Ancient charity looking forward to delivering greater benefit for London

Following an in-depth analysis of historic documents relating to the Bridge House Estates (BHE) charity, it has been confirmed that a significant portion of the charity’s funds are held as an endowment.

The analysis was undertaken by the BHE’s trustee, the City of London Corporation. The work is part of a wider ongoing review into the governance of the charity to ensure BHE operates most effectively in fulfilling its charitable objectives, and in recognition of changes to charity law and practice over the last 10 years.

Following this confirmation, and as part of the ongoing review, the City of London Corporation will now consider if further charitable funding might be available to be distributed for the benefit of Londoners.

BHE is a registered charity and originates from ancient gifts of property given some 900 or more years ago on trust in connection with the maintenance of London Bridge. Its primary aim now is to maintain and support five River Thames bridges – Blackfriars Bridge, London Bridge, Millennium Bridge, Southwark Bridge and Tower Bridge.

Once the responsibilities relating to the bridges have been met, the charity can distribute any surplus income for the benefit of Londoners, currently through its charitable funding arm, City Bridge Trust (CBT).

Since 1995, when these new powers were given to the BHE charity, CBT has awarded more than 7,900 charitable grants totalling over £390 million.

The analysis of historic documentation relating to the charity – with records reaching back over 800 years – has allowed the charity to confirm BHE’s endowment funds and reconstitute their value in the charity’s financial statements to reflect this position.The Draft Annual Report and Financial Statements 2017/2018 for BHE were approved by the City Corporation’s Audit and Risk Management Committee and Finance Committee on 15 January and are available here.

This analysis gives greater clarity about the nature of the charity’s funds and how these may be used in the future.

Having established the value of its permanent endowment fund, BHE has now identified that it has £374m of free reserves. It is now considering how much of these funds should be kept as reserves, and, hence, how much additional charitable funding might be available to be distributed for the benefit of Londoners.

These show that the total value of funds held by the charity as of the 31 March 2018 is £1.395bn, an increase of 4.1% on 2016/17, with £831.6m now held as a permanent endowment fund.

Jeremy Mayhew, Chairman of City of London Corporation’s Finance Committee, said:

This is an important moment for Bridge House Estates. By confirming the permanent endowment, the charity will now be able to move forward with greater certainty.

“This will ensure that Bridge House Estates will continue to meet fully its responsibilities to London, both as the steward of five major bridges and as a major funder of charitable activity in the capital.”

As trustee, the City of London Corporation holds the charity’s funds with a focus on preserving capital to generate future income to meet the objectives of the charity.