In the 16th Century wealthy people all over the country began to set up charities to provide help for the poor and education for the young. Before the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII this had mainly been provided by the Church.
In Eynsham the first mention of a local education charity is in 1654, and by 1658 the St Thomas’s Bread Charity was already an amalgamation of several pre-existing small charities for the relief of the poor.
By his Will (proved in 1701) John Bartholomew of Eynsham, a wealthy merchant, left money for the education of ten poor boys. The then Lord of the Manor gave land in the market place for the erection of a school house, and the Bartholomew Room was built there, funded by public subscription. The upper chamber of the Bartholomew Room, which was the original schoolroom, has on its walls plaques commemorating the donors of those funds, several of the names of donors being of families still living in the village.
The St Thomas’s Charity also benefited from donations from time to time, some of these being for specific purposes – for example ‘for ten poor widows’, or in cash ‘to the poor on Good Friday’, but the main purpose of the Charity was to distribute bread to the poor ‘each week from Christmas until Lady Day’. Other small bread or coal charities, and educational charities (some a mixture of the two functions) were also established from time to time.
The administration of the Eynsham charities has a colourful history – in 1865 Vicar Bricknell refused to submit accounts for the previous six years and ‘came to blows’ at a trustees’ meeting. His opponents went to Court and made him render accounts under threat of imprisonment.
In about the middle of the nineteenth century the Charity Commission was set up to oversee the functions of the many charities which by then had arisen all over the country.
The disorganised state of the various charities which by then existed in the Eynsham area was addressed by the Charity Commission at the beginning of the last century, when the various educational functions of the different local charities were hived off into one charity, named the Bartholomew Educational Foundation. The remaining charities, for the relief of need, hardship and distress, were amalgamated into the Eynsham Consolidated Charity. These two charities have continued to function ever since.
The Educational Foundation is authorised to make grants to anyone living in the Parish of Eynsham who is under the age of 25 and who Is in education. The Consolidated Charity Is authorised to make grants to anyone in conditions of need, hardship or distress in the 'Ancient Parish' of Eynsham – this includes most of Freeland, which was originally part of Eynsham Parish before it was constituted as a separate parish in the nineteenth century.
Today, the trustees of both the charities meet four times a year to consider applications for grants, but there are also arrangements to enable any urgent applications to be considered between meetings. An annual report is made to the Eynsham Annual Parish Meeting (also provided to the Freeland meeting in the case of the Consolidated Charity).
Anyone wishing to make an application for a grant should apply to the new Clerk to the Charities, Catherine Barton, at email@example.com or to 60 Dovehouse Close, Eynsham OX29 4EX