Catalogue description Charity Commission 1853-1960

Details of Division within CHAR
Reference: Division within CHAR
Title: Charity Commission 1853-1960

Records of the the Charity Commission, 1853-1960.

The Charity Commissioners' Minute Books are in CHAR 6. Files of the Charity Commission's Secretariat are in CHAR 3 and case files are in CHAR 7. Assistant Commissioner's confidential reports are in CHAR 15. Enrolments under various Acts will be found in CHAR 12 and CHAR 13 and digests of case work are in CHAR 8. Records relating to the City of London Parochial Charities Act of 1853 are in CHAR 14 and to War Charities from 1916 in CHAR 4. Cases certified to the Attorney General are in CHAR 16. Schemes and Orders are in CHAR 25. Endorsed Orders are in CHAR 26.

The Charity Commission accounts, originally in CHAR 1, have been transferred to local record offices. The Charity Commission, War Charities, Indexes, originally in CHAR 5, were destroyed as duplicates.

Note: Also includes material from 1750
Date: 1853-2008
Related material:

Nathan Committee on Charitable Trusts records in PREM 6

Copies of the Charity Commissioners' printed reports are in: T 74

Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English

Charity Commission, 1853-

Physical description: 14 series
Access conditions: Subject to 30 year closure unless otherwise stated
Administrative / biographical background:

Despite the winding up of the work of the Commissioners for Inquiring into Charities, the advocates of charitable trust reform continued their efforts and there were several attempts at legislation during the 1840s, all of which foundered on the powerful opposition of the Church, the courts, the companies, and the universities. In 1849 a special commission was established by royal warrant and recommended the establishment of a permanent board of charity commissioners along the lines envisaged in 1835. A bill introduced in 1851 was unsuccessful, but following a change of government in 1852 a less comprehensive measure was introduced which resulted in the establishment of a permanent Charity Commission in October 1853.

Unlike earlier commissions, the Board of Charity Commissioners for England and Wales, constituted under the Charitable Trusts Act 1853, was a permanent body. Under this Act the commissioners were empowered to inquire into the management of charitable trusts, although certain specified charities were excepted (e.g. those of universities, churches, friendly societies, etc). The Board was enabled to appoint officers of the Charity Commission as official trustees of charitable funds, subject to Treasury approval. The Board's secretary was designated a corporation sole for the purpose of holding charitable lands and given the title of Treasurer of Public Charities (changed in 1855 to Official Trustee of Charity Lands).

The commissioners' powers were strengthened by the Charitable Trusts Amendment Act 1855 which required charitable trusts to render annual accounts of their endowments. Further strengthening resulted from the Charitable Trusts Act 1860 which enabled the commissioners to exercise certain powers regarding the removal and appointment of trustees, the vesting of property and establishment of schemes for the administration of charitable trusts previously exercisable by the Court of Chancery. The jurisdiction of the commissioners did not, however, extend to cases of a contentious character or those that might be dealt with more appropriately by the court. There was also a right of appeal to the court from their proposals.

The powers of the commissioners, operating under the traditional doctrine of 'cy-pres', whereby they interpreted the administration of charities as closely as possible to the testator's intentions, were held by the Schools Inquiry Commission of 1864 to 1867 to stand in the way of the methodical reorganisation of the grammar schools. Their recommendations resulted in the Endowed Schools Act 1869, which allowed obsolete endowments to be diverted to educational purposes and transferred the administrative control of educational charities to an Endowed Schools Commission. In 1874, however, control of such charities returned to the Charity Commission when the Endowed Schools Commission was abolished under the Endowed Schools Act 1874. Both sets of commissioners had to have the consent of the Committee of Council on Education to any scheme made by them. Subsequently, the powers of the Charity Commission in respect of endowments held solely for educational purposes passed by Order in Council to the Board of Education under the Board of Education Act 1899. These powers passed, in turn, to the Ministry of Education under the Education Act 1944 and were extended to quasi-educational trusts by the Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1948.

In 1950 the Prime Minister appointed a committee under the chairmanship of Lord Nathan, to consider and report on the law and practice relating to charitable trusts. The committee's report in 1952 was broadly accepted by the government and formed the basis of the Charities Act 1960.

Section 60 of the 1853 Act provided for annual reports to the sovereign, to be laid before Parliament.

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