Support in Islington for 500 years


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The charity Cloudesley traces its roots to 1517 when a Tudor yeoman, Richard Cloudesley, died. His will left two fields in Islington, known as the ‘Stony Fields’, to the parish of St Mary’s.

The profits from this plot of land have helped fund local needs ever since.

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First Scheme

In 1551 officials decreed that the Crown was entitled to a share of the proceeds from the Stony Fields. The monarch’s share represented the proportion of the money spent on prayers for Richard Cloudesley’s soul – under King Edward VI, such practices were forbidden.

From 1551 the Crown took £2 13s 4d of the annual income.

© Alamy Stock Photo

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In 1623 Cloudesley's fields were leased to Richard Atkinson, an Innkeeper.

The land was described as 'two closes of meadow and pasture commonly called Stony Fields'. The rental was £7 a year. Other Islington innkeepers leased the two fields during the 17th century.

This deed is the earliest surviving letting agreement for the land.

© National Portrait Gallery

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Cow Keepers

In 1703 the two fields were leased to Samuel Pullin, the first of a family of Islington cow-keepers who rented them throughout the 18th century. The Pullins used the fields as pasture, fattening and watering cows before taking them to Smithfield Market - a profitable business.

The rent in 1703 was £40 a year. The last of the Pullins to lease the land sold his lease in 1811, by which time the rent had risen to £84 a year.

© National Portrait Gallery

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Act of Parliament

In 1811 St Mary’s vestry secured a local Act of Parliament: "An Act to enable the trustees of certain lands called the Stone Fields, situate in the Parish of Saint Mary Islington… to grant Building Leases thereof." Letting the land for building rather than pasture would be lucrative for the parish.

The new venture took time to arrange. This map of 1817 show the two empty fields, west of the Back Road, just before house-building began.

© London Metropolitan Archives, City of London

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Act of Parliament

In 1832 the vestry of St Mary’s secured a local Act of Parliament ruling that the income from Cloudesley’s land should support the running costs of Islington’s Church of England churches. This followed a fierce local argument about whether local rate-payers should pay church rates.

The satirical playbill (left) is one of several pamphlets produced at the time to express different points of view.

© Museum of London

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The Stonefield Estate

In 1835 the last set of building leases were signed, completing ‘The Stonefield Estate’. The last street to be built was Cloudesley Street, running south from Cloudesley Square. Here, the houses reflected the 1830s taste for picturesque villas rather than tall terraces.

The map of 1831 shows the estate a few years before completion. At this time the name ‘Stonefield Street’ applied to both sections of the central street.

© London Metropolitan Archives, City of London

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By the 1840s the beneficiaries of the Stonefield Estate’s income were Islington’s five Anglican churches: the parish church of St Mary’s, St John’s in Upper Holloway, St Paul’s at Ball’s Pond, St Mary Magdalene and Holy Trinity in Cloudesley Square, pictured here.

The money was used for general running costs such as tuning the organ, weeding the churchyard or buying new hymm books.

© London Metropolitan Archives, City of London

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Charity Scheme

In 1873 the charity began to operate through a Charity Commission scheme. The Commission had been created in 1852 to oversee ancient parish charities, such as Richard Cloudesley’s.

The 1873 scheme confirmed the provisions of 1832 which made Islington’s Anglican churches the main beneficiaries. Now, however, the churches’ share was limited to the first £1,000. Any future surplus would require new arrangements, approved by the Charity Commission.

© Historic England

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Richard Cloudesley School

In 1909 the Richard Cloudesley School opened in a corner of the Stonefield Estate. The new school was run by the London County Council which had compulsorily purchased 23,000 sq. ft. of land from Cloudesley to build it.

The school provided education for boys with special needs. It remained on the site until 2008 when the school, by now co-educational, moved to Whitecross Street.

© London Metropolitan Archives, City of London

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Medical Charities

By the 1930s Cloudesley was supporting several hospitals and medical charities with regular grants.

In 1931 the beneficiaries included Islington Medical Mission, the Royal Free Hospital, Islington Dispensary, the North London Nursing Association and the Mackenzie Nurses Home.

© London Metropolitan Archives

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Property Sale

1937 marked a major milestone for the charity: the sale of most of its land.

The decision to sell three-quarters of the Stonefield Estate was prompted by the poor condition of some houses and the cost of complying with new housing legislation. The sale combined private sales to existing lessees (raising £60,000), and a 3-day public auction (raising £30,000).

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From 2012 /13 Cloudesley underwent a root and branch reorganisation and in 2013 employed its first staff team. The charity reviewed all its activities in the light of changing needs in Islington, a borough with increasing extremes of wealth and deprivation.

Image - Key Changes - funded by Cloudesley

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500 years

In 2017/18, Cloudesley celebrated its 500th anniversary. An additional anniversary grant-making programme, a church service, a touring history exhibition and other events marked the contribution of one of Islington’s oldest charities to Islington’s past, present and future

Image - Culpeper Community Garden - funded by Cloudesley