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Following the long dispute withthe Duchy of Lancaster in the time of Queen Elizabeth I, and "The Case of the Missing Charters" in 1573, the rights of the people of Hungerford to manage their local affairs and continue the rights given by John of Gaunt were confirmed by the Grant of James I (1612) and the Feoffment of 1617. This established an administrative path for Hungerford which was virtually unchanged for nearly 300 years.

Photo Gallery:


Hungerford's three commemorative horns - the middle one is the "Lucas" Horn, named after Jehoshaphat Lucas, Constable in 1634

- Hungerford's three commemorative horns - the middle one is the "Lucas" Horn, named after Jehoshaphat Lucas, Constable in 1634

The Lucas Horn:

One of the results of the feoffment of 1617 was the loss of fishing rights eastward of Hungerford Common. No longer did Hungerford's rights extend all the way to Irish Stile, east of Kintbury. This evidently must have caused considerable resentment in the town.

17 years later, in 1634, the Constable of the day, Jehoshaphat Lucas, arranged for a horn to be made (the "Lucas" Horn), bearing the inscription:
'John of Gaunt did give and grant Riall Fishing to Hungerford Towne from Elder Stubbe to Irish Stile excepting some several mill pounds. Jehoshaphat Lucas was Constable in 1634.'

The inscription was no doubt intended to reinforce the claim to fishing as in the original grant, but there is no evidence that it was ever so again.

The 1617 Feoffment continued virtually unchanged until 1908 – nearly 300 years.

The Charitable Trusts Act, 1853:

The Victorians were obsessive administrators brought in loads of Education Acts, and Acts to help the Poor. One of these was the Charitable Trusts Act of 1853.

Under this Act, the newly formed Charity Commissioners were empowered to inquire into the management of charitable trusts right across the country.

Hungerford was reluctant to accept the perceived loss of local control implicit in the Act, and they managed to put off the Commissioners for 50 years. At one time the Constable and 15 serving Trustees were threatened with jail sentences in Winchester.

By the turn of the 20th century however, the town could no longer resist the requirement of trustees of land holdings such as the Town and Manor of Hungerford to register the charity with the Charity Commissioners.

It was not until 1905 that Hungerford was "inquired into"!

An in-depth report was made, covering all aspects of the property, the charities, the rights and privileges. It was published in 1906. Click this link for a Copy of the 1906 Charity Commissioners Report.

That report led to the formation of the Town and Manor of Hungerford Charity Scheme, 1908, No 238 379 A/4.

The 1908 Town and Manor of Hungerford Charity Scheme:

Under the 1908 Scheme, all the freehold and leasehold property was vested in "The Official Trustee of Charity lands" and the Town & Manor Charity became a property managing Registered Charity.

The Charity became managed by the Constable ex officio (appointed annually by the Hocktide Court), and ten (no longer thirteen) elected Trustees (voted into office from the residents from the area of benefit under normal parliamentary procedure).

The trustees became responsible to the Charity Commissioners.

The two parts (Hungerford & Sanden Fee) were amalgamated for administrative purposes in 1961.

This is still the arrangement today. Click here for the 1908 Town and Manor of Hungerford Charity Scheme.

Follow this for the next Chapter - "The Town and Manor Today".

Jim Davis's account:

Below is the text of the chapter written by Mr EL "Jim" Davis in his unpublished book on the Hungerford Port Down. He entitled it "Changes in the management of the Hungerford's affairs":

The twentieth century opened with changes in the composition of two bodies which had regulated the affairs of the Manor of Hungerford for many, many years. I refer to: the Hocktide Court and the body of Feoffees appointed under the rules laid down in the Feoffment of 1617.

These changes did not affect the Port Down any more than they did any other part of the Manor, but since they were, in my opinion at the very least, of considerable importance to the Manor in particular and the Town of Hungerford as a whole I feel that they should be fully understood by all Trustees and Office Holders and that this is as good a place as any to talk about them.

The two changes were quite separate, one that to the Hocktide Jury, seemingly un-noted and the other one, to the composition of the Feoffees and their responsibilities, causing considerable uproar, indeed one might use the phrase "alarm and despondency".

Let us deal first with the changes to the Hocktide Court.

From time out of mind the Hocktide Court had laid down in its presentments a code of conduct for the inhabitants of Hungerford. It is important to bear in mind that its function extended far wider that the mere ordering of the rights and privileges of Commoners, as it does today. For some years after I came to live in Hungerford in 1954 the old rules were read at Hocktide and these included rules and regulations for the practising of crafts and "mysteries", the opening of businesses by newcomers to the town, and tasting of ale and a host of items entirely unconnected with Common Rights. True of course they also dealt at some length with the exercise of the Rights attached to certain properties.

