|William Coward was a wealthy 18th Century merchant. He owned a plantation in Jamaica where, for a time, he lived. On his return to London, he ran a fleet of ships, taking dry goods and naval supplies to Jamaica and bringing back sugar and spices to England. On three occasions his largest ship, The Golden Frigate, was chartered by the Royal African Company for use in the slave trade; voyages that went to the Guinea coast, to Jamaica and then back home. In retirement in Walthamstow, he 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 had 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”. Four trustees, successors to those who first met in 1738 (once including Isaac Watts and later such as Thomas Binney, P.T.Forsyth, Howard Stanley and John Huxtable), meet regularly. We seek to administer the Trust in ways that respond to the needs of those present-day churches that are the inheritors of the dissenting tradition in which Coward stood.
Recognising that, in common with many successful British merchants of his time, Coward grew rich from an economy rooted in slavery in the Caribbean, we now make grants available to those in ministry in the United Church of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands and the Guyana Congregational Union. We cannot change the exploitation of the past, but we seek to use the resources entrusted to us now to shape a more just world for the future. We are committed, as those in the dissenting tradition, to the freedom of all God’s people.
We respond to applications and dispense the funds according to the terms of the Trust, which is served by an Honorary Clerk. We also publicise the Trust throughout the Congregational Federation, the United Reformed Church, an Evangelical Fellowship of Congregational Churches, Unaffiliated Congregational Churches, the United Church of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, and the Guyana Congregational Union.