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Sophia Bonnell was the wife of James Beal Bonnell of Pelling Place in Old Windsor. The Bonnell family came from Purleigh manor in Essex who were obviously well off, but they were also kind as we can see from Sophia's will of 1841 (ref. PCC2/11/1).
Sophia left a declaration of trust in her will to provide some much needed Christmas cheer to the poor. She left £10 a year "for a dinner every Christmas day to as many poor men and women as that sum will furnish". And what a dinner it was to be - 'fine sirloin' beef with vegetables and a good plum pudding to finish. The will also states that strong beer was to be served "each man to have one quart and each woman to have one pint". The beer would certainly have made everyone merry!
Sophia also stipulated that the dinner was to be held at "the Club room at the Fox Public House on Old Windsor Green" and that 10 shillings was "to be allowed the publican for a good fire in the room when they dine". The Fox pub is possibly now the Fox and Castle in Old Windsor which is believed to have existed since the 1700s.
Sophia Bonnell was very considerate of the poor and provided a good meal, strong beer and a warm place to be on Christmas day. This gift continued until 1965 when it was replaced by gifts of food and money for beer. Her legacy to provide some much needed Christmas cheer to those in need still lives on today, but in a more general way as by 1992 the charity was amalgamated with other Old Windsor charities providing assistance to the poor.
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