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The History of Wade's Charity



The Charities of Thomas Wade, arising under his Will dated 4 February 1530, and of Alice Lodge who died in 1638, and of Henry Ambler & others, and of Richard Simpson, and the property thereof, are administered under the Scheme for the regulation and management of those Charities approved by order of the High Court of Justice (Chancery Division) dated 16 December 1893, as modified by a scheme of the said Court dated 16 October 1940 and schemes of the Charity Commissioners dated 9 March 1965 and 8 October 1974. 



The Charity originates from the Will of Thomas Wade in 1530, which provided for funds to “remain and go to the use of mending, upholding and keeping of the highways about Leeds”. Other benefactors subsequently added to the Charity, which until the late nineteenth century was generally known as “the Highways Estate”. It was administered by the Committee of Pious Uses, who were also responsible for the Grammar School and Leeds Poor’ Estate, and its income was spent purchasing and dedicating property in various parts of the town and widening and improving streets and footpaths.

The Leeds Improvement Act 1866 provided that the entire management of the making, maintaining, paving, repairing, covering and cleansing of the streets within the borough should be vested in the Corporation. In consequence, the trustees passed a resolution that the Charity’s funds should be applied in improving existing streets rather than creating new ones. Inevitably, however, the existence of two highway authorities caused difficulty, and in 1884 the Corporation applied to the Charity Commissioners for a new Scheme to be established, administered by the Corporation.

After protracted arguments, the matter was referred to the Attorney-General, as a result of which a new Scheme was established in 1893.

This Scheme is still in operation today, although it has since been amended. The essential objects of the Charity were changed to the following:

“providing and maintaining, or providing or maintaining, open spaces in the borough of Leeds, for the benefit and recreation or health of the inhabitants. In providing such spaces, due to regard shall, as far as practicable, be given to those parts of the borough where the streets are narrow and the houses small…”

There were ancillary provisions, including allowances for “an open space” which, though an improvement to the town, may not be in strictness for the benefit and recreation or health of the inhabitants”, but the “open spaces” purpose was fundamental and the 1893 Scheme left the trustees with fairly limited discretions.

Between 1893 and 1939 the bulk of the Charity’s existing open spaces were acquired, but by 1939 it was felt that the objects of the Charity were too restrictive in the changed circumstances of the day. In a detailed note drawn up in 1939, Colonel Bousfield, the then Clerk, pointed out that the Council’s policy of slum clearance had already produced large open areas in and around the city centre, that the slum population had been largely rehoused in new estates where there were plenty of air and space, and that the Council were themselves levying a rate for the maintenance of the open spaces which Wade’s Trustees had provided. There was therefore a proposal to widen the objects of the Charity, and this led to the Amended Scheme in 1940 which enlarged the Charity’s objects to include the following:


1.      “ The purchase or taking on lease of land for use as allotments…”

2.      “The purchase or taking on lease of land for use as playing fields…”

3.      “The provision of facilities for recreation, amusement, entertainment and of general social intercourse "


For this last purpose the trustees were empowered to purchase, adapt, or take on lease land or buildings and also “to co-operate by means of money grants or in any other way that seems to them suitable with a local authority or parochial church council, the YMCA, the YWCA, The National Council of Social Service, the Leeds City Young Men’s Christian Association, Boys’ Work Committee or any other Authority, association or body which is engaged from time to time in the provision of facilities for the recreation, amusement, entertainment or general social intercourse for the inhabitants of the areas of population in the City of Leeds occupied in the main by the working classes  or which is engaged in the establishment of community centres or youth centres.”

These objects remain in force today.


Friends of Middleton Park

There is more interesting history about Wade's Charity presenting Middleton Park to Leeds City Council in 1920 to be found on the Friends of Middleton Park website. You can find this informtion on the link below:

Wade's Charity & Middleton Park