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Service celebrates 500th anniversary of Richard Cloudesley charity

From Tudor times to today, Richard Cloudesley’s legacy keeps on giving

12 July, 2017 — By Koos Couvée

Charity trustees at the newly refurbished tomb where Cloudesley lays buried

CHURCH of England dignitaries have marked the start of a year-long celebration of the 500th anniversary of one of Islington’s oldest charities.

The independent charitable trust, Cloudesley, was set up by Tudor benefactor Richard Cloudesley. It has funded Anglican churches, charities and people in need in the borough to the tune of millions.

A service at St Mary’s Church, in Upper Street, was attended by hundreds of representatives from churches and voluntary sector organisations last Thursday.

The event began with a procession that included Bishop of Stepney the Right Rev Adrian Newman, Archdeacon of Hackney the Venerable Liz Adekunle, the Rev Simon Harvey, of St Mary’s Church, and Maggie Elliott, chairwoman of Cloudesley.

Ms Elliott announced that on top of the charity’s usual annual grants budget – £900,000 for spending in Islington – an additional anniversary grants programme will result in extra investment of more than £1million to benefit churches, charities and individuals in need.

She said afterwards: “It was wonderful to be able to celebrate 500 years of Richard Cloudesley’s legacy in Islington.

“We were delighted to see so many people from Islington’s churches, the local voluntary sector and other Cloudesley contacts at the anniversary service.”

A portrait of Cloudesley in stained glass at St Mary’s Church

The Islington-born “husbandman, yeoman or gentleman” held official positions, including as an Islington constable and a tax collector for Middlesex.

He died in 1517, months after his marriage to Alice. In his will he left a 14-acre estate in Barnsbury, known as the Stony Fields, to the Parish of St Mary’s Islington with the wish that the land should generate income for the parish.

In the early 19th century, the value of the land was boosted when trustees decided to build houses on it.

The Stonefields estate, also known as the Cloudesley estate, was built in the area bounded by Cloudesley Road, Cloudesley Place, Liverpool Road and Richmond Avenue.

Until the 19th century, income from Cloudesley’s land was paid to the churchwardens of St Mary’s vestry and used for parish purposes.

But during the 1850s some vestrymen argued that the charity’s income should be going to the poor instead. A pamphlet war ensued, each side backing up their arguments with different interpretations of the benefactor’s will.

In 1902, a new charity commission ruled that once St Mary’s and a number of other churches had received their share of £1,000, any surplus should go to the other Church of England churches in Islington and “in making grants to any one or more of the hospitals or medical, surgical or nursing charities for the sick poor”.

Some 50 years later, commissioners agreed that the charity could also give grants to individuals “for the benefit of sick poor persons”.

Leases of the around 100 properties have yielded a steady income over the years.

These days, the charity can command total funds of £47million. Last year, it reported a £2.1million gain on revaluation of its properties – evidence it is benefiting from rising land values in the borough. Since 2012, it has had its own staff based in offices in Holloway Road.

Funding through the church grants programme is currently focused on maintaining the fabric of 25 church buildings in Islington. Cloudesley’s health grants programme supports Islington residents with health problems who are struggling financially by providing grants of up to £500 a year, as well as giving cash to local voluntary organisations.

To mark the anniversary, the charity has commissioned Dr Cathy Ross, honorary research fellow at the Museum of London, to research its history. A copy of Dr Ross’s full report can be downloaded from the charity’s website.

A shorter booklet, Cloudesley, 500 years in Islington, is available from Islington Archaeology and History Society and Islington Local History Centre, priced £3.

During 2017-18, an exhibition on Cloudesley’s history will tour Islington’s libraries and Church of England churches.

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