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The Account Book of the Giles Geast Charity, Tewkesbury, 1558-1891

Daniel C. Beaver

(Volume 31, 2017)

Giles Geast was a Tewkesbury mercer who, like many others, prospered from the Reformation’s release of former church properties. In his will of 1558, he left 22 of his houses in the town in the care of four trustees, to provide the income for an annual charitable distribution to Tewkesbury’s poor.

Thanks to John Bartley, one of the first trustees, the charity’s receipts and expenditure were carefully recorded in a purpose-made book that he hoped would last 333 years. Remarkably, despite later changes in the town’s charity structures, Bartley’s hope was fulfilled: the final accounts in the original book are those for 1891.

Now in the Gloucestershire Archives, the Geast Charity book has long been famous for its ‘Memoranda’ – notable events of the year, including freak weather, accidents, poor harvests, floods, royal visits, and the progress of wars both civil and foreign. Often selectively quoted but never systematically reproduced, the memoranda are here brought properly to light for the first time, alongside the accounts themselves.

A full introduction gives the context for the charity, how it operated, and the difficulties it sometimes faced in meeting its aims. A full index includes the multitude of Tewkesbury residents who occupied the Geast properties over the years, or who benefited from the charity’s assistance.

Dan Beaver, Associate Professor of History at the Pennsylvania State University, first encountered Giles Geast during the late 1980s when researching a book on Tewkesbury and its neighbouring parishes. He was encouraged to develop his interest by the late Christopher Elrington, and – some nineteen years later – this edition is the result.

lv + 445 pages + index, ISBN 9780900197932  

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