In 1644, Robert Loder (of Brounz’s Farm, not the author of the farm accounts) gave land near Garsington village to provide from the profits a schoolmaster in Harwell to teach twelve poor men’s children born in Harwell.
In 1818, the schoolmaster also benefited by being provided with a house with garden and orchard, part of the bequest of the Rev. M. Eaton; in recognition of this the school was enlarged to twenty-five boys of the poorer class of Harwell children; they were taught to say their catechism, and if old enough, to cast accounts. In 1845, Eleanor Smith left money in trust for the purposes of this same school. Subsequent references are to the R. Loder foundation, including the E. Smith bequest.
Loder’s school was eventually closed by order of the charity commissioners in the 1895 scheme; by then its purpose had been fulfilled and it was made redundant by the Church School, built on land near the “Clive”, now the Cleave. This school was built in the now vicarage garden, given by Sir John Chetwode, in 1839; later a “Public Elementary School” was provided.
The Church of England school in the Cleave was closed in 1895, but the building continued to be used as Parish Room and Sunday school. An old lady who died not long ago recalled her own school days there with a beautiful garden and very happy memories. At the closure of the Loder’s school, the master, Mr T. Wood, was granted a pension of £30 a year, and permitted to live on in the School House at a rent not exceeding £5 a year.
The new incomes of the Loder and E. Smith bequests were combined by the 1895 scheme, with portions of the C. Elderfield and M. Eaton charities, and allocated to the educational account of the newly formed Harwell parochial charities. The disbursements from the account took the form of prizes and grants to the children of Harwell, and grants for higher education. In 1912, the Educational Trust was reconstituted into a newly formed “Harwell Education Foundation”, under a new and separate body of trustees, and under the Board of Education. As a result all the assets of the education account were transferred to that body.
To continue the story from the minutes of the education foundation, we find that owing to increased maintenance costs, the Garsington property became a burden rather than an asset, and eventually, in 1916, with the approval of the Board of Education, it was sold. The resulting funds were invested, and with capital from the Robert Loder and Eleanor Smith charities, the Technical Institute was built in 1926. The Hall continued under the management of the trustees until 1960, by which time its educational intent had been superseded by more social pursuits. In that year, the whole was reconstituted as the Harwell Village Hall Committee.
Thus it may be said that the Robert Loder bequest ultimately became a cornerstone of the building that is today as valuable a feature in the village life as, in its day, was the school for twelve poor men’s children.
In 1984 most of the assets of these charities were invested in financial holdings, and the only lands owned was Bagg’s Tree Field and the site and building of the almshouses. The charity was maintaining the almshouses, giving two grants from the Cow charity, and Christmas coal to fifteen or twenty parishioners. The Village Hall is also maintained by a share in the funds.