How to look for records of... Conveyances of land for charitable uses in trust deeds 1736-1963

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1. Trust deed enrolments 1736-1963

After 1736 and to 1925, conveyances of lands, goods and money in trust for charitable purposes had to be formally drawn up, properly witnessed, and then enrolled in Chancery on the Close Rolls (C 54) and from 1903 in the Supreme Court Enrolment Books (J 18) within 6 months (under the Charitable Uses Act, 9 Geo II c 36, modified by the Mortmain and Charitable Uses Act of 1888, 51 & 52 Vict c 42), often with a plan of the property. Although enrolments only start in 1736, it seems that trustees of many existing charities chose to enrol earlier deeds.

From 1856, any deed, will or other document relating to charities could also be voluntarily enrolled in the books of the Charity Commissioners (CHAR 12) and under the above mentioned 1888 Act, elementary school masters’ houses (up to one acre), public parks (up to 20 acres) and public museums (up to two acres) could be enrolled in the Charity Commissioners Books instead of Chancery. Also gifts of land under the Working Class Dwellings Act 1890 and the Technical and Industrial Institutions Act 1892 could be similarly enrolled. From 1926 under the Settled Lands Act of 1925 (15 & 16 Geo V c 18) it was a requirement to enrol all land vested for charitable purposes in the Charity Commission Enrolment Books (CHAR 13), although there are some post-1925 entries in the Supreme Court Enrolment Books (J 18).

Today deeds/declarations of trust are not registered. Formerly, from 1736 until 1925, most deeds relating to transfers of land for charitable purposes had to be enrolled in the Court of Chancery/Supreme Court. Subsequently, they were enrolled with the Charity Commission. However, after 1960, it has become the policy of the Church Commission only to enrol those deeds relating to Methodist Churches.

2. A major source for local history

The trust deeds form a unique source for local history, For example, the small market town of Hitchin in Hertfordshire has 53 enrolments relating to schools, hospitals, chapels and burial grounds, almshouses, a Mechanics’ Institute, and charities to benefit the poor.

3. Finding aids to the trust deeds, 1736-1905

At The National Archives, there are three main series of finding aids to the trust deeds, by place for 1736-1905, and by date for 1736-1870. The place index is in volumes arranged alphabetically up to 1870 (there is a separate volume for London, covering the places in the old pre-1965 London County Council area), and in two card indexes for 1870-1902 and 1903-1905 (J 18).

The earlier trust deed index entries look like this:

Hitchin, parish of, co Herts.- Trust for poor widows and housekeepers etc. 21 Geo. II 5.13

The reference given – 21 Geo II. 5.13 means that the deed of trust was enrolled on Close Roll No 5 of the regnal year 21 George II (1744). Look at the C 54 series list: this gives regnal years, calendar years and roll numbers. When you have identified the right roll, read across to the left hand column, and note the number there. This, with C 54, is the modern ordering format – C 54/5779 for the example above. The enrolled deed will be numbered as item 13 on the roll itself.

If you are looking for a deed which is not mentioned in the trust deed indexes, it may be worth checking in the general indexes to deeds enrolled in Chancery, listed in our research guide on Enrolment of deeds and registration of titles to land.

4. Finding trust deeds enrolled in the Supreme Court, 1906-1925

For 1906-1925, use the main J 18 indexes, under the name of the grantor. If you do not know the name of the grantor and you are trying to find a trust deed of a Church of England school, the Church of England Record Centre, 15 Galleywell Road, Bermondsey, London SE16 3PB may be able to provide this information.

5. Finding trust deeds enrolled with the Charity Commissioners 1856-1925

Consult the CHAR 12 series list which gives the enrolment dates covered by each volume.

6. Finding trust deeds 1926-1963

Consult the place name index on microfilm. This gives a number, for example, 1365/59. This means it is enrolment number 1365 in the volume number 59. The modern ordering format for this volume is CHAR 13/59.

7. Other sources in The National Archives

The Education Act of 1944 (7 & 8 Geo VI c 31) stipulated that all trust deeds for educational purposes were required to be recorded with the Minister of Education. This provision was repealed in 1960. Such trust deeds, many prior to 1944, can be found in the Public Elementary School Files (ED 21) which are organised by county, authority and name of school. There are also deeds, mostly relating to elementary schools in Enrolled Deeds (ED 191), dating from 1903 to 1920.

8. Copies

Copies can be purchased while you are at The National Archives: if needed for legal purposes, you need to a buy a certified copy.

Guide reference: Legal Records Information 8