John Martin’s Charity & Bell Tower Appeal

Two talks: John Martin’s Charity & Evesham Abbey Bell Tower Appeal

by John Daniels and by Stan Brotherton
Thursday 25th September 2014


Two historical items, still of much relevance in Evesham to-day, John Martin’s Charity and The Bell Tower Appeal, were the subjects of the opening talk of the 2014-15 programme:

John Martin’s Charity – talk by John Daniels (secretary to the trustees)

Administering a capital fund of around £20 million, dispensing around £740, 000 per year, in welfare payments, is a remarkable achievement, considering the John Martin’s Charity foundation, in 1714, had just 90 acres of land and an capital of £290.  John Martin was determined to benefit the less well off and support the local clergy, principles that are followed still to-day.

John Daniels, the Clerk to the Trustees explained the wealth of the Charity was transformed in the 1960s with the compulsory purchase of land for Evesham by-pass, and the sale of land for building around the now site of Davies Road, Evesham College and the Ambulance Station, the income from which has grown over the years.  The Trustees, at that time, re-structured the Charity, still with John Martin’s intentions in mind, and benefits were extended to cover the whole of Evesham and in some instances, places within the former Evesham Borough Council area.

Benefits these days, which are not permitted to replace statutory government payments, include welfare payments, assistance with heating, education grants to higher education students, one off emergencies, and grants to organisations such as the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, Hospices, schools and the clergy.  The Charity is also known for its annual trips to Weston-super-Mare and to the Pantomime. John Martin could never have realised what his philanthropy would achieve, an almost unique Evesham charity, of which everyone can be proud.

Evesham Bell Tower Appeal – talk by Stan Brotherton (treasurer of the Appeal)

The plight of the Evesham Bell Tower was graphically explained by one of the campaign leaders and fundraisers, Stan Brotherton.  Using a superb graphic display he showed how bad the unseen deterioration of the historic Evesham icon, built in 1530, really is, and, of course, the funds needed to make the essential repairs.  The tower at 110 feet tall, excluding the weather vanes, which were added in 1717, poses significant challenges in the modern Health and Safety regime.  In is hard to imagine how the originals builders managed with hand tools and manpower.

The plan is to start work in April 2015 with completion in November 2015. A £200,000 lottery grant was approved in September 2013.  £105,000 has been raised locally from events and donations, with other funding from grants.  Overall there is still a need for a further £53,000 to be raised locally, and he asked everyone to keep an eye on future events and to support them.  The beautiful Bell Tower is a reminder to Evesham’s rich heritage.  It must be preserved for the future.

If you missed this evening, but are interested in the update (and the speculations!) then here’s the presentation:

Updates & Society News

Opening this first meeting of the 2014-15 winter talks season, John Kyte gave a run down of activities over the summer, which had included revision of the Museum database, progress on document conservation and the development of rolling displays about World War 1. Archaeological interest continues, with a dig around St Catherine’s Chapel foundation expected to start soon.  He particularly thanked Chris Groves and Martin Jones for all their work in keeping the Almonry garden looking beautiful.

The Society has now published John’s recently book on Prince Henry’s pupil, Sir Henry Fowler’s life, a limited number of which are now available from the Almonry, priced £8.  Sir Henry was an engineer, who was knighted for his work in World War 1 in organising munitions production and work on early aviation at the Royal Aircraft Factory, Farnborough.  Later he became Chief Mechanical Engineer of the London Midland and Scottish Railway, his name being associated with many steam locomotives. The Sir Henry Fowler Room at the Almonry is a tribute to his lifetime achievements.

Society working evenings are held on Thursdays at the Almonry at 7.30 pm. Anyone interested in the history of Evesham and the Vale will be made most welcome.

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