Some of the oldest bequests that make up the charities of Thornbury were known as ‘Groats.’
Groats were silver coins worth four old pennies. They were minted first in 1279 but were not generally used until after 1351. The coins shown here are Groats that are rather older than White’s charity, the charity most often referred to as the “Groats.” They are coins from the hoard that dates back to 1465 and was found in Brackley Northamptonshire in 2005.
Groats were used until the reign of George III, after which they were only produced for Maunday money. ‘Groats’ is a term that is also used for milled grain of all sorts – most often oats – and this might be what makes it an appropriate name for White’s charity, a charity that was paid ‘either in money or in corn.’
Two local historians have already researched the charity that was known as the Groats. According to W. A. Caffall (a member of the Society of Genealogists who made extensive notes on the old records of the Borough of Thornbury) and to another local historian, Leslie Hawkins, the will of John White of Thornbury, Gent (Gloucester Record Office ref. D282 T34) which was dated 16th July 1590 gave to his tenant Henry Harris and his heirs the messuage and garden “lately purchased of Lord Berkeley” and “all the wainscott, glass in the windows, table boards, frames, benches and forms in the parlour thereof called The Lower Parlour” in the Borough of Thornbury. There was a yearly charge to be paid on these of 17/4. This payment was to be made to Mayor or Chief Officer and three burgesses who were to distribute this either in money or in corn to the poor people of Thornbury at their discretion at the four yearly feasts mentioned in the will.
The first recorded mention that there was a charitable gift called the ‘groats’ seems to be for the year 1666 to 1667 when the entry ‘gave in groats at Christmas £1. 9s. 4d’ occurs. The Mayor’s Accounts for 1789 to 1790 held by the Thornbury Town Trust say ‘George Rolph junior out of his dwelling House in the High Street formerly called the Tavern and lately belonging to John Gayner apothecary deceased. This last annuity was the gift of Mr William (sic) White long since deceased and is called the Groats.’ We have no explanation at this time why the bequest was attributed to William White rather than John White but we believe this may be a confusion due to the fact that William White had also made a charitable bequest. This is quite clearly the same bequest that was mentioned in John White’s will.
The Mayor’s Accounts of the Thornbury Town Trust (ref. D 282/C) show that there was a period when the rent from this property was not paid. In the period 1666 to 1667 the record has an entry ‘£4 for all arrears of White’s gift due till December 21st 1666.’ After that 17s.4d. per year was regularly received and from the year 1670 to 1671 it appears as ‘for White’s gifts one year out of the Tavern.’
The list of ‘Charities vested in and under the Management of the Corporation’ that was compiled in 1818 also say that it was William White rather than John White who gave an annuity of 17s.4d. per annum to the poor of Thornbury out of a house formerly called ‘The Tavern’ now Mr. George Rolph’s dwelling house. By 1861 the original 17s.4d was being paid by the Police Station which replaced George Rolph’s property and they carried on paying it until at least 1932 (the last year for which we have seen the Mayor’s Accounts). This building is now Thornbury Council’s Town Hall.
Other charities as well as White’s charity have been referred to as ‘groats.’ Interestingly the Charity Commissioners’ report of 14th March 1913 lists tenants of other properties under the heading ‘Groats’ as well as the Police Station;- T Exell for the High Street (45 High Street), J C James for a property in Castle Street (this appears to be the stable – now a residence – attached to The Lion House), Mrs Trayhurn for the old Malt House (this was near to the Plough Inn in St Mary Street but has since been demolished to make a new road system) and E Butt and R Withers in the High Street (now 51).