HE HISTORY OF EASTRY PARISH COUNCIL (1894 – 1984)
RONALD W. HOPPER (Clerk to the Council 1956 – 1983)
On the 5th March 1894, after a year’s controversy, Mr. Gladstone’s Local Government Act received the Royal Assent and the way was prepared for the transfer of many of the powers of the village Vestry to a newly created body to be known as the Parish Council. These powers of the Vestry had built up over several hundred years. In the Middle Ages, as the power of the Lord of the Manor declined so the power of the Church increased, particularly over the responsibility of the community to the poor. The parson was paid by means of the Tithe, a form of local tax levied in kind, and the local inhabitants met to discuss the problems of the community, under the priest’s guidance. The Church was the centre of the community and the body of the church was the natural place for the inhabitants to meet to discuss the affairs of the community. Gradually these meetings began to be known as the Vestry, and one of its prime duties was to help the poor within the Parish. In 1601 the Vestry was given the power to levy a poor rate for the relief of poverty, and overseers were appointed to see that this rate was collected from the landowners. This practice continued until 1834, when the Poor Law Act transferred the responsibility from the Vestry to a Board of Guardians covering a much wider area as had been the case for several hundred years, Eastry became the centre for several parishes and Eastry Union was built, accepting responsibility for the homeless of a union of nine parishes. This is now known, of course, as Eastry Hospital. But at that time, it was the meeting place not only for the Board of Guardians but also for the Eastry Rural District Council when it was formed in 1894 the same year as Parish Councils. With the setting up of this Board, the separation of the Church from civil responsibilities began. There was much confusion for many years and this Act of 1894 was designed to sort out the problems, with the Church remaining responsible for religious affairs, the Parish and District Councils becoming responsible for civil affairs and the Board of Guardians continuing to be responsible for poor relief.
The Parish Council of Eastry was set up at a meeting of the Parish called by the overseers and held in what was then known as the National Schools at seven o’clock in the evening of 4th December 1894. The purpose of the meeting was to elect nine Parish Councillors, and one hundred and four parish electors attended. The chair was taken by Rev. J. R. Holmes, the Chairman of the Vestry. He was a former Rector of Knowlton, lived at Brook House and had been a Trustee of the Greville Almshouses since 1873. There were fourteen candidates for the nine seats and voting was by show of hands. The highest number of votes was received by Mr. William Clark who was a miller, baker and coal merchant, and owner of The Mills. It is interesting to note that the Vicar, Rev C. Dudley Lampen
came next to bottom of the poll with only twenty five votes. It has been, suggested that the establishment of Parish Councils was not popular with the Church and that could, be the reason for the low vote. This newly formed Council was to serve until March 1896, when the first Annual Parish Meeting had to be held. This Annual Meeting continues to this day, when the Council has to report to the Parish what actions it has taken over the previous twelve months, although voting for members of the Council no longer takes place. This meeting is the only one of its kind in Local Government, when the Council comes face to face with the people who elected it.
Ten days after this first meeting, on 14th December, the Rev. Holmes called the nine Councillors together to sign the Declaration of Acceptance of Office. This remains the first duty of every Councillor after being elected or re-elected, and the book containing these 1894 signatures remained in use until 1977, a unique record of all the many people who have served on the Parish Council. After signing the book, the Council elected William Wilson as its first Chairman and Walter V. Lister as Vice-chairman. Ethelbert Moat, who had been an assistant Overseer, was appointed as Clerk to the Council. The existing Overseers continued in office, but were now responsible to the Parish Council. So there was this strange system, the Parish Council decided on the rate to be collected and what the Clerk’s salary was to be, the Overseers were
responsible for seeing that this rate was collected by the -Assistant Overseer, and for paying him. This continued until 1927, when the Overseers Order was made transferring the responsibility for collecting the rates was passed to the District Councils. It wasn’t until then that the Parish Council started to pay its Clerk direct. The Council opened a Bank account at the London and County Bank at Sandwich, the Manager acted as treasurer and the Bank put up a Bond of £150 as security for the Council’s money. The Manager of its successor Bank, the National Westminster still responsible for holding the Council’s money, but a Bond is no longer required.
There was one other item of business at this first meeting of the Council, the setting up of a Committee (What else?) to enquire into the Parish Charities, and to report back in a week!!
