The Samuel Lee Charity

Registered Charity Number 201786

Samuel Lee, as his tombstone tells us, was, some three centuries ago, Ranger of Geddington Chase to the Duke of Montagu, a position of some standing in the local community. On 7th February 1707, he made a will, a later copy of which survives.

Apart from small legacies to family, servants and friends the balance of his estate went to his executor, John Warner.Tomb, new plaque with explanation

The principal legacy, however, was to preserve Samuel Lee’s name for posterity:

I give to the use of the poor of Geddington in the County of Northamptonshire the sum of one hundred pounds to be laid out in a purchase or put to interest according as the Trustees I shall hereafter record shall think fit, the said rent or interest of the said money to be given to the Overseers or Churchwardens of the said Parish – which my trustees think most proper (to the poor of the said Parish upon every Christmas Day), the said one hundred pounds to be paid by my Executor to the Trustees I shall hereafter appoint or any three of them at twelve months after my death.”

A note about the Will
A note about the Will

Just over a year later, on 3rd March 1708, Samuel Lee died and his tombstone duly records his generosity to the village. The inscription, however, must have been written some time later, because it specifies that he left the “profits of a piece of land lying in Grafton St John”. The purchase of the land must have been made by the Trustees at some time after 1710 when the will was proved.

Letter about ironstone 1914
Letter from Cranford Ironstone Co. 1914

The income distributed to the poor at Christmas naturally fluctuated as land values changed. The enclosure of land at Cranford in the early 1800s benefited the Charity when the holding was consolidated into a seven acre allotment, as in 1835, 116 people received sums ranging from one to seven shillings. The discovery of ironstone under the land also proved profitable and, in 1898, the land was leased to the Stavely Coal and Iron Company. Later that year, however, for reasons which are unclear, the land was sold.

Perhaps the most remarkable feature of this story is that the terms of Samuel Lee’s will were still being faithfully carried out two centuries after his death. Trustees died, others were appointed “in their roome” and the poor continued to receive their Christmas bonus.

Still, the Charity continued through the 20th century, although the ideals changed as the value of the income diminished and as the care of the poor was taken over by the development of the welfare state.

Ticket to be given to the Tradesman
Ticket to be given to the Tradesman

With so little money to spend, the Trustees reverted to Samuel Lee’s original idea of a Christmas Distribution, concentrating on the older residents of the village. In 1979, the Trustees distributed to 55 villagers, vouchers worth 75p, these to be redeemed at one of the village shops. Thanks to gifts from the Geddington Volunteer Fire Brigade, the value was increased to £1 in 1980 and £3 in 1982.

During the 1980s, the Trustees, lead by John Sutton, actively sought to rescue the Charity from extinction. The Parish Council was persuaded to contribute to the annual distribution, making the vouchers worthwhile. Above all, the Trustees tried to increase the capital fund, so as to enhance their income in the longer term. An appeal launched in 1988 raised over £400.

Trustee and beneficiary
Trustee and a beneficiary

Samuel Lee’s tradition of a Christmas distribution continues today. Just before Christmas every year, the Trustees deliver parcels of groceries to senior citizens over 75. At least 50 village residents are delighted to receive these presents, not just for the parcels themselves, but also for the fact that they are remembered by their fellow villagers at the festive season. The Co-op supermarket kindly prepares the parcels, which are funded from the Charity’s annual income, supplemented by donations received during the year. Such donations are all the more important because the Parish Council, which formerly supported this annual tradition, no longer does so.

Bags and bags and bags!
Bags and bags and bags!

The Trustees see the primary object of the Charity to be, as Samuel Lee intended, to help those in need. They have, therefore, awarded grants and loans to residents of Geddington and Newton who find themselves in difficulties. They have, for example, helped students with school journeys and with their studies at school or university. They have provided equipment for people with disabilities and helped with nursery education. Although the annual income of the Charity is small, the modest assistance which the Trustees have been able to provide has made a real difference to the lives of beneficiaries. 2018 saw the updating of the 1992 Application Form, with Guidance Notes to meet current regulations. The intention is to help anybody with an enquiry about assistance. If you would like a form, please ask any Trustee or the secretary for one. (Contact details below.) The Trustees do not conduct means tests and all enquiries are treated in strict confidence.

Thus the good that Samuel Lee did, over three hundred years ago, lives on. The current Trustees number three from the Parish Council, together with Nick Batchelor, Jim Harker, Paul Hopkins and Tony Slough as the co-opted heirs of the original five, appointed by Samuel Lee himself. All of them feel it is a privilege to follow in the footsteps of the many Geddington folk who have upheld his memory so faithfully for so long.

Pic for website“A History of the  Samuel Lee Charity in Geddington”

 by John Sutton
(Chairman & Secretary of the Charity for over 30 years)
This is the story of  the village charity which dates back more than 300 years.
This new booklet traces for the first time the history of the bequest, the people who managed it and those who benefited from Samuel Lee’s generosity.
As an example of local people working together for the common good, it is a reminder that the Big Society is far from being a new idea. It is a remarkable account of how one man’s dying aspiration can be so fully realised.

As John Sutton, the author, concludes: “Samuel Lee’s wish to leave a lasting legacy to the village he loved has been faithfully fulfilled”.

Price £5

This book may be ordered (plus £1 post and packing) from Paul Hopkins (Treasurer) 9 Grafton Road, Geddington, Kettering NN14 1AJ  or email to Cheques should be made payable to the Samuel Lee Charity, to which the proceeds of sales have been donated.

John Sutton OBE

Click here to read the Obituary of John Sutton OBE.

“Geddington As It Was Geddington As It Was– The Social History  of a Rural Community”
by Monica Rayne

– a former resident of Geddington with line drawings by Gussie Woods, also of Geddington.

All proceeds from the sales of this book were donated to the Charity by the author.

This book is now out of print, although some copies can be found online. Whilst the online sales do not benefit the Charity any longer, the book is well worth the search as its historical content is almost second to none!

The charity trustees

Chairman: Jim Harker OBE
Treasurer: Anne Clay
Secretary: Pam Hopkins (contact:

Nick Batchelor
Jane Charleton-Jones
Paul Hopkins
Bryan McCreery
Nathan Richardson

Correct as of 2023

From 1708 to 2015

“The Church is the same, the Cross is the same, the bridge is the same, the houses are the same, the brook is the same, the people I meet walking their dogs share the same “Good morning!” greeting that they have done for generations – for centuries probably. That’s what I love about Geddington – its permanence, its friendliness.  It’s home!

The Samuel Lee Charity is a good example of this permanence. For over three hundred years, the men and women of Geddington have gathered together every Christmastide, in the light of rush lamps, or candles, or oil lamps, or electric lights, over the centuries, to dispense the proceeds of this Charity to the elderly members of the village, and to remember the generosity and concern for those in need, of Samuel Lee, Ranger of Geddington Chase.

May it continue for many centuries to come.”

Jim Harker, Chairman