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The Gardemau Charities


Founded in the 18th century as bequests by the Vicar of Coddenham, the Rev Balthazar Gardemau, a Huguenot refugee, and his wife Lady Catherine Gardemau (nee Bacon), the charities and their objectives have changed over the years.

There are now three charities (see below). At one time, they owned a considerable amount of land in the parish, the income from which was used for philanthropic purposes. These included the founding of a school for poor children and the provision of money and clothing to the poor. In recent years, most of the land as been sold to realise its cash value, which has then been invested to produce useful income for the charities.

The three Gardemau Charities are: The Gardemau Church Charity, the Lady Catherine Gardemau Educational Foundation and the Lady Catherine Gardemau Charity for the Poor. Until recently, there was a fourth, the Gardemau Clothing Charity. This, in reality, was little more than a historical curiosity, with minimal assets of only £5 – this was a significant sum in the mid 18th century but, sadly, not in the 21st Century!  The Charity has accordingly been amalgamated with the Poor Charity.

In addition to the Chair, there are currently four appointed Trustees, plus the Priest in Charge of Coddenham, ex officio. All three charities have the same trustees. There is also a (non-voting) Clerk. 

For many years, the charities were chaired by the occupant of Shrubland Hall, most recently Lord de Saumarez. However, when the Hall was sold and the de Saumarez family moved to their estate in the Channel Islands, the chairmanship passed to the Vicar, the Rev Tim Hall. After Tim was transferred to a living in Kent, in 2012, the longest-serving Gardemau trustee, David McDonnell, was elected as Chairman of the trusts.

Some years ago, the Trustees sold their last substantial piece of land in Coddenham, the New Close Plantation behind the Coddenham Centre, together with land adjacent to Mary Day Close, to another local charity, the Day Foundation. The Day Foundation has used some of this land for additional homes as part of the Haysel House complex, and maintains the Plantation for conservation and public recreation.

The charities still own the old village lock up (in School Road, opposite the junction with Blacksmith’s Lane) and a piece of land behind it. These have been rented out to provide further useful income for the charities, but are currently vacant. The Church Charity also owns a meadow adjacent to Gosbeck Church (part of the same benefice as Coddenham) which is leased to Gosbeck PCC. 

After a long and complex legal process lasting nearly 10 years, the Gardemau Trustees were able to use the substantial proceeds of the sale of the old Village Hall, in Church Road (now Gardemau Lodge) to assist the Parish Council in funding its replacement, now the Coddenham Centre.

The Church Charity has by far the largest endowments and, therefore, income. Its ‘scheme’ (or terms of reference) allows it to use its funds for the work of the Church in Coddenham. 

With the combining of Coddenham with other parishes in one expanded benefice, the charity has funded the purchase of a number of items for use by the clergy serving the benefice, eg computers, photocopiers, projectors, a mobile PA system and books. In the past it has also paid for the redecoration of the Vicarage and a number of minor restoration projects but does not, as a rule, fund expenditure which is properly the responsibility of the diocese or Parochial Church Council. 

The Church Charity can also transfer funds to the other, less well endowed, Gardemau charities and the Trustees have used this facility to substantially boost the funding of the Educational Foundation, as many requests for financial assistance have broadly educational purposes. 

The charities also make small but invaluable grants to community groups such as the Baby and Toddlers Group and, in the past, the Youth Club. 

The Trustees are mindful of the founders’ original intention that the work of the charities should focus on Coddenham, but recognise that times have changed. For example, as there is no longer a school in the village, the charities have made grants to Stonham Aspal Primary School, on the basis that it is the school attended by most Coddenham children under the age of 11. Smaller grants have been made to other local primary schools attended by children from the village, eg Helmingham. In a similar manner, grants have made to Debenham High School, as the secondary school for most village children. 

The sums which the Gardemau charities can disburse are relatively modest, but are a fitting tribute to the generosity of the Rev Balthazar and Lady Catherine 250 years ago. Their kindness still bears fruit today. 

Applications for grants should be made in writing to: 

The Chairman, David McDonnell, Rose Cottage, Barham Green IP6 0QQ 


The Treasurer, Tim Thomas, Crantock, High Street, Coddenham IP6 9PN 

Registered Charity no. 230602
Charity Commission – Gardemau Church Charity details link


Portrait of Balthazar Gardemau

Portait of Balthazar Gardemau

Stonework in church

Stone plaque to Balthazar Gardemau
in St Mary’s Church

Balthazar Gardemau

Balthazar Gardemau was born in 1656 in Poitiers, France. A graduate of the Protestant university of Saumur, after which he came to England in about 1681.

During the 1680s King Louis XIV was persuaded that Protestants posed a threat to the Roman Catholic state. In 1685 he revoked the Edict of Nantes, which had guaranteed freedom of worship. Protestant clergy went into exile and the laity were prevented from leaving France and faced with forcible conversion. This resulted in horrendous mass murders, on a par with ethnic cleansing as witnessed in the Balkans and Africa towards the end of the twentieth century.

