Like so many treasurers in England the local people take it all for granted that charities are widely appreciated and recognised by all. In recent times the comings and goings of a nomadic population make it less likely that everything about their present local environment is known by all.
“The Sibford Gower Town Estate” has long been just such a blessing recognised by local folk but unknown to many recent residents.
The Secretary, Mr, Peter Baadsgaard, has been good enough to explain the mystery.of this ‘charity’ and exactly what it represents to The Villagers of today, and writes:-
This charity originated about 1560 when a number of people (who they actually were we do not now know) contributed plots of land with the objective of helping the less fortunate in the village, and to ensure that the children were given schooling. Just how the charity functioned in this early period we do not know, but under Act of Parliament in 1773 these lands were collected into the Town Estate of Broad Sibford (the Gower) and Burdrop.
This estate comprised what is now Sibford Heath Farm, and allotment lands, together with an area on the heath (now a part of the farm) called the Fuel Lands, on which villagers could collect wood for fuel. The Town Estate charity is also owner of the original part of the Primary School and the School House as well as some woodland.
The Town Estate and Fuel Lands have long been under the jurisdiction of the Charity Commission, and since 1922 managed under a formal instrument by a body of nine trustees, five of whom are always appointed by the Sibford Gower Parish Council. The trustees have to maintain the assets of the charity, and are authorised to distribute the income in three ways: one third for the school, one third for the relief and maintenance of the poor and one third for charitable and pious purposes. Funds which are not distributed are invested until they are required.
The charity therefore operates in part in the same field as statutory social services because its rules were set up long before these were established, and care must consequently be taken to ensure that its activity does not conflict with or reduce any statutory benefit. However in a real case of need the charity – the estate which belongs to the town – has the means to help. Not only the elderly or disabled, but also the sick, unemployed, those on low incomes and single parent families may justify help. A genuine need is the main criterion; it is not just a question of eligibility for statutory benefits.
Ways in which the charity can help are, for example, by making payments related to specific needs, providing facilities or items (either outright or on loan) or paying for services. But, without knowing details about a case of need the trustees can do nothing.
The Secretary to the Trustees is available for consultation on Tel: 378.
The current Officers of the Charity are:-
- Mr. D.R. Sabin – Chairman
- Mr. F.J. Inns – Deputy Chairman
- Mrs. V. Jones – Treasurer
- Mr. P.H. Baadsgaard – Secretary
NOTE: The area of activity of the charity is restricted to Sibford Gower and Burdrop for direct help to individuals, but is in fact more widely felt through help to organisations in Sibford Gower whose members include residents of other villages.