|William Coward was a wealthy 18th Century merchant who owned ships and built up a plantation in Jamaica. He retired to Walthamstow, then outside London, and built an independent meeting house in the dissenting tradition. When he died in 1738, at the age of 90, his Will reflected his support for three Dissenting academies, for churches and ministers’ dependents fallen on hard times, and for the extension of the Christian Gospel. A trust was set up to continue the work he so generously funded in his own day.
Grants were made available for the “education and training of young men for the ministry of the Gospel, and for the support and service of churches in the interest of Christ among Protestant Dissenters”. Patterns of ministry and church life change constantly, and the administration of the Trust seeks to reflect these. However, the original vision remains undimmed.
Four trustees, successors to those who first met in 1738, including Isaac Watts and, later such people as Thomas Binney, P. T. Forsyth, Howard Stanley and John Huxtable, meet regularly in London. They respond to applications and dispense the funds according to the terms of the Trust, which is served by an Honorary Clerk. They are also responsible for publicising the Trust throughout the Congregational Federation (CF), the United Reformed Church (URC), an Evangelical Fellowship of Congregational Churches (EFCC) and Unaffiliated Congregational Churches (UCC).