IN 1988 The Charities commissioned a publication ‘The Finchley Charities 1488-1988’ by Fred Davis, a Trustee at the time and a local historian, which set out a detailed account of the history of The Charities. From his research we discover a number of interesting facts and events.
A wealthy farmer, Robert Warren bequeathed his ‘first gift’ of 11 acres of land on 23rd March 1488. This was to provide funds for the church, repair and improve the highways and to make charitable gifts to the poor. Nine men of the parish (trustees) were assigned to administer the charity. Warren’s second gift, on 12th March 1489 consisted of a shop, house and large garden with two small tenaments adjoining. which eventually became properties on Hendon Lane. The two gifts were confirmed in an indenture sealed by the Trustees on 20th March 1489. This brought into being The Finchley Charities.
Further gifts of land and houses were donated during the 16thand 17th centuries including those from Thomas Sanny in 1506. A scheme was drawn up at the end of the 19th century bringing in all the other charities which had come within the control of the Trust over the years. Some of these involved distributing food by church officials to very poor people living in the parish. A nursing benevolent society came into the Trust in the early 20th Century. This was dissolved in 1948 with the advent of the National Health Act. The Charity Commissioners authorised the transfer of the Society’s funds to be for the benefit of the sick and poor. This provided food, medicine and medical comforts.
Since the establishment of the 1892 scheme money donated by benefactors has been invested in income earning funds. Some gifts have been for specific purposes such as furnishing and equipping Community rooms.
The almshouses at Wilmot Close were built on land and buildings known as Pointalls Fields which had been donated to The Charities. Almshouses seem to have existed on this site since the 17th century, but new ones were constructed from about the mid 19th century.
A new block was built in 1895. New almshouses were built in 1958 and a further block in 1966, when the site was named Wilmot Close in memory of local Alderman Herbert Wilmot, a former Trustee. A portion of land was sold off for the development of the Vale Farm Estate. This enabled The Charities to build further almshouses on the site in 1972/3. As demand for accommodation for the elderly rose, the Trustees decided to build a further block in 1984 which opened in 1985. This was named Thackrah Close after the father and son trustees Edgar and Ronald Thackrah, whose service spanned 55 years.
In 1979, following the demolition of Homefield House and garages, it was decided to provide almshouse dwellings and 39 flats were built. They were opened in 1980 by Mrs Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister and MP for Finchley. In 1989 48 further flats were built on the site.
In 1991 The Charities took over Pewterers Court from the Worshipful Company of Pewterers.
In 2014, The Finchley Charities decided to build 16 additional units on the Wilmot Close site, these units are to be known as Octavia House, after National Trust founder Octavia Hill and will be available in Summer 2017.