“Bread or Coals” – Charsfield Charity of Joseph Kersey

The Will of Joseph Kersey of Dallinghoo, dated January 1816, left £800 to be split equally between four parishes – Dallinghoo, Charsfield, Marlesford and Earl Soham. These funds were given into the care of the Minister or Churchwardens in order to be:

“laid out in buying bread or coals and distributing the same impartially among and for the benefit of the industrious poor settled and resident in the four parishes respectively upon Christmas  Day in every year for ever or so long as the same trust can be continued.”

The Vicar of Charsfield appears to have been the sole trustee until new legislation in late Victorian times stimulated a change. In November 1896, a letter from the then Vicar , the Reverend Joshua Davies (see picture below), to the Charity Commissioners shows that Charsfield is looking to a new Scheme for the future regulation of the Charity in view of the “passing of the Act” (referring to the Local Government Act 1894, which amongst other things established elected parish councils in rural areas).

On the 6th August 1897, the new Scheme came into effect, sanctioned by the Charity Commission, the main changes being:

  • 3 Trustees –The Vicar of Charsfield (ex-officio), a representative appointed by the Vicar and a representative appointed by the Parish Council
  • The yearly income is to be applied for the “General benefit of the poor” and the “supply of Bread or Coals” is still specified but the option is added of giving to a local club or society for the “supply of Coal, Clothing, or other necessaries”.

At this time the fund is recorded as being £208 5s 3d with an annual income of £5 14s 4d.

This 1897 agreement has remained the guiding Scheme for the Charity but, unfortunately, there are no further records until a Minutes book is purchased in 1947. Here we learn that “In March of 1947 it was decided by the Trustees to send 67 cwt of coal to 33 persons at a cost of £9”. Later in September another 27 cwt is purchased for 12 persons. Early 1947 saw one of the coldest periods on record and perhaps prompted this very wide provision of coal.

Subsequent years saw substantial coal provision by the charity (to 19 persons in 1949 and 1950) but by 1960 there were just 5 recipients. Then in 1968, there are no recipients of coal for the first time. Indeed, there is a gap until the next recorded minutes in 1982 and they are sporadic from then on. It had clearly become harder to find recipients matching the terms of the Charity and hence many years had no activity. Occasional donations are recorded, e.g for funeral expenses.

1992 was a significant year in that the William Marjoram Charity, which had been similarly distributing to 6 parishes, was wound up and a sixth share of capital and interest merged into our Joseph Kersey Charity. It was also the year that investments were rationalised so that all capital was held in the COIF Charities Investment Fund, where it remains today.

Undoubtedly another reason that activity by the Charity had diminished was because the fund was yielding annual incomes of reducing significance. The £200 capital received back in 1816 would be worth 15 to 20 thousand pounds in modern terms, but the capital fund has become a fraction of that at around £3,000. Throughout the last decade annual incomes have been between £60 and £100, which still gives scope for meaningful grants every few years (a recent example being for a bench on the recreation ground)

If anyone identifies a possible recipient, an individual or organization associated with Charsfield, please let the Trustees know.

Present Trustees:

Revd. Gary Best, The Rectory, Earl Soham

John Green, The Manse, Charsfield

John Fox, Dial House, Charsfield (charsfieldpast@btinternet.com)


Revd Joshua Davies, Vicar of Charsfield 1896 to 1911