The Ellsworth Foundation


Richard Ellsworth, after whom the charity is named, lived and died in Bickham, on the edge of Timberscombe, where his father, Richard, a lawyer and Justice of the Peace for Somerset, and his grandfather, Sir Richard, had lived before him. Richard was only 22 years of age when he died in August 1714, but his last illness was such that he made his Will a month before his death.

The Ellsworthy family (the “y” seems to have been dropped at some point) occupied the manor at Bickham from about 1600 and possibly earlier. Several of the family were married and buried in Timberscombe. Richard Ellsworth died unmarried, leaving two young sisters as co-heiresses, but the greater part of his Will was taken up with charitable bequests.

He left £10 yearly towards teaching the poor children of Timberscombe to read, write and say their catechism, and he made a similar bequest to Cutcombe. The sum of £200 was left towards the building of a charity schoolhouse and library at the Cross in Timberscombe, with a further £200 for an initial supply of books (to be chosen by the Bishop), and £10 yearly for additional books (to be chosen by the Archdeacon of Taunton). He also endowed two exhibitions at Balliol College Oxford, the scholars if qualified to come from Timberscombe, Cutcombe, Selworthy, Wootton Courtenay, Minehead or Dunster or, failing that, from the county at large. These Balliol exhibitions were consolidated with others in 1856 and the Somerset connection extinguished.

For a variety of legal reasons, the money left for local educational charitable purposes was not formally used until the beginning of the 19th century, although there is evidence that annual payments for teaching were paid from an early date. The legal delays and costs consumed a significant proportion of Richard Ellsworth’s estate, but Timberscombe eventually got its school if not its library and, later, a schoolroom was erected at Cutcombe.

The Court of Chancery paved the way in 1854 for the present charity by agreeing a scheme of regulation, which was amended by the Privy Council in 1876 and further amended under the aegis of the Charity Commission in 1878, 1905 and 1954. In 2007, the Trustees agreed that further amendments were required in order to bring the current operation into line more closely with the Founder’s intentions as set out in his Will, and a further amended Scheme was published by the Charity Commission in August 2009.