From time out of mind the Hocktide Jury had been quoting from the centuries old rule "a Jury to the number of twelve at least of the most substantial inhabitants there sworn". This was regardless of whether a man had Common Rights or not he was eligible for service on the Hocktide Jury, had his say in the deliberations and joined the Constable at lunch, partaking fully in all that took place.

In 1900 Mr Francis Jessett came before the Hocktide Court for an infringement of its rules, namely, using a spinning bait when fishing in Freemans Marsh. The Jury imposed the prescribed fine of £2 (a lot of money in those days). This was not paid and action was taken by the Constable and Trustees and the lessees of the Fishery in the County Court. Judgement was given for the £2 and costs, the lessees struck out of the action and Mr Jessett given leave to appeal.

The appeal came before Mr Justice Kennedy and Mr Justice Phillimore in December 1900. They upheld the appeal, reversing the decision of the County Court. Mr Justice Kennedy said that the Hocktide Jury which had imposed the penalty had been composed in part of residents of Hungerford who were not Commoners and were not therefore competent to deal with a case against a Commoner. Mr Justice Phillimore concurred saying "A Jury who was to regulate the affairs and property of Commoners must consist of Commoners only".

As a result of this case the Hocktide Jury has been chosen since from Commoners only. The case was echoed in 1905 when the Commissioner enquiring into the Hungerford Charities expressed concern that the Jury was so selected. The Clerk quoted the above case, showing that the case had failed only by the fact that non-Commoners were on the Jury.

This exclusive nature of the Hocktide Jury has been maintained now for so long that it is accepted as the natural order of things, but, however good in law the decision was, it could in the writer's humble opinion only have caused very considerable resentment in Hungerford at the time.

The ancient feoffment was for the benefit of the "Inhabitants" and while the Hocktide Court did and does order the affairs of the Commoners, it had a broader function much more important in 1900 than today, namely the election of the principal citizen, i.e. the Constable, who had the ordering of the Market and Fairs and was also, ex officio, H.M. Coroner for Hungerford. Indeed I cannot see any reason, although I lack a specific example, why any "Inhabitant" should not have been elected to the office.

Since the Feoffment was for the benefit of the inhabitants as a whole it was surely much more satisfactory for all the citizens to be involved in its management and also to participate in the joys of Hocktide at a time when public holidays were few and far between. I would in all seriousness suggest that the "Us and Them" attitude which has bedevilled the work and aims of the Charity stems in no small degree from the result of the decision of Messrs. Kennedy and Phillimore. Happily with the growth of Hungerford and its function as a dormitory town the feeling I have referred to would appear to be on the decrease.

Now we can turn to the changes in the Feoffees and in particular their method of appointment and the coming on the scene of the Charity Commissioners.

However devoted a fan one may be of "the old days" it would be idle to pretend that arrangements what were perfectly suited to conditions in 1617 were equally suitable nearly three hundred years later, and there is no doubt that by the turn of the century the old Feoffment had begun to creak at the joints.

Local government had arrived in the form of Parish and District Councils and these had taken over functions exercised for centuries by the Feoffees and the Justices of the Peace and the Church Wardens.

There is no doubt that the maintenance of the Town Hall and Corn Exchange, built in good faith by the Lords of Hungerford some thirty years before was beginning to pose a problem. Neither the Parish Councilor the Rural District Council had authority to have a Town Hall and Hungerford's claim to Borough Status, which would have allowed such a building had disappeared centuries before.

On April 7th 1902 at a meeting of the Constable and Trustees it was proposed and seconded and approved that the Clerk be instructed to ascertain the steps necessary to be taken to ascertain the opinion of the Court of Chancery as to the proper interpretation of the Trust vested in the Feoffees.

This would appear to be the first sign of change, but it was followed in March 1905 by a special meeting of the Hocktide Jury which was convened to consider a request from the Charity Commissioners to examine the Town documents, as the Commissioners were of the opinion that the Feoffment of the Manor of Hungerford constituted a charity. The Jury resolved "That we the Hocktide Jury do not admit that the Hungerford Common and the rights and privileges of the Commoners are in any way a Charity, at the same time we make a concession to the Commissioner and allow him without prejudice to examine the documents of the Town".

