Hebden Township Historical Data

The Beckett's and Ibbotson's Charities


The Becketts and Ibbotson's Charity is a Hebden charity whose purpose today, according to the Charity Commission, is "Providing grants to local individuals and organisations, to aid charitable work, help the elderly and sick, benefit childrens' activities and learning". Originally two separate charities, they always seemed to have been jointly managed by the same trustees before being officially amalgamated in 1998. After over 350 years, it continues to thrive, benefiting a variety of good causes every year.

The charity has an income of £600 to £800 per year, and it is managed by a group of seven local trustees. In recent years much of the money has been passed on to other charities from which the people of Hebden are likely to benefit, and some has been used to provide small grants to local young people to help further their educational aspirations. Its history is complex, chequered, and not fully unravelled, but its origin lies in two separate legacies - those of Thomas Beckett and Robert Ibbotson.

Thomas Beckett's Charity

Thomas Beckett was a yeoman from Hebden who died in April 1665, and was probably born in 1619. According to a Charity Commissioners' report of 1861, "Thomas Beckett by Will (date unknown) gave £50 to be paid at interest or bestowed on lands to the use of the poor of the Township of Hebden for ever and directed that his Executor John Horner should pay the interest to the Constable, Churchwarden, Overseer of the poor and two of the most substantial men in Hebden yearly, till they could bestow the same on lands, and when the land should be purchased pay the said £50 to the said officers and persons and the interest before the purchase and profits of the land so purchased after should be paid by the said officers and persons to the poorest people in Hebden at the feast of St. Thomas the apostle yearly". £50 was a considerable sum in 1665, the equivalent to almost £14,000 these days.

Although the feast of St. Thomas is celebrated on July 3rd in the Roman Catholic calendar and the modern Church of England Calendar, the traditional date is December 21st which has always been the preference of the Trustees.

The trustees used to meet in December and allocate the money to 20 to 30 of the poorest people. This was distributed on the given day. At one time, the details of the distribution were posted in the Church Porch. The printed poster copy size (16¼" by 20") listing the recipients in 1876 may be seen here. This practice continued into the 1970s, although the sums distributed were by then withheld. An unsuccessful attempt was made in 1982 by one trustee to revive the practice. The trustees still meet in December, and allocate money to individuals and local charities.

A legal document dated 1709 in the care of David Joy shows that all did not go to plan. Contrary to the requirements of the will, Beckett's executor, John Horner, paid the money over to the nominated people before any land had been purchased, and for the next 30 years or so the great and the good of the village simply loaned out the money for the interest it earned. Unfortunately, in 1699 two of them made an unsecured loan unauthorised by the others of £3 6s 8d to one Thomas Sym, who proceeded to default on the debt, finishing in debtors prison in York Castle without assets. This inevitably resulted in recriminations, and following a legal investigation in 1709 the remaining capital was finally invested in seven beastgates (the right to graze a cow) and two sheepgates (the right to graze a sheep) on Grassington Old Pasture, and four and a half sheepgates on Grassington New Pasture. These were rented out for income.

Parish records tell us that that there was at least one family with the name Sym (with variations) living in the area in the seventeenth century. Thomas Sym probably died in prison as there is a record of a Thomas Sym being buried at St Mary Castlegate, in York, in 1711.

When most of Grassington's common pastures were enclosed in 1788, an area of 39 acres 2 roods and 9 perches (16.008 hectares) on the Old Pasture on the other side of the road from Yarnbury was granted to the Thomas Beckett Charity in compensation for the loss of their commons grazing rights on Grassington Old Pasture. This land became known as the Poor Grass in recognition of its purpose. However, ownership of 4½ sheepgates on Grassington New Pasture was retained by the charity. The renting of these are included in the current Poor Grass tenancy agreement.

Hebden Suspension Bridge from the southeast.
Google Earth image showing the extent of the Poor Grass on Grassington Old Pasture.
Click image for larger resolution

There may have been a limited amount of mining taking place in the pasture at the time of the Enclosure, but if so it would have been small-scale and declining. The Duke of Devonshire, the owner of the mineral rights, had been unwilling to invest in the improvement of the infrastructure as the mining leases would not have allowed him to recoup the cost. By 1820, however, the leases had expired, and the 6th Duke had a free hand enabling him to invest heavily in further developing the mines. Unfortunately, the Poor Grass was to be the centre of much of the activity, and it soon became more of an industrial landscape than a pasture. A number of tracks were carved across the landscape including the Dukes New Road, the Duke's Watercourse was bought round to supply a new pond, and a tramway was built to transport ore from the mines north of the road to a newly-built crushing plant. The spoil from that was dumped in the north-west sector of the pasture. The 1891 25" Ordnance Survey map demonstrates the degree of industrialisation:

Image 1. Extract from the Ordnance Survey 1853 6" map showing the industrialisation
Image 2. Extract from the Ordnance Survey 1891 25" map showing the plot numbers
Use arrow on controls to change the image

In 1825 a report prepared for the Charity Commission stated "This land has suffered considerable damage of late, from water used in washing the minerals from an adjoining lead mine of the Duke of Devonshire being permitted to flow into it, and from other causes connected with the mine".

