The First Parish Council Meeting, Sandridge, 1894

 

Old Herts

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Sandridge

 I recently brought this commemorative cover on ebay and was delighted to find it contained the following description of the first meeting of the Sandridge Parish Council by Reg Auckland, who did so much for recording Sandridge's history. I have added full names and occupation and address as appropriate.

THE EMBRYO

The ultimate Sandridge Vestry Meeting under the old system of local government was held in the Parish Hall on Thursday, September 27, 1894, with the Reverend James Alexander Cruikshank, vicar of Sandridge, in the chair. The Vestry Meeting was an assembly of a certain number of parishioners who were responsible under statutory law to manage the business and affairs of the parish. It was so named because the meeting was usually held in the vestry room of a church. The principal topics at this September meeting were the rates and other "nuisances" to be resolved. At the end of discussions, the half-yearly rate for the poor was fixed at 1/- (5p) in the ; the School Board, Police and Sanitary at 3d (1p) and the City rate at 2/l0d (14p). Thirty to thirty-five years earlier the Poor Rate had been 5p in the and the Church Rate at 1d ( p).

On November 13, 1894, a meeting - contemporaneously described as 'sensible and orderly' - was held (again in the Parish Hall), in order to clear the way for the very first "Parish Meeting" which was to be held on December 4. From the Vestry chrysalis the Parish Council butterfly would soon emerge; would it be a pretty thing? The vicar accepted the offer of chairmanship of the "Parish Meeting" and gave an account of the origin, meaning and functions of the Vestry. He went on to tell of the transfer of some its duties and powers to the "Parish Council" under the new Act and explained the constitution, procedure and prerogatives of the "Parish Meeting". In effect, what he told his listeners was that the parish would no longer become financially or otherwise responsible for many of the community services, e.g., roads, highways, lighting or 'the indigenous poor, lame and impotent' (localized NHS system) or the distribution of charity (a kind of Income Support). In future, the new "Parish Council" could accept responsibility, if it so wished, for such local affairs as footpaths, sign-posts, pleasure fields, community buildings, etc., - much as it is today. It was given no powers to act in such serious subjects as housing, planning permission, sewerage, drains and all the support services of civilization; it could only send. recommendations and advice to the appropriate authority, just as the parish council does at the present time.

Following much discussion with a lot of side-tracking issues, at the end of the meeting about twenty names were mentioned as likely to be nominated for councillor. Those present were told that all names on the Parliamentary or Local Government Register of the civil parish (i.e., the rural sanitary district) of Sandridge were eligible for election as Parish Councillor. But only eight parish councillors were to be - and could be - elected from the twenty names, by the process of the highest number of votes gained were the "winners".

The first ever Parish Meeting was held in the Village Hall on December 4, 1894, at 6 p.m. for the election of a Parish Council. Mr. Frank William Low (farmer of Brides Hall Farm), as one of the old Overseers of the parish, the convenors of the meeting, opened the proceedings but immediately passed the chairmanship by popular assent to Mr. Jacob Reynolds, a farmer (of Heath Farm).

The nomination papers of seventeen parishioners were then handed in and the names duly announced to the people assembled. A few names were immediately withdrawn, whether voluntarily or by invalid forms is not known. The proper opportunity was given to question the candidates by the considerable number of parishioners present. The election not being a secret ballot, the remaining names were put to the meeting and votes were taken, "in favour of" only, by a show of hands. The results were chalked on a blackboard on loan from the school. The. result produced a crisis inasmuch that some candidates in the top eight received an identical number of votes. At this stage a poll was demanded by Mr. William Paul, the village carpenter, a very forceful radical who was pleased to see the old Vestry go and the democratic Parish Council take its place.

As a result of Mr. Paul's objection, some candidates appear to have withdrawn their nomination and the following were eventually chosen to serve as the first Parish Council:- John Henry Smith (farmer of Evans Farm)(90 votes), Henry Alexander Taylor (farmer at Hill and farm and former way warden)(87), William Paul (83), Samuel Norman (grocer living in Culver Road, Bernards Heath)(82), Rev. James Alexander Cruikshank (66), James Slimmon (farmer at Marshalswick Farm)(74), Frederick William  Bush (Civil servant living at Dell Field, Sandridge)(83) and Harry Beasney Cox (farmer at Pound Farm and former overseer of the poor)(63). A contemporary report felt that the "new men" would do their utmost to promote the best interests of the parish. The electorate also chose H. A. Taylor (97) and W. Paul (79) as their two representatives on St. Albans District Council.

With the voting all over, the chairman was asked to approach the Returning Officer with a view to having a Polling Station at Bernards Heath and Sandridge.

The initial meeting of the Parish Council took place on Tuesday evening, February 12, 1895, but not at the Village Hall as in the case of the previous three preparatory assemblies; this time the venue was Sandridge school.

All the parishioners who had been voted councillors on December 4 in the previous year were present, except Mr. Norman who sent a letter regretting his inability to attend. Mr. Arthur Lewis (manufacturer of Sparrowswick, Bernards Heath and former overseer) was chairman but how he came to be in that position is not clear. Also present was Mr. George Ivory (agricultural labourer of Nomansland) lately Assistant Overseer, and other inhabitants of the parish.

The chief discussion of the evening was the state of the highways in the parish which had been brought before the council. Mr. Taylor remarked in his opinion that the roads were in a fairly good condition. Mr. Slimmon said that the road near Marshall's Wick was in a very bad condition, and had been for the past two years. It was his opinion that the gravel which had been used was not suitable for putting on the road. Mr. Taylor countered that 250 yards of gravel had been put on the road between Hall Heath and North Lodge, but the carts from Mr. G. N. Marten's brickfield had made the road in a very bad condition.

Mr. Bush contributed to the debate by saying that the road from the railway bridge to the city boundary [ie, Sandridge Road] ought to be attended to. Mr. Taylor (who was probably the Highways Surveyor under the old Vestry system) said that the road was in excellent condition, but the excessive rainfall in the autumn had rendered it almost impassable. More road metal would be put on as soon as possible. .

The council then discussed the income and disbursements of the two charities of Smith & Clerke. When the 3 charity money was distributed the previous Christmas among widows and the infirm it meant that each would receive only about a shovelful of charity coal. This predicament was overcome by augmentation by private beneficence, with the result that 42 widows received two hundredweight [224 lb. or 100 kilo] and the infirm - 'a large and respectable number' - also received the same amount.

At this time the money was administered by the vicar and his churchwardens and it was for the council to decide whether these charities were to be considered ecclesiastical or parochial. A decision was deferred until a future meeting.

Footpaths was the next subject and a lively discussion ensued on the question of the diversion or encroachments thereof. Mr. Paul asserted that there were encroachments all over the parish. This brought laughter in the room, but the implication or innuendo is lost to the modern reader of the report. The Reverend Mr. Cruikshank contended that he was about the parish a great deal in the course of his ministerial duties, and on the whole he thought the footpaths were most convenient. No further discussion took place and the matter was dropped.

The final business of this first meeting was the rate. Mr. Cruikshank proposed, Mr. Smith seconded, that application should be made for a rate of d (0.2p) in the to meet incidental expenses and to pay for the cost of the formation of the Parish Council. The proposition was carried unanimously and the meeting concluded.

     
January 2014   Page Created