dated 30th April 1598, she left £2 per year from the rent of this property for the benefit of the town’s poor. By the 1820s this property belonged to Richard Gutteridge who continued the annual payment at Michaelmas.

By a deed of the same date, John Miller senior and his son were joined by James Grant and others as Trustees of a cottage with landing Dunstable ‘in or near Pudding alias Pouching Lane.’ The rents were to be distributed among the poor of the parish. There were no more additions or sales of land after this time. The requirement to replace deceased Trustees was not honoured. John Miller junior was the last to die. His only heir was Revd John Castleton Miller, who lived in Malta. At this point, about 1830, the rector and churchwardens of Dunstable took over the responsibilities of the Trustees. The cottage in ‘Pudding Lane’ was no longer part of the charity but all the rest of the property was in tact. The Richard Finch properties were still occupied rent-free by two families. The rest, let for rent, consisted of: -

  1. A piece of land in Dunstable of about five acres, let to Thomas Scott for seven years from Michaelmas, 29th September, 1820 at an annual rent of £9.13.2d.
  2. A close of just over an acre in Dunstable and ten acres in Houghton Regis let to Richard Row for seven years also from Michaelmas 1820 at £36 per annum.
  3. Three acres of land in Caddington let to James Cooke for seven years from Michaelmas 1820 at £17 .15 .7d per year. These three properties had been let by public auction to the highest bidder.
  4. Two closes of three acres in Luton and a close and woodland of one acre in Flamstead let to John Higgins at £8 per year.
  5. A house with barn and garden in Dunstable let to Richard Gutteridge junior at £8 per annum. This was considered a low rent for this site.

The rents amount to £79 .8 .9d. £10 of this was distributed by the rector and churchwardens to the poor of the parish, who are not householders, at 8s to 10s each. Prior to 1820 Mr. Miller or his Trustees distributed the rest of the rent money, as they felt fit. Since that time it had been used to buy coal that was then re-sold to poor householders of Dunstable at less than cost price. In 1827 coal was 2/1d per hundredweight and sold at 1 .4d (64%). Timber from the woodland in Flamstead was sold to build a coal shed in Dunstable next to the workhouse. The churchwardens kept accounts of this fund. In 1819 it had a surplus of £5. Current income is about £5,000 and is available for relief to people living within the 1907 boundary of Dunstable.

The Dunstable Welfare Trust

Incorporating charities founded by

William Avery        Edward Thomas Burr

Blandina Marshe  Henry Cooper Goude

Ann Norton    William Strange


The Dunstable Welfare Trust is made up of six small charities with similar intentions that the Charity Commissioners brought together under one title. The trustees are the Rector and Churchwardens of the ecclesiastical parish of Dunstable. The trust receives income from shares held on its behalf by the Official Custodian for Charities. The number of shares for each of the constituent charities is 23, 704, 44, 66, 39 and 179 respectively. The trust makes small payments in cases of individual need to people living within the parish, on application to the Rector.

The William Avery charity was founded by his will, dated 21st March 1738. His estate consisted of property next to The Great Bull in north Dunstable, later known as Burr’s estate, and 14 acres of land in and around the town. His executor was a relative called Anne Larking. The six beneficiaries were to include the parish clerk and ‘bellman’ (town crier?) and four retired maltsters. They were to receive 2d or a 2d loaf each Sunday. The property in question was a malt-house belonging to Mr. Burr. By the 1820s Mr. Burr was paying £1.6s per year so that the clerk, the bellman and one retired maltster could receive the stipulated bread weekly. The charity was not well managed. In the 1870s all that was left was an annual sum of £1. 6. 0d paid by Edward Thomas Burr ‘in respect of a malting house in High Street North’ occupied by Benjamin Bennett jun. Records suggest that one of Mr. Burr’s ancestors had benefited from the William Avery charity. It could also be that the original Mr. Burr bought the malting house from William Avery when the latter gave up work.

The Edward Thomas Burr charity was founded by his will, which was proved on 26th April 1930. It has similar aims to the Avery charity and is the biggest constituent of the Welfare Trust. Edward Thomas Burr was the last person to be buried in the Priory churchyard. He is in the same plot as his brother, William Little Burr, the penultimate burial in the churchyard. Their mother’s memorial is on the wall of the south aisle.

