City and Metropolitan Welfare Charity


1. The "City & Met", as the Charity is colloquially called, was formed in 1961 from the amalgamation of two earlier charities - the Prisons Charities (itself formed in 1876), and the Central Fund of the Metropolitan Convalescent Institution (1951). These two charities were themselves formed from earlier consolidations, of charities which trace their lengthy roots back through the Livery Companies of the City of London.


In addition to the Mercers’ Company, the Leathersellers', Grocers’, Haberdashers' and Ironmongers' Companies had historically all been involved with these various charities. And as can be seen from the archivists’ notes below, all had been involved in making grants to prisoners and debtors.


2. At a meeting of the joint Trustees on 6th April 1959, a Special Committee was established to investigate the possibility of widening the objects of the two charities (and as it transpired, merging them into one, with a new name). The Committee reported back in April 1960, and their report can be read here. It should be noted that NOT all of its recommendations were adopted.


3. However at a Meeting of Trustees of Prison Charities held at Mercers’ Hall on 21st November 1960, it was:



a) That the two charities be amalgamated into one fund.


b) That the new charity be named “The City and Metropolitan Welfare Charity”.


c) That the objectives of the new charity to be “To make income applicable in aid of deserving and necessitous persons who by reason of age, sickness or other circumstances deserving of charitable assistance either in grants in aid of institutions established to give such assistance including accommodation, nursing or care and attention, or directly by grants to such persons.”


d) That the number of Trustees be limited to the present total, namely 10, but as and when vacancies occur in the future they should be nominated as follows:

Three from the Mercers' Company      

Two from the Leathersellers' Company      

One from the Grocers' Company      

One from the Haberdashers' Company     

One from the Ironmongers' Company      

Two from the City of London Corporation


e) That the Trustees shall hold at least two meetings in each year.


f) That the present Trustees shall be the first Trustees of the new Charity and appointed for life, future Trustees to be appointed for a period of four years.


4. The new Scheme of Management (approved by the Charity Commission) was adopted on 25th September 1961, and may be read here.


The final meeting of the previous charities was held on 27th November 1961, and the first of “City & Met” on 2nd April 1962. The first and all subsequent Trustees' meetings of the Prisons Charities were held at Mercers' Hall, and so it continued with the City & Met until 2008.

Though it is not laid down, all chairmen have been Mercers’ nominated trustees, and until 2008, the administration and clerkship were undertaken by the Mercers’ Company. In that year, an independent clerk was appointed and the administration removed from the Mercers’ at their request. Trustees' meetings now rotate around the livery halls of the trustee nominating livery companies.


5. The current grant giving policy of the Trustees, as well as taking note of the decision noted at para 3c above (and reflected in the Scheme of Management), continues the historical role of the charity to encourage applications related to ex-offenders [“prisoners”] and their families.


6. In compiling this history, I am grateful to the Mercers’ Archivist who provided the minute of the Meeting on 21st November 1960 (and the Resolution described above), and the report of the Special Committee which lead to that Resolution. I am also grateful to the Archivists of the Leathersellers, Haberdashers and Ironmongers Companies, whose background notes are below.


Nigel Pullman, Clerk, August 2016



Leathersellers’ Company


The Leathersellers’ involvement derives from the Prison Charities element in this amalgamation. The City Prisons Charity Committee was set up in the 1870s, meeting at Mercers’ Hall, with a Leathersellers-appointed Trustee from the start – the first Trustee in 1876 was Past Master E.J. Nettlefold, followed by J.D.Kohler.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        


The Leathersellers had a longstanding direct involvement in prison charitable work for almost 400 years, until 1869 when the Debtors’ Act ended imprisonment of people for debt. This led to an overhaul of the whole system of prison charities in London, which took several years. They then transferred a substantial amount of money (just under £2000) to the Prisons Charities, which discharged the Company from further obligation to disburse money to prisoners. Initially at that time, the Leathersellers’ appointed one Trustee. At some point in the late 1920s this was increased to two Trustees. This increase followed the transfer of further funds to the Prisons Charities by the Company, deriving from the Elizabeth Grasvenor Trust (set up in 1555). From the beginning, the Mercers had appointed three Trustees, their initial financial input being proportionally greater, whereas the appointment of one Trustee each by the Grocers’, Haberdashers’ and Ironmongers’ Companies implied an overall lower input of funds.


The Leathersellers’ involvement in prison welfare goes back to 1470 when Robert Ferbras appointed the Leathersellers as his trustee to distribute money to poor prisoners in six city prisons in perpetuity. Four other Leatherseller benefactors set up similar prison trusts during the next century. For much of their history, distributing money to City prisons played a major part in the Company’s charitable activity. The assistance given took various forms, from providing prisoners with bread and beer, to paying off their debts altogether so as to release them (preference was always given to any Leathersellers who were themselves prisoners!).


Haberdashers Company


The Company make payments to the City & Met. Since our charities consolidation of 2002 they have asserted the right to appoint one Trustee to oversee their involvement.


These payments are made from the ‘Haslefoot Charity’ funds. This fund was originally established by Freeman Henry Haslefoot in 1583 by a Deed dated 22nd August 1646. The Deed made available several land holdings which the Company subsequently expanded and invested in.  Amongst a list of nine specified beneficiaries,  £10 was provided annually  ‘’To release debtors’. From 1919 these payments were directed to the ‘Prison Charities Trust’ via the Clerk of the Mercers Company, but from 1961 they have been directed to the City & Metropolitan Welfare Charity.


Ironmongers’ Company


In 1961 the Ironmongers was then giving £23 a year (according to Statement II – ‘Sundry Annuities Payable from Trusts’; Leathersellers’ Company was giving the most at £501).


An Ironmongers’ charity report of 1884 showed that the Ironmongers’ Company had three bequests in the 16th and 17th centuries which left money for prisoners . 

Margaret Dane’s charity (1579): £10 annually for bread and beef to prisoners; in 1859 £5.10 was paid with 5s. porterage.

Peter Blundell’s gift (1599) – 40s. a year, being interest from money left to buy property; the property was never bought but £2 a year was given to Ludgate and other City prisons.

Sir James Cambell’s gift (1641): interest from £1,000 for loans, some of which was to be given to redeem debtors in City prisons, but no more than £5 for each case; this was stopped in the 18th century as the £1,000 bequest was deemed to have been given to Parliament during the Civil War period; loans were restarted after an investigation and in 1854 and 1860 £15 was given; in 1859 the amount of £4.10.4 was given.

The Prisons Charities was established in 1876 and scheme documents this year confirm the three Ironmongers’ bequests concerned (i.e. those of Margaret Dane, Peter Blundell, Sir James Cambell). The 1876 schedule shows that the Ironmongers’ Company contributed £26.15s.2d. with the annual income from the first meeting’s minutes showing the Ironmongers’ portion as £41.11s.9d.

© Nigel Pullman 2022