Gardemau, having come to England before the worst of the persecutions, proceed MA from Cambridge University and was ordained in 1682. He was licensed as perpetual curate at St Mary Elms, Ipswich and ministered to the Huguenot community there as well teaching in a schoolroom beside the Town Library. He was able to combine his interests in education and self-improvement by use of the books there.  Inside each book he had read he wrote his initials on the tenth page. He was prevented from doing this in a Hebrew book because its pages were in reverse order. In 1686 he wrote to the Bishop of Norwich requesting that money be granted to the linen weavers of Ipswich from a fund established by King James II. Other trades there, in silk and wool, also involving some Huguenot refugees. seem not to have needed funds.

Nicholas Bacon, patron of Coddenham, proposed Gardemau as vicar here in 1690. Two years later Ashbocking was added to his cure. Bacon died in 1697, and Gardemau was eventually to marry his widow, Lady Catherine. There were two children of her first marriage, but none were born to the second. The couple established charities for the furtherance of Christian religion in Coddenham, for the relief and clothing of the poor, and education. Lady Catherine’s education fund provided for 15 poor boys and 15 poor girls to be taught in a school (giving its name to School Road). The costs of the school, including a teacher’s salary of £20 per annum, were met by rents of land in Mendlesham. The Charity Commissioners recently approved the closure of the clothing charity as its endowment of £5, valuable in the eighteenth century, was of little use in the present day. Other funds are open for use by applicants for approved projects, for example, an educational visit to the USA and works for the benefit of schools in Namibia and Tanzania, as well as educational support grants at British institutions.

Gardemau died on 19 December 1739, almost 40 years before American independence, at the age of 84. His monument in the church displays him as a man of learning, with five books on each side. He had amassed a collection of 325 books in 365 volumes, most on aspects of divinity. Unsurprisingly, fifty are in French. He bequeathed this library to his successors as vicar. These are now kept in the Record Office collection in Ipswich. He also willed land from his estate to the church glebe. This is thought to have been the original ‘great tithe’ land  impropriated in the early Middle Ages to the priory at Royston, Hertfordshire, and later granted by Henry VIII at the suppression of monasteries to a local man named Atkins, who then sold it to John Gosnold of Otley, according to a predecessor of Gardemau, Matthias Candler. There is a map in the Record Office, Ipswich, that shows this land incorporating Manor Farm, at that time called Jordans.

One quirk of his character to modern eyes, though clearly of piety in his, that he wrote a letter to Lady Catherine, more than 20 years before his death, advising her on how to conduct herself in widowhood. Another, perhaps in emulation of the early seventeenth century poet and Dean of St Paul’s, John Donne, was to contemplate eternity while lying in the coffin prepared for him at about the same time.

Lady Catherine Gardemau

Catherine Montagu was the youngest daughter of the first Earl of Sandwich. Samuel Pepys attended her baptism in 1661 and twice recorded visits to her family in the years following.

In 1664 he noted she had a scar, perhaps a birthmark, on her cheek. By October 1667, aged six, she was ‘grown very proper’, which would have referred to her appearance rather than manner.

Catherine married Nicholas Bacon of Shrubland, born in 1657 They had two sons, John and Nicholas. Shrubland Hall must have seemed antiquated at the time of their marriage. It had been built during the reign of Elizabeth I, and came into the family when Edward Bacon, grandson of Sir Nicholas Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England, married Helen Little. As an adult John would have it replaced by a new hall, subsequently altered in a fashionable nineteenth century manner by William Middleton, whose father had purchased the estate from John’s brother, the Revd. Nicholas Bacon.

The Bacon family had risen to prominence in the time of Elizabeth I. The first Sir Nicholas (ca.1510-1579) practised law; his brothers were a fishmonger and a salter, both honourable occupations, and were probably members of city corporations.

As well as replacing his birthplace, which became known as the Old Hall and was largely demolished in later years, John also replaced the old parsonage house with a vicarage built to for his brother, the Revd. Nicholas. He was installed after the death of Balthazar Gardemau, vicar from 1690 to 1739.

Beside his church duties, Gardemau had also been chaplain to the household at Shrublands. After the death of her husband, Lady Catherine and Gardemau were married.  It was a childless marriage, perhaps causing the couple to think of charitable acts. Catherine endowed the Coddenham village school as well as establishing a charity for the poor and a clothing charity. She died in 1757 at the age of 95 and left very precise instructions for her burial. This was as careful as the much lengthier guidance Balthazar had written in 1718 regarding how she should live after his death, which would not occur for a further 21 years.

Lady Catherine’s instructions are brief enough to quote in full, from a transcript by Canon Lummis, kindly supplied by Sylvia Bickers from the Coddenham Village History Club archive. (The spelling is modernised and current equivalents are given for money: an agricultural worker at the time would have been paid £1 a week. “Stuff” was a woollen cloth, often coarsely woven.)

‘I desire my burial may be as private as possible, without bearers – only six poor men who shall have ten shillings (50p) apiece and a pair of gloves and that six poor old women may follow my corpse to the grave who shall have each of them a stuff gown of fifteen shillings (75p) given and a pair of gloves. And that the minister who performs the office may have a guinea (£1. 05) to buy him a ring. I desire my body may be laid in the stone coffin provided for me next my dear husband being first put into an ordinary coffin. I desire also that no friend nor relation be invited to my funeral no bell rung above a quarter of an hour before the corpse comes. No poor to be admitted to my funeral. They have money given them by my will. I desire my executors to order my burial in this manner.’

This was dated 22ndMay 1745, so again well before her death.

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