The City of London Corporation is a venerable institution, so venerable in fact that no one is quite sure when it was founded. We can be sure that it was in existence before 1066 because William the Conqueror granted the City a charter confirming the rights and privileges that it had enjoyed prior to his arrival.
Given its history and its particular expertise, the City Corporation has quite a few investments of the long-term, high-yield variety. It also has rather a fine history of allowing some of the more recently developed parts of London to share in some of the proceeds from those investments.
Take parks and open spaces. The City Corporation not only owns and operates Hampstead Heath, Epping Forest, Queen’s Park and many, many other fine parks and open spaces in and around London, it funds them too.
It also runs a number of charitable trusts. One of them is the City Bridge Trust. This trust is the grant-making arm of the Bridge House Estates whose sole trustee is the City Corporation. The origins of the estates can be traced back to the twelfth and thirteenth century when funding was raised to construct the old London Bridge and the City acquired a charter for its maintenance.
The old London Bridge, which for much of its life had shops and dwellings on it, stood for some 600 years. In all, the Bridge House Estates today owns and maintains five bridges: the current London Bridge, Blackfriars, Southwark and Tower Bridges and now the Millennium Bridge too, or the wobbly bridge as I still call it. The primary purpose of the Bridge House Estates is to look after those bridges and grow the funds that enable them to do so.
But so successful has it been at that task that since 1995, it has been able to distribute a sizeable surplus via its charitable arm, the City Bridge Trust. And even though we are about a day’s hard kayaking up the river, Kensington and Chelsea has been a significant beneficiary.
Since 1995 organisations based in the Royal Borough have received some £6.76 million in grants. Recent recipients include the Volunteer Centre, the National Army Museum, the North Kensington Law Centre and the St. Cuthbert’s Centre.
I’m telling you this because I was reading about it recently and it occurred to me that this magnificent giving has happened more or less entirely under the radar. The City of London Corporation deserves a moment of appreciation, I think. And if I’m honest the thought did cross my mind that perhaps some of other voluntary sector organisations might just benefit from knowing about the City Bridge Trust too.
Here’s the web address: www.citybridgetrust.org.uk.