The Charity was established on 23 April 1827 as the Goldsmiths and Jewellers Annuity Institution with the help of The Goldsmiths’ Company and the patronage of the Marquis of Northampton and then King George IV. During the 19th Century other Trade organisations were founded. These were the Goldsmiths’ Benevolent Institution, The Silver Trade Pension Society and The Goldsmiths’, Silversmiths’ and Jewellers Benevolent Institution. In 1953 the four organisations were amalgamated to form one registered Trade charity, under the name of The Goldsmiths’, Silversmiths’ and Jewellers Benevolent Society. HM The Queen remained patron until 1997 when she decided to shed a great many of her patronages and she was succeeded by HRH Princess Michael of Kent who, as a Liveryman of The Goldsmiths’ Company, enjoyed a connection with the Trade. The Goldsmiths’ Company has always been the Charity’s chief benefactor but it has remained independent from the Charity. On 1 January 2005 the name was changed to The Silversmiths and Jewellers Charity.
As the years went by the Charity has amended its constitution to rationalise its activities, to better reflect prevailing conditions. This enabled the Charity to give help when and where it was needed, rather than being tied to outdated rules and regulations. Since its foundation the Charity had relied upon subscriptions from Trade members, and those who were in need were able to ask for assistance in retirement or ill-health. As the Trade changed and shrank in size, and the improvements within the welfare state, company and private pension schemes, applications for help and the number of subscribers dwindled. The decision was made to open up the resources of the Charity to non-subscribers. This meant that any application would be considered on its merits; the only criteria being would be service to the Trade and genuine need.
The work of the Charity is nationwide. Its role is unique in embracing every sector of the Trade: manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers. By means of regular financial support or one-off grants it assists both current and retired Trade employees or their spouses who live anywhere in the United Kingdom and who find themselves in need because of poverty or sickness.
Many grantees have given a lifetime’s service to the Trade; others have tragically been denied that opportunity having been struck down with illness or disability at relatively young ages. The many appeals received by the Charity for special assistance often come via other charitable organisations or from social services departments unable to help through the benefits system. Many of the cases dealt with are deeply distressing and it is a fallacy that examples of real poverty can no longer be found. Contrary to the popular misconception the State does not always provide and those who have fallen upon hard times through no fault of their own have to turn to the Charity to help make their lives a little more pleasant especially in old age.
Our experience bears out the pertinent comment of the novelist Anthony Powell who wrote,
“Growing old is like being increasingly penalised for a crime you haven’t committed”.
The Charity is governed by a Council of Trustees who are collectively legally responsible for all its affairs. As company directors they have a limited liability of a maximum of £10 should the Charity ever become insolvent and have to be wound up. Council members are elected by their peers or in the case of an appointment between Annual General Meetings elections are confirmed at the next following AGM. The current Chairman of Trustees is Ian Morton, now retired but formerly of Hancocks, Burlington Arcade. Under the constitution two members of the Council are appointed by The Goldsmiths’ Company. The current appointees are former Prime Warden Grant Macdonald and the Company’s Financial Director Robert Preece. Day-to-day administration is in the hands of the Secretary who is employed by the Trustees. The Council normally meets three times per annum and urgent matters requiring decisions in between meetings are taken by the Chairman and/or Vice-Chairman and Secretary, otherwise the Trustees ane consulted via email. There is an Executive Committee comprised of Council members which can be called to meet at short notice should the need arise. The Charity has a contract with J M Finn & Co, stockbrokers to act as its nominee investment adviser, with independent accountants who carry out an annual audit and specialist charity solicitors who provide assistance when necessary.
The Charity has to compete with high profile charities that can appeal nationally for funds whereas the SJC is dependent upon the Trade. Sadly donations from the Trade have declined in recent years and the Charity is increasingly reliant upon income from its investments and from fund-raising activities such as the annual Charity Dinner which has been held in London each November for the past fifty plus years. There is now an annual Golf Day that is now a complete sell out. Some of the most well-known companies in the West End Trade who once supported the Charity no longer do so, partly because they no longer feel any moral obligation to contribute, but also because altruism has become a rare commodity. Such companies openly admit that they prefer to give to already well-funded national charities from which they will receive publicity or other rewards such as invitations to royal events.