and Chamberlain's Charity

Leonard Chamberlain's will is dated 19 August 1716, through which he founded Chamberlain's Charity. He inherited property, married into money, was of a key local merchant class of Calvinist sober behaviour and outlook. There was thus much to dispose. His wife Catherine, daughter of Mr Tomlin of Riby, Lincolnshire, had died in 1696 and there were no surviving children. So everything had to go to the wider family, friends or colleagues and, furthermore, Presbyterians and any Christians of good intent: if ministers, the poor or in need of basic education.


Chamberlain was a Presbyterian. Presbyterians were Puritans active in the National Church until suppression. In the 1650s John Shawe led Presbyterian meetings in the nave of Holy Trinity church. Mr Anderson followed on, somewhere, described as 'a dangerous person and a concealed Presbyterian'. Meanwhile, in Hessle, about 1652, Rev. Joseph Wilson erected and donated a two-storey building in Cow Lane (part of the present Hessle Square). The ground floor had three rooms or almshouses (or hospital) for the occupation of three poor people, and the first floor was for a schoolroom, the Parish School. (It was re-built to a similar design in 1869, continuing until 1902, when it closed from lack of demand. The schoolmaster received £27.10/- and the use of the adjoining house in 1892. Some locally called it Banks' School after Thomas Banks the last headteacher. The building was demolished in 1921.)

On the 24 August 1662, St. Bartholomew's Day, as part of the Restoration, all non-conforming ministers who could not give assent and consent to the whole Prayer Book were ejected from their livings. Joseph Wilson was ejected from Hessle and Mr Josiah Houldsworth from Sutton. Many Presbyterians (with movement among Puritan Independents) joined these ministers if they could.

After the Declaration of Indulgence in 1672, Joseph Wilson was licensed to preach in Hull, being the first minister of the new meeting-house in Blackfriargate. When Samuel Charles, ejected in 1662 from Mickleover, came to Hull in 1680, they probably met in the house of Christopher Fawthorp in Bowl Alley Lane. Times were uncertain and variable. In 1682 Josiah Houldsworth held meetings now at Heckmondwike during the night rather than by day. Samuel Charles was imprisoned in 1683 for six months. Meeting-houses were closed, preachers were scattered, and no more than two could pray together. In 1684 there were no recorded child baptisms. Leonard Chamberlain himself was under house arrest for some months in 1685.

Matters improved decidedly with the Declaration of Indulgence in 1687 and the Toleration Act of 1689 under James II. Two patens were given to the Bowl Alley chapel at this time, one bearing the initials of Leonard Chamberlain. (The paten held was sold in 1977 to raise money for the new Unitarian church building.) Meeting houses reopened and much church-building followed nationally. On 13 June, 1691, Anne Tomlin, sister of Katherine, made her will leaving money for the building of a new chapel:

I bequeath.....one hundred pounds for the building of a chappell for the pious use of the Presbyterian Congregation...

The Bowl Alley Lane chapel was built late 1691 or early 1692, and to a design of a merchant's hall. Anne Tomlin died in 1695, and the following year the chapel was handed over by Christopher Fawthorp to the four trustees of her will - Leonard Chamberlain, Theophilus Mowbray, Robert Burton and Richard Cooke.

Chamberlain wished his own trustees to be members of the congregation, naming them in his will; Mr Peacock, a sail maker, and member of Trinity House, was a deacon of the chapel. The witnesses were Sarah Turner, Samuel and Thomas Martin and Joseph Turner junior. The minister of the chapel received £12. All the ejected Puritan ministers who had been ejected from Sutton, Hessle, Cottingham, Bridlington, Selby and Shipton were remembered in Chamberlain's will. For example, from house rents, £3 each annually went to dissenting ministers Mr. Abraham Dawson of Cottingham, Mr. Rooke in Ottringham, and Mr. John Benson in Bridlington, and to successors, and then to other ministers should these places cease.

