HISTORY OF THE CHARITY
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.