Society of Merchant Venturers Celebrates Charter Day


The Society of Merchant Venturers celebrates Charter Day each year on 10th November (or on the closest Monday after the 10th if the 10th falls on a weekend). Charter Day itself commemorates the granting of the Royal Charter by Edward VI in 1552, endorsed by Charles I in 1639. On this day, the new Master of the Society for the ensuing year takes office and together with two Wardens, twelve Assistants and the Treasurer, are sworn in at Merchants’ Hall after the service in the Cathedral.


The custom of handing out buns to the pupils of the Merchant Schools is thought to be derived from a similar tradition practised at Christ’s Hospital. Every Easter at the Mansion House in London, the Christ’s Hospital pupils were given a cake and a small bun, the ‘starver’ which the children were allowed to eat to stave off hunger while the cake was to be taken home. The Society continues the custom as Trustee of the Colston Hospital Foundation. At the same time each Colston pupil is given two shillings (ten pence) to fulfil the wishes of two benefactors of the school, William Vaughan and Philip Jones. This tradition was extended to Merchants’ Academy on its founding in 2008.


By his Will of 6th April 1798, Vaughan gave £125 to the Merchant Venturers, the interest at 5% to be spent annually by giving ‘each boy in the Hospital a shilling and to boy Number 49, half a crown with any remaining interest buying a greatcoat and gloves for the Doorkeeper and any spare sixpence going to the last pupil to collect his shilling.’


By Indenture of 16th April 1814, Jones transferred £500 of 5% Navy Bonds to Colston’s Hospital Trust and directed that the interest should be used to pay every boy a shilling per year and that £5 a year should be ‘layed by for the benefit of scholar No. 76 and be accumulated until he left.’ This number used to be allocated to the Head Boy. Any surplus was to be given to the Headmaster.


By Indenture of 26th September 2008, Burn transferred £12,500 to the Merchant Venturers Charity and directed that the interest should be used to enable as many pupils as the Principal of Merchants’ Academy so directed to participate in the custom of receiving buns and shillings, together with the pupils of the Colston’s Schools, in celebration of Charter Day.