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Born in about 1643, William Harding was the eldest of six children, a yeoman who led a life of modest public service until his death in 1719. But ever since then his name has acquired a particular kind of fame. There’s a memorial plaque inside St Mary’s church in Aylesbury, a hall at the High School, a cul-de-sac and even a whole school named after him – as well as the restaurant at Aylesbury College. The reason for these accolades is a simple act of philanthropy that has changed the lives of generations of Aylesbury schoolchildren.

William Harding died a bachelor, leaving his personal estate and land as endowments to a charity. The modest income-about £20 a year – was enough to pay for the apprenticeship of around 10 children a year in the early 18th century. It was not unusual for a yeoman, or landowner farmer, in his position to set up a charity. While others have floundered, the William Harding Charity has prospered through good fortune and careful management. This year it will donate around £1million to Aylesbury schools and their pupils.


As one of the leading Apprenticeship programmes in the area, Aylesbury College has been the beneficiary of the William Harding Charity and has used the funds we received to establish a restaurant that bears his name to train passionate chefs of the future.