Calling in the Hocktide Jury in this matter was rather typical of the actions of the Trustees at this time.

At any rate, on March 30th and 31st 1905 R. Durford, Esq. Assistant Commissioner of the Charity Commission held an enquiry in the Town Hall, Hungerford. Present were The Reverend H. A. Sealy, Vicar of Hungerford; The Reverend W. H. Summers (Author of The History of Hungerford); Messrs. W. G. Taylor, Constable of Hungerford, Col. G. S. Willes, J.P., E. R. Portal, J. P. H. P. Major M.D.J.P., H.R. Barker, M.D. J.P., G. E. Platt, H.D.O.W. Astley, Solicitor, Steward of the Manor of Hungerford, Clerk to the Feoffees and the Rural District Council, C. R. Hopkins, Solicitor, Leonard Cundell, Church Warden, John Hawkins, Assistant Overseer and Parish Council Clerk, G. Ford, Bailiff, Edward Bushnell, Town Crier and Clerk of the Market, A. E. Allright, Senior, S. Allright and A. E. Allright, Junior, F.W. Church and a number of Commoners of Hungerford.

The report resultant upon the enquiry was printed by H.M. Stationery Office on the order of the House of Commons on April 2nd 1906.

In July 1905 the Trustees had before them a letter from the Charity Commissioners relative to the Common and the property administered by the Trustees being subject to the provisions of The Charitable Trusts Act, 1853 and 1894. The Clerk was instructed to reply to the Commissioners laying before them the facts regarding Common Rights being exercisable only by the occupiers of certain properties and asking for the Commissioners opinion of the word "Inhabitant" which appears in the Articles annexed to the Feoffment of June 16th 1617.

In August 1906 The Constable and Feoffees considered the Assistant Commissioner reports as also a letter from the Commissioners which stated that the Commissioners considered the word "Inhabitant" as used in the Articles attached to the Feoffment of June 1617 is not restricted to Commoners and they accordingly consider that the rents and profits of the Trust are applicable for the benefit of the inhabitants of Hungerford generally.

The Commissioners also stated with reference to a letter they had received from a Hungerford resident that "in the opinion of the Commissioners no resident of Hungerford who is not a Commoner has by virtue of his residence in Hungerford a right· to fish in the River Kennet. The Fishery in question (subject to the rights of the Commoners) is vested in the Feoffees whose duty it is under the trust deed of June 16th James I. to apply the rents for the benefit of the inhabitants".

I have quoted the letter from the Commissioners here, because although the letter refers to the Fishery exactly the same applies to the Common.

In November 1906, following a letter front the Charity Commissioners expressing their willingness to meet a deputation from Hungerford and their wish to see the original Feoffment of 1617, the Trustees chose a delegation consisting of The Constable, Mr Freeman, Drs. Barker and Major and the Town Clerk. A list of questions to be put to the Commissioners was prepared. In the event the Constable was unable to go, owing to illness, and Mr Wooldridge went in his place.

February 1907. A letter from the Charity Commissioners was read asking if the Trustees were prepared to apply to the Commissioners for a Scheme to regulate the Charity in future. On the proposition of Mr Wooldridge it was resolved to let the letter from the Commissioners remain in abeyance and to proceed to elect additional Feoffees in conformity with the Articles of 1617.

It should be noted here that the number of Feoffees seems to have been very low at the time. The meeting above was attended by four Feoffees and one former Constable.

March 1907. (This meeting was attended by four Feoffees and three former Constables). A letter from the Charity Commissioners was read stating that it was observed that it was proposed to appoint additional Trustees, but that the Commissioners failed to understand why the Trustees wished to incur the cost of a deed appointing the Trustees when it was doubtful what the construction of the Articles of 1617 were as to the appointment, how far the present Trustees were legally appointed and whether if appointed by deed under the Articles the appointment would be valid, and further, pointing out that if the appointments were made under a Scheme it would cost nothing and all doubts would be removed.

The meeting resolved that the Hocktide Jury should be elected by the Constable and former Constables and that the election of Feoffees should be left in abeyance.

The suggestion from the Commissioners that all the present Feoffees had been illegally elected must have caused some consternation and certainly meant that the Commissioners were bringing up t heir big guns, but the Trustees, at this stage at least, treated the Commissioners with complete disdain.

