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                               Notes on the Yapham Feoffee Trust


           edited by John Ackerley



    In modern terms a person labelled a feoffee is a trustee who holds a legal and managerial ownership of land, property or investments in trust for beneficiaries. In the case of a charity the beneficiaries entitled to any benefits can today be identified by looking at the details stored by the Charity Commission.  Our Yapham Parish Feoffee Charity (normally locally referred to as the Feoffee Trust, but as the Yapham Poors Charity by the Charity Commission, number 254188) has the following objectives:


                                  The purposes of the charity are to make grants where considered appropriate by the Trustees

                            (1) to parishioners of Yapham cum Meltonby in receipt of the state pension for the relief of need, and

                            (2) to parishioners with children in full time education and living in the parish for the benefit of their    

                            child’s/children’s education.    


      Historically a feoffee was an enfeoffed person, which is a person who controlled a feoffment, a gift or conveyance of land or property, such transfer giving the new owner the right to sell or lease the land, or pass it to the feoffee’s heirs. It was the total relinquishment and transfer of all rights of ownership from one person to another.  It is considered that enfeoffment in England first gained popularity in Medieval times, chiefly from the desire of individuals wishing to donate their property, and thereby the income, for charitable but local purposes.


     Today’s Feoffee Charity has had different names over time but always with the same objectives. For clarity’s sake the title Feoffee Trust will be used throughout  this leaflet to describe the governing body of the charity  throughout its history, but readers should be aware that this is for clarity only and not always historically accurate.



The Feoffee Trust in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries


The 1733 Terrier


    It is believed that the land and houses   which formed the original feoffment for charitable purposes in Yapham were the property of one John Biel (alternative spellings Beal, Bielson and Belsom) and donated during the 1600s. The earliest surviving document which conveys this information is dated 1733; the same document   also provides us with the names of some tenants as well as the acreages the feoffees controlled in 1733.  This terrier (a register of property) reads as follows:


‘A true and perfect terrier of all houses, lands and grounds given to the Chappell of Yapham-cum-Meltonby by John Biel alias Bielson some hundred years since as ancient writing do testify, for and towards the supporting repairing and maintaining the said Chappell of Yapham-cum-Meltonby, and reliefe of the poor of said towns. In Yapham are one messuage and five cottages and one piece of ground called Cherregarths now in the tenancy or occupation of Widow Barnard, Mary Harker, Thomas Clarkson, Robert Botterell, Richard Parrot, Robert Harrison and one other cottage not tenanted.  Moreover there is in field laid contiguous by a Commission of five men in a place called Craythornes and Longlands part of it enclosed the other shortly to be intended to be enclosed, containing thirtynine acres three roods and twenty nine perches. Also another piece or parcel of land on the low common laid open but contiguous and intended shortly to be enclosed containing 71 acres, 1 rood and 39 perches, all of which said rents and profits growing and arising from and out of the said houses lands and grounds above recited is about the value of six pounds per annum and are received yearly by Trustees and disposed of and laid out chiefly in the repair of the Chapell and relief of the poor with the advice of the Chapell wardens for the time being and as near as maybe according to the will of the donor and a Book kept carefully and accounts given and made up for the most part of every year. The Vicar tythes of Yapham and Meltonby are now let between seven and eight pounds per annum but are for the future settled by commisssion at fifteen pounds per annum for ever: In lieu of all Tythes and profit whatsoever in Yapham and Meltonby due to the Vicar of Pocklington (saving Mortuaries and surplice fees) upon condition the Vicar do or will accept of it’.


For those mathematically inclined there are, to one acre, 4 roods or 160 perches, or (metrically) 2.47 hectares. Thus John Biel

donated 111.4 acres (275 hectares) as well as ‘one messuage’ (a dwelling house and its surrounding property including out buildings), five cottages and a small piece of land, all of the income from which was to be applied to the chapel and the parishioners of Yapham cum Meltonby. The ownership of the lands and tenements by the charity was confirmed by the Commissioners in the Yapham Enclosure Award of 1733.