The Blandina Marshe charity is one part of her 1730 legacy. In it she left £5 per year to be distributed among the poor who, though they regularly attended worship at the Priory, do not receive alms from any other source. By the 1820s this sum was also supposed to be paid by the owner of Kingsbury Farm. It is not clear how this responsibility came about, as it is not listed as one of her properties. However, it had become the custom of deducting £1 for land tax and repairs to the farm. Only £4 was actually paid to the parish authorities, at Michaelmas, for distribution to the poor at Christmas. Under the same part of the will, £10 is paid annually for the ‘augmentation’ of the Dunstable rectory stipend, also by the proprietor of Kingsbury Farm. This time, £2 is deducted for land tax and repairs.

The Henry Cooper Goude charity was founded by his will, proved on 5th November 1861. He left £100, the dividends from which were to be distributed, yearly, at Christmas to forty of the most deserving and needy people in Dunstable. The legacy was later invested in £97.11.3d consols and produced £2.8.8d annually.

The Ann Norton charity was founded by her will, dated 12th August 1704. She was a widow who owned property in Stanbridge. From these rents she left an endowment so that 1s per week could be spent on the distribution of bread among the poor of Dunstable parish each Sunday ‘for ever.’ By the 1820s Mr. Brown of Luton paid a baker in Dunstable to provide twelve penny loaves each week. This bread was distributed along with that provided under the wills of Frances Ashton and Jane Cart. 5s worth of bread was shared between 60 people under the three wills every Sunday. In 1876 the annuity of £2 .12s was redeemed by purchase of £78 consols, which produced £2.3.4d annually.

The William Strange charity was founded by his will, dated 7th June 1664. He left an annuity of £10, to be paid from the rent on Brewers Hill Farm, farmed by Edward Snoxell. When this land was enclosed in 1796, land farmed by Thomas Partridge was granted in lieu. The sum was to be shared among the poor householders of the parish who were ‘aged, impotent, weak, sickly’ and ‘who frequented God’s ordinances and Divine services and not Quakers or common beggars.’ Until 1799 there was a Quaker meetinghouse in Dunstable. William nominated the rector and churchwardens as Trustees. His land consisted of about 140 acres in Houghton Regis and was rented by Edward Snoxell. When most of this land came under the 1796 Inclosure Act, other land was allotted to replace it. This was rented by Thomas Partridge who paid £10 per year to the Dunstable Priory authorities. During the 1820s, dissenters who lived in Dunstable and who were not Quakers or beggars applied for relief under this charity. Despite legal advice that they had an entitlement, the churchwardens decided not to include them in the distribution.

There have been other small local charities that have either been absorbed elsewhere or have just been abandoned. The Yorke’s charity of 1631 left £1 a year to the poor. The sum was payable by the owner of Kingsbury House. By the 1820s it was impossible to say whether this intention had ever been honoured.

John Mash, in his will dated 5th September 1699, left £1 .10s per year to be distributed among the poor of Dunstable each December by his three children. After their decease, the parish churchwardens and overseers are to administer the funds. The property consisted of six acres of land ‘in or near the North Field’. By the 1820s it was impossible to say exactly where this land was and whether any distribution had ever taken place.

Daniel Marsh’s will is dated 2nd March 1707. From his estates in Dunstable he left £3 to be paid out annually on 30th September. Of this £1 was paid to the Rector. He was required to preach a sermon in the morning of that day, exhorting the poor of the parish to live ‘honestly, godly and quietly with their neighbours’ to live by hard work and not to steal. He was to preach against sloth and to encourage others to give to charity. The other £2 was to be distributed among the poor who attended the Priory on that day. By the 1820s the £3 was paid on the due date by James Oliver who owned Kingsbury Farm opposite the Priory church. By 1908 it was paid out of the Houghton Hall estate.

