NINE charities including Worcester’s St Richard’s Hospice are to receive a share of £1 million in the will of a market gardener.

The money has been left by Arthur Smith, a retired market gardener from Bretforton, near Evesham, who died in September 2011.

Mr Smith left, after other bequests, £1 million to be shared at £110,277 each to the Salvation Army; St John Ambulance; Macmillan Cancer Support; the Friends of Evesham Community Hospital; the Children’s Society; Mind; Mencap; Tracy Sollis Leukaemia Trust and St Richard’s Hospice.

The estate is being dealt with by Evesham solicitors Cox and Hodgetts where executors said Mr Smith had been a very private man whose wife had already died.

Staff at the local charities say they are absolutely overwhelmed by Mr Smith’s generosity. Sue Sollis, founder of the Tracy Sollis Leukaemia Trust, said news 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 and it is almost unbelievable. It is beyond my wildest dreams to receive this help and support which will make such a difference to the charity.

“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.”

Frances Smith, chairman of the Friends of Evesham Community Hospital, 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 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.”