    A tythe or tithe was the rent in kind that producers of crops and livestock had to yield annually to the Church during the Middle Ages. Normally 10% of output in kind, and intended for the maintenance of the local church and the provision of worship, tithes were never popular (what taxation is?) and created much ill-feeling, evasion and prosecution.  From the middle of the eighteenth century onwards more and more of the tithes in kind were replaced by money payments. At the same time the open-field system of farming (where many separate individuals farmed the same field but in narrow strips - ’contiguous’ with one another) was being replaced by enclosure. Sanctioned by Parliament, and the work overseen by specially appointed Commissioners and staff, enclosure enabled landowners to make more efficient use of their land and labour by uniting their individual strips into whole fields, often fencing, walling or hedging them at the same time. The landowners however became liable for the tithes their tenants had been relieved of, causing a good deal of resentment until just prior to the Second World War, when this form of taxation came to an end.



The holdings


    Without having a map of 1733 showing the various fields and properties donated by John Biel it is impossible to positively locate the Feoffee Trust’s holdings. However, the Tithe map of 1845 shows the land owned by the Feoffee Trust at that date to lie in two main blocks. The first block is shown on the right hand side of Feoffee Lane approaching the crossroads from the Yapham direction where Feoffee Common Lane, Feoffee Lane, Newbridge Lane and Sand Lane meet (the low common land of the terrier?).  Norman Clarke, in his book ‘Historical Notes on an East Riding Village’ quotes from White’s Directory of 1840 to the effect that land in the Low Common was ‘of little value being chiefly covered with whins and turf’. This evidence, one hundred years after the 1733 terrier, suggests the land had been unproductive for some time. Modern maps record this land as 18 metres above sea level. The second block of land lies on the right hand (eastern) side of Miller Lane, possibly the Craythornes and Longlands of the terrier. The most recent OS Explorer Map continues to label this land ‘Feoffees’, and  contours it at 57 metres above sea level.


      Apart from knowing that the income from the land and properties donated by John Beal was split between the requirements of the church and (presumably not all) the parishioners, we have no further information to tell us in what proportions this was done, how many parishioners were involved or their names.


      Interestingly,    and somewhat confirming the donation and location of the first block, Roger Whipp, listed as a feoffee on the extant 1856 Feoffee Benefaction Board in Yapham St. Martin’s Church, is shown as occupying the spot where Belsom Farm lies today, the name Belsom being shown as an alias for Beal in 1856, the same Biel or Bielson named in the 1733 terrier as the original donor. The same map of 1845 indicates that the cottages mentioned in the terrier of 1733, as well as the land labelled Cherregarths, all lie centred on the present hamlet of Yapham. There is little reason to think that the various holdings would have changed over time.


The nineteenth century


The Benefaction Board in St. Martin’s church


    A major source of information about the Feoffee Trust in this century is the Benefaction Board that today hangs in Yapham St. Martin’s Church. The church was redecorated in 1856. The board is dated similarly and signed by R and F Scaife, painters. A benefaction is a bestowal of money or gifts for charitable purposes. The Board reads as follows:


John Beal otherwise Belsom of Yapham in the County of York and others upwards of three Hundred years ago gave and conveyed the Messuage and several Cottages Lands  Tenements and Hereditaments situate and being at Yapham aforesaid and upon the General Inclosure of Yapham and Meltonby were described in part as follows (Viz) One Messuage or Fronstead and little Garth in the Occupation of Henry Tindale and others, One Barn with the Grass Garth or little Close in the Occupation of Thomas Kirby, One Cottage with a little Garth in the Occupation of Richard Fountain, Two Cottages with a Hemp Garth and little Garth called Cherry Garth in the Occupation of William Dykes and Others, Three Cottages with a Hemp Garth and little Croft called the town end Croft