Sir John Knightley in 1802 gave £200 to support a Sunday school in the parish of Dunstable. In 1813, after litigation, consols worth £191.17s were purchased. The Accountant-General, in the Court of Chancery, paid the interest to the rector. The first annual income was £4.15.10d. A Statement of Accounts, dated 31.12.1900 and completed by the rector John Heyrick Macaulay, says that there are no Governors or Trustees of this charity and that the Court of Chancery pays £5 per year under an order from the case of Woodman v Woodman. This sum had been received for several years during the late 1890s but then appears to cease. In 1903 the balance stands at £9 .2 .6d, £3 having recently been spent on Sunday school registers, prizes and cleaning. By the 1990s the capital is £191.85 which produces £4.76 annually. This interest is paid into the church accounts. A resolution of the church council was made to wind up this charity and spend the capital on the Sunday School. The Sir John Knightley charity was finally wound up in 1994.


The Dunstable Welfare Trust currently has an annual income of about £500. Grants are made to individuals who live in the Borough of Dunstable who can prove a need.


Briggs Charity

This charity was founded by the will of George Briggs ‘Gentleman’, dated 24th June 1692. He instructed his executors to purchase land, with money from his estate, which would produce income of at least £10 yearly. John Briggs and James Ashwell were appointed Trustees. They were required to identify a poor child of the parish of Dunstable who was suitable for an apprentice, pay the employer £10 per year during the apprenticeship and pay the apprentice £10 the following year to set up in business. The following year a new ‘poor child’ was to be identified for the next cycle of money. Nothing was done until 1704 when £260 was paid to William Chew in consideration of several parcels of land that he owned. The tenants were James Harding and James Ashwell. The land remained in the possession of William Chew and his heirs but £10 per year of the rent was to be used for the purposes of the Briggs Charity. The rent came from: - an 8 acre field on the south side of Half Moon Lane in the parish of Caddington; a 17 acre field on the north east side of the ‘Turnpike Road’ also in Caddington; a 5 acre field in Caddington called Clay Close; a 6 acre field called Mill Close in Kensworth and a 4 acre field on the south-east side of Half Moon Lane in the parish of Kensworth. The annuity was originally paid on 21st December, St. Thomas’s Day, by James Hopkins Oliver, who lived in Kingsbury House. Trustees in September 1817 were John Castleton Miller, Thomas Winter Mead, William Frederick Brown, Thomas Burr, George Fossey and Richard Gutteridge. The lands were bought in 1893 by Benjamin Bennett and Henry Brandreth. They covenanted to pay the annuity of £10. In 1898 Dunstable Town Council used the local Government Act of 1891 to appoint Trustees to the charity. From this time until 1926 AWG Bagshawe, the owner of Kingsbury, paid the annual £10. He subsequently refused to pay it any more. The charity Commissioners were petitioned to intervene. Eventually the Attorney General issued orders that the Trustees of the late Benjamin Bennett, the owners of the land, should pay the arrears on the charity. In 1931 £50 was paid in settlement. The trustees then bought £400 of 2½% consols to produce the annual payment. The money was paid into the charity’s bank account. The charity was formally wound up on 19th August 1991.


The British School Trust was established after the winding up of the school. The Dunstable British School was part of an educational initiative, under the auspices of the British and Foreign School Society. This society was the non-conformist response to the Anglican National Schools. Dunstable’s National School opened in 1838 and closed in 1923. The British School opened five years later, in 1843, and closed in 1877. According to its prospectus, the objects of the British School were to teach the children of the ‘working classes’ the ‘principals of religion, morality, prudence and useful knowledge.’ Initially, boys would attend in the mornings and girls in the afternoons. The school would be run and staffed by Dissenters but they pledged not to let their religious convictions influence the children’s learning. It offered a basic curriculum of reading, writing and arithmetic. If children were later felt to be able to learn more, they would be taught some History and Geography. The school was run on a subscription basis. An annual subscription of £1 would entitle a family to send two children for the year. The prospectus concluded with a list of subscribers to the British and Foreign School Society. The Patron was King William IV who gave £100 a year. The Duke of Bedford was President. There then follows a list of Dukes and Duchesses, Lords and Ladies and a Rear Admiral.

