Charity Boards

This post is entirely off topic, you couldn’t you argue that these objects are medieval or medieval revival, but their uniqueness makes them worthy of inclusion.  For St Lawrence’s in Bardney in Lincolnshire has two remarkable seventeenth century painted charity boards, which commemorate the generosity of parishioners in the alleviation of poverty. 

Bardney, Lincolnshire

The sixteenth and seventeenth century was a time of great social flux, with the population of England rising. There were winners and losers in this rapid movement and poverty rose considerably.  The losers were, of course, as you would expect, the labouring classes.  The winners were not the usual suspects, the nobility and gentry, but the ‘middling sort’, artisans and craftsmen, who with a rise in population found an increased demand for their skills.  In this time of boom they invested heavily in property.  From this new found affluence and with the memory of their own struggle at the back of their minds, the middling sort developed a strong sense of social responsibility and the charity boards at Bardney reflect that.

Bardney, Lincolnshire

Bardney, Lincolnshire

The earliest board (above) commemorates the generosity of two members of the same family, both of the middling sort, Joseph Knowles and his uncle John Knowles.  Joseph, from Bardney, was an apprentice in London who died in 1603 at the age of twenty five.  He had managed to accumulate thirty pounds and this was invested in property to provide an income to buy bread for the poor.  When his uncle died, he followed the nephew’s example and added an extra ten pounds to the investment, making the weekly disbursement of twelve pence worth of bread. The board bears the portraits of the two benefactors, Joseph has hand placed on a skull, John holding a Bible. 

Bardney, Lincolnshire

At the bottom a finger points to the exhortation ‘Go and do thou likewise’, the final command of Christ at the end of the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10. 25-37).  A challenge to their neighbours.

Bardney, Lincolnshire

Well thirty years later one of their neighbours did likewise.  For on the opposite wall of the nave is a similar board.  William Hurstcroft, who died in May 1639, gave one of his properties to provide an income to be divided between the poor of Bardney and Newport in Lincoln.  Presumably he was in trade in Newport.  We are told that this was only one of ‘other charitable deeds’.  At the top of the panel, like John Knowles clutching in his hand his Bible.  The charitable response a consequence of internalising the scriptures. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: