Traditionally caring for the poor and infirm in the past was achieved by taxation (the poor rate) and charity dispensed by affluent and local landowning families such as Swindon's Tuckey family, who frequently left a bequest in their will.
Kelly's Directory of 1889 states that Swindon charities amounted to £110 yearly from land and Consols left by 'Mrs Evans, Messrs. Sheppard and Rolleston, Anderson, Gray, Bowly and others at various times.'
Documents held at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre in Chippenham dating between 1899-1955 cover Swindon United Charities, listed as - Alexander Anderson, Anderson's Institution, Richard Bowly, Margaret Brind, Mary Breadway, John Burgess, John Chandler, Joseph and Elizabeth Cooper, Elizabeth Evans, Richard Gray, Horne, Sheppard's Dole, Villett's Charity and the Widows Fund.
Mary Tuckey of Shaw died in 1837 and among her many gifts to family and servants she left £5 to the poor of Liddiard Millicent and the same to the poor of Rodbourne Cheney with '1s per week for life' to Robert Laws of Liddiard Millicent and to 'old James Symkins' of Rodbourne Cheney.
Others also invested a not inconsiderable sum of money with the intention of providing ongoing assistance. Surprisingly some of these charities, instituted in the 18th and 19th centuries, were still paying out in the twentieth.
In her will dated 1763 Swindon spinster Elizabeth Evans left a sum of £70 (worth today more than £8,600) to the churchwardens of Holy Rood Church.
From the interest accrued Elizabeth wanted them to purchase 'Six New gowns' and 'on the said St Thomas day yearly and forever give the said Six Gowns unto such Six Poor Women above the age of Sixty residing within the said parish as they in their discretion shall think the Greatest Objects of Charity.'
More than 190 years later the charities accounts for the year dated 26th March 1954 - 25th March 1955 reveal that Horder & Sons were still providing dress material for distribution.
Another benefactor was Richard Gray, Maltster and Brewer of Swindon who died March 28, 1807 aged 41. In his will made the same year he left a sum of money to the Minister of the Independent Chapel in Newport Street 'commonly called Strange's chapel' after its founder, James Strange. Richard Gray wished the interest to go to 'the Second poor of the parish of Swindon but those only who are widows, widowers, single men and single women who have attained the age of Sixty years.'
In 1954 this charity, coupled with money left by another brewer, John Harding Sheppard, paid out 12s (60p worth about £12 today) to 25 recipients.
Also in 1954 A.H. Bradbury was providing four blankets for the Richard Bowly Charity, left by yet another town brewer.
In 1877 Alexander Anderson left a considerable inheritance to 'the second poor of Swindon.' Trustees of his will commissioned local architect William Henry Read, to design a row of four almshouses known as Anderson's Hostel. A further £500 was invested as an annual endowment with £100 as a repairing fund for the property.
In 1954 the utility bills, insurance, repairs and sundry other expenses totalled £80 9s 8d (£80.49). In 1993 the almshouse were converted into flats for the elderly.
Chancel interior at Holy Rood Church