History of the Feoffees
Over Michaelmas 1599 Thomas Moseley and fourteen other York worthies were appointed as the Feoffees of St Michael’s Spurriergate, a pre-Conquest church in the centre of York.
Their feoffment is generally regarded as the foundation of the Feoffees in their current form, although it’s clear from records that they were active as far back as 1443 and probably long before that. Most Feoffees came from mercantile backgrounds in York and included fishmongers, cordwainers, mariners and grocers.
The job of a Feoffee is to act as a trustee invested with a freehold estate to hold in possession for a charitable purpose and that’s exactly what they did.
In an age when wealth was often invested in property and sometimes willed to the church, St Michael’s owned a considerable number of buildings, referred to as The Parish Estate. Over the years, funds were transferred into other forms of investment but the last piece of real estate was only sold in 2018.
For many centuries the Feoffees were closely linked to St Michael’s but that all changed when the church was declared redundant in 1987. The Feoffees of St Michael’s Spurriergate were reborn as a totally independent charity.
As a grant making trust, their charge is to help Church of England churches and to make grants for general charitable purposes for the benefit of the inhabitants of York, based on its pre-1974 boundaries.
The Feoffees today
Today there are no fishmongers or cordwainers among the Feoffees but thanks to the astute actions of their predecessors they look after one of the largest charities in York. They embrace the fact that their brief is a wide one, giving them a good deal of flexibility when considering applications.
Grants are sometimes substantial – York Minster has received £100,000 for restoration of the Great East Window and York Disaster Fund £75,000 for flood relief – but can be as small as £250.
What matters to the Feoffees is that all sums awarded should make a real difference to the recipients.