Future ministry was funded. The dissenting minister at Selby was granted £4; but if preaching ceased there, it was to go to the hospital for building another room 'for a poor body' and for the maintenance of all the poor there. Chamberlain left eight shillings per annum for a sermon to be preached on Sutton Feast Day. Though Blashill (1896) states that the 'sum has never been claimed', the minister of the Park Street Unitarian Church delivers two sermons in services annually, on the Monday of Sutton Feast Day (25th July, Feast of St James) and at Christmas.

Chamberlain attended to details: "I give my pocket watch to be disposed of by my executor in trust to some pious Young Minister of the Gospell that wants one to spend a good hour with."

Over time, ideas in the academies and among ministers, and a decoupling from the disciplines of the Calvinists, led to Arminian ideas preached and questioning of given doctrines. With such learned ministers given their role, rented pews and a relatively open parish membership, change continued. The congregation became Unitarian in 1806, co-inciding with both a change in building and ministry (Rev. John Shannon). It is important to note, however, that Chamberlain was not a Unitarian or close, nor liberal, nor libertarian regarding other doctrines. Presbyterians were hostile to any known Socinians.

Economic Affairs

Leonard Chamberlain was a draper in the Market Place in Hull, on the west side, near Holy Trinity church. Thus he was part of the Merchant class: with a funnelling of trade and wealth from it. In addition he was an extensive property owner and had married into money.

By 1690 Leonard Chamberlain was paying high rates, despite the house arrest five years previously:

1690 Trinity Ward Rent £6
Personal Estate £15
Assessment by Payment 10/-

By 1703 he was paying nearly the most of anyone: he paid 6 shillings in the pound Poor Rate, exceeded in Trinity Ward only by Jeremiah Shaw, who paid 8/- [Hull Rates - Microfilm].

Chamberlain probably belonged to the Tailors' Guild, as woollen drapers did not have a guild of their own.

Having inherited property, and marrying into a notable family, he left property and estates at Sutton and Stoneferry, as well as at Fitling; Selby; Dunswell; and Hessle.

This is worth quoting direct from Blashill:

Leonard Chamberlaine, draper in the Market Place at Hull, was a landowner in Sutton. In his will, dated 1716, by which he founded Chamberlaine's Charity, he describes his property as consisting of two farms, the one in Stoneferry, the other in Sutton ; both occupied by Robert Parrott, containing two houses and three closes. There were also fourteen acres and a half of meadow in the Ings, a Pighill, and four gates in Sutton New Ings, and four Commons in Sutton. At Sutton there was a farm house and garth, with a Land Common and a House Common, and also a Pighill, which adjoined land of Mr. Henry Cocke [Cook?]; and three garths where three houses had formerly stood, adjoining the farm house, with three commons belonging to them. The farm lands were as follows: -


In the East Field 3 acres 1 rood
In the North Field 3 acres 2 roods 20 poles
In the Carr Side Field 3 acres
In the Ings - meadow ground 4 acres 1 rood
In the Carr Side Meadow 1 acre
In the Rysom Carr 3 roods
There are also 2 roods of Boat grasse in a place called "Suckerside", and two gates and a half in the East Carr.

One of Chamberlaine's executors was a Ralph Peacock, sail maker, a deacon in the Presbyterian congregation in Hull. In 1709, he bought from one Dolman two properties, which respectively shew the composition of a half-oxgang farm, and a farm of one oxgang and a half. These, with other lands, descended to his daughters, one of whom had married the Reverend John Witter, the Minister of the congregation. Mary Witter, widow, held her share at the enclosure of the common fields in 1768.

[Blashill, 1896, pages 202-203]

Additionally, on his death in 1716 Chamberlain owned Hesslewood House.

