The state of the Corporation 1833

by Steve Goodchild
In 1835, the Gloucestershire Chronicle published a report on the Borough, explaining the way the Corporation worked and reviewing the state of the local economy. It is surprising how much which is now done at County or even national level was once managed locally. The worries about the economy and epidemics are all too familiar! 


     Limits.— The limits of the borough of Tewkesbury, with respect to corporate jurisdiction, are co-extensive with those of the parish, and are correctly laid down the map annexed to the report of the Boundary Commissioners. The parish extends from north to south about four miles, from east to west its extent varies from two miles to 200 yards. It contains population of about 5800 persons.

      Charters. — Charters were granted to this borough in the 17th of Elizabeth (1574), the 3d and 7th James I. (1605 and 1609), and in the 2d James II. (1686); but the present governing charter the 10th William III (1698), in which the preceding charters are recited.

Title and Body Corporate.—The title of the corporation is "The Bailiffs, Burgesses, and Commonality of the Borough of Tewkesbury, in the county of Gloucester" and the body, with its:

      Officers. — Consist of high steward, two bailiffs, 24 principal burgesses (of whom the two bailiffs and the recorder are three), four justices of the peace, a common clerk and clerk of the peace (usually called the town clerk), a coroner, chamberlain, and two serjeants at mace.

In addition to these officers the charter directs the appointment of 24 assistants; but their duties being undefined or unimportant, no election of them has taken place for several years.

     High Steward. — The high steward is elected by the bailiffs and principal burgesses, and according to the charter holds his office during their pleasure. The appointment of high steward is merely honorary, and he has no functions, salary, or emoluments. The' present high steward is the Earl of Coventry.

    Two Bailiffs. — The two bailiffs are elected annually by the bailiffs and principal burgesses from among themselves. They act as chief magistrates of the Borough, and jointly or severally are, with the recorder or his deputy, the judges of the court of record. They are also authorised to preside, with the recorder and the four justices of the peace, at the court of quarter sessions. They have no salary or emoluments.

    Recorder. —The recorder is elected for life by the bailiffs and principal burgesses. In one part of the charter of William III. he is required to be "skilful and learned in the laws” (Peritus et eruditus) while by another clause he is only required to be skilful. He a justice of the peace by virtue of his office, is authorized to preside with the bailiffs and four justices in the court of quarter sessions, and is bound in person or by deputy to preside with the bailiffs, or one of them, in the borough court to record. The present recorder has during the last seven years attended 14 quarter sessions. Within the same period only three trials have taken place in the court of record, and he was present at one of them. He has no privileges or salary but to be entitled to fee of 10s. upon every trial in the court of record. The present recorder is a Master in Chancery, and Member of Parliament for the borough.

     Principal Burgesses. — The 24 principal burgesses are elected by the bailiffs and burgesses from the burgesses at large. They have no individual functions imposed by the charter, and no salary or emoluments. The four justices are annually elected by the bailiffs and principal burgesses from their own body. Their functions are to act as Justices of the Peace; their jurisdiction is exclusive of the county magistrates. They have no salaries or emoluments.

     Common Clerk. — The common clerk and clerk of the peace is elected by the bailiffs and principal burgesses, and holds his office for life. His functions are to transact the general law business of the corporation, and to assist the civil and criminal courts. This officer has no salary under the charter but by an ancient bye-law he is entitled to£30 a year as a remuneration for his services, From the low state of the corporation funds, the present town clerk receives only £10 a year. His incidental emoluments are his professional charges for business done for the corporation and his fees in the several borough courts. The amount of these emoluments does not exceed £100 year. The present town clerk is an attorney residing abroad; his deputy is an attorney, residing at Tewkesbury. We cannot find any clause in the charters authorizing the discharge of the duties of town clerk by deputy; though it appears from the corporation books that the appointment of a deputy town clerk has frequently taken place.

     Coroner, how elected. — The coroner is usually elected by the bailiffs and burgesses from their own body; by the charter he may be taken from the burgesses large. His office continues during the pleasure of the corporation. The coroner receives no salary; but entitled upon each inquest to a fee of 30s.; of which 9s. are divided among the summoning officers and the jury.

