In a book held in the Essex Records Office, Some Record of the Parish Of Peldon Rev C R Harrison 1867
D/P287/28/6 the vicar of St Mary's Church, Peldon, the Reverend Harrison (Rector from 1855 - 1867), laments
'I have not been able to discover any early Parochial Records. There are no antient documents of any kind. The oldest is a deed in the custody of the Churchwardens, charging the Moor Farm in this Parish with an annual payment to the poor of £3, the value of which is now distributed in bread, though not so specified in the deed.'
This deed refers to Comyn's Charity founded in 1613 and the £3 is collected to this day, over 400 years later, by representatives of the church in Peldon.
In his history St Mary The Virgin Peldon the Reverend Anthony Gough quotes the translated text of the
'holden for the Manor Peet Hall on the 20th July, 11th James I, a messuage [house, outbuildings and land] and half a rod of customary land, called Eybbenham's, in South Peet, and a marsh called Richmond, were granted by the lord to John Comyn, his heirs and assigns, who was admitted to the same in trust that he, his heirs and assigns, should pay to the lord of the Manor 6l [£6] annually for ever by equal portions at Christmas and Midsummer, one half to be distributed among the poor inhabitants within Peldon and the other half among the poor inhabiting within the parish of West Mersea, on 2d February and 1st August, by the overseers and guardians of the parishes'
The Reverend Gough goes on to say
Some Parliamentary returns of 1786, and our own Parish Overseers' Book, state the donor of the charity to have been Stephen Comyn.
There is a document in the parish records which is of interest since it shows us how the Churchwardens divided the money.
1st March 1713
Then at a p[ar]ish meeting called by Robert Castle, Churchwarden, with the consent of the p[ar]ish was
distributed Stephen Cummings Annual gift to the poor of the p[ar]ish of Peldon as follows. [Note 1]
|Will[iam] Sp. Stephens ||5.0|
we order that this note of distribution of Stephen Cummings gift be inserted in the p[ar]ish book.
Robert Castle Churchwarden
An old account, dated 3rd November, 1746, records the expenditure,
'for having Mr Comyn's gouft [gift] put into English 6/8d
The rector states that it was not known when the cash distribution ended but that by about 1820 the money was being spent on bread, as a list of the recipients of that year shows. It would have been the outcome of an agreement by the annual parish meeting to replace gifts of cash with bread. This way many more people would have benefited from the charity than just twelve as shown in the 1713 list.
It is evident from the Peldon school log books that the distribution of bread occurs in the schoolroom (the school
was built in 1833) as this entry for 14th April 1868 indicates
The children had a half-holiday to allow of the 'gift bread' being given away in the school
The entry for 19th April 1892 reads
This morning the registers were closed at 9.15 in the morning as the schoolroom is required for the distribution of 'Parish Bread' at noon
In an article in Mistral Magazine by Len Broadhurst written in 1995 we learn that the bread distribution continues in the village in the twentieth century
Stanley May lived at Peldon and he recalls the distribution of bread at Peldon School at Eastertime, when he was
five years old. He is now 85 [so that would have been 1915]
Several entries in the Essex County Standard give more detail
ON EASTER DAY ... The terms of an ancient bequest, known as Comyn's charity, provide that part of the tithe received by the church authorities from Moore's Farm shall be used to purchase an Easter gift of bread for every household in Peldon. On Tuesday the old-established firm of Fred G Smith, of West Mersea delivered 220 half-quartern loaves and 10 quarterns of flour at the school. Parishioners arrived with bags and baskets and waited until their names were called by Mr Wm John, the churchwarden. The loaves were handed to them by the Rector, the Rev.A A Giles - not less than two for each family, in some cases four or five.
Essex County Standard 6.11.1931
It is clear from the following article that the schoolchildren get a day off when the bread is distributed from the schoolhouse.
BREAD AND BONFIRES Bread and bonfires were foremost in the thoughts of Peldon residents on November 5. In connection with Comyn's Charity, the terms of which provide that part of the tithe received from Moore's Farm shall be used for an annual purchase of bread, 167 loaves were distributed in the Church of England School by the churchwardens, Messrs H Smith and N O Serjeant. In the opinion of the pupils of the school the date was well-chosen, the enforced holiday giving ample opportunity for Guy Fawkes celebrations. The event of the evening was a firework display arranged by Mr Ivan Pullen of The Rose Inn. This attracted a large crowd of villagers, and motorists passing along the Colchester Road paused to enjoy the show which lasted from about 8 until 9.30p.m. To complete the celebrations a huge bonfire was lighted, and Guy Fawkes was burned in effigy.
Essex County Standard 13.11.1937
By 1942 the parish council are deliberating whether to maintain the bread distribution or revert to the original cash gift.