In a report to Parliament in 1897, the situation was summed up as thus: "At the date of Mr. Skirrow's inquiry (note: 1861) the land was still suffering from the damage referred to in the Report of 1825 as being caused by the lead-mining operations of the Duke of Devonshire, and the mining agent of the then Duke informed Mr. Skirrow that about one third of the land was at that time actually destroyed by the operations, stating that it was not the practice of the duke to make any compensation in such cases. By the Act of 1788 (the Grassington inclosure act) above referred to, all the rights, royalties, and privileges, and jurisdictions of the manor or the lords thereof were reserved for the duke, his heirs and assigns, in as ample a manner as the lord or lords would have held the same if the Act had not been made."

It must have been very challenging for the charity's trustees to manage an active industrial landscape for grazing, and it is unknown what, if any, arrangements they had with the Duke of Devonshire's agent. There are clues, however, in the walls. On the original Enclosure Award map there is no sign of internal walls as one would expect, but a number are shown on the 1853 6" Ordnance Survey map, indicating that the trustees had partitioned the land. The shape of the segments seemed to have been determined by the mining activity, and was likely to have been a negotiated response to the industrialisation. The segments are easily identified as specific plots on the 1891 25" Ordnance Map above. The boundary of the Poor Grass has been marked in red, and the yellow outlines the individual plots contained therein:

Plot. No. Size Notes
409 0.497 acres Small reservoir on boundary near Beever shaft
410 5.978 acres The eastern section of the area north of Duke's New Road
411 3.294 acres Area to the west of the reservoir (409) near Beever Shaft
412 9.934 acres The eastern section which is south of Duke's New Road (originally 2 plots)
413 - Not part of the Poor Grass
414 10.493 acres South-eastern section of the pasture
415 9.066 acres Crushing plant and crushing spoil in north-west of pasture
416 0.436 acres Small reservoir near crushing plant

On the 1891 map the sector that includes the crushing plant and major spoil heap (Plot 415) is shown as being enclosed at its southern end, but on the 1853 map it is shown as merging into a walled track which continues in the adjacent heavily-mined field. This implies that it was an area dedicated to mining activity, and may have been leased to the mining company, or equally likely, the mining company just took the land it required. Plots 409 and 416 are reservoirs created for the mines, and were also probably similarly leased.

The rest of the pasture was probably let out for grazing. The 1853 map shows that Plots 411 and 414 are separated by the walled track mentioned above, indicating that the walling within the pasture was done contemporaneously with the mining development. Plot 410 is enclosed to the south by a wall following Duke's New Road (the last few metres of which are missing on the 1891 map), Plot 412 was originally two fields as shown.

An application for a government grant made in 1971 to reclaim the spoiled land was unsuccessful, which is probably just as well as it would have further destroyed what has now become mining heritage. About five hectares of the Poor Grass are now part of the Grassington Moor Scheduled Monument which was first listed in 1978. National Heritage maintain an interpretation trail on the site.

The next trauma in the history of the Charity began in 1859. This was recounted by Thomas Francis Hammond in his newspaper memoirs, and is supported by correspondence from the Charity Commission. According to Hammond, at this time each parish was responsible for its own poor, that is to say those who had been born in the parish. This rule was for some reason applied by the managers of the Beckett's Charity, which meant that they were handing out benefits to the poor who no longer lived in Hebden, but not to the poor who did live in Hebden but were born elsewhere. Following complaints, the Charity Commission held an enquiry and ruled that Beckett had intended the endowments to be for the poor living in the village, and ordered the Constable, Churchwardens and Overseers to select the most deserving in the village regardless of their origin. Soon after, in 1864, the Charity Commission replaced the charities management with five local trustees, with rules pertaining to their eligibility and replacement, increasing this to eight in 1876.

Associated with this episode is a tale originally published by Thomas Blackah (1828-1895) in a 16 page pamphlet. Thomas Blackah was a working miner born in Hardcastle, a village, now disappeared, about a mile north of Greenhow. He was renowned for his dialect songs and poems. The story was retold by Hammond in his memoirs:

There is a story in Hebden history of an man who when refused help from the Beckett's Charity fund prophesied the downfall of one of the then distributors. An account of the incident is told in Yorkshire dialect in a pamphlet issued in 1867 by Thomas Blackah and titled "Oliver Banks; or St. Thomas's Bounty at Hebden." The names in the booklet are fictitious. The story is supposed to be told by the applicant for the bounty.

After telling of the sufferings of his family, for lack of food he says: "At last ah bethowt mesel it wos t'day for sarvin oot St. Thomas's bounty." Arrived at the place arranged for the distribution, he found two or people he knew "an' a heeale heeap mar on t' seeame bisness 'at ah were. When it com i' my turn, ah went in an' doft off me hat. My eye! bud warrant that a bonny swat o' brass laid o' t' top o' to' teeable - soverins and hofe-soverins, croons an' hofe-croons, shillins, sixpences, pennies and hopennies, all laid out hamsam yan amang another."

