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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): COL/CT
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Full title: CHARITIES
Date(s): 1568-1997
Level of description: subfonds
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Extent: 14.6 linear metres
Name of creator(s): Corporation of London


Administrative/Biographical history:

Charitable giving is embedded in religious practice. In the early Middle Ages the Christian Church encouraged the wealthy to contribute to poor relief funds and the building of institutions which cared for the sick and aged. Later, monasteries took over the care of the poor in the distribution of alms and establishment of hospitals. Money was given with the afterlife in mind, in the hope that good works in this life would reap rewards in the next. In the later Middle Ages charity was not limited to the ecclesiastic, as guilds provided relief for their members, and individuals endowed schools and hospitals, fed prisoners, supported scholars and built bridges. Charity continued to become increasingly secular into the Tudor period. The government replaced monasteries with almshouses and houses of correction and made parishes responsible for the poor in their area. However, the poor-rate was levied only in times of great emergency: individual philanthropy undertook the main burden of social welfare and this continued to be the case until the twentieth century.

Abuses in the administration of charity were common despite the Statute of Charitable Uses (1601) which empowered Chancery to investigate the way charities and charitable trusts were managed. From 1818 onwards various regional commissions were set up to register charities and bring to the attention of the Attorney-General any which merited investigation. This exercise made obvious the need for a permanent body to oversee the administration of charities, which led to the creation of the Charity Commission in 1853. The Commission had full powers of investigation including the right to audit accounts. By the later nineteenth century changing societal needs led to the introduction of legislation allowing the terms of charitable trusts to be re-written. This legislation included the City of London Parochial Charities Act of 1883, which extended the scope of the hundreds of trusts in the City to include the Metropolis as a whole and enabled them to be applied to the general physical, social and moral condition of its poorer inhabitants.

The Corporation of London has long been associated with charity and charitable giving. The Corporation owned or maintained several hospitals, workhouses, schools, orphanages and almshouses. In addition, charitable funds have been created and maintained both for emergency relief (such as after a natural disaster or conflict) or as long term funds in support of various causes (such as support for education or the elderly).


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the Corporation of London relating to Charities, including lists of charities under the control of the Corporation, 1829, 1833, 1868, 1903-1904 and 1956-1961; notes on charitable payments made in the year 1632; report by the Charity Commissioners, 1837; report by the Royal City Parochial Charities Commission, 1880; summary of the Charitable Trusts Bill, 1881; minutes, papers, annual reports and accounts relating to the Sir William Coxen trust fund (for the benefit of any orthopaedic hospital in England, and other hospitals or charitable institutions carrying on similar work, with preference being given to the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital of Great Portland Street, London), 1946-1994; papers relating to the Signor Pasquale Favale Bequest (a bequest of 18,000 Italian lira to provide marriage dowries to help 'poor, honest and young' women set up home), 1882-1947; papers and financial accounts relating to Sir John Langham's Charity for the relief of poor distressed soldiers and seamen and their families, 1768-1976, including petitions from individual sailors, marines and soldiers seeking financial assistance, dating from 1771 onwards.

Legal papers, reports and correspondence relating to the bequest of Thomas Alexander Mitchell, MP, (to found the Mitchell City of London Charity for the provision of educational grants) 1876-1945; minute books, financial accounts and correspondence for the Wilson's (Dinner and Ring) Trust, 1881-1995 (please note these records are closed); minute books, letter books, papers, financial accounts, administrative and staff records for the Wilson's Loan Trust (providing loans for young people about to set up in some trade, manufacture, business or profession in the area of Greater London or the Counties of Buckinghamshire, Essex, Kent, Hertfordshire, Surrey, East Sussex or West Sussex), 1786-1988 (please note some of these records are closed); notes on the history of the Wilson's Loan Trust, including extract from Samuel Wilson's will of 1766, compiled 1979-1990; papers relating to the Sheriffs' Fund Society, founded by Alderman Christopher Smith and Sir Richard Phillips, Sheriffs in 1807-1808, to help distressed prisoners and their families, including annual reports, rules of the fund, agendas and minutes, financial accounts, administrative papers, papers relating to legacies and grants and papers relating to appeals and case notes, 1810-1997.

Also papers relating to individual charities including the Ada Lewis Winter Distress Fund, 1908-1958; Sheriff's Fund Society, 1940; Lady Catherine Barnardiston's Prison Charity, 1889; letters between the City and Blandford, Tiverton and Ramsey relative to losses sustained by fires and the distribution of the money collected in London for relief of the sufferers, 1731-1734; bequest of A B Bosher, 1926-1930; Sir Martin Bowes' Charity for the maintenance of conduits in the City, 1864 and 1997; distribution of sea coal to the poor under the bequest of Sir J. Cambell, 1676-1678; the Thomas Carpenter Educational and Apprenticing Foundation, 1960; the Sir John Cass Charity, 1873 - 1898; the City Parochial Foundation, 1891-1958; Costin's Bequest for the distribution of coal, 1666-1737; Baron Hilton's Charity, 1675- 1685; the gift of William Lambe, citizen and clothworker of London, 1568; the Lord Mayor Treloar Trust, 1970?; Robert Smyths' gifts for the preacher and school master at Market Harborough, 1666-1816; Walthamstow Monoux Almshouse and Grammar School, 1636-1655; the Leonidas Alcibiades Oldfield bequest, 1949- 1988 (some files are closed); United Society of St. George's, Southwark, and St. Antholin's, Walting Street for relieving the sick and others in circumstances of distress, 1805? and William Ward's bequest for the founding of the City of London School for Girls, 1940s.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

In sections according to catalogue.

Conditions governing access:

These records are available for public inspection, although records containing personal information are subject to access restrictions under the UK Data Protection Act, 1998.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright: City of London.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Corporation of London Records Office.

Allied Materials

Related material:

See also COL/CHD/PR - Chamberlain's Department: Poor and other relief and COL/MH/AD: Mansion House Administration.

Publication note:

For the published report of the Commissioners who registered regional charities see The Endowed Charities of the City of London; reprinted at large from seventeen reports of the Commissioners for inquiring concerning charities (London, 1829). This lists in detail charities exisiting within the City at this date.

Further publications exist relating to individual City charities such as hospitals and schools. For more information see the City of London libraries catalogue at

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
February 2009

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