     Chamberlain. — The chamberlain is elected by the bailiffs and principal burgesses from the burgesses at large; his office is during pleasure; and his duties are to keep the seal, the deeds and muniments of the corporation, to receive their revenues, and manage their accounts; he renders an annual statement to the ruling body. By virtue of his office he is a governor of the Free Grammar School called "Ferrer's School,” and has jointly with several other officers of the corporation the appointment of the master and usher to that institution, and also of the scholars. He has an annual salary of £10 under a byelaw, but no incidental emoluments.

     Serjeants at Mace. —Two serjeants at mace, who are not charter officers, are appointed by the bailiffs and principal burgesses during pleasure. Their duties are to serve process, and to attend on the bailiffs, and one of them acts as constable; each has an annual salary five guineas, and they are both entitled to certain small fees in the court of record.

     Mode of becoming Free. — By the charter, the corporation has power of creating freemen to any extent. It has been customary for each of the bailiffs, during his year of office to appoint two; and for several years the average number of appointments has not exceeded seven.

Persons also become free by birth or servitude. The son first born after the admission of a freeman, becomes free upon his father’s death; and person serving an apprenticeship of seven years to freeman residing in Tewkesbury, under an indenture inrolled in the town clerk’s office, is entitled to his freedom.

The only privileges of freemen consist in an exemption from certain tolls in the market, and the receipt of a proportion of the rent arising from the aftermath of a piece of ground near the town, called the Severn Hams.

The number of non-resident freemen about 200, of freemen resident within the seven-mile boundary 80. The number of voters on the last register is 380. 

     Ruling Body. — The whole body of 24 principal burgesses, comprising the bailiffs and recorder, and elected above described, form the common council under the charter, and are the ruling body of the corporation.

     Fees and Fines. — No fees are paid on admissions to any of the offices in the corporation. The fees to the town clerk and other officers on admissions by birth and servitude, as well as on honorary admissions, amount to £1/l4S/6d.

By a series of bye-laws made in 1759, fines were fixed for refusals to serve corporation offices, but none of these have been enforced for many years past. The same set of bye-laws also imposed fines upon foreigners trading within the borough, which are also wholly discontinued at the present day.

     Courts: Quarter Sessions. — The borough court quarter sessions is regularly held four times the year, before the bailiffs, recorder, and four justices; according to the charter, one of the bailiffs, or the recorder, is bound to preside. The jurisdiction of the court embraces the whole parish of Tewkesbury, and extends to all offences which not affect life and limb. A table of the fees accompanies our report.

During the last seven years, 73 cases of felonies and 25 of misdemeanours have been tried at the borough sessions. It appears from a published account of the borough expenses for the year ending at Michaelmas, that the expense of prosecuting 13 cases of felony at the quarter sessions amounted to £130/ 17s/ 2d.

     Court of record. — The borough court of record is holden every Friday before the bailiffs, or one of them and the recorder or his deputy. The jurisdiction extends to all personal causes of action, where the debt or damages recovered do not exceed £50. The process is by summons in the nature of a serviceable capias; if the defendant does not appear upon this summons, the plaintiff may enter an appearance for him, or may issue a bailable capias and arrest him. In general the proceedings are as at common law. A judgment by default may obtained in three weeks; and under any circumstances a plaintiff may have his execution in five or six weeks. About 60 suits were commenced in this court during the last year, but in former years the number has been greater. In general the causes are compromised before trial, and the proceedings are seldom removed by certiorari or habeas. It was stated to us by several professional men that this court in its present state is useful, and, if properly constituted, would be of essential advantage to the town.

     Court Leet. — A court leet is held annually in the month of October, within the borough, at which constables are appointed for the whole hundred of Tewkesbury.

     Juries. — The juries, both criminal and civil, are taken in the usual manner from the inhabitants of the borough, the duty being fairly distributed in such a manner as not to fall heavily upon individuals.

     Police. — Six borough constables are appointed by the common council at their annual meeting in October ; besides these, four assistant constables are annually chosen. No deficiency in the police, or in the means adopted for the general regulation of the town, was suggested to us.