Asked "What's thow want heear?" the applicant replied, "It'll be Cesmay Day o' Monday, and we hennot a smite o' nayther cheese, spice-cake, ner natah sort iv ceeake, i' oor hoose 'an ah've nivver had a bat o'wark for eleven weeks cum't next Friday'."

The man addressed took off his spectacles and said, "Thow'l git nowt heear. Thow duzzant belang Hebden."

"Can ye tell me whar ad due belang?" was the next question, and the answer came "Thow belangs t'Bank Edge."

"Then ah've a reet to me shar o' that brass," was the retort.

"Thow'll nivver git a farden-piece as lang as ah've owt to doo wi' it, aw t' fine teeales at ivver ta can tell willot awter me, seea thow mon, pike thesel off."

Then was pronounced the prophesy by the rejected applicant. "If this," he said, "be all t'feeling ye hev fer yer fella creeaters, at's nowt to hit, ner nowt to git nowt wi', let ma tell ye a thar's Him aboon 'al pay ye part back in this world, but man i' t' world to come; an' ah sal be sadly deceeaved if yer beas', sheep, an' hosses binnot teean away, an' yer brass al all tak' wings and flee away, an' ah sal live to see ya brekkin steeanes or cutting dykes o' t' roadside."

The next year year when the applicant appeared for the bounty it was not refused, and the explanation was given "we've hed a commissioner fra Lunnon, an' he's squared things up a bit." Every year he got a share "o' t' Bounty Brass."

The last time the applicant saw the man who had refused him "he were cumin doon t' Lo' Green. When he saw me he held oot his hand to shak' hands wi' ma; tears wer runnin' doon his cheeks, as he sed, "Thi words is cummed true." I inquired mar aboot him, an' meeade it oot 'at he wer brekkin steeans a' t' Heigh Rooard, sumwhar up t' heigh end o' t' Deeale."

All was quiet until the late 1960s, when a company bought a concession from the Chatsworth Estate to extract fluorospar from the mining spoil in the Beever field adjacent to the Poor Grass. They encroached, however, onto the Poor Grass, causing considerable damage. Repeated requests for compensation failed. Eventually the company relinquished the concession, and claimed to have no assets. The Chatsworth Estate did give a nominal ex gratia payment of £20, representing £5 for each year. Stone robbing later became a problem in the late 1990s, but this ceased when the individual concerned was reminded of the site's National Heritage listing.

The Poor Grass continues to be the sole source of income from the Thomas Beckett bequest, but this comes from several sources:

  • Renting the grazing rights. This is the largest source of annual income.
  • Renting the shooting rights. This is also an important source of annual income.
  • Benefiting from donations for regular events. The Bradford Motor Club has held an annual event most years from at least the 1960s on the Poor Grass, and make a donation to the charity.
  • Benefiting from other events that that might require car parking, or other use of the Poor Grass. The charity received £1,000 from Paramount Pictures in 1991 for use of the Poor Grass when Kosminsky's Wuthering Heights was being filmed in the vicinity.

The Ibbotson Charity

The story of the Ibbotson Charity starts in the eighteenth century with a gentleman called Robert Ibbotson. According to Edmond Bogg in 1904, the Ibbotsons were a very old Craven family, and a member is reputed to have served at the battle of Flodden Field in 1513 with a Craven contingent. The 1672 Hearth Tax returns records four Ibbotson households in Hebden. Robert Ibbotson was a successful yeoman farmer who originated from Hebden, and who died in Skyrethornes in 1723, leaving a will which included bequests for a number of charitable causes:

"In the name of God, amen, I, Robert Ibbotson, of Skirethorns, late of Hebden, in the parish of Linton, and county of York, yeoman, being in a weak disposition of health, but of sound and perfect memory, thanks be to the Almighty God for the same, do make and ordain this, my last Will and Testament, in the manner and for the following, etc."

The charitable bequests included an annual gift to four poor widows of the township, and the establishment of an apprenticing charity. The appprenticing charity morphed into the "Charity of Robert Ibbotson for Institute and Apprenticing" in 1901, resulting in the construction of the Ibbbotson Institute

The proportion of the legacy that was ear-marked for the four poor widows finished up invested in a rentcharge on Knowles Land. Knowles Land is the area above Hole Bottom going towards Scar Top, including much of the Care Scar Quarry and the land behind it, stretching down to the waterfall field and the land above that. It is unclear how the money came to be invested in the rentcharge, but it is likely that Ibbotson originally owned the land, and the bequest came out of the income of that land. When the land was subsequently sold, the liability was transferred as a rentcharge.

A gift of 10 shillings to a widow was meaningful in 1700, being the equivalent of two weeks average wages, but not so much so in 2000. Nevertheless, 50p was being gifted to four widows and widowers every year until the charity amalgamated with the Beckett's Charity in 1998, resulting in a charity the purpose of which is more general. The rentcharge was actually bought out by the owner of Knowles Land in 1991 for £80, so the income no longer has a separate identity.