It was concern over poverty in the farming community that led Essex farmer John Mechi to found the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (R.A.B.I) in 1860.
In 1859 Mechi wrote to The Times to rally support to form the institution and to seek funds to distribute to people in need. By 1860 he had received 700 replies and donations of 1,700 guineas, as well as 450 pledges from people prepared to give annual donations.
Initially the grants entitled farmers in need to: £40 a year and 1.5 tons of coal for married couples, £26 a year and 1.5 tons of coal for single males and £20 a year and a ton of coal for females. Children were also to be fed, clothed and educated.
For many years applications outweighed available funds, but support gathered pace and by the mid-1930s we were supporting 1,000 people at an annual cost of £32,000.
Queen Victoria was R.A.B.I’s first patron and succeeding monarchs followed suit, including George V who granted us our Royal Charter in 1935 to mark our 75th anniversary. The Charter was amended in 1999 to extended support further to include farmworkers as well as farmers. This was particularly helpful during the 2001 Foot and Mouth outbreak when R.A.B.I paid out almost £9 million in nine months to more than 8,000 families.