Records of Legatt's Charity

Scope and Content

This collection comprises a copy of Elizabeth Legatt's will by which the Charity was established (1714); title deeds and other papers which the Charity acquired at its foundation (1401-1661); records of the administration of the Charity and its property (1720-1983); and lists of documents and other papers relating to the Charity's Archive (1625-1975).

Administrative / Biographical History

Elizabeth Legatt of Wickham, Kent, by her will dated 12th May 1714, devised to her son Charles Henshaw and three other trustees, a property called Hargraves at Little Heath in the parish of Barking, in trust for the teaching and instructing of such and so many of the poor children of the parish of Eltham, as can be well taught to read, write and cast accounts, and for instructing them in learning the catechism, doctrine and liturgy of the Church of England. Under the terms of the will, half of the children were to be nominated by Charles Henshaw and his heirs acting alone and the others by Henshaw acting together with the major part of the other trustees; however, according to the Charity Commissioners report of 1895, by the early 19th century no heirs of Charles Henshaw were known to exist and all the children were nominated by the trustees. The Charity was and is normally known as Legatt's Charity, although the name has sometimes been spelt as Leggat's (in the 18th and 19th centuries) and Leggatt's (in the 19th and 20th centuries).

By 1746 the Charity was supporting a school at Eltham and a schoolmaster was employed (mentioned in correspondence in NR100/7). In 1819 the Charity Commissioners reported that a National School had been established at Eltham in 1814 and that the trustees paid twenty pounds annually to the schoolmaster for teaching 20 boys on Mrs Legatt's foundation (quoted in the Commissioners report of 1895, NR100/65). New schools for boys, girls and infants were erected c.1868 (see NR100/39, NR100/65), and by 1895 Leggatt's Charity was making an annual grant of thirty two pounds towards the schoolmaster's salary (NR100/65). In their 1895 report the Charity Commissioners also stated that during the last two or three years a sum of fifteen pounds a year has been applied in providing prizes to 20 children in each of the schools (boys and infants) who are most regular in attendance, and that special grants towards the maintenance of the schools are also made from time to time (NR100/65). By 1910-11 the trustees were making quarterly grants to the National Schools, buying bibles and prayer books for distribution to the children and also providing money for prizes (NR100/91). By 1954 they were giving grants to parents towards the cost of school uniforms (NR100/109).

The Charity's property at Hargraves lay to the west of Forest Lane, later called Hainault Road, at Little Heath, in the part of Barking which became the parish of Ilford in 1888 and subsequently became part of the London Borough of Redbridge. It was probably named from Henry Hardegray, who is mentioned in the earliest surviving deed in the Charity's Archive (NR99/1, dated 1401). Variously spelt as Hargraves, Hardgraves and Hardegraves in early documents, the spelling Hargraves was used invariably in the 18th and early 19th centuries. The spelling Hargreaves is first found in 1863 (NR100/36) and thereafter Hargraves and Hargreaves were used almost interchangeably.

Hargraves passed through various hands in the 15th and 16th centuries, and by the mid 17th century it belonged to the Thorowgood or Thorogood family (NR99/36-41). Elizabeth Legatt seems to have acquired Hargraves from the Thorowgoods, although the exact circumstances in which she acquired it are unknown. Simon Thorowgood by his will proved in 1651 bequeathed ten pounds annually for and towards the maintenance of a grammar school master in the school house of North Weald Bassett, Essex (NR100/47), and by the time Elizabeth Legatt made her will the Hargraves property was already charged with this payment. The trustees of Legatt's Charity were obliged to pay ten pounds annually to the parish of North Weald Bassett, and then apply the remainder of the rents from Hargraves to the educational purposes specified in Elizabeth Legatt's will. The annual payment to North Weald Bassett was extinguished in 1904 (NR100/87).

In 1861 the Charity acquired an allotment (referred to as allotment no.10) under the Hainault Forest (Allotment of Commons) Act 1858 (NR100/32). This allotment was at Little Heath, immediately to the north of Hargraves. In 1866 the Charity acquired a further allotment (referred to as allotment no.103) under the enclosure award for Barking Common Allotments (NR100/40). Allotment no.103 adjoined the road between Chigwell Row and Collier Row in Hainault Forest, at some distance from Hargraves.

In 1892 the trustees sold part of allotment no.10, together with a small part of the original Hargraves property, to Major Ernest Ibbetson (NR100/50-1, NR100/58). The remaining, larger, part of Hargraves was made subject to a compulsory purchase order in the early 20th century and was sold to the Corporation of the County Borough of West Ham in 1904, for the purpose of extending the West Ham Lunatic Asylum (NR100/78, NR100/84-5). In 1924-5 a new arterial road, Eastern Avenue, was built across the land that West Ham Corporation had acquired.

The remaining part of allotment no.10 was sold by the trustees in or shortly after 1935 (NR100/98) and allotment no.103 was sold in or shortly after 1942 (NR100/101). Since then the Charity's assets have been held entirely in interest-bearing stocks.


The original order of this material has been retained.

Access Information

This material is open to research and can be viewed at the Barking and Dagenham Archive and Local Studies Centre. To make an appointment to visit the reading room, please telephone 020 8227 2033 or email at


Catalogued in accordance with ISAD(G).

Other Finding Aids

For further information about the contents of this collection, please contact the Barking and Dagenham Archive and Local Studies Centre telephone 020 8227 2033 or email at

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Custodial History

The Charity's Archive was deposited at Valence House in 1987, and was fully catalogued in 2007. The Charity Commissioners report of 1895 (NR100/65) mentioned minutes and accounts of Legatt's Charity, and stated that they were then in the possession of Hugh Mackay Gordon, the trustee who acted as honorary treasurer; but except for a bank pass book 1898-1902 (NR100/67), statements of account for 1909-10 (NR100/89, NR100/93) and cheque book stubs 1945-56 (NR100/104), no accounts or minutes of the Charity are held at Valence House. The location of the full accounts and minutes is unknown.

Corporate Names

Geographical Names