The Knowles Charity

Rita Hudson

In the 1997 edition of the North Craven Heritage Trust Journal, Harold Foxcroft wrote an article on Settle Market Buildings Co. Ltd. This group of eminent worthies commenced in 1887 by selling shares in what is now known as The Shambles. They then improved the buildings by erecting a further storey on the houses, and paying a dividend to shareholders from the rents obtained. One of the annual expenses shown in the accounts was a payment of 1.10.0 for the poor of Settle, Long Preston and Wigglesworth. The Church Charity Commissioners’ Report of 1825 tells us how this payment to the Knowles Charity came about, although the original deed was lost by that date. The Report notes as follows:

Knowles Charity 30/11/1684. ...... But rent charge of 30/- from endowment has been reserved in subsequent conveyance of the property including that to Settle Market Building Co. Ltd. And regularly paid by the secretary 10/- being 1/3rd of rent charge and is distributed with shares of township in charities of Foster & Poors’ Allotment, whole amounting to 7 approx. Applications go to churchwarden. Mr. King assistant overseer kept a list of 52 persons in receipt of payments of 2/6d to 4s. money going to the poorest persons not in receipt of poor-law relief.

William Knowles by Will of 1683 bequeathed his leasehold shops, houses and buildings in Settle to Margaret Newhouse and Francis Middleton subject to payment on St. Thomas Day of 30/- a year, comprising 10/- each to the poor of Settle, Long Preston and Wigglesworth. Security was given to churchwardens in each township for payment. The will is recorded at the Borthwick Institute, York, Vol.60 fol.203. and part is as follows;

In the name of God Amen the tenth day of March in the yeare of our Lord one thousand six hundred eighty and three I William Knowles of Long Preston in the dioces of Yorke yeoman being sick and infirme in body but of sound and perfect mind and memory praised be to Almighty God for the same calling to minde the uncertainty of this transitory life and knowing that all flesh must dye when it shall please Almighty God to call doe proceed to the making of this my last will and testament in manner and forme following……

Item as for touching or concerning all such buildings shops houses sollas or callars of which I am possessed of in Settle in the dioces aforesaid by virtue of any lease Assignment or writeing whatsoever I give and bequeath the same with the appurtenances unto Margaret Newhouse and Frances Middleton daughters of my naturall sister Margaret of Settle aforesaid for all such term or termes of years as I have therein allowing my said sister Margaret theire mother to occupy possess and enjoy all such part or partes of the same as she is now possessed of by virtue of one lease to her from me made, And alsoe the said Margaret Newhouse and Frances Middleton daughters of my said sister Margaret paying to the poore people of Settle aforesaid to the poore people of Long Preston aforesaid and to the poore people of Wiglesworth thirty shillings ... (And) that is to say to the poore of each of the said three towns tenne shillings yearly on the feast day of Saint Thomas the Apostle for and during all the residue and remainder of all such terme or termes of yeares as I have (or) of right ought to have therein: now it is my will and minde and I doe hereby declare that it is my will that they the said Margaret and Frances theire executors administrators and Assignes shall enter into and give security for payment of the said thirty shillings unto the churchwardens of every of the three towns for the time being for payment of the said tenn shillings yearely to the poore of the said three towns in manner and forme aforesaid…..

The Will is a full three pages long and distributes other property and land in Long Preston and Settle as well as sums of money to his various relatives both local and living in London and Leeds.

By Indenture of 30th November 1684 Margaret Newhouse and Francis Middleton demised to Thomas Wray and others, the then churchwardens of the respective towns, a house standing in the Market Place and the shops, buildings and appurtenances belonging for 4,000 years with a condition to be void on payment of 30/- yearly during the term to the churchwardens and their successors, for the use of the poor in Settle, Long Preston and Wigglesworth, with power of entry for non-payment. The premises comprised Market House divided into several dwelling houses, shops and cellars. The sum of 10/- was paid by Mr. John Charnley of Lancaster, proprietor of the Market House, for the poor of Settle and was distributed with the charity funds for the township of Settle arising from sources above mentioned, among poor people of Settle not receiving regular parochial relief, chosen at a select vestry meeting held for the purpose.

Mr. William Knowles was a descendant of James Knowles, who made his fortune in London, and who provided the money to build the almshouses in Long Preston by his Will of 1614 (TNA PROB 11/125). This Knowles family was one of three yeoman farmer families who bought their holdings at Mearbeck in 1579 from the Duke of Cumberland. Their farm holding was in Long Preston township; the other two holdings belonging to the Prestons and the Procters were in Settle.

In the Rent Survey document for Settle in 1579 there is also a Wyllm Knowles son of Anthony Knowles deceased hath taken 1 shoppe in the late tenancy of Anthony of 2d. paying a fine of 4s. which shows that in this year the second generation of shop keepers named Knowles was already established in Settle. We cannot ascertain that this was on the same site as the building that became known as the Shambles, but we can be fairly certain that it was the same family.

Other charities specifically for the poor in Settle reported at this time by the Church Charity Commissioners (1825) included:

Atkinsons Charity - Isaac Atkinson by his Will dated circa1718 bequeathed a legacy of 20 the interest of which was to go to the poor of Settle. A legacy was bequeathed to Richard Chamberlain and William Birkbeck as Trustees and distribution of the interest has always been under the direction of Trustees successively nominated. Money lodged at Craven Bank at interest of 4% was distributed in small sums among such poor of Settle as they consider proper objects of charity. Charity still lodged at Craven Bank and interest amounts to 18s per year distributed by the Manager at Christmas among poor widows of Settle in sums of 1s each, occasionally 2s. Mr. Dixon produced account book dating from 1720. Regular accounts have been kept by the separate ecclesiastical districts constituted Settle 1828, Stainforth 1843, Langcliffe 1853, Rathmell 1844; Settle and Rathmell were constituted Parishes in 1892.

Ellen Henlock’s Charity - of Great Ouseburn, widow, Will of 6th March 1879 directed her executors to purchase three sums of 250 @ 3% Consolidated Bank Annuities in the name of the Official Trustees. The annual income from one such sum was to be paid to the Vicar and Churchwardens for distribution to the poor. The dividends of 6-17-4d are paid into Craven Bank and the Vicar distributes money to the poor usually in amounts of 3s but occasionally 6s or 9s. No inquiries are made as to receipt of poor-law relief, nor is preference shown on denominational grounds.

The Rev. Dr. Neil Kendra, Priest in Charge of Settle Parish Church of the Ascension tells me that a letter dated 11/6/1973 from the Church Charity Commissioners shows that they approved the amalgamation of the three charities discussed above, plus a share of the Thomas Foster Charity (dated 1692), William Frankland Paley Charity (1841), the share of the Poor’s Allotment Charity (1902) and a share of the Poor’s Close Charity (1902) into a small united charity entitled Settle Relief in Need Charity. The Priest of Settle Church and some local Parochial Councillors are Trustees of this Charity.


Rev. Neil Kendra and the Settle Parochial Church Council for allowing access to Church Records; Sheila Gordon for obtaining and transcribing the Will of William Knowles; Tony Stephens for obtaining and transcribing from YAS, George Clifford Earl of Cumberland’s Rent Survey 1579. Other information from the North Craven Historical Research Group Archive at Procter House, Settle.