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2nd April 1500 | The first Cripplegate gift | John Sworder

2 April 2018

518 years ago, the population of London was around 60,000. For some of the city's Christian residents, the year 1500 marked the Apocalyptic "half-time after the time", the beginning of the end of the world. Whilst not quite so drastic, the impact of events in the 16th Century marked the transition from the middle-ages to the modern era, upending traditions and changing social structures.

On 2nd April 1500, John Sworder made the first recorded gift to the church of St. Giles Without Cripplegate, which is now in the heart of the Barbican. Part of Mr Sworder’s donation was earmarked to provide trousers for local people, and over the centuries since, the proceeds of his donation and many other ‘pious donors’ were invested in property and assets to benefit the people of the Cripplegate Ward in the City of London.

New spaces

The iterations of charitable organisations that would become Cripplegate Foundation built, owned and restored property across London. In some cases, as on Bancroft Road in Mile End, housing was provided to local tenants on a peppercorn rent. A portfolio stretching from Dagenham in the East to beyond Kensington in the West was maintained, with rental income used to support local people in need, often through providing clothing such as the aforementioned trousers, as well as underskirts, socks and shoes. Today, our income comes mainly from investments rather than bricks-and-mortar, and our grants support organisations working to improve the lives of residents in Islington and the Cripplegate Ward. No longer based at the Cripplegate Institute on Golden Lane, our modern home on Elliott’s Place is home to Islington Giving, Help on Your Doorstep, and provides a space for local voluntary organisations to meet and share ideas.

Historic parallels

A continuity of careful stewardship can be seen in the minutes of meetings over the centuries. On 11th March 1918, the General Purposes Committee reviewed the accounts to prepare for the annual audit. On 22nd March 2018, our own Finance and General Purposes Committee met with a similar agenda. The commitment of Governors, including elected representatives from the Cripplegate Ward of the City of London, and Islington Council, mirrors that given over the centuries by the likes of “J. Lake”, “C. E. Scholes”, and “D. Haydon”.

Cripplegate Foundation today

Traditions of philanthropy and stewardship are now coupled with a strong focus on working collaboratively. In our partnerships with voluntary organisations, funders, businesses, and Islington Council, we learn about new approaches to tackling the effects of poverty, inequality and isolation. We contribute to conversations that impact on policy and practice. We meet local people who work every day to improve the quality of life for people living in our area of benefit, gaining a greater understanding of the challenges of a unique inner-city borough. Our involvement in establishing Islington Giving means that the legacy of the gifts of John Sworder and other pious donors continues.  The London’s Giving movement now reaches 23 boroughs, thousands of residents, and thousands of volunteers each year.

The levels of tumultuous change and uncertainty in 2018, nationally and globally, entail that Cripplegate Foundation takes an evidence-based, collaborative approach to creating social impact. We strive to marry flexibility and cooperation with a strong commitment to improving the resources available to people in the community. If you want to explore ways of creating change with us please get in touch.