Our History

The Willats Trust has been working for 160 years to enable Christian workers to share the good news about Jesus with some of poorest and most marginalised communities in the UK and Ireland.


Mr William Willats was born in Middlesex in 1790. He married Mary Ann Baker in 1835 and they had a son – William Hale.


In the 19th century, if people didn’t have any suitable clothes to wear to a religious place of worship, they didn’t attend church. Mr Willats wanted to change this, so he took ‘church’ to the people, setting up a ‘Spiritual Guide’ programme where workers would visit the poorest in society to read them the Bible, pray with them and help them understand God’s word.

During this time, Mr Willats acquired a considerable number of properties across the Bath area.


Mr Willats establishes “Mr Willats’ Poor Man’s Guide Trust” in 1858 to continue the mission of sharing the Gospel with the “poorest classes” of society.

20th Century

Trustees and staff of The Willats Charity supplied a standard, stipend payment to “Guides” across the UK –  through the rental profit from the Willats Charity properties.


The Trustees moved from a stipend to a grant model. Their aim was to support Christians working in partnership with churches and charities to share God’s love with the most deprived communities across the UK.


Celebrating the 160th anniversary, the charity re-branded and was renamed “The Willats Trust”. Our properties in Bath continue to provide the valuable financial income that allow us to give out grants.