Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: June 27, 2017.
Webpage updated: June 27, 2017




By means of an indenture, dated September 1st 1797, Mr James Bruce, of the Ancient Parish of Stoke Damerel, granted and assigned to the Reverend Doctor Robert Hawker, vicar of Charles Church, and Mr John Arthur and Mr Robert Yeoland, churchwardens of same, 'three deed polls of 50 each, for securing three several annuities of 2 10s each, out of the rates and assessments to be levied by the commissioners for executing an act of Parliament made in the 21st George 3rd* for regulating the poor in the Town of Plymouth Dock, and for paving the streets, etc., within the said Town'.  He also gave the same three gentlemen the sum of 250 in trust, 'to sell the same deeds poll, and the annuities thereby granted, and to place out the monies which should arise from the sale thereof, and also the said sum of 250, either in some public bank stock or fund, or else upon one or more good securities, and to pay the annuities, interest, dividends, and profits thereof to the said James Bruce or his assigns, during his life.'

After the death of Mr James Bruce, the vicar and churchwardens were to pay out of the above monies,  the amount of 10 per annum to his brother, Mr John Bruce, for his life.  After his death, they were make an annual payment of 8 to Mr John Bruce, ship-builder, of Chester, who was the natural son of Mr John Bruce, the brother of Mr James Bruce.

Once all three of them had passed away, the whole of the interest and profits were to be disposed of in four parts:

  • one fourth part, yearly, to any poor tradesmen of the parish of Charles who was prevented from working for his family by reason of sickness or some other misfortune which he had not brought upon himself.  The recipient had to provide letters from four respectable housekeepers of the parish, certifying that he was a sober, honest and industrious man.
  • one fourth part to a destitute widow of a deceased tradesman of the parish, providing she had at least two children to maintain.  She also had to provide letters certifying that she was an honest, sober and industrious woman.
  • one fourth to the family of some such poor deceased tradesman of the parish, which must consist of at least two, orphaned and destitute children.
  • the remaining fourth was to be put to support the Household of Faith School.

None of the recipients outlined above must be in receipt of any income of their own or any benefit from a club or society.

The Charity Commissioners' Report of 1821 states that although the deed polls had been deposited with the vicar and churchwardens of Charles Church, they had not been sold and remained in their hands.  The sum of 250 was lent by them to the Household of Faith School at a rate of 5%.

As it happened, Mr John Bruce senior died first and so all the interest and profit arising from this legacy were paid back to Mr James Bruce, up until March 25th 1814.  Mr James Bruce died on December 27th 1814.

From that time onwards, the sum of 8 per year, as directed, was paid to Mr John Bruce junior, of Chester.

In 1816 the trustees of the Household of Faith School repaid 150 of the loan from the vicar and churchwardens of Charles Church.  The remaining 100 had been spent in building the school-house.  But the vicar and churchwardens ignored the wording of the bequest and instead of investing the 150 in secure bank or public stock transferred it into the churchwarden's general account, from which there just happened to be a large expenditure that year for the erection of new galleries in the Church.  The Charity Commissioners were most displeased with this arrangement.

Furthermore, no distribution from this Gift took place between 1814, when Mr Bruce died, until Christmas 1819.  At that time the accounts were made up and the sum of 51 1s 3d was then distributed to tradesmen, widows and children by small sums of between 2s 6d and 1 to the total of 25; by the provision of blankets to the value of 14 10s 7d; in cloth for shirts, 6 7s 10d; in serge for petticoats, 4 1s 0d; and in shoes for children, 1 1s 10d.

By an Order of the Charity Commissioners dated August 5th 1864, the income from the charitable gifts to the parish of Charles was apportioned so that one fourth went to the newly formed parish of Sutton-on-Plym.  However, although Bruce's Gift was included in that apportionment, it appears from the Charity Commission's Report of 1908 that their share of Bruce's Gift had not been paid over.

Under an Order of the Charity Commissioners dated April 11th 1899 the sum of 150 held by the vicar and churchwardens was transferred to the Official Trustees of Charitable Funds and converted into Consol to the value of 135 14s 11d.  In 1907 the dividend amounted to 3 7s 8d and this was distributed equally between one poor tradesman, one poor widow of a tradesman, and the family of a deceased poor tradesman, all chosen by the vicar and churchwardens.

*  The Act of 21 George III was:  An Act for the better maintaining and regulating of the Poor within the Town of Plymouth Dock, and the Parish of Stoke Damarell, in the County of Devon; and for paving, cleansing, and watching the Streets, Lanes, and Passages, and removing and preventing Encroachments, Nuisances, and Annoyances, and regulating the Drivers of Coaches, Chaises, and Carts, and also Chairmen, and Porters, within the said Town.  1781.