The Parish of Welney has benefited from a generous benefactor, William Marshall, for over 340 years.

His intertwined initials, WM, form part of the village sign.

The brief history below of his life and charity was written in 1998 by the late Ken Sorenson of Taymor Place for the 150th anniversary celebrations of the building of the School, Church and Alms-houses.
Ken kindly donated his files to the Welney Website and now form part of our archives.

William Marshall's initials

William Marshall's life

"Few facts are known about William Marshall other than that he was a lawyer from London, he became ill while in Welney and was nursed back to health by the people of Welney and he established the Marshall's Charity.

Some records state that William Marshall was born in Wisbech, the son of John Marshall, but his date of birth is unknown. John Marshall was a prominent citizen of Wisbech in the 1600’s having been elected Bailiff (the equivalent of an Alderman today) four times between 1616 and 1677, but no evidence has been found yet to prove that he was William Marshall's father.

It is a known fact that William Marshall was a lawyer of Lincoln’s Inn in London. It is also a known fact that a man named William Marshall was a scholar at Westminster; was admitted to Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1639; obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1642/43 and a Master of Arts degree in 1646; went on to Oxford University and was admitted to Lincoln's Inn in 1647. It would appear very likely that these are one and the same man. 

No-one knows for sure why William Marshall was in Welney but, being a lawyer, one suggestion is that he may have been involved in obtaining land rights for the Duke of Bedford's drainage scheme, possibly for the construction of the New Bedford River.

Again no-one knows for sure what made him ill but malaria, called ague in those days, was endemic in the area and it is likely that people living in the Fens would have a local remedy for this. 
Note and acknowledgements
The reference to repairing the bridge over the Old Bedford River is probably an incorrect assumption.
It seems much more likely that the un-named bridge referred to in the Trust documents to enable access to the then Chapel, later Church, grounds, was that over the Croft, or Old Croft, River which runs alongside Main Street. Sources as noted.
Text, design and layout:
Peter Cox
© 2004-2019 Welney Website

William Marshall's bequest

In 1661, in gratitude for the kindness of the people of Welney during his illness, William Marshall bequeathed land, to be held in trust, with the income of this land to be used for the benefit of the people of Welney. Thus the Marshall's Charity was established and the people of Welney have benefited from this for over 330 years.

The original intention of William Marshall was that the income was to be used for assisting poor widows, apprenticing poor children and repairing the church, the bridge over the Old Bedford River [see note on left] and the roads within Welney. Over the years, as the income of the Charity increased, the Trustees were granted permission to use the income for other purposes. These included the building of a school, a new church and almshouses in 1847/48. The Charity now supports many other village facilities including, among others, the Parish Hall and the Playing Field."
Since Ken wrote the above, the school has closed and the building sold, yielding a very considerable income; the Pavilion demolished, and the Parish hall vacated and returned to the Environment Agency. In 2015-18 the Charity made very significant grants totaling approx £150,000 to enable building a replacement for the Pavilion and old Parish Hall; and also to the RUG group for the garden and play area at Sandgate Corner.

Further details of the charity are described on the Marshalls Charity page.