23rd June 2024

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Serving the people of Desford

Barns Charity

When William Barns died in 1729, he bequeathed £100 to be used to support poor children in the parish which was a considerable sum of money in those days. He marked his will with an X so we think he was illiterate. This sum was used to purchase fourteen and a half acres of land in the medieval open field system; however, in 1760, when the open fields were enclosed by hedges, the charity was allocated three of these smaller fields. These three fields to the east of Station Road and bounded by Heath Brook (Rothley Brook) are still owned by the Barns Charity and are known as the Charity Fields.

The trustees in 1881 were the Rector, Church Wardens (2), Overseers of the Poor of the Parish (2) and three competent persons resident in Desford or nearby. Now the Parish Council submit members in place of the Overseers of the Poor. The minutes of the Trust's meetings of the late 19th century make interesting reading and can be seen in the Leicestershire Records Office at Wigston.

Today, the income from the land benefits school leavers living in the Desford parish going on to Higher and Further Education as well as apprenticeships. The fields are recognised as a Local Wildlife Site and for the past 20 years have been managed under an Agri-Environmental Agreement that provides a source of income and preserves the historical and ecological status of the site for future generations to enjoy. The fields are let each season for cattle to graze and fertilise the land. Grassland with such a large assemblage of plant species is now rare and the fields have a long history as an unimproved permanent pasture. They have received little or no input of either chemical fertiliser or pesticide which has created the low soil fertility that enables the wildflowers to thrive.

There are rare, clearly visible remains of ridge and furrow from the medieval farming system imprinted on this landscape.

Most Fridays a group of volunteers work on practical tasks such as fencing, hedge trimming and ditch clearing.

In the spring and summer, we welcome visitors on supervised visits to see the wildflowers and historical features.

You can view our videos by going to YouTube and searching Charity Fields Desford.

Any student who is resident in Desford and in further/ higher education or an apprenticeship may apply for a grant. In 2023 we gave 21 grants. Applications should be made by November each year and a student may apply for a grant in each year of their study. Please contact the Secretary, Alex Stretton, by email barnscharity@outlook.com or by letter to 11 Cottage Lane, Desford, LE9 9GF. Proof of college course and a postal address in Desford is required.

Charity Fields

Image shows an ancient apple tree in the hedgerow of the Charity Fields.

Image shows an ancient apple tree in the hedgerow of the Charity Fields.

Last updated: Tue, 19 Mar 2024 12:57