in the Occupation of Joseph Dinnis and Others, One School House Garth in the Occupation of Richard Ward, Two Cottages with a Hemp Garth in the Occupation of Mrs Kirby and Others. Also All those three pieces or parcels of Flatts or Falls of Land lying and being in the Life Field of Meltonby aforesaid called Cray thorns East and West and long Lands East and long Lands East and North which said Flatts or Falls lye Contiguous and contain 30A.3R.5P. now inclosed and divided into three Closes. Also one piece or parcel of Land lying and being in the said Life Field called Long Lands East and North Containing 9A.0R.24P. in the Occupation of Thomas Richardson, and also one parcel of Land lying and being in Yaphamlow Common containing 71A.1R.36P. in the Occupation of Peter Thorp and Others. Two Feoffees or Trustees their Heirs and Assigns for ever upon Trust and Confidence that they the said Feoffees or Trustees for the time being should with the Yearly Rents and profits arising and coming of and from the same premises from time to time repair the Chapel of Yapham and Meltonby aforesaid relieve the Poor there  and do such other Charitable deeds as shall be fitting to be done with the said Towns as need shall require  with such sum and sums and in such proportions  manner and form as shall from time to time be agreed upon amongst them the said Feoffees by the Consent and assent of all the Major part of the Substantial Inhabitants of the said towns of Yapham and Meltonby with the Feoffees and Chapel wardens there of for the time being the same premises are free from Incumbrances save and except a Money payment in lieu of Tithes and One Pound of Pepper belonging to a Messuage or Tenement in Yapham aforesaid formerly belonging to William Barnard now Henry Tindale payable Yearly at Christmas out of the aforesaid Chapel Lands herein before mentioned.


Roger Whipp     )

Ralph Green       ) 

Thomas Kirby    )    Feoffees                                             Thomas Kirby  )

David Bean        )                                                                Ralph Green     )     Church Wardens




    A garth is normally understood to mean a yard or small enclosure, but in the north of England it was also used to describe a field. Garden is its modern derivation, so its exact use over two hundred years ago maybe as fluid as our own use of the word ‘garden’ to describe an area adjoining a house - front garden , back garden, kitchen garden, lawns with flower beds, and so on. The 1863 Valuations of the Feoffees Trust’s   land shows that the largest of these garths rarely exceed 2 acres, the majority being much smaller.


    Hemp was never a major field crop but its cultivation appealed to those with small plots of land attached to cottages and farmhouses.  Hemp was in great demand for the manufacture of ropes when sailing ships were the only form of international trade and naval warfare. The housewife could also cure and spin it into a thread suitable for making clothes, and any surplus seed could be fed to poultry.  Thus it was an ideal crop for poorer people with small plots of land  from which they could generate some income.


    The Chapel Lands was a title used at one time to describe the charity we today call the Feoffee Trust. According to the Benefaction Board the Feoffee Trust was ‘free of Incumbrances save and except a Money payment in lieu of tithes and one pound of pepper’. An incumbrance (more commonly spelt today encumbrance) is a right or interest in land possessed by someone other than the owner. In this case the Trust had the duty of paying for what we would today call one of the parson’s ‘perks’, that is, ‘the value of a pound of pepper due to the occupier of a certain farm in Yapham for taking care of the Parson’s horse which he is bound to do whenever the Parson goes there to do duty’ (extract from ‘Collecto Rerum Ecclesiasticum de diocesi E Corasensi’ by George Lawton, 1840).


    We do not know who provided the wording for the Benefaction Board of 1856, but as it follows roughly the 1733 document we must presume it was a joint effort between the feoffees and churchwardens named on the board. Its purpose was to publicly declare, for all to see, the charity’s foundation, its responsibilities and its relevance to the community at that time. Its importance lies not only in confirming the original donation and donor but also in the detailed coverage of the properties and their tenants. The total amount of land had increased to 117acres  in 1863 from the 110 acres  recorded in both the terrier of 1733 and the Benefaction Board of 1856; this may be due to more accurate measurements, or further acquisitions by the feoffees, or both. The Benefaction Board itself was unfortunately partly obscured in 1934 by the erection of a screen across the entire west end of the church.







