The largest single endowment is the Charity of Robert Harrington (1589-1654). He is reputed to have left Bourne as a lad and walked to London to seek his fortune, becoming a gentleman landowner who left land and property in the Leytonstone area of London producing an annual income to be used for the benefit and education of the poor. In 1830, this was bringing in £300 a year but by the end of the century, as Harrington’s estate at Leytonstone began to be developed, the value of his charity started to increase in a spectacular way and by 1909 it had reached more than £2,000 a year while burgeoning property values in recent years has made this the most important source of income for BUC today.
Some of the income was distributed in quarterly or half-yearly payments to “the deserving poor” who did not receive parish relief, by the provision of clothing and coal at Christmas time. Money from his charity was also used to assist in the furtherance of education in the town and when the National School in North Street was built in 1829, an annual grant of £42 was made and this was most likely provided to cover the schoolmaster’s salary.
The tradition of distributing financial assistance continues through the administration of payments which have become known as “The Essex” after the county where Robert Harrington made his fortune. This originally was a bag of coal provided each week to the poor of Bourne and is currently a four weekly payment of £40, although in the light of current social conditions, the entire system is now under review by the Trustees. In addition, individual grants are made after careful and sympathetic consideration by the Trustees of each application.
Twelve almshouses were built in West Street in 1931 to provide homes for elderly inhabitants and tenancies are still much sought after because these houses are situated in an attractive setting just off the main road and ranged on four sides around lawns and flowers beds. A bronze plaque has been erected at the front of the almshouses to perpetuate the memory of local benefactors whose money helped finance the scheme, among them Robert Harrington.
The nine Charities included in the 1978 Charity Commissioners’ Scheme are:
- The Charity of John Brown
- The Charity of William Fisher for Almshouses
- The Charity of William Fisher for Bread
- The Charity of Robert Harrington (exclusive of the Educational Foundation of Robert Harrington constituted by a Scheme of the Commissioners of 14th July 1916)
- The Charity of Jeremiah Ives
- The Charity known as the Poor’s Land (North Fen)
- The Charity known as Poor’s Land (South Fen)
- The Charity of Nicholas Rand
The Charity of William Trollope (exclusive of Trollope’s School constituted by an order made by the Commissioners on 8th July 1904 under the Board of Education Act 1899 S2(2) as affected by the said Scheme on 14th July 1916)
The following Charities are also now included in BUC:
- Bourne Constables’ Land Charities
- Emma Searson Nursing Fund
- Lucy Ellen Story Trust
- Bourne Christian Fund and Friendly Society
- Thomas Mee Trust
- Thomas Whyment Atkinson Charity
Bourne United Charities also administer gardening allotments at the corner of Meadow Drove and Spalding Road, the Wellhead Cottage, which is currently occupied by the head grounds person and several other restored buildings that are leased at nominal rents to youth organisations, including Scouts, Guides and other community activities. These include the Shippon Barn on the edge of the Wellhead Gardens and the early 19th century Baldock’s Mill in South Street that is now leased to the Civic Society whose members have restored the building and turned it into a heritage centre and museum.