Watts, Richard (DNB00)

WATTS, RICHARD (1529–1579), founder of Watts's charity at Rochester, was born at West Peckham, Kent, about 1529, and migrated to Rochester in or near 1552. He seems to have been a contractor to the government, and payments for victualling the fleet and army were made to him in 1550 and 1551 (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1547-80, p. 204; Watts acted as deputy for Sir Edward Basshe, victualler to the navy in 1554 and 1559), while in 1560 he was appointed by Queen Elizabeth to be paymaster and surveyor of the works at Upnor Castle and, two years later, 'surveyor of the ordnance' at Upnor. He was also treasurer of the revenues of Rochester Bridge. He sat in Elizabeth's second parliament (1563-7), and received a visit from the queen during her progress through Surrey and Kent in 1573. The story goes that when, at leave-taking, the host was fain to apologise for the insufficiency of his house, Elizabeth remarked 'Satis.' Watts took this as a compliment, and named his house on Bully Hill 'Satis House.' He died there on 10 Sept. 1579, and was buried in Rochester Cathedral. In 1736 the corporation, at the instance of the mayor, whose name happened to be Richard Watts, erected a monument to his memory in the south transept. By his will, states the inscription, 'dated 22 Aug. and proved 25 Sept. 1579, he founded an almshouse for the relief of poor people and for the reception of six poor travelers every night, and for imploying the poor of this city.' The original annual value of the estate in Chatham devoted to the purposes of the charity was twenty marks, but upon the death of Watts's widow, Marian (who after his death espoused a lawyer named Thomas Pagitt), the income was augmented to nearly 37l. In 1771, when the poor travellers' lodgings in the High Street were repaired, the revenue amounted to nearly 500l. per annum, and in 1859 to 7.000l. per annum. At the date last mentioned the charity was remodelled and twenty almsfolk lodged in a new building on the Maidstone road, with an allowance of 30l. a year each. A reform of the charity had been urged five years previously by Charles Dickens in the Christmas number of 'Household Words' for 1854.

The clause in his will which has caused Richard Watts to be remembered stipulates that 'six matrices or flock beds and other good and sufficient furniture' should be provided 'to harbour or lodge in poor travellers or wayfaring men, being no common rogues nor proctors [i.e. itinerant priests] … the said wayfaring men to harbour therein no longer than one night unless sickness he the farther cause thereof; and those poor folks there dwelling should keep the same sweet and courteously intreat the said poor travellers; and every of the said poor travellers at their first coming in to have fourpence.' The singularity of the bequest, which is still operative, has given rise to a number of fictitious explanations. It has some points of resemblance to the 'wayfarer's dole' in connection with the Hospital of St. Cross at Winchester.

A best of Watts, stated to have been executed during his lifetime, surmounts the monument in Rochester Cathedral.

Some new facts concerning Watts were contributed to the Rochester and Chatham News, 30 July 1898, by Mr. A. Rhodes. See also the History and Antiquities of Rochester, 1817, pp. 218-23; Thorpe's Registrum Roffense, 1769, pp. 720 sq.; Hasted's Hist. of Kent; Archæologia Cantiana. v. 52. vii. 322: Addit. MS. 5752. f. 344; Acts of Privy Council, new ser., iii. 263; Langton's Childhood and Youth of Charles Dickens, 1891, with a view of 'Watts's Charity,' and a copy of the inscription in the cathedral.]

T. S.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.277
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
72 ii 33·34 Watts, Richard: for proctors [i.e. itinerant priests] read proctors [of bedridden persons in hospitals, i.e. licensed beggars]