     Gaols. — A gaol, house of correction, and penitentiary house were built under the provisions of an Act of Parliament passed in the 53d Geo. III. These establishments are under the superintendence of two visiting magistrates, elected annually at the quarter sessions. The gaoler is appointed by the corporation, with a salary of £5 a year; he also receives £45 a year under the Act of Parliament, as keeper of the house of correction and the penitentiary; these salaries were granted a few years ago instead of gaol fees. 

    Revenues. — The only property now belonging to the corporation consists of certain tolls levied at fairs and markets, some small ground-rents, a fishery in the river Avon, producing in the whole £22/11s/8d. per annum, and a reversionary interest in certain buildings. The tolls are let by auction. The buildings in which the corporation have reversionary interest arc the market house and other houses in the town, the existing leases of which do not expire till 1888 and 1905. The corporation seem to have, by charter, a power of alienating their property. No traces can now be found of any alienation, although from the recitals in the charter of William III. it appears that in the reign of James I, the corporation were in possession of considerable property which they had purchased from the crown. The corporation has been engaged in several law-suits, the expense of which, it is conjectured, has absorbed the property in question. 

Insolvency of Corporation. — Till within a comparatively recent period, however, the municipal body appears have had some means of obtaining credit; for about the year 1828 they were involved in debt to the amount of £6,000; when, the body being insolvent, the several creditors, by a composition deed dated the 25th day of August 1826, released their debts upon receiving 6s. in the pound. To effect this payment, £2,000 was advanced by Mr. Dowdeswell, the recorder and Member of Parliament of the town, and the whole of the remaining property of the corporation was conveyed to him by way of mortgage, as security for that sum.

The following is an account of one year’s receipts and expenditure:—

Tolls received upon Cattle at Fairs and Markets, after deducting Poors’ Rates, Church and Street Rates ..20–0–0
Fishery in River Avon.. .. ..1–10–0
Annual Ground-rent upon Houses in Gloster-row ..0–14–0
Ditto, upon Market-house .. ..0–6–8
Ditto, House near the Gaol ....0–1–0
Annual Salaries paid to five Corporation Officers ..23–0–0
Annual Salary paid to the Gaoler .. ..5–0–0
Ditto Town Clerk, remitted from £30. to .. ..10–10–0
Ditto Chamberlain .. .. ..10–10–0
Corporation Officer attending Gloucester Assizes twice in the year, as bailiff of the Hundred .. ..2–2–0
Expenses of Officer at Assises .. .. ..2 10 0
Corporation Officer attending Gloucester Sessions four times in the year .. .. .. ..2–2–0
Summoning Jury for Borough Sessions ditto .. ..0–8–0
Various incidental Expenses, Repairs in Town hall, Printing, &c. &c. .. .. .. ..10–0–0
Patronage. — The corporation appoint a reader, usually the vicar of the parish for the time being, who by virtue of such appointment is entitled to Easter offerings and other small payments, amounting in the whole to £27 per annum.

They are also the distributors of certain small charities, amounting in the whole to about £136 5s. 6d. and nominate the occupants of certain alms-house in Garden-lane.

The chamberlain is, with others, a trustee of Sir Francis Russell’s alms-houses, endowed for the maintenance of eleven aged females.

The bailiffs, justices, chamberlain, and town-clerk are the governors of Ferrer’s grammar school, and such appoint a master, who has an endowment of about a year. The present master is a clergyman of the Church of England, and one of the justices of the Borough. Certain scholars are nominated by the governors; but for some years the school has not been attended by more than three or four pupils. An opinion prevails in the town, that the present master conducts the process of tuition with improper severity; in consequence of which, parents are deterred from entrusting their children to his care, and complaints were made to us that the inhabitants of the town are thus deprived of the benefit of a free school in their immediate neighbourhood.

Representations on this subject have been frequently made to the governors who have, however, proceeded no further than to caution the master on the subject, and to recommend recourse to a system of discipline of less severity. This seems to have produced some effect, but complaints of undue severity arc still made; and the towns-people object, as it seems to us not without reason, that the master , who by the charter ought to be under the control of the justices, should himself be one of them; and thus in some degree a judge in his own cause.

