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History of the Tower Hill Trust

The Tower Hill Trust was formerly known as the Tower Hill Improvement Trust, and before that the Tower Hill Improvement Fund. The original inspiration for its creation came from the Rev P B (“Tubby”) Clayton, the founder of Toc H, and from 1922 until 1962 Vicar of All Hallows by the Tower (for a biography of Tubby Clayton see the Toc H website, www.toch-uk.org.uk ). In October 1933, Tubby Clayton and Dr B R Leftwich published “Pageant of Tower Hill”, which outlined a scheme to improve Tower Hill by removing from it certain ugly buildings which at that time disfigured it and hampered its use. In December 1933 an inaugural meeting of the Tower Hill Improvement Fund was held. The then Prince of Wales became Patron, Lord Wakefield was elected President, and Sir Follett Holt Chairman. An office was opened in January 1934, and Lord Wakefield launched an appeal at the Guildhall in the same month. In 1937 the Fund became the Tower Hill Improvement Trust.

The Trust set about purchasing a number of the buildings about which it was concerned, and these were demolished in order to provide gardens and open public spaces. Among the buildings demolished was the giant Myer’s tea warehouse, which stood between All Hallows and the Tower, and shut out the view from the west.

The Trust also created a beach at Tower Hill at a time when trips to the seaside were a luxury for many families from the East End. More than 1,500 barge-loads of sand were brought in and heaped on the banks of the river to create a beach between St Katherine’s Steps and the Tower. Tower Beach was opened to the public by the Lieutenant Governor of the Tower on 23 July 1934. King George V decreed that the beach was to be used by the children of London, and that they should be given “free access forever”. The beach was a huge success – even though it was always closed at high tide, between 1934 and the outbreak of war in 1939, over half a million people used it, most of them coming from the East End, particularly Stepney and Poplar.

During the Second World War, the beach was closed, but it re-opened again after the War. However, its use declined, and because the river was considered polluted and unsafe for bathing, it was finally closed in 1971.

The Trust has continued its work for the improvement of Tower Hill, which remains a primary purpose to this day, even though most of the original specific objectives have been fulfilled. During 2001-2003 the Trust collaborated with Tower Hamlets Council in the refurbishment of Trinity Square Gardens, first laid out by Trinity House under the terms of the Great Tower Hill Act in 1797. During the summer months, the gardens are crowded with staff from City firms, tourists and local residents, and there was a major refurbishment requirement, in particular the resurfacing of paths, the repair of surrounding fencing, the provision of new gates and the planting of new shrubs, plants and trees. All the funds for this were raised from charitable and corporate donations, including a very substantial contribution from the Trust.

The Trust has also given increasing support to charitable activity for the general benefit of the public within its area of interest. To facilitate this, new Schemes for the Trust were approved by the Charity Commission in October 1973, and then in April 1987. The 1987 Scheme defined the Trust’s area as Great Tower Hill, Tower Hill, and St Katharine’s Ward in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, and set out as particular objects:

a) the relief of the aged, impotent and poor;

b) the relief of distress and sickness;

c) the provision and support of facilities for recreation and other leisure-time occupations;

d) the provision and support of education facilities;

e) the provision of gardens and open spaces for the general benefit of the inhabitants.

In pursuit of these objects, the Trust supports a number of charities operating in the area, and it has also given a number of grants to schools, for example for playground improvements, a mural and equipment for a parents’ centre.

To make clear to potential beneficiaries of grants that its objects are much wider than simply the improvement of Tower Hill, the Trustees decided at their meeting in June 2006 to change the name of the Trust to Tower Hill Trust, dropping the word “Improvement”. There was a previous trust of this name, originally established by an Act of Parliament in 1797. This trust continued to exist until 1997, but at that point wound itself up, nominating the Tower Hill Improvement Trust as the successor body to which it transferred its remaining assets. This lends a particular appropriateness to the 2006 change of name.

Although many things have changed since the Trust was first launched, it remains as committed as were its founders to Tower Hill and its neighbourhood, and to all the people who live in, work in and visit the area.


Reverend Tubby Clayton
Reverend Tubby Clayton
website: beachshore
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