In fact, this wasn’t as difficult as it sounds, as half of the newly elected Council were also Trustees of the Greville Almshouse Charity, the main Charity in the village. This had been set up in 1834 when a William Fulke Greville, who lived at Statenborough House, had offered to pay for the building of a terrace of six almshouses if the Parish bought a suitable plot of land. This offer had been made to the Vestry, and the land where the Almshouses stand was bought by the Vestry from a Mr. John Kite for the sum of £100. The money was raised by levying a. three pence rate for three consecutive years, to be collected at Michaelmas. He also set up a fund which enabled the Trustees to
pay 3 quarterly pension of £2. 10s. to each of the alm people. He also added to the Fund a further sum of money for pensions to be paid to two other needy people in the Parish. The cost of building the Almshouses was £600, and in addition he donated £2,000 to be invested for the residents and £666 for the two out pensions. It is interesting to note that the pensions continued to be paid at this rate until 1955, when the cost of maintaining the buildings became too great, and all payments ceased. The Trustees at that time were the Vicar, Churchwardens, Overseers of the poor and five ‘substantial’ inhabitants of the Parish. Under the 1894 Act, the Churchwardens and Overseers were no longer eligible as Trustees, and as a result of the Committee’s Report, the Council appointed four of its members to replace them, to be appointed for periods of four years. This continued until 1911 when a fresh Scheme was agreed with the Charity Commissioners which laid down that all the Trustees then existing should continue to serve for life, and the Council should appoint four further Trustees. The last of these life Trustees was Dr. McNally, one of the ‘substantial’ inhabitants. He died in 1946 he was a familiar figure in the village, riding about on his tricycle visiting his patients. He lived at The White House between Sandwich Hill and Woodnesborough Lane. It was perhaps fitting that, when the property was sold, his gardener and housekeeper, a Mr. & Mrs. Hopper (no relation}) and the house maid were given Almshouses, there being two vacant houses at that time. “With his death, the life Trustees were replaced by two persons elected for periods of five years, by the remaining Trustees.
There were other smaller Charities controlled by the Churchwardens and Overseers which passed to the control of the Council. These were Mrs. Elizabeth Rammell left £300 in 1821, the annual income to be distributed to poor people who had not received Parish Relief in the previous year. She used to live at what is now the Old Brewery House in Lower Street.
Mary Hills left £250 in 1829, the income to be distributed in January to the most deserving widows who had endeavoured to support themselves. The income from all these smaller Charities was combined after 1911 and continued to be used to make an annual payment to widows until 1954, the last payment being one of 5s. (25p) to 30 widows. The Trustees can now use this income for a much wider range of needy causes, but is often used to help the finances of the Almshouses. In 1574, Christian Goddard left a house in Church Street, now Albion Place, This was sold in 1886 for £40, and the income used for the deserving poor.
In 1673, Richard Thompson left a house in High Street to his son on condition that 24 poor people should be given a loaf of bread (a twopenny loaf) at Christmas, Easter and Whitsun. This was later changed to a yearly payment of 8s. (40p). This house was demolished when The Parade was built, and the land now forms part of School or Collarmakers Alley.
In addition to these Charities, some or the Council thought that a cottage and a plot of land at the beginning of Thornton Lane should be Council property. After two years of research, it was proved that the tenements had been erected at the expense of the Parish following a resolution of The Vestry on July 1st (1)*804. They had, for many years, been occupied by families placed in them by the Parish on the condition that they made no further claim for help under the Poor Law. Although the land was still used, it appeared that the cottages themselves were in a. state of disrepair, and the owners of property on either side were claiming it as theirs. Discussions on this continued until 1898, when Captain Boteler and a Mr Licence admitted the Council’s claim, and boundary stones were put in position at all four corners of the Council’s plot. The cottages were eventually removed, but the land remained in -the Council’s possession and the tenants paid £1 a year rent for it until 1977, when the then tenant, Mr. Fred Butcher, purchased it for £220. As he already owned the land on either aide, the sale made sense, both to him and to the Council.
This first Council held office until March 1896, and for the next five years there were annual elections always held in the National Schools, but from 1901 onwards, Councillors served for periods of three years except for the two wars and when reorganisation took place in 1974. Voting was by show of hands, the Chair being taken by an independent elector. For many years, until his death, this was Mr. A.E. Woodruff, the village chemist, living at what is now the newsagents. The first Clerk soon gave up and resigned in March 1895 and Mr. William Thorne was appointed as assistant overseer and clerk to the Council, his salary being £23 per annum. The first precept made by the Council was for £12 in April 1895 to meet the cost of the election and. some footpath repairs. This represented a 1/2d rate on Rateable value of £5,822. It is interesting to compare this with the figures for 1984, when the Council precepted for an expenditure of £5,800 and a 1p, rate product was £1,711. It has to be remembered that 1p. is equivalent to 2½d of the pre 1971 currency, and that, in 1895 all agricultural land was included in the rateable value.
