This area of the law, particularly the meaning of ‘charity’ and ‘charitable purposes’, has for centuries been a matter of case law, and of a process of ‘reasoning by analogy’, dependent ultimately on the interpretation of the Preamble to the Charitable Uses Act 1601, the so-called ‘Statute of Elizabeth’. The definition of charity has now been put on a statutory basis, with the passage of the Charities Act 2006, the bulk of which is now in force. The administration of charities, already subject to statutory intervention, has undergone a further overhaul under the 2006 Act. We shall see, however, that the legal meaning of charity has not in fact been changed significantly, but rather that the new statutory definition seeks to preserve the previous meaning whilst clarifying those areas which did not sit easily within the previous definitions but which were in practice recognized as charitable. Note that a good deal of guidance on the definition, recognition and supervision of charities can be obtained from the Charity.
To be recognized as a charity, however, the trust must have purposes which fall exclusively within the definition of charity. The Charities Act 2006 states in subsection 1(1): For the purposes of the law of England and Wales, ‘charity’ means an institution which (a) is established for charitable purposes only, and (b) falls to be subject to the control of the High Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction with respect to charities. It has also been held, in Gaudiya Mission v Brahmachary  4 All ER 957, that the definition does not include institutions and organizations constituted under foreign jurisdictions, but applies only to charities established in England and Wales. What, then is a ‘charitable purpose’?