The Taunton Heritage Trust is an amalgamation, achieved over the last century or so, of a remarkable collection of charitable trusts, funds and bequests originally for the benefit of needy people in Taunton but now extended to the inhabitants of the modern borough of Taunton Deane. Its origins were unknown to a Government Charitable Commission as early as 1611, but by then it was endowed with some fifty properties in the town centre and land in two Devon parishes. The involvement of Civic Officers in the distribution of doles suggests a pre-Reformation origin in the brotherhoods established in the town’s principal church, St Mary’s, in the 15th century.
Charitable housing was part of that same attempt to help the poor in the 15th century, culminating two centuries later in several independent almshouse foundations, two of which, by Richard Huish and Robert Gray, were singularly well endowed. All at different times were supported by and later amalgamated with the Civic Foundation, bringing with them educational interests and as well as a long tradition of sheltered housing coupled with financial support.
Surviving records of the charities tell a story of help given to thousands of the most vulnerable in the town and neighbourhood, and of a succession of townsmen and women and others, giving their time as Trustees to ensuring that the generosity of the past continues to be effective in the future.