Posted by Stella Gooch
Photos by Stella Gooch
Jonathan James & Caroline Bosworth (James Gravens – lunch sponsors)
July 2011 was the last Community Lunch owing to Bob’s illness and subsequent logistical difficulties. So what a delightful surprise it was when Bob Tipling’s email announcing another Dersingham Community Lunch to be held on 21 September 2012. I quickly confirmed my attendance and joined the throng at St Cecilia’s Church on the day.
It was wonderful to see Bob and a number of other familiar faces among the lunch guests. I was particularly pleased to see Bob looking so well too. Bob, as usual, warmly welcomed lunch guests and introduced Jonathan James of James Gravens Budgens as the sponsor for the lunch. Mr James also welcomed everyone and proudly announed that James Gravens Budgens had just won a national award and had been down to Park Lane in London to receive it the evening before. If my recollection serves me well, I believe the award was for the most environmentally friendly petrol station – since environmental issues are high on most agendas these days we should not be surprised that such an award exists!
Mr James had us all chuckling with tales of his recent experiences and then reminded us that Budgens offered a FREE home delivery service and this was perhaps of real benefit within the village during the winter months. He explained that the community lunch concept had begun some years ago and it had successfully brought the community together. He went on to thank the ladies of the Women’s Institute for preparing our rustic ploughmans lunch (including cheese, gorgeous ham, chunks of wholesome bread and salad followed by apple or cherry pie with cream/icecream).
Walter Blaney addresses lunch guests
Bob interjected on several occasions throughout the lunch to say “this is a one off lunch” – this being an assertion that he would not organise a follow up event. Naturally we all hope he doesn’t mean it. Having said that, I later learned his wife’s health was not very good so we should perhaps be understanding if Bob feels he needs to bow out whilst keeping our fingers crossed he can make another comeback in the future.
All monies raised at the lunch were destined for the WI ladies and £52 was raised on the door (somewhat less than was anticipated as some booked lunch guests did not show up on the day – shame on them for not informing Bob). The proceeds of the raffle totalled £170. When Bob announced these figures he also told us that the WI ladies had decided to donate these funds to the Dersingham Day Centre for the Elderly instead of keeping it for themselves which elicited an applause of approval from the gathering.
The guest speaker at the lunch was Walter Blaney from Dersingham United Charities who eloquently informed the gathering of the charitable origins of Dersingham United Charities. Mr Blaney explained that over many years, long before the days of Social Security, the poorest people in Dersingham were helped by the generosity of a few wealthy individuals. These people left money or lands in their wills, usually in the care of the Parish Church, to provide funds or goods for the poor, provided they were ‘deserving poor.’
Post lunch chat
With some helpful visual aids, Mr Blaney announced that one of the earliest bequests on record was in the will of Jeffry Bummer in 1689 and, over time, several similar bequests were brought together under the title of Dersingham United Charities. Naturally, some of the conditions in the wills became redundant and thus impossible to continue enforcement of them as Mr Blaney demonstrated when he mentioned Elizabeth Pell’s bequest – namely that a specific amount was given for the church warden who were to come to church with 16 penny loaves and leave these loaves in full view of the congregation. At the conclusion of the church service, the church warden had to decide which 16 deserving souls were nominated to receive each of the 16 loaves and distribute them accordingly.
As a result of changing times and attitudes, under the surveillance of the Charity Commissioners, amendments were made as deemed necessary to ensure the spirit of the charitable bequests were honoured. In 1960, the Charity Commissioners decreed that the United Charities should become the property of, and be administered by a Board of Trustees. The composition of this Board is still used today: 5 members are appointed by the Parish Council and serve for 4 years, 3 members are co-opted and serve for 5 years, the vicar of St Nicholas Church is an ex-officio member, and a clerk is appointed by the Board.
In 1986 the Commissioners updated the aims of the Charities to enable the Board to offer relief to individuals or groups in need by giving grants or providing facilities to suitable candidates, who apply in writing. Instructions for this are given in the annual report to Dersingham Parish Council and are repeated in Village Voice and Dersingham Data. Annual accounts are also sent to the Council and to the Charity Commissioners.
Mr Blaney explained to us that, in recent times, the Charities have given grants to 7 young people from Dersingham who were starting courses at the College of West Anglia and had to buy tools for their practical work. Grants have also been given to 6 local groups or organisations providing care and facilities for the elderly and the sick. We were also advised that the United Charities Trust own a number of pieces of land in and around Dersingham which are rented to farmers and others to raise funds (ie the allotments are rented to the Allotment Society which administers the gardens and pays rent to Dersingham United Charities).
Desserts are out
He went on to say that a different category of land owned by the Board of Trustees is the Commons and the Fen (a rare and nationally important nature site which used to be managed by Norfolk County Council but recently that support has been withdrawn). Apparently, the Board of Trustees have obtained a Government Stewardship scheme which is now administered by Natural England. However, the Board has to pay to maintain paths and bridges here and on the two commons to keep them in good order and available as an amenity for the exercise and enjoyment of the people of Dersingham.
Mr Blaney told us that in recent times, Dersingham United Charities had given grants to 7 students at the College of West Anglia, donations to Day Centre for the Elderly, the Phobbies Club and more. He also confirmed that the common land which was beset by fire last year was now re-growing and burned boardwalks had since been replaced. He also pointed out that the lowest tender for the boardwalk replacements was £2,000.