Charitable work has always been at the heart of The Clothworkers' Company. When it was founded, one of the functions of the Company was to support members in times of need. As the Company grew wealthier, it was also able to help non members.
By 1540, the Company maintained almshouses in locations such as the City of London, Islington, and Sutton Valence (Kent) but it no longer has any direct links to such bodies. It was also in the 1500s that the Company began to pay pensions to members in financial difficulty. These activities all aimed to fulfill the longstanding object of "relief of poverty".
The Company has worked to improve the lives of blind and visually impaired people for at least 300 years. This connection was initiated by John West (Master 1707-8) and his wife, Frances, who endowed a number of charities.
Another longstanding interest has been education, both technical (which is explained more fully on the Company website), and academic. One of the first donations for the education of a non-member was a £5 payment given annually to a student at Christ Church, Oxford University in 1551.
The Company administered Sutton Valence School in Kent from 1580 to 1910 and the Mary Datchelor School in Camberwell from 1894 until it closed in 1981 and during the nineteenth century made pioneering grants in higher education for women, supporting new colleges for women at Oxford and Cambridge.
Finally, support for the Church dates back to 1508 with St Paul's Cathedral receiving its first donation in c1631. The Company (not the Foundation) still provides grants towards the maintenance of the Cathedral, which was replaced by the current structure after the Great Fire of 1666.
The charitable work of the Company is now carried out by The Foundation and grants are no longer awarded to individuals or students (other than bursaries for conservation professionals).