Richard Cloudesley was Islington born and bred, most probably during the reign of Edward IV (1461-83). He described himself as a “husbandman, yeoman or gentleman” and served as a juror, held office in shire administration, paid taxes and voted in parliamentary elections. Historical documents exist that reveal him to have been an active member of his class, a prominent figure in Islington and its locality.
He died seemingly unexpectedly and in good health (when he was probably approaching 50) and within two months of his marriage to Alice. As standard procedure upon marriage he made his will and testament.
In his will, dated 13 January 1517, Richard Cloudesley directed that the income derived from ‘a parcel of ground called the Stony Fields otherwise called the fourteen acre’ should be used to fund masses at St Mary’s Church for his and his wife’s souls and for the balance to be distributed to the poor in units of 6s 8d. It appears from another provision of the will that the tenant of this land was paying a rent of £4 per annum. Stony Fields was an area adjacent to what is now Liverpool Road including Cloudesley Road and Cloudesley Square.
The Reformation occurred very shortly after Mr Cloudesley’s death although the Vestry of St Mary’s continued the arrangements he had set up in his will. Under the Act of 1548 dissolving religious foundations, Cloudesley’s endowments passed to the crown. However after considerable wranglings the “feoffees” were deemed entitled to the residue of the estate which was to be distributed according to Cloudesley’s wishes.
During the 18th and 19th centuries there were a number of arguments and disputes about the Cloudesley legacy. There were several court judgements and at least two Acts of Parliament. This period of uncertainty came to an end in June 1902 when the Chancery Division of the High Court approved a Charity Commission Scheme that essentially set up the current arrangements.
The governing document is now a Charity Commission Scheme of 2 July 1980 which says that half of the net income from the original endowment is to be applied for the ‘relief in sickness’ of people in need by providing items, services or facilities which are calculated to alleviate suffering or assist their recovery. The other half of the income is to be used for making grants towards 'the upkeep and repair of the fabric of, and the maintenance of services in, any churches of the Church of England in the area of the London Borough of Islington'.
The significant endowment of the Charity is the result of careful management of the property held by the Charity and it all derives from the original piece of land left by Richard Cloudesley.
Read more historical detail in “Richard Cloudesley’s Life and Times.”