I do give devise and bequeath unto my aforesaid friends and trustees, and to their heirs forever, namely Mr. Ralph Peacock etc. and the survivor and survivors of them, in trust, forever, to the uses, intents and purposes (to wit) all that my messuage or tenement, or the Grange house commonly called Hesslewood house situate in Hesslewood, and all the barns, stables, outhouses and buildings thereto belonging; and one little close, wherein the house stands, and six other closes adjoining thereto, containing together 46 acres more or less called Hesslewood, three closes of which being arable land and two horsegates in Ferriby banks, and the lime Kiln, and the house built by it, all which are now in the tenure and occupation of William Luck, and all and every the garths, gardens, orchards, all wastes or void grounds, ways, ingates, outgates, woods, trees, cliffs, quarries, stonepits, banks, wells, fishing places, fences, hedges and all rights members hereditaments and appurtances whatsoever to the same or any part thereof belonging or in any way appertaining: and my Will is, and I do give devise and bequeath the sum of £22. 12/- to be paid yearly and every year forever out of the rents of the said Hesslewood house, the farm and closes and appurtenances and all rights in any way belonging thereto for the use or uses of that schoolmaster...

Hesslewood House was leased by Chamberlaine's trustees to Robert Pease, Hull merchant, in 1749. Robert was succeeded in 1770 by his nephew Joseph, a Hull merchant (d. 1778). Joseph Pease had a daughter Mary. She married Robert Robinson, a Manchester merchant and of the network of families at Cross Street Chapel. Joseph Robinson Pease, born in 1752, was their first and only child. He was orphaned at the age of five. So Joseph Robinson was brought up by his father's brother in Manchester and from 1764 educated at the Warrington Academy. His grandfather in Hull became his guardian and in 1769 sent him to Holland for a commercial apprenticeship. Pease's unmarried son Robert died and Joseph Robinson became heir to the Pease business. So he added the name Pease. When his grandfather died in 1778 Joseph Robinson Pease headed one of Hull's largest merchant houses. He held the major share of 'Pease's Old Bank'; he had shares in two seed-crushing businesses and in the whale industry. In the 1790s he had an investment of £6,000 (the second largest shareholder) in the Calder-Hebble Navigation and he had £3,800 in the Driffield Navigation, as well as lesser sums in the Rochdale Canal and in local turnpike schemes. He invested in a number of housing projects; including three large merchant houses in Charlotte Street. He bought more land in Hull. He inherited his uncle Robert's country estate at Hessle and enlarged it, rebuilding the old house in 1790. In 1788 the Chamberlain trustees exchanged Hesslewood (the house was taxed on 27 windows in the 1770s) with J R Pease for a farm at Southwood, Cottingham. There was a working farm on his Hesslewood estate but a 1793 enclosure award shows only 190 acres at Hessle. In 1780 he served on the Grand Jury at York. In 1783 he was Deputy Lieutenant of the East Riding. He wasn't very political and lacked deep thinking. He married the Anglican daughter of a Derbyshire squire. His books were a little Whiggish in content including a History of the Reformation.

(Hesslewood was converted into an Orphanage for many years, until in 1984 with only six children present. Hesslewood Hall was auctioned to Francis Daly, who had owned The Waterfront Hotel. The Hall was split into two parts, the one-time boys' wing becoming a residential nursing home of about 80 bedrooms. A further extension was called the Chamberlain Room. The girls' wing became a hotel. It went into receivership late in 1993, and was neglected for a year until it was bought by Brooklands Property Holding. The building is listed.) [Information supplied by Mr Peter Barber of Brooklands]

Dated October 3 1716, the Inventory of the Goods and Chattells of Mr Leonard Chamberlain were as follows (figures are in pounds, shillings and pence):