Daniel Gould was the Pastor at the West Street Baptist church from 1826 until 1881. He wrote letters to the Society in the early 1830s saying that although the Dunstable Trustees were very short of money, the school would be a success because there were so many families in Dunstable who could not or would not send their children to Chew’s School or the National School. The school opened in the West Street meeting house. This was not large enough and soon moved to the Temperance Hall. Further success prompted the Trustees to build a new room. The estimated cost was £300. So many people promised money for this project that it went ahead. Very little of the money actually materialised and subscriptions were not sufficient to pay off the debt. The buildings were sold in 1877, the debts paid off and the residue invested in £343.2.4d consols. The Trust was established by a scheme that was made by the Charity Commissioners in 1900. The Trustees of the fund, at the time, were John Chambers, grocer and ironmonger of Dunstable and George Carruthers, a Bedford draper. The first annual dividend was £8.11.4d. Notices of distribution are placed in the Methodist church and the Town Council offices in Grove House. Applications from people training to be teachers are considered at the annual meeting in April.


Buckingham’s Bequest is named after Arthur Frederick Buckingham who owned a small grocery business near The Square at the beginning of the 20th century. His wish was for Dunstable to have a cottage hospital for the poor and needy of the district. It is said that, while in his shop one day, he took a brown sugar bag and wrote his will upon it. A formal version was eventually signed and witnessed on 27th December 1907 by Albert and Kate Gutteridge. He died on 20th December 1917 at Paxton Road, Chiswick and administration was granted to the Public Trustee on 31st May 1918. Under his will he left £6 for his burial in Dunstable. To his housekeeper he left all his pictures, photographs, piano and ornaments. All his books, furniture land, furniture and other assets totalled £4,436 .12 .2d. This he left to open a building fund for the hospital. The Mayor of Dunstable was to be Chairman of the Trustees during his year of office and the Rector of the town was to be Vice-Chairman. Other Trustees were the vicar of Houghton Regis, the two Aldermen of Upper Houghton, and two other Aldermen, one from Dunstable Central ward and one from the South ward. These two latter were to be elected by the Town Council. The clergy were to serve during their tenure of office and the Aldermen were appointed for life. At death or disqualification, replacements for the Aldermen were to be appointed, using the same criteria. Albert Gutteridge is named as clerk and treasurer. The other trustees may pay him a fee, if they see fit. Mr. Buckingham concludes, ‘May each person be blessed by the Giver of All Good Gifts who helps to make the Cottage Hospital a benefit to the poor.’ With the help of the Charity Commissioners, the Trustees invested his money and by 1938 the sum had grown to £10,150. This was handed by the Trustees to the management of the new Luton and Dunstable Hospital. The Buckingham Ward was named after him when the hospital opened. His name is on the list of Benefactors in the hospital.


The Duncombe Charity results from the will of William Duncombe of Battlesden. Originally dated 30th October 1594, it is the oldest of the known charities connected to Dunstable.  The will was revised on 26th March 1603, the day before he died. William Duncombe was born about 1546. He married Ellen Saunders in September 1560. By his marriage, he became lord of the manors of Battlesden and Potsgrove and the owner of other related land. In 1591 he was High Sheriff of Bedfordshire. William left much land and property to his wife and descendants. Part of his estate is earmarked for the poor of the neighbourhood. His trustees were his son, Edward, and ‘eleven others.’ The rents were derived from what is now The Golden Bell and two other properties near All Saints church in Leighton Buzzard. There were also two acres of meadow known as Little Woolsalls, near Grovebury Road. The former were rented to the highest bidder at auction. Combined rents were about £17.5s per year. The meadow was farmed in the 1820s by John Young on a 15 year lease from Lady Day, 25th March, 1819 at an annual rent of £45.The income was initially to be distributed in a five-year cycle among the poor of Leighton Buzzard, Ivinghoe and Ivinghoe Aston, Dunstable, Battlesden and then Potsgrove. In 1819 it was agreed that the properties were to be let by churchwardens of the benefiting parishes. It was also resolved that the five year cycle should be replaced by the annual rents being divided into five equal parts and paid over to Trustees in the five parishes. The Dunstable churchwardens decided, at this point, to add their share to the income of the town’s Poor’s Land charity. The money, according to the will, was for the ‘deserving and necessitious persons’ who were genuine residents of the parishes to provide: -

1.‘clothes, linen, bedding, fuel, tools, medical or other aid in sickness, food or other articles in kind.’

  1. ‘temporary relief in money, by way of a loan or otherwise, in cases of unexpected loss or sudden destitution.

