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Mr Thomas Betton’s Charity

When transcribing the Hooe School Manager′s Minute Book (April 1903 - March 1958 - ESRO Ref no. EMA 97/1), I came across the following references to a "Betton′s Charity", about which I knew nothing and had heard even less, so further investigation was necessary!

The first reference, I came across, was in the minutes of a meeting held on Tuesday, July 29, 1924; present were the Vicar (in the chair), J. E. Brand, S. Dodson, and T. Hayes, and the topic was the accounts.

"The Vicar stated that the Roman sale has produced £13-9-6 1/2 d, which made it possible to pay H. Taylor′s account of £11-5-8 and gave a balance in hand of £6-1-4 1/2. He also stated that Betton′s Charity had made a grant of £10.

The next mention was in the report of a meeting on Thursday, December 4, 1924 at 6:30 p.m. and present were the vicar (in the chair), J. E. Brand, S. Dodson, T. Hayes, and Mrs. Carter.

The vicar informed the managers that the grant from Betton's Charity was finally settled at £5 instead of £10.

At the meeting of Thursday, December 3, 1925 at 6.30 p.m., where those present, the minutes say were "the Vicar (in chair) and all the other managers."

Statement of Manager′s Accounts

A statement by the correspondent of accounts was made; with a grant of £10 from Betton′'s Charity and the balance in hand there would be enough to pay about half of Messers Adams & Jarrett′s bill for external repairs.

My final record, of Betton′s Charity, comes from the minutes of the meeting held on May 13, 1927, at the school, at 6.30 p.m.


All the managers except C. C. Reps tive.

[JWNs Note – that′s how it was written in the minutes - "C. C. Reps tive" - and, this, turned out to be a short form for the "County Council Representative")

The minutes go on to say;-

Managers′ Accounts

The correspondent stated that the managers was [sic] still in debt to the amount of £4-7-2 and that the bill for the new fence had still to be paid; he had applied for a grant from Betton′s Charity.

So, who was Thomas Betton? He turned out to be very elusive but, eventually, I managed to find some information about him.

Thomas Betton

I searched for information on Thomas Betton but, at first, found very little on him other than, before he died in 1723, he had been a very rich merchant venturer, mainly involved in ironmongery; that is the buying and selling of metal goods, though, as such, because of his wealth, he would traded more in the style of a modern speculator in such items as coffee and oil rather than that of a high street iron monger.

He was a member of The Worshipful Company of Ironmongers and it was this organisation that he chose, in his will, to be the Trustee of the Charity he set up.

There seems to be no record of when or where he was born but he is said to have lived in Hoxton Square, in the Borough of Hackney, in London's East End.

He made his money, £26,000 (about £1,500,000 at today’s value), in later life but, as a young man, he had been captured forced into slavery in Morocco, which was rife in those days and still happens today in that part of the world. It was reported, later, that Betton "had the misfortune to be captured as a slave on the Coast of Barbary but, after suffering extraordinary privations, and enduring dreadful cruelties, he was providentially redeemed from captivity by the Captain of an English vessel." It was because of this experience that, later, he used his money to pay for the release of British slaves in Barbary and Turkey.

In his will, proved on 25th June 1725, Thomas Betton bequeathed half the interest of his estate to the release of British slaves, one quarter to charity schools in London and one quarter for the relief of decayed freemen, their dependents and the Chaplain.

Following the abolition of slavery the use of the half share was altered so the grants could be given to Church of England schools in England and Wales and that is how the Hooe School came to benefit from this charity.

In his Will, Thomas Betton, instructs the Company of Ironmongers, his executors upon trust, to pay his funeral and testamentary charges and, then, instructs in how to deal with the residue of his estate.

He instructs: - "that they do with all convenient speed after my decease, place my estate out at interest, on good securities, positively forbidding them to diminish the capital sum by giving away any part thereof; or that the interest or profit arising, be applied to any other use or uses, than, hereinafter mentioned, namely, that they do pay one full half part of the said interest and profits of my whole estate yearly and every year for ever, unto the redemption of British slaves in Turkey or Barbary; one full fourth part of the said interest or profit yearly and every year for ever, unto charity schools in the city and suburbs of London, where the education is according to the Church of England, in which number that in this parish (St. Leonard's Shoreditch) to be always included; and not giving any one above £20 per annum; and in consideration of the said Ironmongers company's care and pains in the execution of this my will, the other fourth part of the said interest and profits yearly and every year for ever, to the uses following, viz : £10 per annum to such minister of the Church of England, as they shall from time to time entertain in their hospital, for performing divine service and other duties belonging to that holy order; the remains unto the necessitated decayed freemen of said company, their widows and children, not exceeding £10 a year to any family subject to the payment of an annuity of £100 a year to Eleanor Smith, since dead, and to the keeping his tomb in repair."

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