Purse and apparrell £26.00s.00d
One Silver Tankard 1 Silver Tabler 2 Silver Salts 5 Silver Spoons 1 paire of Silver buckles weighing 26 ounces 68.02.00
Kitching, a Looking Glass 2 tables 11 Chaires and 2 Stools 00.17.06
Dresser and Shelves 00.12.00
A Range Clamps Fender, Fireshovells Tongs and Iron Implements 01.13.00
Brass Fireshovell Tongs Six brass Candle sticks, Fishstrainer and Lanthorne 00.08.00
One Jar, Spitt and Utensells 00.16.00
A Glass Case and Glasses, a Small Cupboard 00.03.06
Two Mortars and Pestills 00.06.00
Warming Pan and Smoothing Iron 00.12.00
Twenty Two pewter Dishes 27 plates weighing one hundred sixty eight pounds 04.18.00
Four Flaggons 00.05.00
Back Kitching, Nine Doz: of Quart Bottles four doz: of Pailes Three doz of Trenchers at 4d per doz: three brasspans 01.00.00
Two Tubbs Dresserboard and loosetable Leafe 00.15.00
An Iron Pott Two basketts Some earthenware abd woodwear 00.06.00
Brewhouse Copper with other things 05.00.00
Best Chamber, Bed bedstead Curtains four blanketts and Rugg Pillows and bolster 03.00.00
Range and brasses and overtable and looking Glasses 00.15.00
One doz: and a halfe of Chaires 1 warder Chair an old Chest an old Drawer and other Implements 01.06.06
Back Chamber, Five Chaires and an old Case of Drawers 00.04.00
Thirty five Firkins of Butter 27.15.00
Three Empty Caske and an old Chest 00.04.00
One Gold Ring 00.07.00
Peter Craven: Thos Maslin Matt Craven 84.15.06

Friends and Relatives

Chamberlain left to his niece, Katherine Spence, then living in Rotterdam, a ten-acre close at Hullbank, and 4 acres at Dunswell, together with the beer-houses, and, too, 'all my best linen' (probably worth a lot, considering his profession and position). Katherine had two children, Leonard and Elizabeth.

Concerning his 'Brother', John Waite of Keyingham, who bequeathed Leonard Chamberlain his estate, he bequeathed it to 'my good friend Mr Jeremiah Shaw, Lining Draper'. £10 apiece was given to his cousin, John Rumans of Wistow: his cousin, Robert Woodall, Joyner, of Wakefield; his cousin William Chamberlain, of Hull; his cousin Dorothy Lodge, of Wistow; and his cousin Ann Thurkill.

Five pounds each went to the congregations of John Witter, Thomas Fletcher, Robert Dawson, and Robert Fletcher; £5 to minister John Billingsley, £10 to minister John Gorwood, and £2.2s. to Thomas Martin, his next neighbour.


As a member of the Bowl Alley Lane congregation Chamberlain was one of the benefactors to Charity Hall, a kind of workhouse erected in 1698 in Whitefriargate, on the site of the old Cloth Hall.

He made a number of instructions in his will regarding provisions for the poor. Five pounds was bequeathed to the poor of Wistow. Rents from Chamberlain's house and buildings in Market Place purchased bread as weekly sustenance for the poor of Bowl Alley Chapel. By 1908, bread (worth £21 p.a.) was still being distributed and £78 was used for fortnightly gifts to 20 poor members of the church.

Though Presbyterian, Chamberlain stipulated only that his directed wealth should be distributed among 'sober and good Christians and such as want relief'.


Chamberlain bequeathed his valuable collection of books to the congregation of the chapel. Most were in 'dead' languages; Walton's Polyglott Bible, Trostius' Syriac New Testament, the works of the Greek and Latin fathers, Horace, Juvenal, etc. This was at a time when booksellers' shops were rare outside London.

After Chamberlain's death, large additions were made to the collection from time to time, and in 1720 it was found necessary to erect a library at the side of the chapel. Mr Thomas Lightfoot gave a part of his garden for the site. The library was dispersed in 1883, after the removal to Park Street. The few books remaining were lost when the Park Street chapel was re-built in 1977.

£10 was bequeathed to one scholar of Hull for four years to further his education.