A little local "aggro" had also crept into the matter. At a meeting of the Constable and Trustees on April 8th 1907 a letter from Mr Sidney Allright was read asking for a copy of the balance sheet of the Town and Manor Charity. The Clerk informed the meeting that he had replied to that letter to the effect that he did not have a balance sheet in his possession and had then received a further letter from Mr Allright which said that failing production of the accounts, the writer would apply to the Clerk of the Peace and that failing to H M Attorney General!

Those present at this meeting were listed as four Feoffees and three former Constables. The only business at this meeting apart from the correspondence with Mr Allright, was to examine the accounts for the year and approve them.

The Hocktide Jury met on May 9th 1907 and a good deal of time was devoted to the Charity Commissioners. It would seem that the Constable had suggested that the additional Feoffees required be selected by ballot and that the Commissioners did not agree that could be done under the 1617 Feoffment and had suggested a short scheme under the Board of Commissioners to regulate the election, suggesting that twelve Trustees be elected by ballot of the ratepayers resident in the town tithing.

It was resolved unanimously "this meeting respectfully declines to accede to the ratepayers of theBorough being given the right to vote in the election of additional Feoffees, the Commoners being the only real beneficiaries".

At the same meeting letters were also read stating that complaints had been made that the accounts of the Charity of the Manor of Hungerford had not been produced at the last annual parish meeting and calling attention to the law regarding the rendering of accounts of parochial charities and asking that the accounts for 1905, 1906 and 1907 be furnished.

It was proposed and seconded and carried by 21 votes to 1 that these accounts be NOT furnished and that, furthermore, a reply be sent that there would be no objection to the Commissioners inspecting the accounts, but that it is not acknowledged that the accounts relate to a Charity.

On June 11th 1907 at a meeting of the Constable and Trustees, at which six Feoffees and two former Constables attended, the Constable reported upon an interview with the Charity Commissioners regarding the method of electing Feoffees. He informed the meeting that the Commissioners adhered to their contention that the Feoffment of 1617 created a charitable trust; that the ratepayers of the Manor of Hungerford should be the persons to appoint Feoffees and that the Commissioners had intimated that they would bring the matter before the Courts if no application was made for a new scheme for the management of the Trust.

It was resolved that a meeting of Freeholders be called and that Counsel's opinion be sought as to whether the Manor of Hungerford became a Charitable Trust under the 1617 Feoffment.

The meeting of the owners of Freehold property possessing Common Rights was held on the 20th June 1907, the Constable, Dr. Major, presiding. He explained the object of the meeting and read a letter from the Charity Commissioner which stated - "that in view of the dissatisfaction which appears to exist in Hungerford as to the administration of the Charity and to the grave doubt that exists as to whether the present administrators are legally appointed in accordance with the terms of the Trust and the fact that the inhabitants, the beneficiaries of the Charity are excluded from any voice in the management or in the appointment of Feoffees, the Charity Commissioners are of the opinion that a new scheme is required to place the affairs of the Charity on a proper basis and that, if no application is received for a Scheme it will be their duty to certify the case to His Majesty's Attorney General" and also asking to be definitely informed within twenty-one days whether the present administration will apply for a scheme.

Strong Stuff indeed! It was proposed, seconded and carried unanimously "That this meeting agrees to apply to the Charity Commissioners for a Scheme to place the affairs of the Charity on a proper basis in accordance with the Commissioners letter of the 11th June. It is respectfully hoped that the Feoffees will be permitted to offer such suggestions as may be found advisable".

June 26th 1907: The Constable and the Feoffees met and drew up a list of recommendations to be forwarded to the Charity Commissioners regarding the proposed scheme.

The main ones were :-
- That the present Feoffees should be appointed as such under the Scheme together with six others (Named)
- That the Constable of Hungerford for the time being be ex-officio a Trustee.
- That such Trustees shall be empowered to manage the estate and property generally in such manner as they may consider advantageous for the benefit of the Trust property generally and the persons interested therein.
- That the Rules and Regulations respecting the Hungerford Port Down and Town Fishery as passed by the Courts held for the Manor shall remain in force and be binding on all concerned until altered by any Manorial Court hereafter to be held.
- That when the number of Trustees (excluding the Constable of Hungerford) shall be reduced by death or any other cause six more of the inhabitants of the Manor shall be elected by the ratepayers of the said Manor.

October 21st 1907: The Constable and Trustees considered a draft scheme and resolved to ask the Commissioners to add to Clause 1 of the draft Scheme - "and also, without prejudice to the proceedings of the Juries at Hocktide and to the Manorial Courts held in the Manors of Hungerford and Sanden Fee, as established by ancient usage, for the election of Officers (other than Trustees), the making of bye-laws for regulating the rights of Common and the consideration of anything connected with the rights and privileges of Commoners".

