Good for Nothing

As the 19th century wore on, social reformers campaigned for charitable modernisation. Their target: England’s most useless foundations.

The Bull, etching by Paulus Potter, Dutch, 1650
The Bull, etching by Paulus Potter, Dutch, 1650. Album / Alamy Stock Photo

Sir John Romilly, the Master of the Rolls – one of the highest judicial offices in England – declared in 1859 that, even where a charitable trust was of the ‘most useless description’, the Chancery Court would not update or modernise it. The judge wanted the law to respect the founder’s original intent, even as the centuries passed.

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