A quotation direct from Blashill assists:

Presbyterian though he was, he made no distinction on account of religious profession... five pounds to a schoolmaster for teaching twenty of the poorest children "of what persuasion or denomination soever" to read in English. Chamberlaine's Charity is still managed by trustees connected with the chapel near Bowlalley Lane, the congregation of which became Unitarian about a century ago. The English Presbyterians had, however, taken a line of their own, and the new name probably indicated their old belief. [Blashill, 1896, 211]

Legacy: Properties, Money Distribution

Archbishop Herring's Visitation Returns of 1743 indicate that Chamberlain's funded school was the only school in Sutton at that time:

There is a School endow'd with five pounds a Year, teaching Twenty poor Children, who are duly instructed in ye Church Catechism.

Again, Blashills states:

In 1800 and again in 1804 a portion of the funds was spent in building almshouses in Sutton for ten poor women, usually widows, each of whom receives a weekly pension. [Blashill, 1896, 211]

Sheahan & Whellan (1856) state that the British School erected in 1850 was then endowed with the sum of £15 p.a. from the funds of Chamberlain's Charity. This school was built on the site of the present Providence Cottages. The bequest now forms part of an educational trust for the use of older children.

It was not until the end of the century that the almshouses in Sutton were erected. After incurring the cost of a suit in 3 chancery (£811) without obtaining any final scheme or directions for the application of the rents of the estate, the trustees, then R. Hill, S. Martin, and J. and E. Thompson, erected two almshouses in 1800 and 1804. (c) They were built for six and four people respectively, at a cost of £631, for 8 widows and 2 widowers, each having a house and garden and 3/- weekly. (d) The inscription reads:

This hospital was built A.D. 1800, R. Hill, S. Martin, J. Thompson, and E. Thompson, trustees of the late L. Chamberlain

The almshouses were occupied in 1823 by ten poor women of Sutton and Stoneferry with stipends of 3s - 5s a week, and an annual allowance of two chaldrons of coals. The trustees also distributed yearly about £25 worth of coals among the poor of the parish.

St James' Church bears three boards:

Chamberlain's Charity. Notice - The alms houses at Sutton, comprising ten rooms, are for the occupation of ten persons, to be approved and appointed thereto by the trustees, with a weekly allowance, at the discretion of the trustees. Also, that 20 boys, belonging to Sutton and Stoneferry, to be approved by the trustees, may be taught reading and writing in the school room of the parish of Sutton, free of expence. Chr. Briggs, Richd. Tottie, Geo. Lee, Henry Blundell, trustees - Hull Aug. 1832.

In 1908, the custom of giving out the Chamberlain bread after Sunday morning service still survived, bread worth £21 p.a. being distributed; and £78 was used for fortnightly gifts to 20 poor members of the church.

Lands and properties have changed over the years.

In 1793 and 1794, more than £532 was spent on a new farm-house in Stoneferry; and soon afterwards, £200 for a farm-house at Sutton.

In the twentieth century, the Trust owned Stoneferry Farm (18 acres); 36 acres in the West Carr; the Ship Inn; land at Sutton Bank. Meaux Abbey 4 Farm was acquired in 1944, at a cost of £10215.11.9d; and Bursea Lodge Farm, of 200 acres, in 1950. Much was disposed leaving only Meaux Abbey and Decoy Farm in the possession of the Trust.

ln 1954 some of the almshouses in Sutton, said to have been built in 1800, were replaced by a two-storey block comprising 12 new flats, costing £5430.13s. Od. The remaining six houses, of 1804, were modernised in 1964, the accommodation being reduced from six to four.

In 1974, the Trustees, Charles and Malcolm Strachan, Sir Herbert Pollard and R. H. Terry, erected dwellings in Chamberlain Close, comprising 6 single bungalows, and 4 for married couples. A plaque on the wall states that buildings were built partly as extra accommodation, and partly to replace bomb-damaged residences in Barker's Entry, Hull.