By 1897 the income was £37.10s. Distribution to the churchwardens of the parishes was made at the beginning of each year. All the properties were sold in 1899 for £1,664 and the sum invested in 3% London and North-Western Railway debenture stock. This produced £49.18.4d annually. In 1908 the Dunstable share of revenue was distributed as vouchers for bread, meat, groceries and coal to 97 poor people of the parish. On 5th September 1913 the original charity was divided up into five equal portions, one for each parish. The income from the 3% stock was now worth £1,670. Each of the charities, to be managed by three Trustees, therefore received £334. In Dunstable, the Trustees were appointed by the Borough Council. By the early 1970s, the endowment was worth £279 in British Transport 3% stock and produced income of £8.98 per year. This was shared equally, at Christmas, between ten elderly residents who lived within the 1907 town boundary. William Duncombe’s son, Edward, died a Knight of the Realm and left money for the poor of Battlesden, Potsgrove and Leighton Buzzard. The Duncombe charity has an income of about £20 per year. It has not made any official grants recently. Income is now raised from local donations and raffles and this was used at Christmas 2009 to provide hampers of food for the Leighton-Linslade Homeless Association.


Osborn’s Trust is named after George Osborn, who died on 30th March 1914. His will is witnesses by Percy Benjamin Freeman and John James Burges. The codicil was signed by Eleanor Darby, widow of Union Street and Christopher Lloyd Jones, surgeon of Lanark House. Jones was also brother of AO Jones, the famous cricketer and rugby player. Probate was granted to his executors, Howard Rowe and Robert Kent Jardine. The family home was Stone House which was on the corner of Albion Street and the High Street. In the will he leaves the contents of Stone House and interest from investments in the Dunstable Gas and Water Company to his wife, Ellen. He also bequeaths her two houses in High Street South, known at ‘Del Monte’ and Buena Vista’, ‘as long as she remains a widow’. These two properties are then to be vested forever in the corporation of Dunstable for the benefit of 25 poor men over 60 years of age who drink neither ‘Ale nor Beer’. They need not attend any place of public worship to qualify. Each man is to receive 5s. in the week before Christmas. To his son, Sydney George Osborn, he leaves the income from other property in High Street North and Albion Street. He leaves his executors £10 each. The codicil states that in the event of his son dying before his two daughters, they shall have an equal share of his inheritance. If his wife dies before his daughters, they shall have their mother’s inheritance in equal shares. Upon the death of his son and daughters, he directs that all his property shall be vested in the corporation of Dunstable. The men are now to be aged between 60 and 75. He also leaves his son specified items from the family home and says he can put a shop front at the corner of Albion Street if he wants. The High Street South properties were sold and the money invested, which amounted to £7,083.12.11d, in 2½% Treasury Stock. The Court Scheme for this charity is dated 7th June 1937. In 1950 the interest received was £177.1.10d. The Charity Commissioners agreed, in 1953, that the money was to be distributed between not more than 25 men aged between 60 and 70 years of age, resident in the Borough and who drink ‘neither ale nor beer.’ The capital was £2,104.11s and the interest of £52.12.1d was given to men over 70. In the early 1970s there were twelve applicants who received £12.50 in each of two annual payments. The Charity was finally wound up on 3rd July 1995.


The Dunstable Freeholder’s Charity was originally part of The Poor’s Land Charity but has since become separated from it. Income came from the rent of a freehold house and land in West Street, on the location of the old Borough Yard. This was let to the Corporation on a 21 year lease, from 25th March 1896, for £20 per year. Dividends of 4s were payable to 100 freeholders who resided within the 1907 town boundary. By the early 1970s income was so small that payment was made only every four years.


The Waterfield Trust Fund was founded on 25th September 1901 by Caroline and Eliza Waterfield. The object is to make payments, on St Thomas’ Day, to the six occupants of Ladies’ Lodge. The charity was wound up on 22nd March 2001




Appendix A                            Money


                                                                                            2015 approx.

