Voluntary Organisations

Charitable endowments were created for a variety of purposes by:

  • local landowners
  • wealthy merchants or widows
  • parish or borough officials

At a time when there was little other provision for the care of the sick and poor, charities provided:

  • almshouses
  • clothes
  • food or
  • money payments

Many schools and hospitals were also founded or financed by charities. Hundreds of charitable endowments once existed in Cornwall. Many have lapsed and many have no surviving records. Over 400 are still administered. Cornwall Record Office (CRO) holds records of only a few of these. However, many more are referred to in individual documents.

Available at CRO 

Annual accounts of charities in 139 Cornish parishes with details of:

  • trustees
  • endowment and
  • expenditure.

These were submitted to Charity Commission, 1901-1954. (Catalogue reference CCA.)

Cornwall County Council index of charities for the relief of need, 1973. (Catalogue reference CC/GEN 1/23,24.)

Records of Truro Charities. (Catalogue reference TC.)

Carlyon Cottages Trust, Truro. (Catalogue reference X470.)

Parish records for details of individual parish charities, notably at:

  • Lanivet (catalogue reference P110/25)
  • Lanlivery (catalogue reference P111/25) and
  • the Blanchminster charity at Stratton (catalogue reference P216/2)

Family and Estate collections may contain references to endowments by local landowners.

Wills, particularly in the 17th century, contain charitable bequests. (See Probate Courts (pre-1858).

Until the late 18th century sick people were cared for at home. This was under the direction of local physicians and apothecaries. Alternatively they used home made remedies. Care of sick paupers was paid for by the parish authorities. This was financed through the Overseers of the Poor.

In Cornwall mine-owners and other local gentry established the first hospital for the "Lame and Sick Poor". This was established in Truro in 1790. In the 19th century local dispensaries were set up. The earliest of these was in Penzance in 1809.

In 1811 a subscription list was opened for a county lunatic asylum. By the end of the nineteenth century local nursing associations were being formed. The voluntary sector dominated medical care until the establishment of the National Health Service in 1948.

Available at CRO

Records of hospitals, including:

  • Royal Cornwall Infirmary, 1791-1948 (catalogue references X96, X654/254, X582, AD722
  • St Lawrence's Hospital, Bodmin (formerly County Asylum), 1782-1971 (catalogue references HC1, X97, X654)
  • Launceston Infirmary/Rowe Dispensary, 1867-1947 (catalogue reference X43)
  • Passmore Edwards cottage hospital, Liskeard (catalogue reference X391)
  • Penzance Dispensary, from 1928 West Cornwall Hospital, 1809-1944 (catalogue references X439, X482)
  • West Cornwall Hospital for Convalescent Miners, Redruth, 1872-1947 (catalogue reference X436)
  • Truro Dispensary, 1842-1974 (catalogue reference X459)
  • Truro isolation Hospital, 1893-1925 (catalogue reference B/TRU 180-183).

Note that the records of hospitals which later became part of the National Health Service are deposited under the Public Records Act. These come under the control of the Lord Chancellor. See under National Health Service. Medical records of individuals are closed for 75 years.

Records of nursing associations, including:

  • County Nursing Association, 1897-1964 (catalogue references X212, X229, X392, CC3/18)
  • Helston Nursing Association, 1897-1952 (catalogue reference X396/19)
  • Newlyn East Nursing Association, 1902-1948 (catalogue reference X13)
  • Perranwell and District Nursing Association, 1909-1950 (catalogue reference X243)
  • Truro Nursing Association, 1898-1949 (catalogue references X229/10, X244).

Until the late 19th century there was little central or local government involvement in education. Most Cornish towns had grammar schools. These had some charitable endowment but were mostly fee-paying. A few charity schools specifically for the children of the poor were founded in the eighteenth century. The number of these multiplied in the 19th century. Most were established by the parish clergy in association with the National Society. Some were established by nonconformist denominations in association with the British Society.

Available at CRO

The 1902 Education Act transferred responsibility for administering all schools to the County Council. These included all schools in receipt of government grants and the voluntary schools.

Parish collections often include records of Church of England schools. (Catalogue reference P.)

Very many clubs and societies have been founded in Cornwall for a variety of purposes and activities. Some were established on a purely local basis while others were county-wide. Others were branches of national organisations.

Available at CRO

Many societies have transferred their non-current records to the Record Office for safekeeping. Other records have come as strays among deposits from other organisations and individuals. Societies listed below are purely examples to illustrate the range of material available. Catalogue references are in brackets.

Argricultural societies:

  • Cornwall Society for Encouragement of Agriculture, 1792-1821 (AD592)
  • Cornwall Association of Young Farmers' Clubs, 1948-1987 (AD879)
  • Grampound Garden Show, 1928-1979 (PC/GRM. 4/9-16)
  • Cultural Literary Institution, 1891-1982 (X751)
  • Cornwall Music Festival, 1914-1933 (X671, AD529)
  • Penzance Natural History and Antiquarain society, 1839-1903 (X755)
  • Truro Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society, 1912-1990 (X651)

Friendly societies and trade associations:

  • Friendly Society of Operative Stone Masons, Constantine, 1881-1971 (X914)
  • Independent Order of Oddfellows:
    • Devoran, 1862-1931 (X 572)
    • Penryn, 1885-1975 (X503, X709)
    • Tregony, 1862-1980, and
    • Truro, 1845-1980 (X594)

See also The Court of Quarter Sessions records for the registration of friendly services.

Philanthropic societies:

  • Cornwall County Association for the Blind, 1872-1971 (X524)
  • Royal National Lifeboat Institution, Padstow, 1857-1988 (X809)

Political parties and pressure groups:

  • Conservative and Unionist Associations:
    • Falmouth and Camborne, 1919-1934 (X387)
    • North Cornwall, 1900-1954 (X381)
    • South East Cornwall, 1925-1960 (X385)
    • Truro, 1926-1966 (X551)
  • Cornwall Commoners Association, 1950-1965 (X658)
  • Social Democratic Party, Falmouth and Camborne, 1983-1987 (X809)
  • Redruth Total Abstinence Society, 1907-1948 (X886)

Religious societies:

  • British and Foreign Bible Society:
    • Falmouth 1822-1927 (X517)
    • Launceston, 1837- 1944 (PN733-736)
    • Redruth, 1866-1925 (AD704)
  • Federation of Catholic Priests, Truro, 1917-1930 (DY/PEN)

Social groups:

  • Cornwall University Women's Club, 1964-1986 (X749)
  • Girls' Friendly Society, Penzance and Lands End, 1917-1930 (AD831)
  • Tehidy Working Men's Club, 1913-1933 (X341, X857)

Sports clubs:

  • St Austell Cycling Club, 1893-1956 (X600)
  • St Columb Cricket Club, 1883-1949 (X887)
  • Truro Lawn Tennis Club, 1911-1960 (AD474).