The original 'coals' of Chamberlain's intent have turned into energy payments for some and south facing properties in Chamberlain Close gained solar panels in the twenty-first century to reduce bills (no energy payments to them) and earn the sunshine excess for the Trust. The rent in July 1995 stood at £10.70 per fortnight but nearly £80 a week in 2015.

Legacy: the Churches

The Presbyterian and Unitarian line was middle class. Furthermore, pew renting had a negative effect on the working class from attending church; having free pews also labelled their occupants as 'poor'. Such division maintained the conscience of giving to the poor seen in Chamberlain's will. More radical views were generally rejected among most dissenters.

Here is an illustrative middle class viewpoint from the (Unitarian edited) Hull Rockingham, 19th January, 1839:

Why should a man devote his nights to study and his days to persevering labour when, after all, those who do nothing, and. perhaps worse than nothing are to share his gains equally with himself? And why should not every man reap the fruits of his own deserts ?... Is it reasonable that the clever and the virtuous should have no more reward than the ignorant, the stupid, and the idle?

By 1802, the Bowl Alley chapel was 'infected with the dry rot', and so Mr Joseph Pease chaired a committee to re-build. Dr John Alderson subscribed. The new building cost £1,300 and opened on 31 August 1803. It seated 650 people. The octagonal shape was taken from the continent, a specifically religious architecture (unlike the merchant house) that still could not be confused with Anglican buildings. It had galleries nearly all around, later removed for an upper floor after the building ceased to be a chapel.

The political inclusion sought by the merchants like Chamberlain and subsequently the rising middle class was achieved in the 1830s. In 1828 the Test and Corporation Acts were repealed; the Reform Act of 1832 gave the franchise to dissenters, and the Municipal Reform Act of 1835 made it possible for the social class of many dissenters to take control of local government over some years. The most influential incomers were of the Presbyterian, Unitarian or Independent Churches, forming the highest proportion elected to local councils between 1835 and 1850. Few Hull councillors were Baptists or Methodists prior to 1850.

In 1881, the congregation went to Park Street to follow the population moving out to the suburbs. The octagonal building in the Old Town was re-named Lincoln's Inn Buildings for use as offices and as a library for law and (secondarily) accounting materials. The building was incorporated into the yard of the new Post Office built in Lowgate in 1910, finally being demolished in 1936 to give GPO motor vans space.

The new church and school in Park Street cost about £3,800. The Gothic building was designed by W. H. Kitching, of white brick with stone dressings. It had a spire. The first services were held on 24 July 1881, in the schoolroom.

This church was demolished in 1976 and replaced by a new one on the same site in 1977. It would have been half the size it is, and was designed with one single brick wall to expand to the west. The Trust's property in Keyingham was sold to help finance the new building.

The portrait (artist unknown) of Leonard Chamberlain was hung and otherwise stored in the Park Street church until 1994. It is inscribed:

Leonard Chamberlain, first Trustee of Bowl Alley Lane Chapel, of 1696. Presented to Ferens Art Gallery in 1994.


Whitaker, W. (1910), One Line of the Puritan Tradition in Hull: Bowl Alley Lane Chapel, London: Philip Green.

Blashill, Thomas (1896), Sutton-in-Holderness: The Manor, the Berewic and the Village Community, Hull: William Andrews and Company, and A Brown and Sons Limited.

History & Antiquity of Holderness (1837) G Poulson

Victoria County History

Charity Commissioners' Report

An Enquiry into the Origin and Management of Hull Charities (1833) Thomas White

Directory of 1823 Baines

Yorkshire & the East Riding Sheahan & Whellan

Hull Gent Seeks Country Residence (1981) K. J. Allison

Lost Churches & Chapels of Hull David Neave

East Yorkshire; a Historical Guide (Rowley)

Sutton Church

Thanks to

Mr Ted Howlett, Hessle

Mrs S. Raetig

Mr Peter Barber

Mr Oxley

Mrs Myers (Chamberlain Homes)


Adrian Worsfold

Pluralist - Liberal and Thoughtful