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The Henry & James Wills Trust

The Henry & James Willis Trust helps people in the Worcester area who are recovering from an illness, have been in hospital recently or have a long-term health problem. The Charity provides cash grants to assist with a short break away from home to help with recovery, which can be at a destination of your choice and to include a carer if required. The Trustees also consider other appropriate ways of offering assistance.

The origins of the Trust date back to a successful manufacturing enterprise in the city in the Victorian era. Two brothers, Henry & James Willis, set up in Worcester as boot and shoe manufacturers. Shoes were made in every size, from the smallest child’s to the largest woman’s and in five different fittings and widths of soles. All were made from the finest qualities of leather obtainable. 

Worcester was a good place to manufacture leather goods, thanks to the city’s long-established reputation for glove manufacture. In a short space of time, Willis of Worcester became a well-known firm throughout the UK. Their Cinderella boots and shoes were favoured for perfection of fit, elegance of style, comfort and durability which was unsurpassed. 

Close attention was paid to every detail of the manufacturing process, with Henry Willis inventing a process now universally employed for dressing calf-kid.

After starting the business in Sidbury in the mid 1850s, it moved to the well-known Cinderella Works off the Bransford Road St John’s. Here it stayed for almost 100 years until finally closing in 1960. The building was sold to Great Universal Stores, the owners of the Kays catalogue and more recently it found a new lease of life as apartments, while retaining part of the original façade.

At its height the firm employed more than 300 people and enjoyed a reputation as a benevolent employer, paying the best wholesale wages in the country. In 1889, when the business had been in existence for some 35 years, the workforce entertained the heads of the firm to a dinner at the Albion Inn, Bath Road, rather a role reversal to the norm today.

In 1942 when Britain was in the depths of the Second World War, Miss Constance Sarah Finch, who had been nursing in Norwich and who is believed to be the grand-daughter of Henry Willis, created a number of Charitable Trusts in her will. One of these was the Henry & James Willis Trust, with the aim of helping residents of the Worcester area with convalescence after surgery or illness.

The charity is now administered by a small group of voluntary trustees who review all applications received and can action grants very quickly. 

An application form can be obtained by writing to the Clerk, John Wagstaff at 4 Norton Close, Worcester WR5 3EY, telephone (01905) 355659 or email  

Alternatively, a form can be downloaded at where further information is also available on the grants.