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Francis Beckham Trust

Charity of Francis Berkham (otherwise Beckham) registered charity 207618.

Little is known of the early history of the Francis Beckham Trust a local charity but, in the Parliamentary Returns it is stated that Francis Berkham, in 1687, surrendered land to the poor of the parish. Also in the enclosure Act of 1830, the commissioners set out to the church wardens and overseers, and their successors, land whereon two cottages and other buildings stood together with 3 parcels of land (now being allotments in The Street, allotments and field at the top of Moor Lane and the playing field together with gardens around the almshouses). These were declared to be copyhold to the manor of Sculthorpe, being in lieu of copyhold land to which Thomas Purdy was appointed as trustee for the poor on 11th May 1659.

Originally there were of two trusts,

1. Charity of Francis Berkham (otherwise Beckham)that was founded in 1687 and

2.  from the Enclosure Act of 1830, The Charity known as the Fuel Allotment

The almshouses were built originally in 1687. They were then rebuilt and enlarged in 1861 by Catherine Mary, Lady Jones of Cranmer to make four separate single room dwellings.  It is presumed the Reading Room and Lecture Room were erected at the same time.

In 1971 each pair of single room dwellings were converted, enlarged and modernised to form what is now two of the existing almshouses.

Agreement was reached with the Church Authorities in 1993 to purchase the Lecture Room, permission was then sought and granted for The Reading Room and Lecture Room to be converted to 3 new alms houses making the five almshouses that exist today.

In 1996 when the present five almshouses were completed, the Charity Commission granted trustees permission to widen who they appoint as alms people from poor people and to consider anyone residing in the parish, or with connection to the parish.

Some of the allotments at the north end of Moor Lane were changed to form the children’s playing field.  Notice was given to the allotment holders on that site to give up their tenancy in October 1973.  The ground is now let to the Sculthorpe Parish Council for a peppercorn rent.

Today the charity has 20 allotments in The Street and Moor Lane that are rented out.

In the enclosure award dated 18th June 1830 the Fuel Allotment (now known as Sculthorpe Moor) being 30 acres of land was to provide fuel for the poor of the parish under such restrictions as the trustees should direct. Trustees at the time being the lord of the manor, the rector, churchwardens and overseers of the poor in the parish of Sculthorpe.  The Fuel Allotment was let for £12 per annum to Thomas Owen and with the funds, coal was purchased and sold to the poor at 6d (under 3 new pence) a bushel.

In the intervening years the moor was rented out, either by tender or by auctioning the shooting rights for private shoots this continued until 1999.

Towards the latter end of the twentieth century the moor became heavily encroached by alder and willow.

In 1993, Natural England designated Sculthorpe Moor SSSI (site of special scientific interest) status and much of the Wensum valley, including Sculthorpe Moor, also now has European SAC (special area of conservation) classification.  Both of these demand careful management.  Indeed as coastal reed beds are threatened by coastal erosion inland reed beds such as on Sculthorpe Moor become increasingly important to wildlife.

In a resolution dated 14th August 1995, under the Charities Act 1993, the Charity known as Fuel Allotment was formally transferred to the Charity of Francis Berkham (otherwise Beckham).

In 2001 the trustees were delighted when The Hawk and Owl Trust approached them with a proposal for turning the moor into a Nature Reserve.  This is now a nationally recognised nature reserve and has received a number awards for the management of the moor.  Rent received is no longer used to provide the poor of the parish with coal.  Instead, funds are used more for the community.  Such as supporting the village school, grants to parishioners in special need, grants to fund village events such as the jubilee celebrations and Christmas gift to parishioners over the age of 65.

The trust is managed by five trustees, together with a clerk.  Trustees and clerk are unpaid volunteers and, with the exception of the rector, who is ex-officio, each trustee serves a term of five years retiring in rotation.

As with any charity, details of the Charity of Francis Berkham (otherwise Beckham)and the annual accounts are available to anyone to view on the Charity Commission website at

(correct as of November 2012)

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