In past times, when there were no Social Services, no Old Age Pensions, and no supplementary benefits, who did you turn to when the grey wolf Hunger came sniffing round your door ?
Well, in Bungay, it was the Town Trust. The Town Reeve and his fellow Feoffees were responsible for renting out various lands and properties, and the income was used to benefit the community.
Much of the money was spent on amenities and street- cleaning, and the Trust's 18th century Old Town Book also records expenses for sweeping chimneys, providing a horse-drawn fire -engine, ‘bottomfying' the Borough Well, repairs to the Pest House on the Common, and purchasing the fine statue of Justice to be erected on the Butter Cross.
But they also provided charity for those in need. In 1726, they paid for ‘a gown for old Goodye Shouldham', at a cost of 10s. and a tailor was paid 1s.
‘for making Edward Flat's breeches'. Were these the long-lasting leather breeches for which Bungay was famous, only needing an occasional patch to get Mr. Flat ‘new-bottomed' ?
In 1729, Dr. King, who established the Bath House near the Common, was paid 16s. 9d. for a ‘bill of physick for the Workhouse, and others for the Poor', and Mrs. Lincoln, presumably a midwife, was paid 4s. for ‘laying of Bardwell's wife'.
There are some curious entries. Margery Fuller was given 1s. 6d to go to Gibraltar. No explanation is given, but perhaps a relative was living there and she couldn't afford the expenses of the long sea-voyage. Even in those days, 1s. 6d wouldn't take you very far, so perhaps the Town was just anxious to get rid of her, and she was dumped at Liverpool.
In 1759, John Strange was recompensed with 18s. for his wheat ‘taken by the outrageous poor in the time of scarcity'. There were a number of bad harvests in the Georgian period, which raised the price of wheat to a level many people couldn't afford, and they faced starvation. In this case, it seems that the Reeve hadn't provided help in time, and the poor were obliged to steal what they needed. Well, at least he didn't say ‘Let them eat Cake”.
Today, the Town Trust is still using the income from its properties to help local people. But if you're hoping for a new frock for Cousin Archie's wedding, or a cheap trip to Gibraltar, forget it. The funding is aimed at voluntary and charitable groups, to help pay for facilities and equipment. Up to £500 can be allocated, and many local organisations have benefited.
The Grant Application form is available here