The Mercers’ School Memorial Trust (incorporating the Merrett Bequest)

At the Annual Dinner in 1983, 25 years after the closure of Mercers’ School, the OM Club President proposed that steps should be taken to ensure that the name and history of the school should not be forgotten. The idea was received with enthusiasm by Old Mercers, and meetings were held jointly with the Mercers’ Company resulting in the proposal to form a Mercers’ School Memorial Trust. It was further decided, with the help and support of the Company, that the best solution would be for the Trust to install a permanent new Chair of Commerce at Gresham College to be occupied by a Mercers’ School Memorial Professor. Appeals would be organized by the Old Mercers Club through which, with the generous help of the Company, it was hoped that enough money would be raised to fund the new Chair of Commerce in perpetuity.

Gresham College was founded by Sir Thomas Gresham in 1597 and endowed with seven professors who were appointed to give free lectures to the public, the subjects covered being Astronomy, Geometry, Physic, Divinity, Rhetoric, Law and Music. On his death Sir Thomas bequeathed the College jointly to the Corporation of the City of London and the Worshipful Company of Mercers. The new Chair of Commerce, therefore, was to be the eighth and the first one to be created since the original seven in 1597. Since Sir Thomas’s days the College has occupied several sites in the City of London, but in 1991 it moved to Barnard’s Inn which had been the home of Mercers’ School from 1894 till its closure.

There were two Appeals, the first in 1983 and a top-up appeal in 1997. The total raised by these, thanks to the generosity of Old Mercers, former members of staff and friends was £35,800 to which the Company added £20,000 with a further £10,000 from the Merrett Bequest.

The first Memorial Professor of Commerce took office in 1985 at a ceremony held in the Old Library of the Guildhall in the City of London. Since then there has been no year without free lectures being given publicly by the Memorial Professor. So although the Club will close in 2020, there will always be the Memorial Professor to preserve the name of Mercers’ School and to keep it before the public.

A small booklet was written by Old Mercer Michael Jepson for the occasion of the first Memorial Lecture giving a short history of Mercers’ School, its long connection with the Company, and the background to the formation of the Memorial Trust and the decision to create the Memorial Chair at Gresham College. This booklet can be obtained from Gresham College who will be happy to send a copy to any Old Mercer who would like one.  Or it can be downloaded here.

The Merrett Bequest originated from the generosity of a prominent Old Mercer, Henry Merrett, who endowed the Mercers’ Company with funds for the benefit of providing support for the furtherance of commercial education for boys who had been educated at Mercers’ School.

With the closure of the school in 1959 and the passage of time the original objective has fallen away but the Mercers’ Company, working closely with the Old Mercers’ Club, obtained the permission of the Charity Commissioners to amend the objectives. The terms of the agreement are that whilst the Mercers’ Company remains the Corporate Trustee, they do take into account the views of the Committee of the Old Mercers’ Club about charitable payments made by the bequest.

The Mercers Company now manages the trust and details of how the trustee uses the funds are set out on their members community page which deals with philanthropy.

MSMT considers:

Grants to schools, both primary and secondary, based on guidance from the Mercers’ Company mainly to schools in the east end of London.

Educational Prizes to some of the schools and colleges within the Mercers’ Company Association of Schools.

Bursaries, Prizes and Professional Grants to former pupils of the Mercers’ Company Association of Schools or children or grandchildren of Old Mercers.

Grants to the Old Mercers’ Benevolent Fund when needed.

Financial support to fund the Mercers School Memorial Professor of Commerce at Gresham College.