The Hampton Fuel Allotment Charity 1811-2011 Geoffrey Clarkson
’Tis a crime to steal the goose from off the common
but not to steal the common from under the goose.
In May 2011, the 200th anniversary of the establishment of the Hampton Fuel Allotment Charity (HFAC) will be marked in several ways. Two of these are: a small plot at Oldfield Road library with trees, plaque and bench and a Service of Thanksgiving at St Mary’s 6.30 pm, Sunday 29 May.
The story of HFAC begins with an enclosure. I was taught that enclosures were all about making agriculture more efficient. That the rationalisation of agricultural production was needed to cope with the massive population growth in the 18th and 19th centuries, coupled with the pressure placed on the country's economic resources by the Napoleonic Wars.
Prior to enclosure many peasants, however poor they were, owned strips of land on which they grew food. More importantly, all
villagers had customary rights to the common land, on which they could graze animals, and cut turf and wood for fuel. These rights to the commons allowed the poor to survive and feed their families. Enclosure took away these rights.
For more facts, figures and history see www.hfac.co.uk
In compensation, when the Hampton lands were enclosed, the Commissioners ‘allotted’ a small plot of land (of poor quality and little value!) to be held in trust by the parish vestry; the rental income being used to offset any resulting hardship.
As Hampton expanded, the parishes of St. James’s and All Saints were created. The ancient vestry morphed over time into its current form; the incumbent of St Mary’s, ex-officio, six ‘nominated’ trustees (one from each of the parishes and three from the London Borough of Richmond- upon-Thames) and up to four ‘co-opted’ trustees.
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By the 1980’s, facing difficulties in managing the land and an ever growing demand on its funds, trustees were permitted to sell the land and to create an endowment fund. The 1811 Commissioners who allotted a miserable piece of land for the benefit of the Hampton poor must surely have turned in their graves when, in 1990, trustees banked £21.6m from J. Sainsbury & Co for the site of a new mammoth store on Uxbridge Road!
Trustees’ responsibilities, briefly summarized, are to manage the endowment (held ‘for ever in trust’) and to distribute the derived income for the benefit of those in need within the designated area of benefit (firstly, the three Hampton parishes, then Twickenham)
By 2010 the endowment had grown to £44m earning £1.8m for distribution. In that year, 1800 households received aid totalling £816,00 – fuel grants, furniture and white goods and £903,000 was directed towards supporting our community through 114 local organizations.
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