OLD PLYMOUTH . UK
www.oldplymouth.uk
 

  Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: August 02, 2017.
Webpage updated: August 02, 2017

        

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JOHN WHITE'S GIFT

An indenture bearing the date of June 26th 1584 recited that Mr John White, a citizen and haberdasher of London, 'having a care in his lifetime to bestow some part of his worldly goods in deeds of charity to the help of young men and to the relief of the poor', gave 250 to the mayor and commonalty of Plymouth for them to lend to young men of honest name and fame within the town that were merchants or occupied in retailing of merchandise.  The loans were to be of either 25 or 50 each and for the term of five years at the rate of 5 per cent per annum.

Out of the profits made by this arrangement, the mayor and commonalty of Plymouth should pay annually, between Michaelmas and All Saints, the sum of 3 to the mayor and burgesses of Lostwithiel, in Cornwall.  They should distribute bread to the total value of one shilling 'to twelve of the poorer sort of godly disposed people of the said town' every Sunday throughout the year.  'In consideration of his pains in seeing the said bread given to the poor,' the parson, curate or minister was to be paid 16 pence every Feast of All Saints and a 'godly preacher' was to receive 6s 8d for preaching a sermon ion the parish church of Lostwithiel on the first Sunday in November, or a Sunday thereabouts.

A similar arrangement was entered into by means of an indenture of the same date with the mayor and burgesses of Liskeard, Cornwall.

A further indenture, dated June 25th 1685, which was needed because the mayor and commonalty of Plymouth had been granted a new charter of incorporation, indicated that 210 was still in hand 'for want of persons willing to take the same at interest' while the remaining 40 was in the hands of several parties, earning interest.

Unfortunately, over the next a hundred years the Corporation either mislaid or destroyed the accounts books and the oldest accounts book that survived into the nineteenth century was for the year 1786.  This recorded that 10 10s was being earned from a sum of 210 and a further 1 5s from a sum of 25.  Thus there was a deficiency of 15 in the amount of the Gift.  The Inquiry held by the Charity Commission in 1821 considered that it was most probable that the 15 had been lost over the years by failed and unsecured loans.  The Inquiry also learned that no young men of the Town had made any applications for loans from White's Gift, possibly because nobody then alive actually knew the money was available.

The accounts book also revealed another anomaly: the income from White's Gift was not only being distributed to people in Liskeard and Lostwithiel, as the original indenture required, but 3 per year was also going to the poor of Truro and 1 14s was going to those in the parish of Saint German's.  The Charity Commission intended to investigate how this last part of the distribution came about.

Under a scheme ordered by the Charity Commission on October 20th 1905, this Gift was combined with others to form one municipal charity.  In 1907 the amount received by Plymouth Corporation from this Gift amounted to 11 15s 0d per year.