The City of London is best known as a global centre for financial and professional services – and rightly so. But there is so much more to the City. This year I will use a series of posts to highlight how the City makes a difference to our communities in London and beyond. This post looks at how the City of London supports charities and projects tackling disadvantage across London through the City Bridge Trust.

City Bridge Trust can trace its origin back over 800 years to the building of the first stone bridge over the Thames.

The River Thames has always played a major part in the history of London. It has provided both wealth and opportunity by allowing the City to become a major port with links to Europe and the world. But to Londoners the Thames has also acted as a physical barrier, dividing north and south London to this day.

As a result, getting across the Thames has always been vital to London’s prosperity. Back in 1097 the second son of William the Conqueror raised a special tax to help repair the wooden London Bridge. In 1176 Peter de Colechurch, a priest and head of the Fraternity of the Brethren of London Bridge, began building the first stone bridge across the River Thames. That bridge, with its 19 arches, was completed 33 years later in 1209.

By the end of the 13th century the shops and houses adorning London Bridge were beginning to generate not only increased cross-river trade, but also increased taxes, rents and bequests. These funds were administered from a building on the south side of the bridge called Bridge House, with the fund becoming known as the Bridge House Estates. This fund eventually came under the stewardship of the City of London Corporation, and we manage it to this day.

Bridging Divides – tackling disadvantage across London

For centuries, the City of London Corporation as the Trustee of the Bridge House Estates was only permitted to utilise the income of the fund for expenditure on its bridges, but towards the end of the 20th Century a scheme was set up allowing any surplus monies to be used to support charitable purposes benefiting Greater London. Importantly, this applies only after setting aside adequate provision for the Trust’s primary purpose, which remains the provision and maintenance of the five bridges.

The City Bridge Trust first began awarding grants in September 1995 and since then it has awarded over 7,000 grants totalling £1/3 billion across London.

Last month for example the Trust awarded over £3.2 million in grants were agreed to charities and projects tackling disadvantage across London including:

  • 12 month extension to it’s work with Buttle UK, which is supporting families in London who have experienced domestic abuse to resettle through the Anchor Project.
  • £120,000 to BANG Edutainment towards the costs of their NoLimitz project, a community based early intervention programme that works with young people and their families to tackle offending or anti-social behaviour.
  • £117,000 to Down’s Syndrome Association for their DSActive project which runs sport and other physical activities for people with Down’s Syndrome.

The majority of these grants are made under the Trust’s Bridging Divides scheme, which has three programmes:

  • Connecting the Capital: Making London’s communities stronger, more resilient and enable them to thrive.
  • Positive Transitions: Work that will enable Londoners experiencing inequality and disadvantage to make important transitions in their lives.
  • Advice and Support: Providing access to good quality advice and support in order to reduce and address inequalities.

These priorities guide the Trust’s vision for London to be a city where all individuals and communities can thrive, especially those experiencing disadvantage and marginalisation.

City Philanthropy

The City of London has a proud tradition of philanthropy dating back to the Middle Ages, led by Livery Companies and the Mayorality. This continues today with the City Livery Companies giving over £40 million annually to good causes whilst the City of London Corporation supports charitable giving through City Bridge Trust.

In 2012 the Trust established City Philanthropy project to embed a culture of effective philanthropy in the City of London and Canary Wharf, particularly among young professionals.

In addition, the Trust supports the annual Beacon Awards for Philanthropy founded in 2003 by the Beacon Fellowship Charitable Trust. As it happens I have had the honour to work at the Beacon Fellowship Charitable Trust leading its stakeholder and communication programme. Since 2010, the Beacon Awards have been run by UK Community Foundations, a network of 46 Community Foundations across the UK.

This shows that the City of London is not only a global centre for finanical and professional services providing thousands of jobs, but also a platform to support hundreds of charities and voluntary sector organisations in our Capital each year.

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