© Maxwell Adams


John Polglase in his 1898 will left £200 to the parish council of Lelant. This was to be invested as the council chose and the annual income from it was to be distributed by the council to the most needy poor of Lelant (CRO B/St Ives 12). His will was proved on 9 March 1899. The qualifying geographical phrase used by Polglase in his will was “Lelant churchtown.”


The parish council on being told of the bequest and its terms queried “Lelant churchtown.” They were told that this meant the village not the parish. I have put copies of the relevant  correspondence is at the end of this article. 


The £200 was invested in the name of Uny Lelant parish council in December 1899 in the purchase of £195.14s worth of New Consols (Charity Commissioners, unreported volume 106, page 444). 


A letter of 24 October 1899 in the parish council minute book reveals that Polglase “had been for some time in the habit of giving a present at Christmas and at Lelant Feast to the poor” of Lelant village. A letter in the Cornish Telegraph said that Polglase “for many years of his lifetime gave liberally to the widows and aged poor” of Lelant (16 December 1903, page 5, column 4).


A letter in Cornish Telegraph 16 December 1903, page 5, column 4, signed “Intimate friend, Lelant, 7 December 1903” says that Polglase  “for many years of his lifetime gave liberally to the widows and aged poor of [Lelant]…At his death he bequeathed a suitable sum to old Lelanters, enabling them at Christmas, by the interest on the same, to obtain a sufficient sum whereby they might get more fire, also extra provisions for the festive season.” He goes on to say a new charity act has put the distribution of money into the hands of the parish council and he criticises the council on two accounts:


The Polglase money is given to a wider group of Lelanters than Polglase intended; and councillors are insisting on a public distribution at the National School “whereby our parish councillors’ names, with their formal speeches, might appear in the Press” and are thus claiming the credit for the money given.


Page 4, column 5 in the same issue has a brief notice of the distribution of the Polglase money at the National Schools on 22 December from 12.15pm to 12.30pm.


His comments were clearly taken notice of because the Cornish Telegraph 23 December 1903, page 4, column 6 carried a brief report that the Polglase bequest was distributed and “there was no function and no speeches.” (See also Western Echo 12 December 1903, 2/6, and  Cornish Telegraph 28 December 1903, 4/5).


This early dispute makes me wonder whether unreported discontent occurred over the years that the money was distributed. Did every Lelanter happily agree with the choice of needy poor by the council? Did anyone think they had been unjustly missed? 


£4-17-6 was distributed by Lelant parish council Christmas 1933 among thirteen villagers, the last distribution before the parish council was abolished and Lelant village subsumed into St Ives borough (Lelant parish council minute book, CRO B/St Ives 13).


The administration of charity appears to have become defunct on the absorption of Lelant into St Ives borough, presumably being overlooked in the council changes. 


On 14 June 1935 a scheme was made by the Charity Commissioners for the John Polglase Charity after Alfred OLDS, Thomas HARRY, and Herbert HURRELL, all people living in Lelant village, had explained that the charity was unadministered (Charity Commissioners, unreported volume 106, page 444). 


The 1935 scheme said that the charity should be administered by three trustees who were to be appointed by St Ives borough council for four yearly terms and who lived or carried on a business in Lelant village. The qualifying geographical phrase used is “the district known as Lelant churchtown.” At this time the charity had £195.1s.4d  in assets in 2½ percent Consolidated stock


On 17 March 1964 the charity was necessarily registered under the Charities Act 1960, even though it had been in existence for sixty five years.


The charity fell into disuse. The income for distribution was extremely small. From 28 February 1997 to 27 February 1998 £97 gross income and no expenditure was recorded with the Commission. 


By 2001 the demise of the charity was clear and the Charity Commissioners and St Ives town council discussed winding it up. The council said that its appointment of a trustee was “no longer appropriate” and suggested that the capital and accumulated income money be spent on a bench in Lelant with a Polglase plaque on. The commissioners rejected this suggestion and the town council did not appoint a trustee [information from Malcolm Veal, town clerk, 27 November 2003]. Town council minutes 69 of 26 July 2001, 91 of 6 September 2001, and 124 of 18 October 2001 relate some of this. The Charity Commission removed the Polglase charity 231492 from their register on 6 December 2001 as ceased to exist.


The HSBC bank informed the Charity Commissioners before the removal that the Polglase Charity bank account had been closed in 1999.



in the minute book of Lelant parish council CRO B/St Ives/12


Letter of 28 November 1898 from Edward Boase, Penzance solicitor, to WJ Taylor, chair of Lelant parish council


“Re the Will of Mr John Polglase late of Richmond Penzance [sic], the sum of £200 is given to your Council to be invested by them as they shall decide, the annual income to be distributed amongst those of the poor of Lelant Churchtown who shall in the opinion of your Council stand most in need thereof.


This sum will be paid over in due course to the Treasurer or nominee of your Council by the executors.”


On 22 August 1899 Boase wrote to Taylor to say that he now had to hand a cheque for £200 from the executors and required three signatures of receipt from the parish council.


Letter of 24 October 1899 to the chair of Lelant parish council


“Polglase Bequest

It having been pointed out to us that there is no Lelant “Churchtown,” as stated in the late Mr Polglase’s Will, we write to say that having in view the fact that he had been for some time in the habit of giving a present at Christmas and at Lelant Feast to the poor of the “Village,” we think there can be no doubt that he intended the money for the benefit of the poor of Lelant Village and not the parish.”

This letter is signed by the execuors of Polglase’s will, Thomas Dunstan and Christopher Ellis…. I cannot read what comes after Ellis.


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