The powers of Parish Councils were very limited under the 1894 Act, and Eastry made very slow progress in making use of those limited powers. The first several meetings were taken up with correspondence concerning the Charities, then a Committee was set up to look at the condition of one of the main footpaths, that running from the School to Statenborough, referred to in the Minutes as the Rope Walk, and as a result it was decided to resurface it with a load of gravel costing £1. 5s (£1.25) and £1 . 10s. (£1.50) for cartage. New posts were put up at the beginning of the path. Another Committee was then set up to consider a lighting scheme for the village. Their report estimated that it would require twelve lamps, presumably paraffin, costing a total. of £23,10s (£23.50), with maintenance costs of £15.10s (£15.50) for six months. This was felt to be too expensive and
the idea was dropped, only to be raised again a few years later in 1903, when Sandwich Corporation was asked for an estimate to supply gas for the village and for the Union in Mill Lane. The laying of the main from Sandwich would have cost £1,800 and the Council would have had to have agreed to take a minimum of one million cubic feet a year. The Board of Guardians of the Union said they were satisfied with their own supply and the Council could not guarantee to use that quantity so again the idea was dropped. Two years later, the Wingham Agricultural Company, who occupied the building now used as the Village Hall, was asked to give an estimate for lighting the High Street and other adjacent areas, this time with electricity. It was agreed that ten lamps would be required, costing a total of £269, with £80 per annum maintenance costs. This scheme, too, was dropped, as was an offer to provide acetylene lamps at £5 per lamp. Nothing positive was achieved until 1911, ‘when an acetylene lamp was put up at The Cross as an experiment, using 1½lbs. of carbide a night. This was supplied and maintained by Mr. Walter Clark of Clark & Son, the grocers in the High Street, and was kept in use until 1915 when it had to be removed, probably because of the First World War. The Cleric was authorised to collect subscriptions to cover the cost of the lamp.
To go back to the early days of’ the Council, the pattern appears to have been for a Committee to be set up to go into a particular problem, for example the footpaths, a line of action to be recommended and the Council authorised the members of the Committee to get the work done. So one item appeared to take up the Council’s attention at a time. A topical example is that of the first Beating of the Bounds by the Council. A Committee of three was authorised to make the arrangements for the ceremony at a meeting on 16th April 1896. It took, place just five days later, on 21st April with, it is recorded ‘not very great success as the whole of the boundary stones could not be found as the ceremony had not been carried out for twenty eight years’. There is no record as to how many people took part, but at a subsequent meeting in November, the Council did agree that the cost of luncheon to parishioners should be met from Council funds. However, it was agreed to make another attempt the following year, and to make better preparations. Mr. E. Moat, Junr, was asked to prepare a map showing the positions of all the boundary stones, as shown on an Ordnance Survey map, and a party of’ fourteen, including six boys, set out from The Jolly Gardener at Ham on 25th April 1897- This time, the attempt was successful, and a very detailed account of the journey is contained in the Minute book, describing the position of each stone, and including reference to the yew tree at Thornton which ‘had marked the boundary for many generations’ and of course ‘ in accordance with Ancient Custom the Old Hundredth was sung here’ . Again according to custom, lunch was had at the top of Heronden Hill, supplied by Mr. Thorne of The Five Bells. At that time, and until a change was made in 1927, the boundary with Woodnesborough ran from a point on the Canterbury Road along the
road to .Poison Cross and then nearly to the top of Foxborough Hill before following a winding route across to Buckland Farm, Felderland Lane and the Brooks until regaining the present boundary at Ham Lane. It would appear that up to 1894, Allotment Gardens in the village had been held in the name of the Vestry, and Rev. J. R. Holmes had been responsible for seeing that the rents were collected. As this had now become the responsibility of the Council, he wrote to then in1897 asking them to take over. The Allotments then consisted of two fields between the Union and Buttsole Pond, one rented from the Board of Guardians and. the other from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and the Council duly accepted responsibility for them as from Michaelmas 1897» and they remained the Village Allotment Gardens until the present area off Mill Lane was purchased by the Council in 1932.