Henry Cooper Goude                1661          £100                 £12,760

William Strange                         1664            £10                 £1,383

George Briggs                             1692            £10                 £1,412

Daniel Marshe                            1707              £3                   £455      

William Chew’s Estate              1712     £28,000           £3,778,000

Sir John Knightley                    1802          £200              £16,100

Ashton Almshouses’ Surplus  1858      £6,000            £544,600

The cost of building DGS        1888     £12,000           £1,250,000

Freeholders’ Charity                1896             £20                 £2,870

George Osborn                          1914       £7,083.12.11d £613,100

Arthur Frdk. Buckingham      1917       £4,436.12.2d   £224,200

Lockington Estate                    1921       £9,100              £364,100


The value of the pound has decreased over the centuries. The retail Prices Index (RPI) shows, approximately, the 2010 value of £1 in past years.

1900    £80;     1800    £54;     1700    £135;   1600    £150.




1 hundredweight (cwt)           50kg
Appendix B                 Coats of Arms and Badges


Chew   coat of arms: 1703 az a Catherine wheel or, 3 griffins’ heads erased ar.

            Crest: 15th Sept 1703, London and Beds., a griffin, sejant, ar., guttee-de-sang, beaked, legged and winged, sa dexter resting on a Catherine-wheel, gu 8 barbs


Marshe                        coat of arms: Dunstable per pale gu and az. a horse’s head couped ar between 3 quatrofoils (another trefoil) or

            Crest: Beds out of a mural coronet, az, a horse’s head, ar, gorged with a chaplet of laurel, ppr


griffin:            fabled half eagle, half lion, to express swiftness and strength

sejant:             sitting

ar                     argent silver or white

guttee-de-sang:           drops of blood

gu:                   red

dexter: right hand side (sinister)

mural:             walled

az:                     blue

gorged:            collared

chaplet:           garland



Appendix C                             Thomas Chew memorial


Here lyeth the body of

THOMAS CHEW late of this parish of

Dunstable, Haberdasher, who departed this

Life the 20th day of November

Anno Domini 1687 Aged 73


Here likewise in the same grave rests ye Body

Of Elizabeth his wife, Daughter of

William Marshe, of this town, Gent. who

Dyed the 9th day of September

Anno Domini 1694 Aged 81


Nere unto also is deposited the Body of


Eldest son of the said THOMAS & ELIZABETH

Who departed this life unmarried the

17th day of July 1698 in the 52nd

year of his Age.



My thanks are due to: -

Eric Bullock,

The Charity Commission

Dunstable and District Local History Society

Bedfordshire and Luton Archive and Records Service

Lambeth Palace Library

Carol Cambers for details of Leire, Leicestershire.

Chris Thomas for details of Carts Farm, Gravenhurst

Ann Sparrow for details of the Hambling apple trees for monetary values in past years

Leighton Buzzard Archeaological History Society

Brunel University for details on the British School

Probate Department HMCS



My sources are: -

A Handbook Of Dunstable Charities by FM Banfield MA

LM Rowe’s four articles on the ‘Chew Family’ in The Bedfordshire Magazine, 1972.

‘Mrs. Jane Cart (nee Chew) 1653-1736’ 1997 by John Lunn MBE

‘Dunstable Charity School and the Impact of Local and National Developments’ 1981 by Colin Henry

A History of Bedfordshire VCH

Bedfordshire Notes & Queries, ed. FA Blaydes 1887, Bedford

The memorials in Dunstable Priory Church

Bedfordshire and Luton Archive and Records Service, X277/1401,150,684,688,689. Z233/6/41, 42. Z270/1/33.

British Library, 8285.bbb.58 (14),

Lambeth Palace Library, ECE/7/1/2154; QAB/7/3 F1500

Gentleman’s Magazine, vol 75 p574, vol 76, p 216,

A Brief History Of Tea, Robinson 2003 by Roy Moxham

Dunstable Its History & Surroundings 1904 Worthington G Smith

Dunstable School 1888-1971, 2002 FM Bancroft

The late Victorian History Of Dunstable, WH Derbyshire MA, 1872, re-published in 2003, with a preface by John Buckledee

Dunstable In Detail, NC Benson

Charities and Education of the Poor in England and Wales 1815-39 – Bedford. Church Commissioners.

A Century Of Achievement, Gordon Vowles, Bedfordshire CC 2003

The Monumental Inscriptions and Armorial Bearings In The Churches Within the City of London 1910-1919, 5 volumes AJ Jewers.

Leighton Buzzard Observer for recent news of the Duncombe Charity

Wills: George Osborn 5.8.1911; Arthur Frederick Buckingham 20.12.1917;




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