On 29th July 1714 wealthy local draper John Clingan made out his will. He perhaps knew that his health was failing because he died only a short time afterwards. However, over the next three centuries his legacy would provide assistance for thousands of young people in Christchurch – and still does!
John Clingan’s origins are something of a mystery. There is evidence that he came to Christchurch from Scotland, but although he named his wife (Katharine), sister (Mearon Blaire), three nieces (Agnes, Mary, and Mearon Linseys), and daughter-in-law (Mary Belbin) in his will, these relatives have all proved elusive to trace by online genealogical resources. (Perhaps you would like to try tracing them?) It is likely that Clingan is an Anglicised variant of a Scottish Gaelic name. He appears to have made his fortune as a dealer in exotic imported fabrics and it is presumed that he was attracted to the area by the trading ports of Southampton, Christchurch, and Poole. He settled in Christchurch, and it is recorded that 10 years before his death he was a churchwarden and therefore involved in the welfare of the town’s poor.
Upon his death he bequeathed to his wife Katharine all the furniture ‘in the roome over that which was my shopp’ along with ‘One Iron pott One Kettle One Chamber pott and Close stoole and three good Ordinary Chairs and one Silver Spoon ’. She was also to receive £20 per year – to be paid on the condition that she made no attempt to obtain more, otherwise it was to be dropped to only £5 per year! The reason for this apparently harsh condition is not known, except that he was clearly determined to ensure that the bulk of his wealth would to go to assist the poor of Christchurch.
John Clingan allocated £50 to the poor of the town, to be distributed as bread and meat within 9 months of his death. He also directed that the residue of his estate, which included his large High Street house and shop along with a considerable personal fortune, should be used for the long-term benefit of the poor of the parish. He gave the responsibility for managing this Trust to his executor and ‘well beloved friend’ Samuel Hookey of ‘Mauddyford’.
Hookey used some of the Trust to buy additional property, thereby increasing the charity’s income generated from rent. One such was a 40 acre farm at Iford, bought as ‘equity release’ for the elderly farmer. This became known as Clingan’s Farm, and its farmhouse, which was opposite what is now Old Bridge Road, was demolished only in the 1930s when the new Iford Bridge was due for construction.
In 1735 a board of Trustees was set up to manage the charity. Then, as now, this always included the Vicar of Holy Trinity and the presiding Mayor. It was they who introduced a policy of funding apprenticeships, which since the early 17th century had been a way of providing both work and accommodation for pauper children. The first apprentice funded by the Trust is believed to have been Thomas Boune, who was about 13 years old when he was indentured to his uncle, James Shambler, to learn seamanship on one of the fishing boats that annually sailed out of Christchurch to fish the Grand Banks of Newfoundland.