Local Acts.—The Local Acts relating to the town are as follows:-

26 Geo III. 1786. – “An act for paving, repairing, cleansing, lighting and watching the streets, lanes, ways, passages and places within the town of Tewkesbury and the precincts thereof, in the county of Gloucester; for the removal of present, and the prevention of future encroachments, nuisances and annoyances therein; for regulating carts and other carriages, and ascertaining the rates of carriage; and for widening some part of the street called Church Street, within the said town.”

32 Geo III. 1792. – “An act for the better relief and employment of the poor, of and belonging to the parish of Tewkesbury, in the County of Gloucester.”

48 Geo III.1808. – An act for taking down and rebuilding the Key Bridge across the River Avon, in the Borough of Tewkesbury, in the County of Gloucester, and for making and forming convenient roads thereto.”

48 Geo III.1808. – “An act for inclosing lands in the Borough of Tewkesbury, in the County of Gloucester, and investing the after or latter math of a meadow called Severn Ham within the said Borough and parish, in Trustees for certain purposes.”

53 Geo III. 1812. – “An act for erecting a new Goal, House of Correction and Penitentiary House in the Borough of Tewkesbury, in the County of Gloucester,”

4 Geo IV. 1823. – “An act for building a bridge over the River Severn near to the Mythe Hill, within the parish and near to the town of Tewkesbury, in the County of Gloucester, to the opposite side of the said river, in the parish of Bushley, in the county of Worcester, and for making convenient roads and avenues to communicate with such bridge within the counties of Gloucester and Worcester.”       

7 Geo III. 1826. – “An act for altering and amending and enlarging the powers and provisions of an act relating to the Tewkesbury Severn bridge and roads.”

7 Geo III. 1826. – “An act for making, maintaining and repairing certain roads leading into and from the town of Tewkesbury, in the County of Gloucester, towards the cities of Gloucester and Worcester, and the towns of Cheltenham, Stow-on-the-Wold, Evesham and Pershore, and certain other roads therein mentioned, in the counties of Gloucester and Worcester.”

Year to..£.–s.–d.
June, 18102547–9–0
18112972–6– 3
18133558–2– 3
18184582– 6–3
18203572– 2–4
18214523– 6–8
18222696–15– 7
18242532– 7–9
18252253– 5–11
18263158–3– 3
18273538–18– 9
18283421–15– 0
18303145–9– 3
18322883–0– 4
18334146–3– 1

     General State and Prospects. —  The principle manufacture at Tewkesbury is cotton and lambs-wool hosiery. There is also one manufacturer of bobbinet lace.

In 1810 there were about 800 stocking frames at work; in 1819, 559; at present, about 600; the number of persons employed may be ascertained by adding about one person for every five frames. The decrease in the business since 1810 is said to have been occasioned by the death of one large capitalist, and the removal of another.

Persons employed in this trade earn from 5s to 12s a week. The average earnings are said to be 7s. The average in 1810 is said to have been 12s.

The poor’s rates from 1810 to 1833, both inclusive, have been as follows: - (In the year ending in)

In the last year a heavy expense was incurred by the cholera, which prevailed with fatal effect. The borough rate is also defrayed out of the poor rate.

In the manufacture of lace by machinery, about 150 persons are employed, many of whom earn about £1. a week. Some of the machinery, the invention of the proprietor and worked by hand, has become greatly depreciated by the subsequent invention of a more simple and effectual apparatus set in motion by steam. Hand machines, which cost £709 are not now worth more than £100. The proprietor continues to work his Hand machines, but employs also the machinery moved by steam.

About 50 persons are engaged in the manufacture of nails; the number was formerly somewhat greater.

The carrying trade up the Severn has declined, in consequence of improvements in the navigation at Gloucester; and since the construction of the rail-road between Moreton-in-the-Marsh and Stratford-on-Avon, and improved communications between other towns in the neighbourhood, the corn market at Tewkesbury is said to have been less frequented.

A bridge, however, has recently been thrown across the Severn, opening direct communication with Hereford and Wales, which will probably in a short time render the resort to Tewkesbury at least equal to what it has been in times past. Upon the whole, the town appeared in a thriving state.

Peregrine Bingham.

David Jardine

Gloucester, Sept. 22,1833.

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