Notes for Ellingham and Kirby Cane WI

Notes for the WI:


A wholly unfinished history and controversial commentary on:

It has been said that well managed organisations have transparency, are subject to oversight and are accountable. Unfortunately, none of these apply to either Ellingham United Charities or Kirby Cane Charities which gives us an indication of what to expect in their stories.


  • Ellingham United Charities
  • Kirby Cane Charity
  • The Sand and Gravel Charity
  • Ellingham Parish Council since 1894
  • Kirby Cane Parish Council since 1894
  • Kirby Cane and Ellingham Parish Council


Booklets, leaflets/maps, Faden’s map, Enclosure map to be given out here.

Use Faden’s map and the leaflet map to identify the lands managed by the charity trustees and the Poor’s Land.


Note how the commons were “lost” and the political situation that existed in the early 1800’s and resulted in the provision of the Poor’s Land.


Note how the Local Government Act of 1894 had a marked impact on the way in which local affairs were managed and how much of the controversy surrounding the charities begins at this time.


What are the charities?

Starting with Ellingham United Charities:

  • Henry Bonfellow, known also as the Partable Lands. Will dated 1650.
  • John Packard. Will dated 1819.
  • Poor’s Allotment. Enclosure Award dated 1806.
  • Town Lands. Deed dated 1392-3

(Charity Commissioners Scheme for Ellingham Charities Jan 1918)

See copy of the deed as translated – pass round single copy.

The Kirby Cane Charities are:

  • Henry Bonfellow’s Charity, known also as the Partable Lands. Will dated 1650.
  • Thomas Potts Charity 1646 (Rector of Kirby Cane 1620-1646)
  • Enclosure lands.
  • John Hardwar’s Catechism money. (Rector of Kirby Cane 1661-1689)

Returning to the leaflet map again we can see the land holdings managed by the trustees of these charities and the Poor’s Land:

There are around 67 acres in all. 20 acres is Ellingham Poor’s land; 5 acres is Kirby Cane Poor’s Land and the other 42 acres is land given to the villages by the benefactors listed above.

The Sand and Gravel Charity – see the leaflet map again – is a small parcel of land, basically an old pit, given to the Ellingham village in the 1900’s. It had become “lost”; nobody knew where it was until research tracked it down a couple of years ago.

What about the Parish Councils?

Parish Councils were first introduced by the Local Government Act of 1894. Basically, this Act had the effect of transferring most of the duties that had been carried out previously by the Parochial Church Council to secular authority. Particularly, legal title to the land and assets of all non-ecclesiastical charities was passed to the new Parish Councils.

Ellingham Parish Council: The first Parish Council meeting for Ellingham was called by the Overseers of Ellingham whose powers were now to shift to the new council. The meeting was held at the school in Ellingham at 7.30 p.m. on Tuesday 4th December 1894. This meeting was conducted, perhaps unsurprisingly, by Mr. Henry Smith of Ellingham Hall who set about giving details of those nominated as the first Ellingham Parish Councillors:

1. Frederick Barber

2. Frederick Brown

3. Henry Eggott

4. Rev. William Day French

5. Frederick Jones

6. John Thrower

7. Henry Youngman

After a fifteen minutes pause in proceedings to allow for any other nominations, Mr. Smith declared these people; “…duly elected as Parish Councillors for the Parish of Ellingham.”

Kirby Cane Parish Council: It has taken a while to track down the Kirby Cane Parish Council records so not much to say here until they have been researched. The first meeting of the Kirby Cane villagers to determine the members of the Parish Council was held in the Elementary School on 13th December 1894. Present, though I cannot be sure whether or not they were appointed:

  1. Robert Pilgrim
  2. Benjamin Hinsley
  3. Albert Osbourne
  4. James Westrip
  5. Joseph Harvey
  6. Joseph ?

The newly empowered local councillors decided straight away that Ellingham United Charities and the Kirby Cane Charities needed new Schemes of Governance; trust documents. Remember that the 1894 Local Government Act transferred legal title of the assets of these charities to the Parish Council.


Ellingham Parish Council immediately came across problems with the prior management of Ellingham United Charities and called in the Charity Commissioners. The Commissioners became so frustrated at not getting any replies to their letters to the incumbent vicar of the time that they sent in an investigator. Eventually a new Scheme was drawn up, under the threat of the new incumbent, Rev Hendley, with “heavy law costs” on the council. Why the problem? It was because the new incumbent had managed to gain a share of the secular charities income for the church. The new 1918 Scheme was never ratified by the Parish Council and (here’s a bold statement from the records) the records from then until now are absolutely full of breaches of trust by successive groups of trustees.


