Celebrating 850 years of service

  • Home
  • >
  • Celebrating 850 years of service

It is certainly humbling to reflect on the legacy of St John’s Foundation. Founded in 1174, throughout wars, societal advancements, and the passage of time, our commitment to supporting those in need has remained unwavering. As the eleventh oldest charity in the UK, this year we are celebrating our 850th anniversary through a range of events and initiatives that aim to uphold our longstanding commitment to making a positive impact in our community.

Originating eight and a half centuries ago, our founding mission was to alleviate poverty and chronic living conditions in Bath by offering shelter to those in need. Now 850 years on, supporting older adults remains at the heart of our work. By providing almshouse accommodation, a range of support services, and an activities programme for people over the age of 55, our ambition is that age will not be a barrier to living well, and for older people to have opportunities to enjoy life and feel healthy. We are committed to turning this ambition into reality through our Good Living Service.

As a charity, our focus has more recently widened to also tackle some of the complex challenges faced by other under-served members of our community. Inequality can drastically impact life expectancy, literacy levels and employment opportunities, and with one of the widest Key Stage 2 educational attainment gaps in the country, there is urgent work to be done in Bath and North East Somerset.

Back in 2020, we unveiled our ten-year strategy to support under-served children under the age of 12 through our Best Start in Life initiative (formally known as the Foundation Fund). The initiative aims to level the playing field and reduce the educational attainment gap at Key Stage 2 by 2030. To do this, we support children by providing them with nutritious food, emotional and behavioural support, safe places to spend their time outside of school hours, and extra assistance with reading, writing and maths skills.

Working alongside, and in collaboration with numerous charities and local delivery partners, we are very fortunate to operate in a community so focussed on improving the lives of those less served. Throughout this 850th anniversary campaign, we hope to strengthen and grow our partnerships. Without the specialist insight, skills and experience of all our partners, we will not be able to achieve our ambitious goals.

As we reflect on centuries of collaborative working, we are also looking to seek out new partnerships, including with local businesses, that will enable us to broaden our work and the number of people we can support in the future.

Celebrating 850 years

For our 850th anniversary, we wanted to mark it with a memorable event that would also bring more awareness to the many challenges faced by members of our community.

On 1 February, we held our Service of Celebration at Bath Abbey, and were delighted to welcome Her Majesty Queen Camilla to the city. With heart-warming performances from school children supported by the Best Start in Life initiative and attendees including many of our beneficiaries, it was a wonderful opportunity to commemorate our history and bring people together in celebration from across our community and beyond.

However, there is a greater purpose to this event and our on-going 850th campaign. Bath is a popular tourist destination, and many people see the grandeur and veneer of this beautiful city without being aware of the pockets of poverty and the inequalities experienced by some of our residents and their families. We are using our milestone year to highlight some of the challenges they face.

Our ultimate goal as a charity is to not be needed at all but, until then, there is much work to be done. We need to enhance our efforts and raise awareness of our key campaigns, increasing recognition of the benefits brought by greater social and educational equality and the challenges that still need to be overcome to reach this goal. By signposting people to the support available within the community and building greater collaboration between charities and other organisations undertaking vital work, we hope to be more ambitious in our support to those who need it. This way, we can continue our mission of addressing the needs of our community and changing lives, for good for another 850 years.