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Bond's enjoys its fair share; ANNIVERSARY: Famous old charity passes the five-century mark.

Byline: By Barbara Goulden

A COVENTRY charity founded on lands and property left by a wealthy gentleman's outfitter during the Middle Ages is about to celebrate its 500th anniversary.

But not many people will realise that Thomas Bond -whose black and white Bond's Hospital is one of the city's few remaining medieval buildings - has been maintained and expanded due to a series of successful deals on the stock market.

Today Richard Kenyon, chairman of the "feoffees," or trustees, of the "hospital" in Hill Street, helps manage an income of a quarter of a million pounds a year.

As well as their stock market dealings the trustees also own farms in Kineton, Long Lawford and Stafford - not to mention a branch of Woolworths in Bridgnorth!

Mr Kenyon, aged 68, who lives in Kenilworth and has been associated with the charity for the past 20 years, said: "It's my job to help raise the income for the charity and I think we've been rather successful over the years. Thomas would have approved."

But would the former draper and mayor of Coventry in 1497 even recognise the building which now bears his name?

Certainly in his will, read on his death in 1506, he left the "means" to build the "hospital". This was not intended for the sick, as it sounds, but to offer hospitality to fellow traders and craftsmen in his Trinity Guild who had fallen on hard times.

In another part of his will, Thomas also asked for an ox to be given to 25 poor Warwickshire farmers and a spinning wheel to 25 poor women. But all those who occupied his future almshouse had to be "bedesmen" - or sayers of prayers. Attendance at church would have been compulsory.

Victor Keene, aged 70, chairman of the "money spending" arm of the charity -now known separately as Coventry Church (Municipal) Charities - says their prime responsibility has always been maintaining the ten original almshouses plus two extra rooms.

One of these was for a priest and the other for a woman to "dyshe" out their meat and drink. Years later Ford's Hospital, founded by wool merchant William Ford to provide seven flats in Greyfriars' Lane, was added to the trustees' responsibility.

But with the arrival of the Welfare State after the Second World War, residents began receiving state pensions and so were able to make contributions towards their bed and board.

Mr Keene, who took over the voluntary job from his late father Walter, said: "Most residents are in receipt of benefit and although we don't call it rent, the extra income has freed up even more funds for investment.

"This has allowed us to not only completely refurbish what my father used to call the little cells with their cast-iron fires but, over the years, to extend Bond's Hospital by a total of 62 more apartments."

Today there are 80 tenants living in more than 70 homes, including Bond's Court over the road and Ford's.

The latest extension to the medieval cells of Bond's is the glass-fronted section opened last year which offers a well-carpeted interior "street-scene" where tenants can look out and wave to passing neighbours.

Mr Keene, who used to own the former Kings-tone furniture store in Bishop Street, before moving it to Stoney Stanton Road where it trades as Mutual, said: "It's been wonderful to be involved in this ancient charity for so many years. You no longer have to be destitute to live here and our future plans include a nursing care facility."

The Bishop of Coventry, the Rt Rev Colin Bennetts, will preach a sermon to mark the 500th anniversary of the death of benefactor Thomas Bond, in Holy Trinity Church at 11am on March 18.

CAPTION(S):

PORTRAIT OF A GENT... Richard Kenyon and Victor Keene look at a portrait of Thomas Bond at Bond's Hospital Picture: Joe Bailey
COPYRIGHT 2006 Coventry Newpapers
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2006 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Feb 20, 2006
Words:643
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