History of the Parish Council

Parish Councils were first brought into being in 1894 and it was on November 22nd of that year that a meeting was called by the Overseers of the Poor at the time, Messrs. William Battle and Joseph Day, for the purpose of electing seven properly nominated and seconded electors dwelling in the Parish of St. John to form its first Council.

This meeting was held on December 4th and though Mr. Battles’ name was not of the list of nominations he was elected Chairman, declared that all the papers were valid and, as there were only seven candidates, that Messrs. Birch, Blowfield, Cooper, Day, Gillitt, Mansbridge and Sharman were duly elected and were required to sign an ‘Acceptance of Office’ just as is done to this day. The first full meeting was held on December 18th, when Mr. Battle was again elected to the Chair (a position he continued to hold for twelve years before retiring even though he was never a Councillor!)

A Mr. Fraser was elected to be Treasurer and the first decisions were unanimously made – to meet in the School Room at 7.30 p.m. each quarter day (i.e. three monthly) and in respect of the Parish Charity for which the Council was now to be responsible, to continue as before by using the rent money from the land in Ringstead to provide coal to the poor of the village.

The minutes of the next meeting, held in March, make clear some of the Council’s responsibilities at that time as it is recorded that three men were appointed to the Office of Constable of the Parish, Mr. Battle and Councillor Birch were appointed trustees of the Cranford Charity and two members of the community were appointed Overseers in place of the Churchwardens: the latter being immediately asked to raise a precept (tax) of one penny in the pound to meet the expenses of the Council.

At the Annual Meeting of the Council held in April 1895 Mr. Battle and Mr. Day became the Overseers while a Mr. Tomkins was appointed as an Assistant whose salary was to be ‘the same as before’ which may mean that the posts were not merely honorary. Item 8 of the minutes of this meeting is an interesting one because it concerns the state of the footbridge between the two villages which ‘should be forwarded to the next meeting of the District Council’ with a request that it be repaired at once, but it is Item 7 that is of greater importance – a resolution handed in from St. Andrew’s Parish Meeting requesting to be grouped in one Parish Council with St. John’s which was accepted and passed to the County Council to be actioned as a result of which a Grouping Order was drawn up in January 1896 and came into force on March 2nd of that year.

It has been generally assumed that the two separate villages of Cranford St. John and Cranford St. Andrew then ceased to exist but the document makes  it very clear that the 309 residents of Cranford St. John and the 183 of Cranford St. Andrew were to elect four and three Councillors from the respective villages/parishes to represent them, (though it should be noted that exceptions were made for the Lord of the Manor and the Minister, both of whom could choose to stand for either!) that Overseers and Constables were to be appointed by the Parish Council for each village and that the two Parish Meetings were to continue to be held.

Following these guidelines a Parish Meeting was held on March 9th 1896 and it is recorded in the Cranford Parish Council Minute Book that Messrs. Blowfield, Cooper, Day and Redhead then became the representatives of St. John’s Parish by the time of the first Annual Meeting of the new, combined Parish Council held on April 26th. The entry makes it evident that Cranford St. Andrew had for their part elected Messrs. Birch, Gillitt and Mansbridge.

Written by Joy Beeby