From the Parish Archive
Thanks to our new Parish Councillor Judy Jones for compiling these articles - see relevant Newsletter for previous articles
The early years of the Parish Council, from 1894 to December 1905: a ‘Parish chest’, a Diamond Jubilee and the Telegraph comes to the village…
Are you curious about why the first meeting of the Parish Council was held on 4th December 1894? I was, so I did a bit of research and discovered that a new piece of legislation (The Local Government Act 1894) reformed local government in England and Wales outside the County of London. It led to the establishment of elected parish councils in rural areas and also entitled women who owned property to vote in local elections, become poor law guardians, and act on school boards. It wasn’t exactly equal rights, but it did mean that over 729,000 women were eligible to vote in local elections in England and Wales. Progress of sorts! And so, in December 1894, the first Northlew Parish meeting for the election of Councillors was held in the school room. From 14 candidates (all men) the nine who received the highest number of votes were duly elected to represent the Parish. Reverend John Worthington was elected as the first Chair, Samuel Pascoe as Vice-Chair. Their first purchases were ‘a proper Minute Book’ to record the business of the Council and an oak ‘Parish Chest’ to use as safe and secure place to store the Parish records. It’s fair to say that things got off to a quiet start. Business in 1895 focused on the appointments of Overseers and a Clerk (at a salary of £10 a year), and the County Rates Committee’s Assessment Valuation List for the Parish. In fact it was so dull that I’ll skip straight to November 1896. It may come as no surprise that the state of the roads, paths and bridges around the village has been the focus of Parish Council discussions from the very early days. (And let’s face it, it’s definitely more interesting than Rates and Valuations!) November 1896 was the first mention of the ‘very bad state’ of a Parish road or path, specifically on that occasion the road leading from the village on to Milltown Farm. In 1898 ‘re-pairing’ was being carried out on the paths from Southcombe House on to Ashbury copse, and from the Church-yard by Broomfield. In 1902 the pathway from Northlew to Ashbury was ‘re-paired’ (at a cost of £2 5s 6d). In 1904 a new gate was made for the end of the Broomfield footpath. One of the most interesting events of the early years was the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. In May 1897 the Council agreed to the Chairman’s request that Northlew Parish Council should ‘…join other Parish Councils in sending a congratulatory address to Her Most Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria on Her celebrating Her Diamond Jubilee.’ As far as ‘technology’ is concerned, the earliest reference to getting either a Telegraph or Telephone connection to the village was at the Council’s meeting of November 1899. This initiative moved forward very quickly, and in December 1899 the Council carried unanimously that ‘… the Terms of The Postmaster General be accepted by the Council, with this understanding that subscriptions be collected in case there was not enough money take at the Office to pay The Postmaster General.’ This proved to be a very sensible precaution; at the end of 1901 the Parish paid £2 4s 5d in part payment of the deficit incurred by the Postal Telegraph Office in the village. This rose to almost £5 in subsequent years. A familiar village landmark received attention in June 1900, when the Council agreed to support the restoration of the Old Village Cross. A sub-committee of Councillors (the Reverend John Worthington of The Rectory, Nicholas Brooking of Millcombe Down, James Breyley of Luckcroft and John Harry of Milltown) was set up to supervise the project. The masonry work was to be carried out by James Shobbrook of Bogtown. Another familiar landmark, the village school, is mentioned for the first time in August 1903 when managers for the ‘Northlew Public Elementary School’ were appointed. On the face of it these events are nothing very exciting but I know that having read about them, when I walk past the school or the Village Cross, I see them in a different light. And there’s a lot more interesting stuff to come!
Next time: from 1906 to the outbreak of WW1. Calls for repairs to the village square; alterations to the Post Office opening hours; questions about the provision of land as small-holdings; preparations for the Coronation; nominations to the Devon County Education Committee, and the Council’s role with the Devonshire Patriotic Fund.