BREAD OR CASH? A public meeting called by the parish council was held in the school on Tuesday, Mr J Walker, chairman of the council presiding....... Further business of the meeting related to the administration of Comyn's Charity, founded in 1613, the question being whether the churchwardens should make an annual distribution of bread as has been the case since 1837, or of cash which was the custom prior to that date. An ally [sic] compiled statement, which gave evidence of long and patient scrutiny of historic documents, was made by the people's warden Mr Serjeant and this brought to light the fact that sole responsibility does not devolve upon officials of the Church, as in olden times surveyors and constables shared the work. It was decided to form a committee consisting of the rector, churchwardens and a steward of the Methodist Chapel, the names being Rev. J R Wilson BA, Mr H Smith, Mr N O R Serjeant and Mr W Greenleaf. There was a large majority in favour of the continuance of bread distribution
Essex County Standard 28.11.1942
In 1964 the Reverend Anthony Gough, a keen historian and subsequent author of the book on the history of Peldon and St Mary's Church is instituted at Peldon Church. He writes
FREE BREAD The John Comyn's Annual Bread Distribution will take place on Friday 11th June at 7 p.m. in the Church
Porch. This charity goes back to 1613 when £3 was levied on the Tenant of Moor Farm for distribution to the poor of
Peldon. For over a century it has been used to buy bread. Be early! May 1965 St Mary's Messenger (Parish Magazine) Rev Anthony Gough.
The distribution of bread in Peldon Church porch by the Reverend Anthony Gough in 1965
Within a few years, however, despite his initial enthusiasm, the Reverend Gough realised the bread distribution was no longer needed in the village - there is even a reference amongst parish papers that the bread actually rotted in the church because no one came to claim it.
'Since so few people now apply for this Bread the Parochial Church Council with the agreement of the Parish Council now propose to purchase with this money provisions for the Sick Cupboard which may be distributed throughout the year to the sick, the elderly and infirm. The provisions will be placed in the Church on Harvest Sunday. Comments on this proposal will be welcomed in writing to the Rector.'
PARISH NEWS May 1969 The Rev Anthony Gough
By the time the bread distribution stops, Rev Gough writes the money would only buy about 38 loaves and interest
had diminished amongst the parishioners, few coming to collect the gift. Following this initiative by the rector in
1969 the bread ceased to be distributed, although Pat Sanderson remembers one year in the 1990's buying hot cross
buns to distribute. But the £3 has still been collected annually from Moor Farm by officers of the church of
St Mary's, Peldon. The money is put together with the collection of food from the Harvest Festival service then
taken to the Colchester Night Shelter.
The charity was registered with the Charity Commission (Number: 221408) and the following entry from their website reveals the charity was still in operation in 2007 but then removed.
The charity dates back to about 1613 when a certain John Comyn was required under a trust annually, and his heirs
and assigns after him for ever, to pay £3 to be distributed among the poor of the Parish of Peldon. £3 is collected
annually from Moor Farm (Mr Martin the present owner) in September which is included with the Harvest Festival
gifts of produce which are delivered after the service to t... [possibly this should read the Colchester Night Shelter]
Income and expenditure
Data for financial year ending 31 December 2007
Total income: £3
Total expenditure: £3
And what of West Mersea's three pounds collected annually from Moor Farm? There is a tablet from 1843 inside the West Mersea Church above the door recording two charities, the Strood Charity and below that Comyn's Charity.
Also three pounds annually has been paid time
immemorial from an Estate called Moor Farm
in the Parish of Peldon and given away in Bread
to the Poor of this Parish
The Rev. NATHANIEL FORSTER VICAR
WILLIAM CROYDEN } CHURCHWARDENS
STEPHEN OVERALL }
In the Mistral article of 1995 Len Broadhurst writes
Stanley May and the Rev. John Swallow decided a few years ago that the annual three pounds should go to the Friends of Mersea Island.
West Mersea parish registered Comyn's Charity with the Charity Commisssion (number 261101) and the current trustee,
who took over from the late Stanley May, informed me in 2018 that the three pounds was still collected from Moor
Farm. With the demise of the Friends of Mersea Island it has been donated to The Guardian Angels on occasions but now seems to have lapsed.
Peldon History Project
Note 1: The name of the charity's benefactor is variously spelled as Cummings, Comyns, Commyns and Commins. The original deed quotes John Comyns as liable to make the annual payment whereas a hundred years later the name Stephen is listed by the churchwarden as the benefactor.
The will of a widow from Peldon, Margaret Commyns, written in 1607 [ERO D/ABW 10/229] reveals she
had three sons, Stephen, John and Robert and I believe this is the family connected with the charity from 1613.