It wasn’t long before the Council had to deal with complaints from the inhabitants, and many of these have recurred over and over again throughout the history of the Council. Typical was a letter sent to the village policeman, a P.C Dryland asking him. to report the owners of dogs doing damage in the Allotments, and again in 1901 asking him to deal with boys making a nuisance of themselves by loitering around the Street Pond at The Cross. Public footpaths have always been a problem and many Committees have been set up to inspect and report back – the fence at the top of The Lynch on the path to: Updown, overhanging branches on the path to Worth at Statenborough, overgrown hedge reducing the width of School (Collarmakers) Alley from 8ft. 6 ins. to 6ft. These items from the early 1900’s are typical of complaints through the years and will be familiar to all Councillors. Fortunately, the Council can now pass these complaints on to either the District or the County Council, but then the Parish Council assumed the responsibility for repairing and resurfacing the paths. Work on the path to Statenborough cost £6, a contribution of £5 was paid to the Church towards the laying of asphalt path through the Churchyard, repairs were carried out to the path from the Churchyard to Brook Street. These appear in the Council’s -Accounts Book. In those days, the cost of labour was 2s. 6d. (12-½p) per day and a load of grit was 1/- or 5p« The two ponds in the village, that at The Cross and the other at Buttsole or Butts Hole as it is spelt in the Minutes), were often the subject of complaints. Up to 1898 the pond at The Cross had been kept clean by the tenant of Cross Farm, whose buildings occupied the land where the Fire Station, Central Garage and the derelict area for a Catholic Church now are, as it was useful for his horses. But after a change of tenancy, the owner of the farm, Captain Boteler, refused to pay for the cleaning, and the Council paid George Betts of Upper Venson Farm the sum of £1. 10s. (£1.50) to do the work., and in1901 the County Council was asked to fill the pond in, but without success; another approach was made in 1906, the Council saying that it was no longer required as there was a piped water supply, but again without success. So the Council continued to have it cleaned until it was eventually
filled in towards the end of 1910. Soon after that happened the Council received a proposal from Lady Lyall of Statenborough House that she and certain ladies of the village should present a water trough and fountain to the village as a memorial to the late King Edward VII. How many people in the village have, I wonder really stopped to look at the fountain. It had a cup fixed to a chain at the end for people to drink from, the higher trough for horses and cattle, and a bottom trough for sheep and dogs, and there is a lovely verse inscribed on the side. Mr. Henry Tritton. a plumber in Lower Street, was given the job of keeping it in working order at a cost of 6d. (2½p) per week. At the same time, the County Council put in the first kerb stones along the High Street.
Keeping Buttsole Pond clean was just as big a headache, The Ecclesiastical Commissioners were not interested and refused to repair the fence along the road, and, in fact, asked the Council if it regarded it as a public pond, an idea quickly turned down as it was always taken to be part of Eastry Court -Farm. The County Council took. the same view, and would not accept responsibility for safety, although it did agree to repair the slabbing along the edge which supported the road. So the Council then approached local farmers to help as well as local firms who used traction engines, to contribute towards the cost of cleaning, as the pond was used for both watering horses and refilling engines. Again this is one of the problems which have occurred over and over again through the years the clear water of the pond being hidden by the overgrowth of reeds and weeds.
First mention of a village hall for the village was made in 1901, when it was suggested as a memorial to the late Queen Victoria. The Ecclesiastical Commissioners were asked to donate a piece of land but they refused, and a public meeting didn’t show much enthusiasm for the idea as only eight people turned up for it, and a house to house collection only raised £16. 10s. 6d. However a Committee was setup, and Mr. Walter Lister, who lived at Great .Walton offered the Council a building which belonged to him and had recently been vacated by a Mr. Troward Clark who had used it as an engineering workshop. However, it was estimated that it would have cost over £300 to convert it for public use and the idea was dropped. It is ironic that the building was then taken over by the Wingham Engineering Company and used by them for heavy engineering equipment such as steam rollers, steam ploughs and threshing machines for over 50 years, and when they vacated it in the early nineteen thirties it then was purchased to be used as a Village Hall. The money collected for the scheme was handed over to the Trustees of the Greville Alms houses and distributed to the residents at the rate of 10s. (50p) per year until it was used up. Perhaps because of the lack of interest in the Queen Victoria Memorial, the Council decided not to take any action over the celebration of the coronation of Edward VII, leaving it to local organisations.
During these first years of the existence of the Parish Council more and more matters affecting the village were referred to it. Originally it had been felt that quarterly meetings would be sufficient, but it soon became apparent that more frequent meetings were needed, although no regular interval was fixed. Until 1906 these meetings were held in the school, at first referred to as the National Schools but later just called the schools, but from 1906 meetings were held in ‘the High Street Rooms’, this referred to the room above the general stores used as a restaurant and owned by Clark & Son. Footpaths were as always complained about and the Council accepted the responsibility for maintaining those near the village centre such as Lovers Walk, Collar-makers Alley, Forge Alley and the path leading from the school to the High Street, as well as seeing that posts were erected at the ends of the Paths. The Council appointed its first manager to the schools in 1903 when there were also three foundation members and the vicar. It also helped the Fire Brigade by making a donation of £2 towards its running costs. This was not approved by the District Auditor, but for many years the Council gave its support by making a grant for the purchase of specific items of equipment. Enquiries were made in 1904 about the possibilities of a telephone service for the village, supplied by the National Telephone Company, but although an offer was made to install a service between Eastry, Deal and Sandwich, the Council would accept no responsibility for financing it and the scheme fell through.
