In the second half of the 1600s four of the wealthier residents of Badsey and Aldington individually gave sums of money “to the poor that they might have the use thereof for ever in Bread”. In the next century another family member added to the funds, making a total of £43 – a considerable sum at the time. The names of the five donors (at least three being from the Jarrett family of Aldington) are recorded on a board in the tower of St James’s church in Badsey.
At an early stage the cash was used to buy land in the parish of Badsey in order to provide a permanent source of income from rent. The 1812 Badsey Enclosure Act consolidated the land owned by the five separate Charities into a single holding, just over nine acres in extent situate at the Old Lays on the Willersey Road, and referred to as “The Poors’ Land”.
The Charities, commonly collectively known as the Bread Charity, flourished for many years. Income from the land was applied to the purchase of bread for villagers selected annually by the Trustees as being deserving cases. Latterly the system operated by issuing coupons to those selected for a number of loaves each month: the coupons would then be exchanged at the baker’s for loaves and redeemed later by the Trustees for cash. At the beginning of the 1970s up to twenty-four households were receiving coupons for four loaves a month.
1977 the Trustees, confronted with a continuous rise in the price of bread, and with seemingly less demand for assistance, resolved to alter the terms of the Charity. So, after some 300 years, the last seventeen beneficiaries saw the end of their grant of two free loaves a month. On 5th May 1978 a new Trust document was sealed under the title of the “Aldington and Badsey Relief in Need Charity”. This document amalgamated the five former Charities into one, and decreed that the Trustees “shall apply the income of the Charity in relieving either generally or individually persons resident in the area comprising the Parishes of Aldington and Badsey who are in conditions of need, hardship or distress by making grants of money or providing or paying for items, services or facilities calculated to reduce the need hardship or distress of such persons”.
The Charity remains open to requests for assistance from parishioners to this day although, in twenty-first century England, demands for help are less frequent than of yore. Anyone wanting to know more about the Charity is welcome to contact any of the Trustees, amongst whom, ex officio, is Badsey’s Vicar; the names of all five Trustees are listed on the Badsey village notice board.