The History of the Charity

The Benefactors

Thomas Edwards was born about 1554 in Berkshire. He entered All Souls College, Oxford in 1581 and became a Doctor of Civil Law in 1590. In the next year he was made a prebendary of St Paul’s Cathedral and subsequently became chancellor to the Bishop of London. He was a benefactor of the Bodleian and Christ Church libraries in Oxford. At the time of his death he was living in Fulham.

John King (see portrait opposite) was born about 1559 in Buckinghamshire. He was educated at Westminster School and Christ Church College, Oxford. After taking holy orders he became successively chaplain to the Archbishop of York, to the Keeper of the Great Seal and, in 1601, to Queen Elizabeth. He preached before James 1 when the latter entered London and remained one of the royal chaplains until 1611, when he was installed as Bishop of London. He died on Good Friday 1621.

The Bequests

Dr Edwards bequeathed £20 for immediate distribution to the poor of Fulham and gave £100 to acquire lands for their benefit. Bishop King bequeathed £20 to be bestowed upon the poor in bread, beef and money at the discretion of his executrix (his wife). With her consent the money was added by the overseers of the poor of the parish to Dr Edwards’ bequest. In 1623 the first distribution of ‘twopenny loafe of breed and a pice of befe’ to eleven poor people of Fulham and fourteen from Hammersmith was made on Easter Eve. Two hundred years later in 1821, £75 was spent providing bread and beef on Christmas Eve. Tickets were issued in advance to 420 poor families and it was estimated that 2000 Fulham people were fed.

The Estates

In 1623 lands were acquired on the borders of Hammersmith & Fulham by the Trust, which was established in the same year. The Lands were held by the Trust on behalf of the Bishop of London, the Lord of the Manor. Rents and profits were distributed by the churchwardens and overseers of the parish for the benefit of the poor in both Fulham and Hammersmith. Over the centuries lands and properties have been bought and sold to increase the capital and income of the Trust for the benefit of the poor of Fulham. In 1923 the Hammersmith United Charities absorbed the Hammersmith portion of the Trust, which is why the Trust is now solely concerned with relief in need within the borders of the old metropolitan Borough of Fulham.

The Twenty First Century

Changing conditions have long since resulted in changes in how the Trust helps those in need. The provision of bread and beef has been superseded by the provision of direct help to individuals and families in need, by the provision of funds to local organisations which are involved in providing help to the poor, aged or incapacitated and by making available, at charitable rates, space for meetings of charitable organisations in Fulham.