Money goes in and out of an ancient Sheffield charity

Millennium Bells   Members of the public were invited to ring bells in the Millennium gallery as part of the cultural olympics .
Millennium Bells Members of the public were invited to ring bells in the Millennium gallery as part of the cultural olympics .

An ancient Sheffield charity that gives money to deserving causes has itself been given a major financial boost.

The Sheffield Town Trust - created more than 700 years ago and the 18th oldest charity in England - has helped to finance everything from the Botanical Gardens and the Five Weirs Walk to St Luke’s Hospice and the Millennium Gallery’s cast steel bells in recent years.

Continuing the work of great Sheffield philanthropists, it currently has assets of around £8m in stocks and shares and a property portfolio, and the investment income is awarded each year as grants.

Now its funds have increased as a result of three bequests totalling almost £200,000 which will be used for ‘charitable and public purposes’ in line with the original intention.

George Connell, a senior partner at HLW Keeble Hawson Solicitors, who has been law clerk to the trust for over 30 years, said: “When Diana, wife of our former trustee Gerard Young died last year, her four children decided to bring their parents’ existing charitable trust to an end and leave the balance of £110,000 to the Sheffield Town Trust.

“Then, in May, the trust received a sixth of a local client’s estate which had been divided between her three nephews and two other trusts, valued at £80,000. “Most recently, a Mrs Altman split her estate 30 ways and the trust was bequeathed a further £6,000 to fund valuable projects in Sheffield.”

The origins of the trust date back to 1297 when Lord De Furnival made an unusual deal with his feudal tenants to organise themselves as a community in return for paying him a rent.

In more recent times, the likes of banker and politician Samuel Bailey and industrialists Sir William Ellis and Sir Samuel Osborn enabled the Town Trust to distribute funds to improve the lives of local people.

Last year alone, bequests enabled the trustees to distribute £80,000 to recurring projects and over £265,000 to new projects. The previous year the trust awarded almost £500,000 for good causes in Sheffield.

Trustees, who meet quarterly, gave match funding to ensure the Paxton Pavilions in the Botanical Gardens could be restored in a lottery-backed project. In fact, the trust owns the gardens.

Grants have been given to Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet, Manor Lodge, the General Cemetery, the new Cathedral Square, Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice and Voluntary Action Sheffield. Most recently, financial help was given to the redevelopment of St Luke’s Hospice at Whirlow.

Retired solicitor Jonathan Brayshaw, who chairs the trustees with the ancient title Town Collector, said: “Over the years, the thrust of applications has changed, but in any one year those we support always reflect a variety of local need: typically community associations, ethnic minorities, youth groups and others promoting health, the arts, recreation and education.”