£½m legacy to redundant church 'a waste'

The 94-year-old brother of a woman who left £500,000 to a long redundant church last night said the legacy was a waste of money and would be better spent helping those in the community in which she lived.

The 94-year-old brother of a woman who left £500,000 to a long redundant church last night said the legacy was a waste of money and would be better spent helping those in the community in which she lived.

Bungay benefactress Kathleen Bowerbank, who died last year at the age of 91, left her fortune to the Friends of St Mary's Church, where she worshipped as a child, and to Norwich Cathedral, rather than to her relatives.

Friends of the church are delighted at the bequest which they insist will be to good use for the community.

But the church in Bungay has been redundant since 1979, although it is used for occasional services.

And Miss Bowerbank's brother Arthur says his sister was “eccentric” and that the money should be used to help needy old people instead.

Mr Bowerbank, 94, said: “I cannot see the point of spending £500,000 on a decrepit church. I suggest that the money be put into a “Robertson Bowerbank Trust Fund” and the beneficiaries would be the old, and possibly the not so old, who have fallen on hard times, or are less fortunate than others. I would like to think that the people of Bungay would consider this solution a deserving cause, rather than waste the money on a redundant church.”

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He said the trust fund should include the name Robertson because his sister's wealth originated from the will of their grandfather, Alfred Robertson.

It is thought that Miss Bowerbank inherited most of her parents' wealth, although Mr Bowerbank was reluctant to discuss the issue. During her lifetime she contributed to the building of Bungay medical centre and Bungay library, as well as giving money to St Mary's.

Mr Bowerbank, who lives in Hertfordshire but owns 400 acres of farmland near Bungay and around Loddon, Thurton and Mulbarton, said: “I have got no objection to what happened to the cash. It went to quite good causes. But to put that £500,000 to a decrepit church is a bit much. I thought it was silly. If a trust was set up I might even contribute to it myself.”

Chris Reeve, secretary of the Friends of St Mary's, said: “We couldn't do anything about it. The money has been specifically bequeathed to us. It can't be spent on anything else - not even Holy Trinity church next door.

“We are delighted to have the money which will be very much spent on benefiting the local community, including older people. We are going to have organ concerts in the summer months which we think older people will enjoy. We are going to make the church warmer and more comfortable.”

Elizabeth Hamer, the head of wills, trust and probate at Brethertons solicitors, agreed that it was unlikely that they would be allowed to give the money up. “If the charity exists and the gift has been made then that is the end of it. Charities have to abide by their constitution and if your charitable purpose is to maintain the fabric of the church, for example, then that is what you have to use it for.”

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