Village Charities from 1646 onwards
Before the establishment of poor law institutions in the latter half of the 19th century, parishes were expected to make their own arrangements for the relief of poverty which in rural areas was often considerable.
For this purpose two overseers for the poor were elected annually, and a poor rate was collected in the parish, and distributed in cash or in kind to the poor at the discretion of the overseers. For Bere Regis, four overseers account books survive, covering the period 1741-70, 1770-77, 1819-31 and 1836-38, all now safely housed in the county record office.
The overseers also maintained a group of two or three cottages known as the 'parish houses,' situated on the site occupied by the now demolished bus depot, and which were presumably used to house the most destitute parishioners.
In addition to the official parish poor relief, many private individuals donated sums of money or land, either in their life-times or by will, for investment to provide an annual income for distribution to the poor.
The date and the form of distribution was often stipulated, the day of a saint of whom the donor was a namesake often seeming to be popular.
These are the parish charities:
The Bernard Mitchell Charity is dated 22 March 1646. Bernard Mitchell left by will a rent charge of £1 annually from the Kings Head Inn at Weymouth, for the benefit of the poor of this parish, to be distributed each year at Christmas. For many years prior to 1900 the annual £1 of this charity had been added to the funds of the coal club as being a convenient and fair way of dealing with it.
Poor Stock. During the 17th century 19 people are recorded as having given various sums at sundry times, amounting to £120 in all and collectively yielding an annual sum of £4 8s. Od. The following list gives the names of the donors, the capital amounts given, and the day and manner in which the annual interest was to be distributed: