MORPETH’S oldest charity is back in business to revive a traditional town tea.
The Mary Hollon Annuity and Coal Fund was set up by former Mayor of York Richard Hollon in 1881 in memory of his wife, who was born in Morpeth.
The trust provided its beneficiaries with money, meat and coal, as well as the famous Mary Hollon Tea, which was held on November 5 every year to celebrate Richard and Mary’s wedding anniversary.
However, no such tea has taken place in recent years after responsibility for the charity changed hands in local government re-organisation in 2009.
But a determined band of Morpeth residents was keen to keep the tradition alive and after forming a new committee and rebranding the trust as the Mary Hollon Fund, the tea will return this year.
Committee Chairman Derek Thompson said: “We have formed a committee and want to re-launch the charity because it is very important to Morpeth and as the town’s oldest charity it is part of Morpeth’s history and traditions.
“We are trying to get the charity up and running fully again, but we have to sort out one or two aspects to fit in with modern times. For example, the annuitants used to get six pounds of meat and a tonne of coal every year and I don’t think that would be appropriate now, but as far as this year is concerned we will be resurrecting the Mary Hollon Tea.
“There are a lot of people in Morpeth who know and care about the traditions and people have been wondering what was happening with the Hollon Tea. It will be nice for them to know that it will be taking place again, the committee has been re-formed and the charity is being re-launched.”
When the trust was formed its purpose was to grant an annuity to 13 women and 12 men, who had to be at least 60 years old and who had been born and lived in the borough of Morpeth or Bullers’ Green.
They received quarterly payments of money, a ton of coal and six pounds of beef or mutton, as well as an invitation to the annual Mary Hollon Tea, which had to be in the form of a hot three course meal, including roast beef, and would feature an address by a Protestant minister and entertainment.
Money for the activities came from the interest on Richard Hollon’s original donation.
The fund was initially administered by the Morpeth Corporation, passing on to Morpeth Borough Council, Castle Morpeth Borough Council and most recently to Northumberland County Council, but due to Charity Commission regulations a new charitable company is now being formed to take over the fund and enable it to continue.
Beneficiaries, known as annuitants, were nominated by local representatives, such as councillors, and at the last count they totalled 97.
In the new format, the committee will be inviting people aged 75 and over, who have lived in Morpeth for a reasonable period of time, to apply to become annuitants, and it expects that up to 70 people will qualify to attend the Hollon Tea in Morpeth Town Hall in November.
The first task is tracing the existing annuitants, who will automatically qualify.
“We are trying to get in touch with the annuitants because they will be invited to the tea as a right, but as well as that we will be looking for other people in Morpeth who wish to benefit from the fund,” said Coun Thompson.
“In the old days you had to be born in Morpeth to qualify, but now if you have lived in Morpeth for a reasonable period of time and you are at least 75 years old you can qualify.”
The charity is planning to resurrect other aspects of its former work, but the format is yet to be decided.
Coun Thompson said: “We are looking to see how we can keep up the legacy of Richard Hollon in the future and to make sure that what he wanted continues, albeit in a slightly altered format.
“As far as this year is concerned, we will definitely be doing the tea and for the future there might be other things we can do. That still needs to be thought through.”
Existing annuitants are asked to contact the new committee to enable its records to be updated. People can call Derek Thompson on 01670 515419, or Treasurer Simon Pringle on 01670 513169.