NINE charities are to share one million pounds from the will of a Vale of Evesham market gardener.

The money was bequeathed by Arthur Smith, of Bretforton, who died in September 2011. He left, after other bequests, a million pounds to be shared at £110,277 each to the Salvation Army, St John Ambulance, Macmillan Cancer Support, Friends of Evesham Community Hospital, Children’s Society, Mind, Mencap, the Tracy Sollis Leukaemia Trust and St Richard’s Hospice.

The estate is being dealt with by Evesham solicitors Cox & Hodgetts where the executors described Mr Smith as a very private man. 

Local charities said they were absolutely overwhelmed by Mr Smith’s generosity.

Sue Sollis, founder of the Tracy Sollis Leukaemia Trust, said notification of the bequest came completely out of the blue.

“I was absolutely overwhelmed,” she said.

“It is just staggering and really a wonderful boost.

“This is by far the largest amount we have ever received – it is almost unbelievable, beyond my wildest dreams to receive this help and support which will make such a difference.

“It is a huge step forward for the charity which was set up after the death of my daughter Tracy to help fight leukaemia.

“With my fellow trustees, I shall put my heart and soul into thinking of ways by which we can make the biggest difference for those suffering from leukaemia in the future.”

Another local beneficiary is the Friends of Evesham Community Hospital whose chairman, Frances Smith, said: “We are very grateful to Mr Smith.

“It is wonderful that people want to do this. It shows the esteem in which local people hold our local hospital.

“We have had big bequests over the years but they have generally been restricted to particular uses.

“This one has no restrictions on it so we can put our minds to deciding how best we can use the money for the benefit of patients and visitors to the hospital.”