HC Deb 21 June 1852 vol 122 cc1083-5

said, he begged to ask the hon. and learned Attorney General if he would state the reasons which induced him to accept the sum of 2,000l. in satisfaction of a sum of upwards of 7,000l. due to the Brentwood school and charity from the estate of the late head master. The affairs of Brentwood school bad been in Chancery for the last twenty-five years, and had been recently placed by the Master in Chancery under a master and two wardens. During the process of the Chancery suit the rent of the school had been received by the late head master the Rev. Mr. Tower; and at the time of his death he owed the charity a sum of not less than 7,000l. About two years ago the late Attorney General offered to take the sum of 2,000l. in commutation of the debt; but the representatives of the late head master would then only offer 500l. A prosecution was instituted, and 2,000l was finally agreed to. He wished to know whether a proper inquiry had been made as to whether the estate of the late head master would not have yielded more?


said, he entertained very considerable doubt whether he ought properly to answer the question, because this was a case in which a Chancery suit had been instituted, which was still pending; but inasmuch as his discretion had been impeached by the question of the hon. Member for Colchester, he should be very reluctant indeed to shelter himself under any circumstance of that kind, and he would endeavour to explain the nature of the case as clearly as possible. The hon. Gentleman had omitted a very important circumstance in the consideration of the question. There were in Brentwood two charities—one a school, and the other almshouses. Mr. Christopher Tower was the patron of both school and almshouses, and his right to the patronage had been decided by the Court of Queen's Bench. Mr. Christopher Tower appointed his brother, the Rev. William Tower, head master of the school. The school fund proper was not sufficient to support an efficient school; but there was a considerable surplus in the almhouses, and the Rev. Mr. Tower appropriated to his own use the surplus revenues of the almhouses, that course being justified by Statutes which were made in 1622, and also by the practice of his predecessors. A bill was filed against him, and in 1833 there was a decree, not for an account but for a scheme for the administration of the revenues of the charities. No receiver was appointed at that time, and Mr. Tower continued to receive the surplus revenues of the charity as he had been in the habit of doing till 1847, when he died. Probate was taken out of his will, and the property was sworn under 7,000l. A supplemental bill was then filed against the new master, and in 1849 the Master of the Rolls decreed an account against Mrs. Tower; but he stated that it was a case of great hardship, and he strongly recommended the Attorney General to deal leniently with her. The Attorney General of the day, in November, 1849, agreed to let off Mrs. Tower for the sum of 2,000l.; but the grand object which the Attorney General had in view was to secure the consent of the patron to apply the surplus of the revenues of the almshouses to making the school more efficient; and the only hold which he had upon the patron was this account which had been received against Mrs. Tower. Ultimately Mr. Christopher Tower, on the understanding that the account would not be pressed against Mrs. Tower, agreed to a scheme by which the surplus of the almshouses is to be applied to the upholding an efficient school at Brentwood. The present master and wardens had nothing to do with this arrangement, and they opposed it in every possible way. They were entirely in error in supposing that there was only one charity, and that the question was only whether the estate of the Rev. William Tower was sufficient to pay the amount due from him. Acting entirely in the liberal spirit which was recommended by the late Master of the Rolls, he had consented to take this 2,000l., at the same time imposing on Mrs. Tower a liability to which she was not subject un- der the former arrangement, that of paying her own costs. At the same time, if that arrangement was not a proper one, it could he renewed by the Master.