The activities of the charity


Whites Directory of East Yorkshire (1840) records that the income of the Feoffee Trust  was used in repairing the church, distributed amongst the poor and put towards the payment of a schoolmaster who taught  ‘in a schoolroom built on Trust lands about 20 years ago’.  The school, or more accurately its ‘garth’ is shown on the Benefaction Board as in the occupation of Richard Ward. Whites Directory indicates that this school had been in existence since at least 1820, and the Yapham tithe map of 1845 shows the actual building standing on the site of the present Village Hall. Whilst the Benefaction Board of 1856, like the terrier of 1733, shows that the Feoffee Trust’s income was distributed between the chapel and parishioners  it also informs us that  the governing body could ‘do  such other Charitable deeds as shall be fitting to be done’. The Feoffee Trust’s account book of 1864 details payments to the church, the school and the poor. Relief for the poor consisted of, amongst other things, cash payments for cloth, rent, flour, coals, clothing, mole catching and beer.


Formalisation of the Feoffee Trust under the Charity Commission


     Following considerable demand for the establishment of a body to regulate the many charities existing in the mid-nineteenth century, the Church and the State eventually agreed by setting up the Charity Commission in 1853. This may well have been the reason behind the Benefaction Board’s creation - a very visible public record of a centuries old charity.  The newly formed Commission   provided the opportunity for the feoffees to formalise their activities and thus, in 1863, two of the feoffees listed on the Benefaction Board, Thomas Kirby and David Bean, contacted the Charity Commissioners to inform them that they were the sole remaining feoffees and, wishing to retire,   requested the Commissioners to regularise the position of their responsibilities. This the Commissioners did, together with an acknowledgement that education was officially part of the Feoffee Trust’s interests, as demonstrated in the Charity Commission’s Scheme dated April 17th 1863 which shows that the Feoffee Trust divided its income equally between the chapel (Yapham Church Charity), the poor (Yapham Relief in Need Charity, later to be renamed as Yapham Poors Charity) and the school (Yapham Educational Charity).


    As a result of the Endowed Schools Acts of 1863 and 1869 a new and detailed Management Scheme followed in 1872, under which half of the Trust’s income was to be allocated for educational purposes, the remaining half to be split equally between the chapel and the poor. (Whilst this Scheme was later modified and brought up to date, this basic arrangement for the disbursement of the Trust’s annual income remains in force to this day). The Feoffee Trust’s Governing Body was to be comprised of four Representative Governors and the two (ex-officio) chapel wardens.  The named governors in this new Scheme were The Reverend Francis Ellis (Vicar of Pocklington), John Robson Hotham (a Meltonby farmer), Thomas English (a Meltonby farmer) and John Clarkson (a merchant of Smilett Hall, Yapham).


    The Scheme of 1872 allowed the governors to sell any property the Feoffee Trust owned, any monies arising to be invested to provide funds for its charitable aims. It also made provision for the Trust to spend £80 ‘raised out of…sale or mortgage’ to help to pay for a new school building, such school to be  called the Yapham Endowed School, and that ‘instruction shall comprise at least the following subjects, viz: Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, Geography and (in the case of girls) Needlework’. This new school was built and opened in 1875, eventually closing in 1972, the building itself remaining today as the main part  of Yapham Village Hall , the land and buildings remaining in the possession of the Feoffee Trust but on lease to the Trustees of the Yapham cum Meltonby Village Hall until 2026. Bulmer’s 1892 Directory of the East Riding of Yorkshire records that the Feoffee Trust’s holdings extended to 124 acres, as compared to the Benefaction’s Board total of 110 in 1856, so it would appear that the £80 used for the building of the new school came from accumulated funds rather than from property sales.


    Income obtained by the Feoffee Trust which was designated for ‘poor relief’ could be ‘applied towards the support of a clothing, coal, or penny club, or penny bank, or sick club, or benefit society, or of some or one of such institutions for the benefit of industrious poor persons residing within the said chapelry, or in providing coals and clothing or other necessaries to be given gratuitously or sold at reduced prices to poor persons’.









The Twentieth and Twenty First Centuries


     A strategy of land and property disposals had been adopted by the trustees of the Feoffee Trust towards the end of the nineteenth century and into the twentieth, so that by 1927 the school building and its adjoining land were the Trust’s only remaining property, while the sole income of the charity now came from invested funds.  This obviously made for easier administration of the charity but failed to increase the annual income. Examples of the income the Feoffee Trust  derived from its holdings and/or its investments are £79 in 1840, £133 in 1863, £168 in 1865, £143 in 1892, £151 in 1927 (the year following the sale of the last of  the Trust‘s properties), £174 in 1942 and £169 in 2010. The effects of this capped income are described below.


