Although he died at just 22 years of age, Richard Ellsworth probably had a greater impact on the village of Timberscombe than any other past resident by paving the way for the creation of Timberscombe School, which has educated many hundreds of children since it was set up.
Richard Ellsworth lived and died in Bickham Manor, on the edge of Timberscombe, where his father, Richard, a lawyer and Justice of the Peace for Somerset, and his grandfather, Sir Richard, had lived before him. Richard died in August 1714, but his last illness was such that he made his Will a month before his death. Richard was unmarried, leaving two young sisters as co-heiresses, but the greater part of his Will was taken up with charitable bequests.
He left £10 yearly towards teaching the poor children of Timberscombe to read, write and say their catechism, and he made a similar bequest to Cutcombe. The sum of £200 was left towards the building of a charity schoolhouse and library at the Cross in Timberscombe, with a further £200 for an initial supply of books (to be chosen by the Bishop), and £10 yearly for additional books (to be chosen by the Archdeacon of Taunton). The aim was that every poor person should have the bible, book of common prayer and other books on the assumption they would all have learned to read.
He also endowed two exhibitions at Balliol College Oxford, the scholars if qualified to come from Timberscombe, Cutcombe, Selworthy, Wootton Courtenay, Minehead or Dunster or, failing that, from the county at large.
Unfortunately, Ellsworth’s wishes were not carried out immediately as his will was challenged and by 1770 large sums were held by several people and reputedly rent charges were 33 years in arrears. A deed apportioning the charity money in 1775 failed to achieve establishment of the Ellsworth charities and the matter was taken to Chancery and not settled until 1802 at a cost of £600. The recovered money was invested in annuities. The legal delays and costs consumed a significant proportion of Richard Ellsworth’s estate, but Timberscombe eventually got its school, if not its library. Later, a schoolroom was erected at Cutcombe.
The Court of Chancery paved the way in 1854 for the Ellsworth Foundation by agreeing a scheme of regulation, which was amended by the Privy Council in 1876 and further amended under the aegis of the Charity Commission in 1878, 1905 and 1954. In 2007, the Trustees agreed that further amendments were required in order to bring the current operation into line more closely with the Founder’s intentions as set out in his Will. A further amended Scheme was published by the Charity Commission in August 2009.
The Ellesworth Foundation continues today with the objective of promoting education, including social and physical education. Priority is given to the children of Timberscombe and Cutcombe. For further details see http://www.exmoor-online.co.uk/Ellsworth/history.htm
Thanks to the Ellsworth Foundation for providing most of the above information
A plaque commemorating Richard Ellsworth can be seen on the wall at Timberscombe First School
The plaque reads:
TIMBERSCOMBE CHARITY SCHOOL
FOUNDERED AND ENDOWED
BY THE PIOUS MUNIFICENCE OF
FOR THE EDUCATION OF THE
CHILDREN OF THE POOR
IN THE PRINCIPLES OF THE
CHURCH OF ENGLAND
Laus Deo translates to Praise be to God