Note that full details are available in the booklet and on the website and the evidence itself is in the Record Office.


Kirby Cane Parish Council found themselves with similar problems in that the Kirby Cane Charities were in rather a mess. However, they were supported in their efforts to begin their new management duties by the then Rector of Kirby Cane, Rev. Chapman.


The trustees of the Kirby Cane Charities had for many years been made up entirely of members of the family of Rev Abbot Upcher. (The Sheringham Upcher’s) These trustees employed a firm of solicitors to write up a new Scheme in 1879. (How history repeats itself) However, the Kirby Cane villagers got together and raised funds to employ a firm of solicitors themselves to question where the charity monies had been going.


Rev. Chapman forced the hand of the Charity Commissioners to look again at the Scheme of 1879 by refusing to sit as Chairman of the trustees. The Charity Commissioners then reported that, indeed, money from the Kirby Cane Charities was “bestowed upon the poor” and nobody else should have it. A new Scheme was introduced in 1897 by which the trustees were to spend the income from the lands and investments on the poor.


The Schemes for both Ellingham United Charities and Kirby Cane Charity have written into them that the Parish Council shall appoint the majority of trustees to both trustee bodies. Unfortunately, these appointments have been overlooked in the past so that trustees have appointed themselves or others without the respective Parish Councils knowing.


How does Poor’s Land fit into all of this?


It is important to link Poor’s Land with what had been happening on a national scale. Landowners were all for enclosing land with the excuses of increased production, economies of scale and so on. However, the land that they were enclosing and splitting up amongst themselves was Common land. As can be seen on the Faden map, this was a huge area covering hundreds of acres. This was land that the poor/ordinary people had used for centuries to provide them with the necessities of life. Enclosure had been going on for many years across the country and in places the dispossessed poor had risen up against the landowners. As an expedient we might say, or to save their skins perhaps, the landowners had hit upon the idea of giving the dispossessed Poor’s Land for their own use. In Ellingham and Kirby Cane, as we have seen, this was 25 acres all told.


The management of Poor’s Land was given to the Overseers of the Poor, the very same people who were managing the charities. So it seems that the Overseers for the Poor then combined the income from this land with that income derived from the charities lands and investments. This might seem fine, as it would be the poor that benefit in the long run. However, as we have seen, where the money went was a bit of a mystery for the villagers of Kirby Cane in the 1870’s. In Ellingham, as the records show, income from the Poor’s Land was regularly diverted to the use of the Parochial Church Council.


There are questions here. Whilst we might accept that the land and investments left to the villagers should be managed by separate bodies of trustees and subjected to certain conditions in the trust documents:


Should Poor’s Land be regarded as a village asset, be managed by the Parish Council and be subjected to the normal conditions that apply to any other assets of the village?


This is the case in many places across the country – can Rik give some figures for Norfolk?


Snippets from the charity records: (Most of the Parish Council and charity records are now held in the Norfolk Record Office and can be seen by anybody during their opening hours.)


Quite apart from the controversies that come to light through the historic record, there is also a good deal of social history that can be gleaned. Some of this is found in the booklets given tonight and more can be found on the website.



7   Jack Oldman – no coals!

8   Sale of Leet Cottage

10   Vouchers

14 EUC First report to PC

18   Deed box

21   Lititia Dawson bequest – Widow Fryer – Other entries from 1700’s

22   Cold winter of 1794/5 – Burial of pauper

23   Poor pay for enclosure – Coal to Ellingham 1808


And so on. All the pictures can be seen and enlarged on the website.


Now to finish on a sad note:


Throughout history justice could be quite harsh and many villages and towns had their own specific location for hangings. The Enclosure Award map of 1806 gives a clue to the whereabouts of the scaffold, or tree, for our villages; Galloway Lane, now called Wardley Hill. Interestingly, as Robin pointed out some time back, Wardley Hill leads into Litchmere Lane; Lych being the Saxon word for corpse. It seems plausible that the two are connected.


Galloway Lane


At the five crossways many did die

On the hangman’s noose a silhouette in the sky

Along Galloway Lane they made their way

Knowing that this would be their last day


Was it a cold and frosty winter’s dawn?

Or was it a sunlit summer’s morn?

Some came this way at the dead of night

The terrible scene lit by lantern light


Was it the oak or was a gibbet there?

Were they left to hang and cause great fear?

Rich man’s justice for poor man’s crime

Despicable punishment time after time


When we today pass this way

There are few clues of yesterday

I hope that spirits remain there still

Now that Galloway Lane has become Wardley Hill.



RWC 3.2.14.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s