The Parish of Welney has benefited from a generous benefactor, William Marshall, for over 340 years. His intertwined initials, WM, form part of the village sign.
The brief history of his life and charity below was written in 1998 by Ken Sorenson for the 150th anniversary celebrations of the building of the School, Church and Alms-houses.
Ken's files were kindly donated to the Welney Website and now form part of our archives.
"Few facts are known about William Marshall other than that he was a lawyer from London, he became ill while in Welney and was nursed back to health by the people of
Welney and he established the Marshall's Charity.
Further details of the charity are described on the Marshalls Charity page.
Some records state that William Marshall was born in Wisbech, the son of John Marshall, but his date of birth is unknown. John Marshall was a prominent citizen of Wisbech in
the 1600’s having been elected Bailiff (the equivalent of an Alderman today) four times between 1616 and 1677, but no evidence has been found yet to prove that he was William
It is a known fact that William Marshall was a lawyer of Lincoln’s Inn in London. It is also a known fact that a man named William Marshall was a scholar at Westminster; was
admitted to Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1639; obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1642/43 and a Master of Arts degree in 1646; went on to Oxford University and was
admitted to Lincoln's Inn in 1647. It would appear very likely that these are one and the same man.
No-one knows for sure why William Marshall was in Welney but, being a lawyer, one suggestion is that he may have been involved in obtaining land rights for the Duke of Bedford's
drainage scheme, possibly for the construction of the New Bedford River.
Again no-one knows for sure what made him ill but malaria, called ague in those days, was endemic in the area and it is likely that people living in the Fens would have a local
remedy for this.
In gratitude for the kindness of the people of Welney during his illness, in 1661 William Marshall bequeathed land, to be held in trust, with the income of this land to be used
for the benefit of the people of Welney. Thus the Marshall's Charity was established and the people of Welney have benefited from this for over 330 years.
The original intention of William Marshall was that the income was to be used for assisting poor widows, apprenticing poor children and repairing the church, the bridge over
the Old Bedford River and the roads within Welney. Over the years, as the income of the Charity increased, the Trustees were granted permission to use the income for other
purposes. These included the building of a school, a new church and almshouses in 1847/48. The Charity now supports many other village facilities including, among others, the
Parish Hall and the Playing Field."