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The centenary that we missed

Alec Moretti

It is not unknown for people to miss sending birthday greetings on time, and we missed the centenary of the founding of the Wymeswold Parish Council as established by the Local Government Act of 1894. Oh dear! My excuse is that the Minutes of these early meetings took rather a long time to be made available by the Records Office Perhaps this short account of those early meetings will act as my belated congratulations on your behalf.

The Parish Council as established in 1894 replaced the Vestry, which had been set up in Tudor times to handle civil and ecclesiastical affairs in the parish, taking over the responsibilities for the poor and the roads from the manorial courts, and appointing Overseers for these. The Vicar, Churchwardens and Overseers were the main members of the Vestry. Presumably it was felt that the system of parish administration needed modernisation after the three hundred years or so since the founding of the Vestry especially bearing in mind the growth of population in the nineteenth century, and ideas of modern democracy.

The first Minutes of the Wymeswold Parish Council were those of a "Parish Meeting" in the Infant Schoolroom on 14 December 1894 which was convened by Mr Walter Holwell and Mr Samuel Lamb who were Parish Overseers. About one hundred "Parish Electors" attended. The purpose was to choose six Parish Councillors for the new council. The Vicar, Rev R.C. Green, was chosen to chair the meeting, and he called for nominations. The following were proposed and seconded :-

John Ayre Gardener
Joseph Woods Baker
Thomas Barsby Cattle Dealer
Thomas Bass Gent.
Wm. Reuben Charles Farmer
Edward Collington Farmer
John Hallam Farmer
Joseph Hardy Miller
Robert Hickling Farmer
Walter Holwell Farmer
Samuel Lamb Wheelwright
William Sault Bricklayer
John Smith Grazier
Thomas Tyler Grazier
William Whyman Watchmaker

As no-one asked any questions of them, the election proceeded with a show of hands for each of those nominated. Then the opportunity for a secret poll to be taken was offered but no-one asked for this so the following were declared elected :-

Mr Wm.Reuben Charles 84 votes
Mr Samuel Lamb 73 votes
Mr William Whyman 73 votes
Mr Joseph Wood 69 votes
Mr Thomas Bass 67 votes
Mr John Hallam 64 votes

This ended the meeting and the elected councillors met a fortnight later and "signed" as accepting the office of Councillor. They then proceeded to appoint the Rev R.C. Green as Chairman and John Hallam as Treasurer.

As no-one was willing to be the Clerk, Henry Dawson, one of the Overseers, was co-opted to this post. He was a grazier and had been one of the village Census Enumerators in 1891.

On the 31st December 1894 the first business meeting of Wymeswold Parish Council was held in the Infant School and according to the Minutes one of the first items discussed was that of providing more allotments. More information was to be obtained and the matter examined at a later meeting when it was reported that a total of 122 acres had been requested. The council thought that this was too much and after discussion reduced it to 13 acres of arable and 53 acres of grass. The Chairman was to see if Trinity College, Mr Burrows, Mr Paget (Lord of the Manor), Mr Brewster (?), and Rev Sutton (?) would grant some land. Most of them were rather unwilling but an offer by Mr Burchnall of some land in Winfield Lane for a rent of 31/12/6 was accepted and a contract drawn up. As only two people applied for any of this land the council decided to abandon the project and negociated compensation for Mr Burchnall of 4. Not a very successful start to their business!

Other business carried out at the first meeting was to agree to pay the Henry Dawson 20 for his work as Clerk to the Parish Council and Burial Board, and as Rate Collector and as Assistant Overseer. Then, as a parishioner was present at the meeting, it was proposed that future meetings should be private.

After this uncertain start the Parish Council dealt with a growing list of parish affairs such as appointing Trustees and Overseers and considering the building of a village hall. Further examination of the early Minutes will enable us to judge their success.

Originally published in the WHO Newsletter 1997.

Copyright the author.

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