A CHURCH in Cambridgeshire has learnt that it is to benefit from a legacy worth £18.5 million.
St Vigor with All Saints, Fulbourn, which lies about five miles to the east of Cambridge, is the beneficiary of a trust that dates from the 16th century. In 1525, Richard Wright left pockets of land in the parish to a trust, the rent from which would support “the repairing and keeping of the clock in the parish church of St Vigor’s, and the ringing of the curfew and the day-bell; and any money over to be employed upon repairing the steeple and bell in the said parish”.
In 1775, the clock was replaced, and, in the 19th century, the pockets of land were swapped for a 17-acre field outside the village. In recent years, the field has been rented by a farmer, who paid £1400 a year to the Wright’s Clock Land Trust, which manages the bequest.
Cambridge has become a science and technology hub, however, and the land has become of commercial interest. South Cambridgeshire District Council changed half of the field’s status from agricultural to business land, and the Peterhouse Technology Park — owned by Cambridge University’s oldest college — bought nine acres of it for £18.5 million last year.
The question facing the parish — which has 4700 residents — is how to spend its wealth. The trust is limited to maintaining the church and addressing charitable needs in the village, and the church’s fabric has been well maintained by the income from the land.
“It’s very early days for this charity,” a trustee and churchwarden, David Gant, said this week. “We’re just spending income; the £18 million is invested.” The income amounts to about £200,000 a year.
The Rector, the Revd Alice Goodman, who is also a trustee, said that, so far, the church has employed a director of church and community music, to revive the church choir, to start a community choir, and to provide music tuition in the local primary schools. The trustees have bought new IT equipment for the school, and will fund a youth and community worker.
The church is hoping to install solar panels and a new heating system. Should the parish’s activities — the community lunch, toddlers’ group, drop-in centre, or language classes — need extra cash, they will be able to apply for a grant.
Ms Goodman emphasised that trust funds would not be used to pay the parish share. She also said that she wanted to ensure that grants from the capital fund were allocated after “making sure all voices are heard, that it’s not just people with sharp elbows”.
When asked what advice she would give to someone thinking of leaving a legacy to their parish or church, she said: “Make sure that it’s tied up and remains local, so that the diocese and the Church Commissioners can’t swallow it up.”