12th January 2022 marked the 141st anniversary of the foundation of the “Mary Hollon Annuity & Coal Fund”, which is now the “Mary Hollon Annuity & Relief in Need Trust”.
After Mary Hollon’s death in 1880, Richard Welch Hollon was devastated. He had had nearly 25 very happy years with his wife and wanted to mark not only their relationship, but also Mary’s continuing love and affection for Morpeth where she grew up. So, he gave the Corporation of Morpeth £5,000 to set up a fund.
The principal benefactors would be 13 women & 12 men, over 60, who were sober, and of upright & good moral standing. These twentyfive people (one for each year of the Hollon’s marrige) would be entertained at a “liberal meat tea” each year and receive a quarterly sum of £10 plus ton of coal at Christmas. That £5,000 would be equivalent to about £571,755 today – which just shows how both how wealthy and how generous Richard Hollon was.
The formal Deed of Covenant was signed on 12th January 1881, although the first Hollon Tea was held on 5 November 1880 – what would have been the Hollon’s 25th wedding anniversary if Mary had lived. Just to show how prices have changed, a newspaper article in the 1890’s shows the total cost of the Tea for 25 annuitants and an unknown number of guests was £3 6s 6d. (about £3.32), it costs considerably more than that today!
The Hollon Trust is Morpeth’s oldest charity and still provides the “Hollon” Tea for our annuitants (now numbering 80), aged over 75, held on the Hollon’s wedding anniversary every 5th November. The Trust also assists Morpeth residents in need who are referred to us by agencies such as Social Services and Citizens Advice.
Alison Byard, Trustee of the Hollon Trust January 2022
Although Morpeth sorely lacks a social history museum, much of its civic history can be traced through the “Town Treasures” kept in the Town Hall under the auspices of the Town Council.
The Town Council took over responsibility for the Morpeth civic regalia and mayoralty in 2009 when Castle Morpeth Borough Council was abolished, but the Borough Council had in turn inherited or otherwise annexed the treasures and heritage of previous councils back to and including the old Corporation. It had also been the repository of many miscellaneous donations and longterm loans. In 1987, under one of the multiple mayoralties of Isobel Smail, the Council produced a “Civic Regalia” booklet. Then in 2014, the tercentenary year of the Town Hall, the Town Council commissioned an updated and expanded “Town Treasures” booklet, co-published by the Town Council and the Morpeth Antiquarian Society. This booklet, sponsored by Pharma Nord, edited by Kim Bibby Wilson and with new photography by Trevor Walker, gives both descriptions and brief histories of most of the “Town Treasures” and also a short history of the Town Hall itself.
The most spectacular of the “Town Treasures” are on display in the Council Chamber and the Mayor’s Parlour – and are open to the public with guided tours during the Gathering just after Easter and as part of the regular Morpeth Heritage Open Days programme in September. The public may also view the Council Chamber by attending the Town Council committee meetings which are open to the public. However, access to the Mayor’s Parlour is at the Mayor’s discretion – but if you write nicely to the Town Council, the Mayor does frequently entertain visiting organisations ranging from Brownies to the U3A in the Parlour.
We hope to include, with appropriate permissions, brief extracts from the 2014 “Town Treasures” booklet in future articles of this blog – but copies may be bought from the Antiquarian Society or the Town Council, cost £5 (ISBN 0 9533818 5 4)
 Most of the civic regalia from the old Castle Ward went to Ponteland Town Council