    Assistance provided by the Feoffee Trust to parishioners in the twentieth century took various forms. The provision of free quantities of coal was a major feature in the early years, varying from ½ ton to each of nine parishioners in 1906, to one, two or three bags to each of around forty parishioners in 1951. As sources  of heating other than coal became more prevalent cash payments in lieu of coal became the norm, but with the Trust’s income capped the purchasing power of the cash payments progressively fell, in spite of the number of recipients falling also. Two further forms of one-off annual assistance were, firstly, additional payments to those parishioners who maintained annual payments to a clothing club and, secondly,   grants to certain parishioners for the purchase of food, initially an allowance of flour by weight, later replaced by a monetary grant for the purchases of groceries. As the number of recipients of these combined grants remained fairly constant over time, and the value of money fell, then likewise the purchasing power of each grant fell, eventually forcing the trustees to progressively reduce both the number of recipients and the amount of grant each received.


    Yapham Village School closed its doors to children in 1972, after over 150 years of local education. The Feoffee Trust had played an important part in the school’s history, supporting schoolteachers, funding the building of the new school in 1875 and paying for various educational aids and material benefits up until its closure. These grants, made available from half of the annual Trust’s income, covered a wide range of activities, just a few examples being the clearing of blocked drains, repairs to the fabric, internal alterations and new fittings, cleaners’ wages, various drinks (cocoa, milk, Ovaltine), seaside visits for the children, heating equipment, the occasional hire of a coach for school purposes, school prizes, Christmas treats, internal and external painting, and school equipment (duplicator, radio).   


    In its final years the school  was already being leased for occasional evening and week-end community use. In 1976 the Feoffee Trust agreed to lease the school and its adjoining land to the trustees of the Yapham cum Meltonby Village Hall for a period of fifty years, the entire responsibility for the upkeep and running of the hall passing to the trustees of the Hall. After the closure of the school the Trust continued to make grants to children of the parish, usually in the form of clothing grants and book tokens but, as occurred with the age-related assistance,  the fall in the purchasing power of money combined with the Trust’s static income and the relatively high number of children in the parish all contributed to individual grants  becoming quite small by the end of the century.


   Throughout the twentieth century, and into the twenty first,  the Trust has continued to support St. Martin’s Church through its regular annual contribution of one quarter of total income. This, when viewed along with the contributions to age-related assistance  and education, allows today’s parishioners to see John Beal’s seventeenth century charitable creation in its true perspective, a source of local assistance in different forms over three hundred and fifty years, and throughout the lives of the inhabitants of the parish.


Our Today

     John Beal’s private charitable act was not uncommon in pre-industrial England,  his and others like it eventually leading to the public welfare Acts of more recent times. What perhaps he didn’t foresee were the many forms of assistance his generosity would  spawn long beyond his own lifetime; assistance not only to individual recipients but also to the parish community by way of forging a common bond between parishioners of different classes and wealth. Over the centuries the number of parishioners who have administered the Trust runs into hundreds, each and every one aware of their responsibilities to their neighbours.  Their diligence in respecting John Beal’s wishes has contributed significantly to the presence in our own day of an active church, a well used Village Hall and the opportunity of  limited financial aid. In this day and age of immediate paybacks, short-termism,  get-rich-quick and ‘Blow you Jack, I’m alright’ attitudes it is humbling to remember that, within our own parish,  predecessors of ours  who lived much shorter and very often harder lives than our own took quite different attitudes to the future, our today.




















                         These notes  are the  entire responsibility of the editor, who  welcomes  any  evidence-supported

                         comments or references that  will  enable him to make useful corrections  or additions to the text.

                         Please email to   Any such corrections or additions   will be published

                         on the  Parish   website,       Sources of information  for these notes

                         include Norman Clarke’s ‘Historical Notes on an East Riding Village’  (published privately) and

                         records of the Feoffee Trust.                                                                                      January, 2012