Essex Community Foundation

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Continuing a legacy of local giving

14th November 2019

A couple who played a major part in the history of Chelmsford have left a legacy which is ensuring that their passion for philanthropic work lives on in Essex.

Thomas Gepp was a prominent solicitor in the town and was the sixth generation of his family to be involved in the well-known firm, Gepp Solicitors in Chelmsford, which was established in 1768.

Thomas and his wife Evelyn were closely involved with many voluntary and community groups throughout Essex. They were dedicated to Essex and determined that their support for people in the county should continue.

Evelyn died in 1996 and Thomas established a fund in the family’s name with the independent charitable trust, Essex Community Foundation (ECF) in 2008, three years before he died.

The couple’s wish, that their philanthropic giving should continue, is being carried out through the Thomas and Evelyn Gepp Charitable Fund which, to date, has awarded grants of more than £27,000 to community groups and voluntary organisations, mainly in the Chelmsford and Uttlesford areas where the family lived and worked.

The couple’s three daughters; Sarah, Annabel and Christie, now make decisions on grants to be awarded from the fund. They work closely with ECF to give support to causes that their parents wanted to help, including uniformed groups such as the scouts, brownies and guides. 

Sarah, who returned to live in the family home in Saffron Walden after Thomas died said: “Our parents were completely devoted to supporting people in Essex.

“Last year, my husband John and I attended an evening run by Essex Boys and Girls Clubs, one of the organisations that received support from our parents’ fund.  Awards were presented to young people who had taken part in the Respect project which helps those who are struggling to remain engaged at school, have challenging behaviour, a difficult home life and lack of self-esteem.  

“The individual stories from the young people who took part in the project were inspiring and we were so pleased to have been able to give them support.  I know that my parents would have approved, and we are so proud that their good work will continue in their name in the county they loved.”

Caroline Taylor, chief executive of ECF said: “Thomas and Evelyn Gepp led interesting, full lives and were at the centre of life in Chelmsford for many years. They were shining examples of what can be achieved by people who have a philanthropic nature.

“It is a privilege and a pleasure to manage the fund set up in their name. There were a number of voluntary and community organisations throughout Essex in which they were deeply interested and, through the grants we can award from their fund, their passion for supporting local communities will be continued.

“The role of Under Sheriff of Essex has been carried out by a partner at Gepp Solicitors for over 120 years.   Thomas served as Under Sheriff for 25 years before retiring 1988 and ECF has close links with the Under Sheriff and each High Sheriff during their year of appointment.  We have managed the High Sheriff’s Fund since 1997 which gives recognition and award grants annually to organisations dedicated to reducing crime and promoting community safety in Essex.

“Gepp’s is still thriving in Chelmsford and the fund established in Thomas and Evelyn’s name is an ongoing force for good in the county.”

Recent grants awarded by ECF from The Thomas and Evelyn Gepp Charitable Fund include:

  • £2,400 for Essex Boys and Girls Clubs to support the Respect project for young people aged 13 who are struggling to remain engaged at school, have challenging behaviour, difficult home life and lack of self-esteem. 
  • £900 for the 8th Chelmsford Scout Group,
  • £900 contributing to the cost of facilities at a newly built Scout Hut on the Melbourne Estate in Chelmsford.
  • £1,200 for Essex County Scouts, to support two young people with the cost of attending the Australian Scout Jamboree in 2019.
  • £909 for Chelmer Village Brownies, to replace camping equipment, craft materials and games used by the club. 

Thomas Gepp was born in 1919 and grew up in Essex. He spent his childhood at Hill House in Hatfield Peverel and was educated at Sunningdale, Eton College and at New College, Oxford, where he read law.

The Second World War interrupted his studies and, at the age of 19, he volunteered to join the Essex Yeomanry. He spent time training in England before being involved in the landing on Gold Beach on D Day in June 1944.

The Essex Yeomanry was attached to 8th Armoured Brigade, part of 30 Corps. Thomas was a Battery Captain throughout the campaign, finishing up in Bremen. He was de-mobilised in 1946, after which he immediately set about taking his solicitor’s exams. Having passed these, he joined the family firm of Gepp and Sons in Chelmsford.

Evelyn Phillips Castle was born in 1917 in Suffolk. She was educated at Benenden School in Kent. At the start of the Second World War, she joined the F.A.N.Y.’s (First Aid Nursing Yeomanry), spending time in Colchester, driving staff cars and ambulances.

Later she transferred to the W.R.A.C. (Women’s Royal Army Corp) where she was involved in training drivers. She ended her service with the WRAC in Kiel, Germany.

Although Thomas and Evelyn both started their war service in Colchester and ended it in Kiel, it wasn’t until a few years later that they finally met. They married in 1951 and had three daughters. The family made their home in Margaret Roding before moving to Saffron Walden in 1995.

If you would like to know more about setting up a charitable fund in the name of your family or business, please call a member of the team at ECF on 01245 355947.