PARISH GOVERNMENT AND POOR RELIEF
Vestry minute books for Bobbingworth survive for
the periods 1667-1789
and 1808-1922. There
is also a separate book
of overseers' accounts
for the period 1789-1827. (fn. 46)
Until 1702 vestry meetings usually seem to have
been held only at Easter in each year. (fn. 47) From 1702
until 1758 meetings were held at Easter and Christmas.
From 1758 there were several meetings each year, held
at irregular intervals of between 2 and 19 weeks.
Intervals of 5-10 weeks were common. In the early
19th century between four and eight meetings a year
Until Jacob Houblon became rector in 1692 the
vestry minutes were brief and uninformative. It was
the practice to record only the appointment of officers
and the balances remaining in officers' hands at the end
of each year. (fn. 48) Moreover the minutes were never
signed. (fn. 49) Houblon exercised an immediate influence
on the parish records. He scarcely ever missed a vestry
meeting and he wrote the minutes himself. At Easter
1693 he began a separate account book containing
detailed overseers' accounts, which were always duly
audited and were signed by the parishioners who passed
them. Thomas Velley, who succeeded Houblon as
rector in 1740 also attended vestry meetings regularly
and during his incumbency the parish records were
kept, though rather less methodically, on the lines that
Houblon had laid down. J. Lipyeatt who succeeded
Velley in 1751 appears, however, to have taken practically no part in conducting parish business. He did not
sign any minutes after December 1751. In the next
four years his curate, J. Wells, usually signed the
minutes but afterwards neither incumbent nor curate
appears to have attended vestry meetings until 1782.
The complete absence of officers' accounts in the parish
books between Easter 1755 and 1758 may reflect the
initial apathy aroused by the incumbent's lack of
interest. In April 1782 the curate, then J. Lipyeatt
the younger, did sign the vestry minutes and his signature appeared twice more in the next seven years.
During the period 1759-89 the churchwarden was
almost invariably the first to sign the minutes and this
practice continued into the second quarter of the 19th
century. The rector rarely attended a meeting in the
early 19th century.
The number of parishioners who attended vestry
meetings varied between 1 and 8 but was usually between 2 and 4. In the century after 1666 members of
the Poole family, lords of the manor of Bobbingworth
until 1708, took an active and leading part in parish
government. John Poole, lord of the manor from 1674
until about 1701, and his son and heir John, frequently
held parish office. Each of them held the office of overseer for several years. They nearly always attended
vestry meetings and signed immediately after the rector.
The younger John continued to take an equally prominent part in parish affairs after he had sold Bobbingworth manor in 1708. From 1708 until 1720 he never
missed an Easter vestry. From 1721 until 1740 William
Poole was equally active and prominent. The Houblons,
owners of the manor of Bobbingworth from 1708, were
not resident in the parish and took no personal part in
its government. In the period down to 1789 the
owners of Blake Hall scarcely ever attended a vestry
meeting but Robert Crabb, who occupied the manor
farm in 1735, frequently held some parish office between 1726 and 1781.
The work of the vestry consisted mainly in nominating parish officers, granting rates, agreeing on the
recipients of weekly collections, and approving officers'
accounts. One of the rare occasions in the 18th century
when other business was recorded was in April 1708
when it was resolved that in future the church clerk
should be paid 20s. a year out of the churchwarden's or
overseer's rate 'in lieu of what he has hitherto received
yearly by the house as a former custom it being a great
hindrance to him in the loss of time to go about to
receive the same'. (fn. 50)
There were two churchwardens each year from
1666 until 1682. (fn. 51) During this period these officers
usually served for 2-4 years consecutively. (fn. 52) From
1681 until about 1793 there was only one office of
churchwarden. From 1690 until 1771 it was the
practice to spend many consecutive years in this office.
Thomas Nicholls served as churchwarden from 1700
until 1724, William Poole from 1724 until 1740,
Samuel Corney from 1741 until 1753, and Robert
Crabb from 1759, if not before, until 1771. For a
time after 1771 the number of consecutive years spent
in the office tended to lessen and from about 1793 it
again became the practice to have two churchwardens.
There was usually one overseer. Until 1717 it was
usual for the overseer to serve for 2 or 3 years consecutively. George Read served for 4 years from 1717
until 1721. After his appointment for a fourth year
in April 1720 it was agreed that 'having served 4 years
he shall be excused 7 years following'. Read's successor, William Hamshire, also served 4 years consecutively, but 3 years remained the usual term of office
until 1744. From 1744 until 1810 the overseers nearly
always served for one year only. They seem to have
been chosen on a rota system and occasionally the officer
chosen appointed another man to perform the duties
of the office. Thomas Woodthorp acted for Capel Cure
in 1796-7 and again in 1801-2. Jonathan Lewis, the
vestry clerk, acted as overseer for Capel Cure in 1808-9
and for William Clark in the following year. During
the year ending at Easter 1811 Lewis again acted as
overseer, but on what basis is not clear. If he received
any payment for performing the duties of overseer
during these years, such payment was not made, it
would seem, out of the poor rate. In April 1811, however, a meeting of the vestry agreed 'for Jonathan Lewis
to be the acting Overseer for the year ensuing and to
have a salary of £10 p. annum and to be paid for
journeys'. Lewis continued to act as salaried overseer
every year from 1811 until 1835 with the possible
exception of the year 1819-20. Each year there was
a formal agreement at the Easter vestry to renew his
appointment. In 1822 his salary as overseer was
increased to £13 13s.
