NCF Announce the Cecil Pettit Legacy Fund


Northamptonshire Community Foundation is delighted to announce the Cecil Pettit Fund supporting people with disabilities. Thanks to the work of Cecil Pettit, Ability Northants and Howes Percival Solicitors, just under £1million will be available county-wide to support those in need.

Ability Northants was founded under the name Northampton & District Council for the Disabled in 1978. At a time where no disability legislation existed and equality was almost unheard of, they were dedicated to enriching the lives of people living with disabilities.

The Mayor of Northampton, Councillor Mark Aldridge, founded the organisation, becoming its first Chair, alongside Cecil Pettit as Vice Chair, Jean Crane as Secretary and Bob Munns as Treasurer. A range of representatives from the statutory and voluntary sectors joined them as Committee Members.

The organisation became a registered charity in 1980, changing its name to Northamptonshire Council for the Disabled, and again in the late 1990s to the Northamptonshire Council for Disabled People. This coincided with Sandra Bell, formerly of the Council for Voluntary Service Northampton and County, taking the helm as Director.

This penultimate name change had great significance as, for the first time; it recognised those with disabilities as individuals.

The organisation continuously championed for disability rights, changing its name for a final time to Ability Northants in 2002, with all members of staff and trustees either being carers or people with disabilities themselves.

As well as being one of the founding members of Ability Northants, Cecil Pettit worked tirelessly for the equality for people with disabilities throughout his life. As a wheelchair user, he would go on to become Chair of the organisation at a time when it was extremely rare to see a person with disabilities in a position of power.

Mr. Pettit was recognised with an MBE in 1982 for his outstanding contributions; his primary concern being to ensure disabled people have access to a normal education and an ordinary life, a passion that remained with him until he passed away in August 2000 at the age of 79.

His vast contributions included his involvement with celebrating the International Year of Disabled People in 1981 and his efforts to support the launch of the first Northampton Door to Door transport service for disabled people in 1997.

Following Mr. Pettit’s passing, his Northamptonshire property was put into trust with Howes Percival Solicitors to ensure the continued benefit for people with disabilities. Now sold, the property was match funded with 50% from the Constance Travis Endowment Match Challenge through Northamptonshire Community Foundation, creating a fund of just under £1million.

Speaking of the Cecil Pettit Fund, Victoria Miles, CEO of Northamptonshire Community Foundation, said: “We are so delighted that Mr. Pettit’s generous legacy for people with disabilities will live on here in our county. Those who knew him well spoke highly of his commitment and passion in raising awareness for equality for people with disabilities. This will now continue in perpetuity in the form of a substantial named fund that the Community Foundation is so honoured to deliver on his behalf.”

The Cecil Pettit Fund will be available from the start of the next financial year throughout the county to organisations that support disabled people.

Previous beneficiaries of the fund include Northampton Town Multi-Disabled Football Club to establish a wheelchair football team, the Core at Corby Cube to help a deaf person participate in theatre performances and Shacks Barn and Buckingham Riding for the Disabled to set up a vaulting team.

Sandra Bell, former Director of Ability Northants, said: “It’s amazing that his (Mr. Pettit’s) legacy will live on through Northamptonshire Community Foundation in a time of absolute need for disabled people. It couldn’t come at a better time, when local authorities are taking essential funding away from those in greatest need.”

Gerald Couldrake, senior partner of Howes Percival, and a trustee of the Cecil Pettit Will Trust said: “I am sure that Cecil would be both astounded and delighted that his legacy is a £1 million fund to benefit disabled people in the county.  We have worked very successfully with Victoria and her team over a number of years as we were convinced that they were absolutely the right people to take on the administration of finding the best projects to fund.  When Victoria told me she could match fund Cecil’s money from the Constance Travis Trust we were thrilled.  I should also mention Charles Church of Underwoods, who did a great job in acting for me on the sale of Cecil’s property, which enabled us to donate such a large amount to the Community Foundation.  I look forward to reading about how Cecil’s money will be spent in supporting many worthwhile projects in the years to come."