It was also decided to point out that the River Dun had not been included in the Scheme and to ask a number of questions regarding the continuance of Manorial Courts and the continuance of the Constable in the office of Coroner.

November 1907: The Trustees considered a reply from the Commissioners which stated, inter alia, that consideration would be given to all the points raised in connection with the proposed scheme.

The Commissioners also said that they would be glad to have the observations of the Trustees as to the limitation of the area of benefit of the Charity to the Town Tithing and the Tithing of Sanden Fee, since publication of a notice regarding the proposed scheme had brought protests that Charnham Street and Eddington were excluded from benefit. The Clerk and the Constable were instructed to reply.

January 1908: The Constable and the Trustees considered a further draft scheme and it was decided to recommend to the Commissioners that the ten proposed elective Trustees should be elected for six years, half of them to be selected by ballot, to retire at the end of three years.

The Commissioners also sent a copy of their reply to Mr S. W. Allright, who had kept up a correspondence with them and the Trustees since the Scheme had been mooted, for the information of the Trustees. This letter stated that, in the opinion of the Commissioners, the proposed scheme rightly included the Manors of Hungerford and Sanden Fee and rightly excluded the Manor of Eddington and Charnham Street.

It was decided to ask the Commissioners for permission to send a copy of their reply to Mr Allright to local papers for publication.

In March 1908 the Trustees learned that they had permission to publish the letter to Mr Allright, that the Commissioners would not consider the proposal to elect trustees for a term of six years and that they (the Commissioners) would deal with the "rather petty" administrative problems that had been put forward as and when they arose!

April 27th 1908: Saw the last meeting of the old Feoffees. The Constable's accounts for the year were examined and passed.

A letter from the Charity Commissioners was produced with copy correspondence from Mr Allright. Mr Allright had enquired of the Commissioners if it would be in order for a person to be a Trustee and at the same time fish the Town water and / or turn out cattle on the Port Down. The Commissioners in their reply told Mr Allright that an owner exercising his rights would not be precluded by Clause 26 of the Scheme from acting as a Trustee, that it had been frequently explained to Mr Allright that the Rights of Common were not a Charity or Charity property; that the property comprised in the Scheme is subject and subsidiary to the rights of Common and consequently an owner exercising his rights is not taking or holding any interest in any property belonging to the Charity.

I have dealt with the events and correspondence leading to the inception of the 1908 Scheme at some length with the feeling that it is possible that at some future date this may be of value and may save hours of search for a particular set of facts.

A copy of the Scheme is appended. It is perhaps pertinent to say that it seems to have functioned quite well for some seventy years with the minimum of interference or help from the Charity Commissioners.

The first meeting under the Scheme took place on May 19th 1908. Six of the existing Feoffees were created Life Trustees, the Scheme imposed no residential qualifications upon the Trustees, indeed for practical purposes the one disqualification was to be a bankrupt. The electors were restricted to those who qualified as Parochial Electors in the area of the Town Tithing of Hungerford and the Tithing of Sanden Fee.

The Commissioners appear to have realised that, by building a new Town Hall and Corn Exchange and having it to maintain without help from the Local Authority, the Trustees were in racing parlance, carrying top weight and therefore the maintenance of those buildings was given priority in the paragraph dealing with "Application of Income".

In 1909 the Charity Commissioners made a pronouncement on the role of the Hocktide Court, apparently in response to an appeal for guidance. They stated that the introduction of the Scheme had made no difference to the relationship between the Commoners and the Trustees; that the Scheme was to operate without prejudice to the existing Rights of Common; that these rights were a matter of Common Law over which the Commissioners had no power to deal; that questions relating to the Regulation of Common Rights between the Commoners themselves and the Lords of the Manor are matters outside the Scheme and the cognisance of the Commissioners and they were in consequence unable to frame or ratify any rules. That it might well be that the Hocktide Court had the power of making and enforcing rules, but that this was a matter outside the province of the Commissioners.

In July 1939 the Commissioners made a ruling regarding the exercise of Common Rights over land which had been acquired by the Charity. It was that if the Commoners had possessed no rights over the lands before purchase then the fact that the lands were purchased with the profits from lands over which they had rights did not confer any rights over such land.

See also:

- 1906 Charity Commissioners Report.

- 1908 Town and Manor of Hungerford Charity Scheme