1 May 2017

Mr Pennoyer's Gift

Mary Squire's Almshouses

Mr Pennoyer's Gift

This is the eighth post in my series reporting my research into Mary Squire's Almshouses in Walthamstow, London, formerly in the county of Essex; and of Mary Squire herself.

This post relates to a charity mentioned in the apprenticeship indenture for Thomas Squire, Mary's brother-in-law. Mr Pennoyer's Gift enabled him to apprentice to a wheelwright.

Here is the excerpt quoting the charity, repeating the charity name enlarged underneath:

I am pleased to say that I finally found information on this.  I got lucky in finding a book at the British Library (I thank them for letting me have a Reader's Pass. Couldn't do the research without the Library).

The book is:
Pennoyer Brothers - Colonization, Commerce, Charity in the Seventeenth Century
by Raymond H. Lounsbury. Dorrance & Company Philadelphia © 1971 - Library of Congress. Printed in the United States of America (Ref: X.529/16666)

William Pennoyer Esq. Citizen and Clothworker was a wealthy and powerful merchant. His will dated 1670 is lengthy ("Seaventeene sheets of paper and this peece of a sheete") and very convoluted.  I don't think I'm able to make much sense of it but it is quoted, apparently in full, in this book if you wish to look at it yourself.

His five children had died in infancy and, in amongst a great many other legacies, he left money to charitable purposes of several kinds.  From my first read of this book, I remembered that he had left money for the educating of young men, but I thought this related to university education and not apprenticing into trade.

The silly thing is that I can now no longer find this.  I am not inclined to revisit the issue I am afraid.

What did leave a lasting impression is that an unholy mess seems to have broken out in administering the will.  Mr Pennoyer had named a large number of trustees and also overseers but from the Lounsbury book's account the trustees did not do a good job.  They didn't involve themselves in the appointed tasks of will executors and left the paying out to legatees to the named servant.  He in turn did make many payments, but then he died before everyone had been paid.

Then there was trouble and strife of William's brother, Robert Pennoyer, disagreeing with a lesser amount being paid out to him, someone else started a law suit but then died before it was decided, an overseer seems to have enriched himself with money he paid to himself for his expenses and for tasks carried out - and several properties did not bring in much rent money due to heavy repairs... I am not quite sure whate else went wrong.

Suffice to say that it seems pure luck for any money to have gone to charity at all.

Page 237 of the book does state: "...he distinguished himself by making bequests to be used solely for financing the education of children of impoverished parents", this however in context of a legacy to the heirs of his brother Robert based in New England.  Harvard is being mentioned.

The book does refer to Mr Pennoyer's Gift quite often - this is the exact phrase used in Thomas's indenture which can't be a coincidence.  Perhaps the financial situation by 1743 had improved, or the later trustees did a better job.  Mr Pennoyer's will also refers to one draper so he may have had business relationships and friendships with people from the company of drapers but that's neither here nor there for their role so many years later.  1743 is 73 years after 1670.  Why would the Company of Drapers have been involved in paying £50 of Mr Pennoyer's Gift for Thomas to be apprenticed?

In conclusion I can't say if this is the relevant charity only that it seems likely due to its name.  Perhaps there are other accounts out there that may shed more light, I am just pleased that I found a book that says anything at all about it.

If you are wondering why I am writing about Mary Squire's Almshouses then have a look at this first blog post.

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