A charity threatened with closure through lack of funding has been rescued by a £150,000 legacy from Bradford’s last chimney sweep.

Hughie Sunter, who died in 2003 and had a Down's syndrome child of his own, had won the pools in 1937 and left a fortune to be used to help people with learning disabilities.

Now the executors of his will have given the remaining £150,000 in his estate to the Down Syndrome Support Group, Bradford, which supports Down's syndrome children and their families across the north.

And founder of the charity Dr Wendy Uttley said of the gift: “It is a dream come true for us.”

Mr Sunter’s own daughter Pamela, with his late wife Clarice, was born in 1945 with Down's syndrome and died about ten years ago.

The money is a life-line for the charity which was threatened with closure after a funding bid for lottery cash was turned down.

Thanks to the bequest, the future of the charity is secure for at least three years and it will be able to move to bigger premises.

Telegraph & Argus archives show Mr Sunter was born in 1908 and joined his family’s chimney sweep business at the age of 14. He eventually inherited the business and, along with his brother Edwin, worked in the trade until his retirement in 1979 when the livelihood began to run down.

He remained a hard-working chimney sweep despite winning £8,249 10s. 3d. – the equivalent of more than £300,000 today – on the football pools in 1937.

In 1991 Mr Sunter drew up a will with his solicitor John Lightfoot, who was also his neighbour in Moorside Road, Eccleshill.

“At that time the bulk of the estate went to look after Pam,” said Mr Lightfoot. “But in the event, she died before him.”

When Mr Sunter died in 2003 and with no living relatives it was his wish the money be given to charities to benefit people with learning disabilities.

When Mr Lightfoot read in the Telegraph & Argus earlier this month about the financial problems of the Down Syndrome Support Group, Bradford, he stepped in after consulting the will’s other two executors.

“We had been hanging on to it for something to fit the bill and this was it,” he said yesterday, on a visit to a support group meeting to find out exactly what the money means to the charity.

“When Clarice died, Hughie was left bringing up Pam which was not an easy task. If a group like this had been in existence then it would have helped them.”

And of the moment he broke the good news of the money over the telephone to Dr Uttley he jokes: “It is the first time I can remember reducing a girl to tears.”

The group was formed by Dr Uttley and some other parents in September 2000 in response to the lack of support for families of a child with Down's syndrome.

It now helps 148 families and 70 organisations from not only the Bradford area, but also Leeds, Manchester, Huddersfield, Wakefield, Harrogate, Sheffield and Hull. Services it provides include a monthly newsletter, a library of books and resources, home visits, parent support packs, and training for midwives and medical students.

It also provides outings and activities for families, training courses in the specific learning needs of children with Down's syndrome for speech and language groups and early development and education groups.

For the last three years its services and office have been funded by the Big Lottery Fund, but the group was recently told it has not been successful in a fresh funding bid.

The decision left many families worried for the future, such as Karen Goodman, 43, of Ilkley, who is mum to Rebecca, five and Mario, two, who both have Down's syndrome.

She said the support and training from the group had been vital in helping Rebecca start mainstream school and she had been worried the same level of support would not be available for Mario.

“We were really upset about it but now we are absolutely delighted,” she said. “The money will help so many families with children of all ages.”

Dr Uttley, whose ten-year-old son Sam has Down's syndrome, added: “I was speechless when I got the call. It means that not only can we continue, but we can expand as well. I think we must have had four or five new families just this last month and so many requests for training.

“Everyone is elated.”