Our History

The Harpur Trust was founded over 450 years ago by Sir William Harpur, a local man born to humble beginnings who made his fortune as a merchant tailor and who became Lord Mayor of London in 1561.

The original Letters Patent of Edward VI forming Bedford Grammar School in 1552.

In 1566 Sir William and his wife Dame Alice created an endowment to support the education of poor children at Bedford Grammar School which he had helped to establish in 1522 and which was later to become Bedford School.  Any money left over was to be used to provide dowries for the ‘poor maids’ of the town, and to to be distributed amongst the poor.

Today, our activities are still inspired by Sir William Harpur’s vision. He understood the value of education, and he saw the real needs to be addressed among the disadvantaged, poor and sick in his home town of Bedford.  These ideals have evolved over the years and have shaped the three charitable objects we work to today:

  • The promotion of education.
  • The relief of those who are sick or in need, hardship or distress.
  • The provision of recreational facilities with a social welfare purpose.

The endowment itself originally consisted of the schoolhouse (now the Old Town Hall), some property in Bedford, and 13 acres and one rood of farmland in Holborn, just outside the City of London. The Holborn estate was developed for housing in the late 17th century. This greatly increased the value of the endowment, which is currently valued to be worth over £90 million.

If you look closely at our logo, you will notice a weave design within the H, signifying Harpur’s humble beginnings as the son of a tailor and the trade which shaped his own path.