Here for Bedford since 1566
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.
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 just over 13 acres 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.
2016 - celebrating 450 years
In 2016 we celebrated our 450th anniversary with a series of events and projects aimed at the different members of our community.
The year began with a Thanksgiving Service for our school community, involving pupils, staff, governors and trustees.
Other major projects included 'Recording Bedford', a children's art competition and an exhibition of their work at the Higgins Bedford. This involved over 1400 pupils from 46 schools in the borough. As part of the project, we offered free workshops to pupils using a team of 10 local artists to deliver these sessions.
We held a family run and fun day at Priory Park with a host of have a go activities including water sports provided by Priory Sailing Club and a 5k race, facilitated by the Bedford Harriers. Former pupil of Bedford Modern, and Olympic rower Tim Foster MBE, was our guest of honour.
We worked in partnership with the John Bunyan Museum to provide a writing competition for schools.
A highlight of the year for many Bedfordians was a specially commissioned play at the Quarry Theatre 'Somewhere in England' about the town's history and the people who made the town what it is
We launched Orchestra Unwrapped in Bedford. This exciting concert series for children is delivered by the Philharmonia Orchestra and was so successful that it is now run annually.
We held a summer party for the older people of Bedford, with entertainment by pupils from our schools and an afternoon tea.
Finally, we gave away 6000 copies of The Bedford Chronicles, a children's history book about the town.