Even in these early years there were complaints about the speed of motor vehicles through the village, and although the Council would not support a proposal that there should be a 10 mph speed limit through the village, it did agree to have warning notices put up at each end of the village saying ‘Please drive slowly through the village’, and in 1905 and again in 1908, the Mobile Automobile Club, the Automobile Union and the County Council were asked to put up danger signs either side of The Cross and in Mill Lane, and to keep them painted. Driving must have been a bit of a problem on the road surfaces in those days as the matron of the Cottage Hospital, now Crossways at Buttsole complained about the dust blowing in from the road, and the County Council was asked to continue the tar paved surface past the hospital to prevent it. There was another sign of the times when the Council was asked to approve the shortening of the opening hours of the Post Office, then at The Cross, so that it could close at 2 pm on Thursdays and at noon on Bank Holidays. Allotment gardens were in great demand and in 1909 an extra three acres were rented from the Ecclesiastical. Commissioners at a cost of £22 per acre, bringing the total rented by the Council to 12 acres plus that rented from the Board of Guardians This compares with the present 9 acres at the back of Maymills which the Council has great difficulty in letting.
An interesting note appears for April 1907 when Broadstairs District Council were apparently introducing a Bill to allow it to extract water from some place within the Parish. The Council was against the scheme and no more was heard about it. The water supply in the village came from the Sandwich Borough Council’s waterworks at
Beacon Lane, Woodnesborough. The water pressure was inadequate especially in the higher areas. At the beginning of 1906, the Council was asked by the Rural District Council to approve a scheme to lay on a supply to the Greville Almshouses in Mill Lane. Apparently the Chairman of the Trustees of the Almshouses had approached, the District Council for the supply to a stand pipe which would, serve ail the six cottages. A minute in the Almshouse records states ‘Water supplied free by Parish and Rural District Councils and laid on by donations from the five permanent Trustees, Lord Northbourne, Sir James Lyall, AEE.R. Kennedy, Dr. A. McNally and W.V.Lister and work done by A.G-.Deverson and paid for this day.’ The minute is dated 28th February, and the Council’s minute for approval is dated 6th February. How the speed for getting work done has changed! Indoor taps for the Almshouses were put in at a much later date, 1954.
In June 1910 a scheme for a proposed East Kent Light Railway was placed before the Council. It agreed to approve the scheme provided that no footpaths were obstructed or diverted and the rights of path users were not interfered with. At that time there were three paths crossing the proposed route, one from the Mills to Heronden, one from the Mills to Selson and one from the High Street to Selson, as well as a Bridle Road from Mill Lane to the Sandwich to Nonington road. Only the bridle road often called Hammill Lane is on the present footpaths map, and this is virtually impassable. Needless to say, as the work on the railway proceeded there were a number of complaints about the dangers of the level crossing at Heronden and of paths being obstructed. However the work was completed and ‘Paddy’ as it was affectionately called ran a regular passenger and goods service for many years and at one time Eastry could boast of three stations Eastry South, Eastry and Poison Cross. Not only footpaths gave trouble, there were other complaints about styles, particularly in the Cricket Meadow and in Peak pasture. Up until 1927, the Cricket Meadow consisted of those areas which are now Swaynes Way, the Youth Club Land and the Gun Park. This name did not come into general use until after the Second World War. In the Cricket Meadow, which, as its name implies was used by Eastry Cricket Club, had styles at the end of Forge Alley and at the south western corner, whilst Peak Pasture, which was where Orchard Road now is, was used more by the footballers. The owners were held to be responsible for keeping the styles in good repair, as they still are, but the Council did not get as good a response to its requests as it would have liked. An interesting side light is a request that the trees at The Bull Inn should be cut back so that the Church clock could be seen from the High Street. Up until the end of the First World War, the clock was always kept ten minutes faster than Greenwich Time, so that people should not be late for the train service at Sandwich.
Just before the 1914 – 1918 War, a Bill came before Parliament which would have enabled Parish Councils to build Council Houses at the rate of one for every hundred the population. The cost was not to have exceeded £120 per home, prospective tenants