Edward Heron-Allen and Jessie Alice Palmer Charitable Trust Bequests

One of the long-standing queries on the website of the Heron-Allen Society is a request for information about Jessie Alice Palmer and the Jessie Alice Palmer Charitable Trust bequests. The query arose from the discovery of a report in The Times of 5 January 1905, which stated that: "Mr. Edward Heron-Allen has given a donation of £1,000 to found the Jessie Alice Palmer bed at the British Home and Hospital for Incurables at Streatham", and information was sought to explain why Heron-Allen had chosen to make this generous bequest and his relationship with Jessie Alice Palmer.

In fact, a report in The Times the previous day goes some way the answering the question. On 4 January the newspaper reported, under the heading of The Jessie Alice Palmer Charitable Fund, that "Edward Heron-Allen of Messrs. Allen & Son, solicitor, Carlisle Street, Soho Square, W., yesterday made the first three endowments under the above bequest of £1000 each in memory of Jessie Alice Palmer. They are as follows: £1,000 to Westminster Hospital, in recognition of the services to Science of Dr. William Murrell, F.R.C.P.; £1,000 to Queen Charlotte's Hospital, in recognition of the service to Science of Dr. W.S.A. Griffith, F.R.C.P.; and £1000 to the British Home for Incurables".

A further report in the same paper on 28 January 1905, stated that: "Mr. Edward Heron-Allen has given a donation of £500 to the Infant Hospital to endow a bed in memory of the late Jessie Alice Palmer. But who was Jessie Alice Palmer and why was Edward Heron-Allen making these bequests on her behalf?

It seems that she was born at Marylebone sometime between 1848 and 1850, the daughter of the Rev. William H. Dickenson, and she married Frederick Fish B. Palmer, who was born in Winchester in July 1847, and was also the child of a clergyman, at St. George's, Hanover Square in 1873. The marriage produced one child - a son, Frederick A.H. Palmer, who was born c. 1875. Her husband died in January 1879, and his death was recorded in Steyning Registration District in West Sussex. His will, proved on 28 May 1879 described him as formerly of Stone, Chalfont St. Giles near Slough in Buckinghamshire, but late of 2 Lansdowne Mansions, Brighton in Sussex. His estate was valued at under £45,000, so Jessie Alice Palmer's wealth obviously did not come from her husband. By 1881 Jessie was living back at home with her father at 2 Cambridge Terrace, Regents Park in London. She was still there in 1891 and 1901, according to the census returns, where she is described as living there on her own means. She died in on 28 August 1903.

She had made a will on 10 September 1900, and her will was proved in the Principal Registry of the Probate Division of His Majesty's High Court of Justice, on the 6th of September 1904, by Edward Heron-Allen, Arthur Frank de Fonblanque and John Richard Charles Rotton, the partners in the firm of Allen & Son of 17 Carlisle Street, Soho Square, who were the executors named in her will. Besides a number of bequests to her family, godchildren and staff, and given that her son had been provided for in her father's will, she left the remainder of her estate to Edward Heron-Allen to be distributed entirely at his discretion, one moiety in public charities and one moiety in private charities. The term 'public charity' was to include any hospital convalescent home or charitable institution or asylum in the United Kingdom the objects of which were for the relief of the indigent sick or invalid persons, while 'private charity' was to include the granting of annuities or the bestowal of gifts out of capital or income to gentlewomen who are not in receipt of an income exceeding fifty pounds a year, entirely at the discretion of Edward Heron-Allen. She further wished that the money set aside for public charities should be used to endow beds and cots in the great hospitals and convalescent homes in perpetuity to be known as the 'Jessie Alice Palmer Beds'.

The first grant of probate to Edward Heron-Allen in July 1904, valued the effects at £3621.10s, 3d., but there were clearly some problems. As a result of information obtained that first grant was cancelled, and another grant of probate to Heron-Allen, de Fonblanque and Rotten was made on 6 September 1904, and this time the effects were valued at £28669.1s..6d. On 18 September the partners placed a standard notice in the London Gazette requesting all creditors and other persons having any claim or demands against the estate before the 25th of October to contact them, and, as we know, Heron-Allen was able to make the first bequests in January 1905.

Timothy J. McCann