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History File

The Denbury Feoffees

When Henry VIII decided that the power of the monasteries was too great, and that the loot they had acquired was too much of an attraction to be resistible (and it all fitted into his divorce plans anyway), he dissolved them, leaving a nasty gap in the provision of social services for the poor and needy. (The monks had been good at other things besides making money for their boss in the Eternal City!)

To fill the gap, charitable organizations run and financed by the laity sprang up all over the country. Which is how the DENBURY FEOFFEES came into being in the reign of Edward VI, Henry's son.

And ever since - dependent upon the amount of financial support they could drum up from the locals - the Denbury Feoffees have made a quiet but often important charitable contribution to the Parish, both to its organizations as well as to its individual people in need.

Feoffment was the oldest and, for a long period, the only method of land conveyance in England. It consisted in the formal conveyance of the land from the feoffer to the feoffee. A feoffment is not now a legal form of conveyance but feoffees have not been abolished and the Denbury Feoffees are very much in existence although they no longer hold any land.

The Feoffees are parish trustees; holding investments and distributing income each year for the benefit of the village - Denbury has, over the years, gained considerably from the funds provided originally by village benefactors. They have a long history, the first recorded "Deed of Feoffment" being dated 20th March 1555 involving a property called "Poundhayes" followed by "Peter's Gift" of an annuity of 20 shillings, payable out of the "Sheaf of Cornworthy" and a feoffment by John Botelem and Henry Holford in 1581 of a "messuage or tenement, bakehouse, curtilage and garden with their appurtenances situate at Denbury".

The Charity Commissioners from time to time sent auditors to examine the trustees' records and searches through the Minute Books and Accounts since 1812 reveal that the properties held by the Feoffees at that date were:

 PremisesAnnual Rent
1.Two Cottages*7s 0d
2.Cottage & Orchard about ½ acre6s 8d
3.Public House called the Church House   *4s 2d
4.Cottage*10s 0d
5.Part of Parish Close£3  0s 0d
6.Scores Garden£1  8s 0d
7.Blacksmith's shop & house£10  0s 0d
8.Cottage£2 10s 0d
9.Cottage£2  2s 0d
10.Cottage£2 10s 0d

* Subject to building leases

The buildings were generally in good repair, the Blacksmith's shop and house having been rebuilt in 1812 at an expense of £100 out of trust funds.

In 1822, the Old School House (on the eastern corner of Greenhill Lane) was being built on land donated by Mr Bartlett, a solicitor of Newton Abbot, a market town some three miles away. The timber and materials were donated by Mr Taylor (possibly a tenant of the trust), a grant of £25 was made by the National Society and the balance of £63 was paid by the Feoffees. The Old School House was used as a National School until it was sold in 1877, the proceeds being invested in £20 8s 11d Consols. The income was re-invested so that in 1910 the capital amounted to £41 8s 4d.

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