For more than a century, Trust for London has been tackling poverty and inequality in the capital. Every five years we develop our new funding strategy. This year, we have been reflecting on how we can embolden our mission to tackle inequality.
This is important for many reasons.
First, we have seen that the burden of COVID-19 has not been shouldered equally. Across London, we have seen higher numbers of deaths among Black and Minority Ethnic communities, and people living in socio-economically deprived areas.
Second, we have been reflecting on our own history. Our assets derive from the philanthropy of the people of London over hundreds of years. Over the centuries, the 112 parishes within the City of London received around 1,400 separate charitable gifts and bequests. This income was to be used for the benefit of the church communities or, more often, the poor of those parishes. But as the City of London grew in financial stature, there were fewer poor people within the city boundaries. As a result of an earlier Royal Commission, Trust for London was set up in 1891 by Act of Parliament to administer the endowments of 107 of the 112 parishes in the Square Mile for the relief of poverty across the whole of London; and to provide funds on the instructions of the Church Commissioners to the six dioceses of the Church of England that cover London.
We know this, and much more about the Trust’s history, due to an extensive archive of minutes that we began to keep when we were founded that are in our possession and published in London’s Guildhall. However, what we do not currently know is the history or source of those 1,400 plus donations that were given to the parishes. These funds are the source of our endowment today.
Yet given the strong links between the City of London and the transatlantic slave trade, it is likely that those who benefited financially from slavery worshipped at parishes in the City. It is also likely that they donated money to those parishes.
As our assets came from these parishes, we are now working to explore their origins. We do not know what, if anything, we will find. But our assumption is that part of our endowment will have resulted from profits gained from the slave trade. We will work under this assumption unless we find evidence that can disprove it, and we will provide updates every six months until we are satisfied all avenues have been explored.
This includes tackling inequality in its many forms, such as tackling employment disparities for young black men in London through our Moving on Up initiative, funding research to explore race, class and institutional prejudice to improve public discussion and policy on race, and work to support the rights of Deaf and Disabled people.
And as we develop plans for our new five-year funding strategy, we will ask ourselves how we can do more to tackle inequality in all its forms.
As ever, we remain committed to being an organisation that embraces diversity, equity and inclusion through every aspect of its governance, staffing and distribution of resources.
30 March 2021