One of the ways we raise funds for Warley Woods is through making applications to charitable trusts and foundations and our applications of this kind has raised more £250,000. Many of these trusts have been set up by individuals during their life time, or as part of their will. Part of my job is to research this type of charity to see if they might fund our general work or something specific. Many will have restrictions or guidance based on the preferences of the person or person who set up the trust – so I’d be looking for trusts which support charitable activities in the West Midlands, or those that are interested in the environment – or very occasionally those who are interested in public parks. Sometimes the Trust gives nothing away about their preferences and this is sad because they must get inundated with inappropriate applications. Trusts do now have to include a list of the grants they have given within their annual report for the charity commission; so there this happens it does give an opportunity to see what they have funded in the past. This can give an idea whether an application might be unwanted and a waste of time to apply.

Many trusts have their own websites, which can help you can learn a few things about their founder and it is always interesting. It makes you feel a real connection to that person, or that family. Whenever I find anything new out about a funder I will often share it with Trustees, so that they can share the sense of connection too. We are absolutely beholden to these kind individuals, as much as we are to the modern, kind individuals who support us today. As some of the stories are interesting, I thought I would share a few.

Charles Brotherton Trust

The Charles Brotherton Trust was established in 1940 by the Chairman of the chemical manufacturers Brotherton and Co. It was reputed to be the largest private chemical company in the UK. The founder’s wife died in childbirth and he never remarried and it was his nephew Charles who continued the company after his death, changing his own name to Brotherton, from Ratcliffe. It continues to this day to give grants to organisations that are based where the company had its operations and that includes Birmingham. In Leeds Brotherton would probably be as well known name as Cadbury, GKN, Galton or Tangye are known to us. I was fascinated to find the company had a headquarters built, designed in art deco style but which wasn’t finished until 1956, delayed by the war. It was described as a building of the future. It very soon though became surplus to requirements as the company was sold on and in 1965 it became an office for the police and then Leeds Police administrative headquarters. It was disused by 2018 and there are websites where you can see inside the abandoned building. Another website said it was due to be pulled down for student accommodation to be built and students at the University of Leeds can now live in “Brotherton House”, so I am guessing this has happened. The Brothertons would probably be happy with this as they made many donations to the University, including endowing a library (pictured left); another art deco building that also bears their name.

John Feeney Trust

We have been regularly supported by the John Feeney Trust. His name was and is well known in Birmingham, as he was a local philanthropist throughout his life and this has continued after his death through his Trust. John Feeney (pictured right) gave funds and artwork to Birmingham Art Gallery and there are Feeney Rooms there. The most significant connection to Warley Woods though is that he actually donated into the fund set up by Alexander Chance to save Warley Park being sold as building land. So the Trustees when they support our current work are very much keeping on with the things he caerd about during his life time. His Trust is one of the very few that actually specifies that you can apply for grants for green spaces. You might also be interested that The Feeney Trust paid into a fund that bought the area of the Clent Hills now managed by the National Trust.

Early on in our history we had grants from the Charles Henry Foyle Trust which had been a generous benefactor across Birmingham with many spaces carrying the name Foyle - like the Foyle Gallery at MAC. Charles Henry Foyle owned a substantial successful company called Boxfoldia. His brothers founded Foyle’s Bookshop. In modern times the family trustees felt their next generation were all moved away and they didn’t want to pass the burden of Trusteeship onto them. So they spent the capital and closed the Trust. Luckily donating more that £40,000 to us at that period, (2008-9) which helped us take care of our aging Pavilion, install the disabled toilet, a new boiler, double glazing and shutters, amongst other cosmetic improvements.

The Rowlands Trust

Roy Rowlands lived in Herefordshire, near Malvern and he set up a Trust to support the causes he cared about. This included “the environment” and donations from his Trust could only be made within a broad definition of the West Midlands. For many years all I knew is that they liked to fund “capital” and so I have asked for support for a series of things like our second hand electric truck, for benches, for our digger and a trailer. Their new website has given me much more detail about Mr Rowland’s interests and they are clear that they want donations to have a lasting benefit, but that and the word “capital” can be defined very broadly and so this time we asked for funding to support the development of our new building and it was awarded. They have been one of our most consistently generous Trust donors having given a total of £16,500 over 5 grants.

The Grimmitt Trust

Another special Trust is the Grimmitt Trust. It was a Trust that we applied to every other year and when asked they generally responded positively. Then in 2020 one of the Trustees heard about Warley Woods on the Radio 4 programme, Open Country and it piqued their interest and he came to visit when lockdowns allowed. He loved the space and encouraged us to apply and now they receive our newsletter as if they were members and we’re allowed to ask for support every year. There is no guarantee of a grant but it is nice to know we are not over-asking. The Grimmitt Trust is one of those unusual Trusts where the person who founded it, didn’t give it his own name. He was Patrick Welch and he built up his family business called Welconstruct. He made a life long commitment to tything. He gave 10% of his company’s profits to employees and 10% to charity. When the company was sold he gifted a proportion to this charitable trust. One of his son’s continues that through the Grimmitt Trust. One day I will ask where the name comes from.

The Saintbury Trust

Another Trust with a different name to its founder is the Saintbury Trust. It was set up by Chris Bryant. His family company which started as a chain of cinemas, but he built the company into Bryant Homes. I know very little about the current trustees and their connections, but it was lovely to have a handwritten note from one, when the Trust recently changed its rules for giving, which made it clear that the Community Trust would still be eligible. That very much made me feel we were special, not just one on a long list of names.

The Roger and Douglas Turner Trust and Arley Arboretum

Finally, I’d like to mention a very special Trust which is becoming more special by the day. The Roger and Douglas Turner Trust is an amalgamation of two Trusts founded by a father and a son. Douglas was from Edgbaston and our first grants were from his Trust alone. Roger, his son, bought the Arley estate in 1959 which you may know on the River Severn and his garden included an Arboretum which is now open to the public. Their combined Trust not only supports the Arley Village and Estate but continues the grant giving of their founders. We have recently met with staff from the Trust who have visited Warley Woods and then three of us from the Community Trust made a return visit to Arley. We have so many things in common, as small charitable organisations managing historic parkland and woodland and such lovely staff, I know this relationship is going to grow and become much more than just financial support. Do go and visit the arboretum at Arley if you haven’t already. It is a hidden gem.  The Italian Garden is pictured at the top of this page.

These are just a few stories from the Trusts who support us. There are other Trusts and other stories and connections to be found, I am sure. It is one of the things that makes my job, and that aspect of it, so fascinating. Thank you to every Trust and every individual who supports Warley Woods. We couldn’t do what we do without you.

If you would like to play your part in helping take care of Warley Woods then please become a member of the Trust.  

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