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JOHN WALTER

 

John Walter lived through what may be considered one of the most tumultuous times in English history.  He was born, in Hereford, in the reign of Elizabeth I (1558-1603) when England was a separate entity, and became a citizen of London.  First as a Girdler, and as he was appointed Clerk to The Drapers Company (The Master Wardens Brethren and Sisters of the Gild or Fraternity of the Blessed Mary the Virgin of the Mistery of Drapers of the City of London), on the 24th August 1616, so he was "translated" to them.

 

His life continued through what was an uneasy "United Kingdom" under James I (1603-1625) and Charles I (1625-1649).  It is probable that his ability and discretion obtained the Letters Patent of James I (1619), despite the errors due, most likely, to his youthful inexperience.

 

As clerk, he became familiar with the management of Almshouses with the result that he became enthusiastic in developing more, in the last ten years of his life (in the now Commonwealth and Protectorate Council of State of 1649-1653 and Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell 1953-1658), wishing to be publicly known as a founder, he arranged such matters through his friends.  By 1650, there were eight almshouses on each site.  At Southwark there was a chapel and spacious garden.

 

He acquired much property, owned or built tenements, conveyed houses to the Church and to the Drapers, as would his descendants.  He became a Founder of Almshouses, "because many had perished by lying abroad in the cold for want of habitation to the great dishonour of God".

 

Other property with which he was associated include Tenements in Beech Street and Beech Lane; The Cock, Wood Street, Westcheap; Houses in Lombard Street; House in Lime Street; Goosye Field, Islington; Grange and Chantry Farms.  Each of which carry a detailed history, but not relevant to the present Charity.

 

In the 11th December 1656, "the Court taking into consideration the painefull diligent & faythfull service of Mr. John Walter, Clerke of this Company by the space of forty yeeres, and being therefore willing further to express their love and respect unto him, did most freely and lovingly (nemine contradicente) order that the said Mr. Walter should be admytted into the Assistants of this Company.  Thereupon the said Mr. Walter (being withdrawen) was called into the Courte and made acquainte with the premisses, who (after much persuasion to undertake the said place) did accept thereof and was admytted an Assistant of this Company, and having taken his place as an Assistant did syte and Act in this Court accordingly."

 

But he did not long enjoy this honour - seventeen days later, on the 28th December, he died.  In the following February, a letter which he had written just before his death was read to the Court.  In this letter he described the alms-houses he had built at Southwark and at Newington butts with "the meanes and estate God had entrusted me with as a steward to be disposed of in pious and charitable uses"; saying that "having byn your clerke for above forty yeares and knowing your religious faithfull and conscionable performance of all thinges wherein yee were entrusted and knowing none better to entrust that yourselves", he had by his will left the Company "divers messuages of the yeerely rent of neere Twoe hundred pounds for the performance of the charitable uses in the Will", and begged the Company to accept the Trust.  The will also was read to the Court - after which they "did most freely and lovingly accept of the said trust reposed in this Company", and ordered that "the statue of Mr. Walter shalbe at the charge of this Company made and set up as benefactor in that place in the parlour (conceaved most fitt for that purpose) over the doore entring into the Bookehouse or Treasury".  They also ordered that the will should be proved in Chancery, and that Mrs. Alice Walter, the widow, should be reimbursed of all the money she had spent on the alms-houses and alms-people since her husband's death.  And then "To this Courte was presented a faire standinge cuppe of silver white of the valew of about Twenty poundes being the guifte of Mr. John Walter, which was by this Courte lovingly and thankefully accepted.  And it is ordered that (according to the will and desire of the said Mr. Walter) the same cuppe towards the end of every pryvate dynner of Assistantes, or like dinner in the parlour as view dinner etc. the butler or some other shall presente that cuppe filled to the Master, or the person at the Table wherewith he is entreated to be pleased to drinke to all the rest of the Table, desiring a long continuance of Love and charitable performances amongest them to Godes glory and the poores comforte".

 

John Walter left a "lengthy and verbose" Will, in which he included his own description of what he had done in benefit to those less fortunate than himself.  John Walter was a pious man and preferred to hide his good deeds in his life.  In death "having been blessed with a convenient estate of worldly substance more than sufficient", he wanted to ensure that he maintained "his charge and affoord fit meanes and possons for his deare and loving wife and children",. he disposed of the surplus "for God's glory and the poore's comfort."

 

He opens, "IN THE NAME OF GOD AMEN.  The Seventeenth day of October in the yeere of Our Lord God One thousand six hundred and fifty six I, John Walter Cittizen and Draper of London being (praised be God) in good and pfect memory and health and expecting death daily (then which nothing is more certain) doe make this my last Will and Testament in manner and form following that is to say Firste and principally I commend my Soul to the most holy and induvided Trinity, the father the Sone, and the Holy Ghost, and my Body I commi to the Earthe from whence it came, to be decently buried as please God to appointe believing that by the power of my blessed Saviour Christ Jesus his glorious resurreccon my fraile and sinful body shall be raised from the dead and be reunited to my Soul and by his merits death and passion my hope is to have free pardon and forgiveness of all my Sins and an inheritance in glory forever."

 

As part of his bequest, John Walters made a gift to The Drapers "And having already and painefully and faithfully served the sd Company of drapers London as their Clark above the space of forty years my humble request unto them is to be pleased to accept the sum of Twenty Pounds t make them a standing Cupp and Cover if I shall not leave them one ready made Desiring them with all (if the Court of Assistants think fitt) that the same Cupp towards the end of every private dynner of Assistants or like synner in the parlour as receive dinner &c the butler or some other may present that Cupp filled to the Mr or Chiefe person at the table wherewith my desire is he will be pleased to drink to all the rest of the table desiring a long continuance of love and Charitable prformances amongste them to God's Glory and the poore's comfort."  This "faire standing cuppe of silver white of the valew of about twenty poundes" was presented to the Company and "lovingly and thankefully accepted by the Court, oder being given for the same to be used at dinners in accordance with the directions of the Will."  This cup bears the donor's arms and escaped the melting pot of the 17th century.  It is one of the most ancient pieces held and is still in regular use on ceremonial occasions.

 

His statute has gone - possibly destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666 - but the cup was fortunate enough to escape when so much of the other plate was sacrificed, and it is the same cup that was presented to the Court of 1656 that is described above.

 

John Walter was happy in his choices of trustees.  During his long service with the Company, he had many opportunities of studying the Records, and he realised how, for hundreds of years, the Company had carefully and faithfully administered their trusts, and he was right in thinking that the descendants of that Court of which he was an honoured member would use their best endeavour to carry out his wishes.  His alms-houses, though not alas the original structures, are still most carefully administered.  The "messuages" he left consisted of seventeen in Beech Lane, two in Wood Street, and two in Lombard Street.  The Company are still trustees of the property in Beech Lane and Wood Street, but the land in Lombard Street was sold to the City of London for the purposes of the new London Bridge in 1845 and Grange and Chantry Farms in Bedfordshire purchased instead with the proceeds.  These farms were sold in 1921.

 

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