The Burden Trust has its origins in the missionary and philanthropic work of the Reverend Harold and Mrs Katherine Burden among the Ojibway Indians and lumbermen in Ontario, Canada.

Harold Nelson Burden (1859 – 1930) was a man who devoted his life to the welfare of others. After his ordination as an Anglican clergyman, he spent some time working among the poor in the East End of London before he and his wife went to Canada. The death of their two children, and Mrs Burden’s ill health, compelled them to return to England in 1891 when he became a curate in Shoreditch, East London. Following a further curacy in Cambridgeshire he was appointed chaplain of Horfield Prison in Bristol. The shocking conditions then existing in the homes of prisoners and the drunkenness of some of their wives led to the foundation of a home for the homeless and ex-offenders who he saw were frequently ‘inebriates’ or ‘feeble-minded’.

Out of his concern and aided by recent government legislation for grants for the care of such needy people, he and his wife contributed to the setting up of a group of Institutions for the feeble-minded. This culminated in the leasing in 1909 of the Dower House in Stoke Park in Bristol from the Duke of Beaufort, who in 1917 sold the estate and house to Mr and Mrs Burden. These institutions were supported by a Trust set up in 1902 as ‘the National Institutions for Persons Requiring Care and Control’, a non-profit making body which was incorporated in 1914.

Compiled by Dr. Monty Barker

Following Mrs Katherine Burden’s death in 1919 Mr Burden married Miss Rosa Williams, the superintendent of Stoke Park and an intimate friend of the Burdens. She continued to support Mr Burden’s work and after his death in 1930 she was appointed by the Trustees to succeed him as warden of the Incorporation of National Institutions until her death in 1939.

After the NHS Act in 1948 most Hospitals were transferred automatically to the NHS, but there was an extended enquiry concerning the transfer of the Stoke Park Estate which had been purchased by the Burdens. Following referral to the House of Lords, the judgement went in favour of the Trust; the NHS was obliged to purchase the estate, and as the Trust no longer had any part in the administration of the Hospital, the charity commissioners instructed that it change its name to the ‘Burden Trust’.

The Rev Harold Burden died in 1930 and is buried in the old churchyard in Clevedon in Somerset where his charitable and Christian work is recorded on his gravestone. He remained an active clergyman and is reported to have preached in most of the parishes of Bristol and many further afield. Hence the last instruction in the objectives of the Trust was that ‘all grants should be to causes with an overall adherence to the tenets and principals of the Church of England’.