Aylsham Christian charity seeks needy recipients
The Cressey Henry Page Charitable Trust has been helping the poor of Aylsham for nearly 500 years, and is now seeking more needy people who need help. Tony Rothe reports.
When Henry VIII forcibly closed all the foreign-run Catholic institutions in the sixteenth century, ransacking their contents for himself, he unwittingly destroyed the networks of help given by these monasteries to the sick and poor. Eventually, Poor Laws were introduced to support the destitute and ‘Poor relief’ charities came into being in every Church of England parish to provide a new system of help.
In 1638, Thomas Cressey bequeathed 12 tenement cottages in Millgate for Aylsham’s destitute widows and poverty stricken mothers, to be administered by the Church Wardens. Later ‘Town Meadow’ in Drabblegate was gifted also for the growing of vegetables.
Over the years, many were helped but, by the closing years of the twentieth century, applications for help were becoming fewer, and the charity merged with the Henry Page charity in 1993 to form the Cressey Henry Page Charitable Trust, and the remit widened so that the work of both charities was able to continue.
Geraldine Lee, who has been a trustee of the charity since 2013, explains, “The problem at the time was that life had changed, and finding individuals to bless was getting more and more difficult. Previously the grants had been given out for vouchers to use in Henry Page’s store which subsequently collapsed during some building work in 1960 and never re-opened. So the elderly, mostly women, were given bags of coal.”
Grants in more recent years have included money towards a treadmill for the Community Gym, carpets in new affordable housing, toilet screen and disabled toilet in hall, laptops, recuperation break for a local carer couple, short mat bowls skittles for a sheltered home, washing machines, household equipment, meals on wheels, folding wheelchairs, disability buggy, food hamper, medical equipment, reminiscence therapy equipment, water heaters, and many other items.
Geraldine tells the story of Molly Long, after whom a meeting room in the Aylsham Parish Church has been named: “Molly’s only child, Susan, was murdered in 1970 and the perpetrator never apprehended. She was the first person I visited on behalf of the Trust after I became a trustee. Because of her great loss she could never bring herself to go to Aylsham Parish Church on Mothering Sunday. So we took her out together with her friend Kathleen, to the Signal Box tearooms in Gunthorpe. She received a basket of flowers which was a gift from Cressey Henry Page Charitable Trust for her final birthday. She died after a hospital procedure in February 2014.”
The original money in the trust has long since been used up, but new money comes from council grants, recycling income, a small piece of land and annual interest, all of which is carefully administered by Roger Bumphry, who has been the trust’s treasurer for 35 years.
Geraldine says, “Although many needs have been met in recent years, not many relate to anyone left temporarily ‘destitute’ and therefore unable to pay their bills. Now, with applications from individuals drying up, the trustees are facing a delightful dilemma. After nearly 500 years of grants for the poor of Aylsham, the time has possibly come to accept that this charity has fulfilled its mandate in ‘making poverty history’.”
The picture above shows Molly Long (left) with her friends Kathleen and Jean, and is courtesy of Geraldine Lee.
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