Constables were nominated in Vestry at least from
1667. Until 1721 the parish always had two of these
officers, each of whom served several years consecutively. From 1721 there was only one constable
for the parish and he usually served for many years.
Richard White was constable from 1721 until at least
1740, and R. Perry from 1744 until at least 1760.
Two surveyors of highways were nominated annually
until 1700 after which there was usually only one
nomination until 1742. The surveyor was chosen from
a rota of landholders, as appears from the rector's note
on 26 December 1722, 'Mr. William Poole Surveyor
as a Deputy for the Revd. Tho. Wragg Clerk for
Gainthrops'. (fn. 53) From 1742 there were several nominations each year for the office of surveyor but there are
indications that there was only one acting surveyor.
From 1666 until after 1750 the overseers, churchwardens, constables, and surveyors were each granted
separate rates for which they were directly responsible
to the parish. Until 1702 it was the custom for each
officer to present an annual account at the Easter vestry.
Occasionally one officer was ordered to pay another
officer's deficit out of his surplus. From 1702 the surveyors submitted their accounts at Christmas instead of
at Easter but the other officers continued to make their
annual account at Easter. From 1758, if not before,
the overseer submitted interim accounts to the vestry
at intervals of 5-10 weeks in addition to his final
annual account at Easter. There is no evidence that
the interim accounts continued after 1775, but in view
of the increasing costs of poor relief it is very probable
that they did so. By 1772, perhaps before 1760, the
churchwardens, constables, and surveyors were no
longer granted separate rates. Their expenditure was
met by the overseer who included it in his account.
This practice continued until 1811. From 1811 to
1812 there was again a separate highway rate and from
1813 to 1814 there was a separate church rate.
In 1720 the rateable value of the parish was about
£917. In 1790 a 2s. 6d. rate produced £106 15s.; this
implies a rateable value of about £854. During the
Napoleonic wars the rateable value was generally between £900 and £912. In 1815 a reassessment was
ordered as a result of which the rateable value became
£1,635; in 1823 it fell to £1,559 and in 1831 rose to
There was evidently a poorhouse in Bobbingworth
in 1692-3, for in that year 10s. was paid by the overseer
for 'straw at the allmnshouse'. By 1783 the poorhouse
was situated in Pensons Lane, and seems to have been
the cottage which Robert Bourne (d. 1666) left in
trust to provide clothing for the poor. (fn. 54) It was rented
by the overseer at £1 10s. a year. In 1779-80 the
poorhouse was fitted with a 'poor's oven.' In 1784-5
the building housed at least one poor family and in each
of the years 1791-2, 1797-8, 1800-1, 1803-7, and
1819-20 it housed at least one poor person. In 1807-8
7s. 6d. was paid by the overseer for '6 yards cloth for
strawbed for poorhouse'. Minor repairs were often
carried out and in 1807-8 more substantial repairs were
done at a cost of £55. In 1823 the stove was repaired.
In most cases, however, poor relief was given, in
various forms, outside the poorhouse. In each of the
years 1813-15 there were 20-21 adults on 'permanent'
outdoor relief. (fn. 55) Provision for the poor was made in
various ways including the binding out of paupers'
children as apprentices, the provision of spinningwheels, the payment of rent and allowances for lodging
or nursing, the provision of wood and clothes, and the
payment of weekly doles.
Parish apprentices were allotted on a rota system to
farmers in the parish. In the period between 1681 and
1718 three 'great' farms and thirteen 'lesser' farms were
on the rota. About 11 children were apprenticed
during the period.
In 1787-8 a spinning-wheel was purchased for John
Little at a cost of 2s. 6d. In 1799-1800 spinning-wheels cost the overseer £2 4s. In several of the following years 'the poor's spinning' occurs as an item of
expenditure in the overseer's accounts.
In 1692-3 there seem to have been 2 widows receiving weekly doles, the cost to the parish being 5s. 6d.
a week. In 1719 there were 4 weekly doles amounting
to 7s. In the years between 1758 and 1775 there were
usually 9 households, including several widow households, receiving weekly doles, totalling between
16s. 9d. and £1 1s. a week. In 1777-8 there were 10
households which throughout the year received doles
which totalled £1 5s. a week. In each of the years from
1780 to 1797 there were 15-21 households in receipt
of regular weekly doles which cost the parish between
£1 5s. and £2 2s. 6d. a week. From 1797 the doles
increased, reaching their maximum of £8 5s. 6d. a
week in 1801. They then declined to £2 17s. 6d. a
week in 1808. From then until 1819 there were
usually about 16-18 households in receipt of constant
relief at a total cost to the parish of about £2 17s. 6d.
a week. From 1819 until 1827 the number of households dependent on weekly doles varied between 20
and 27, the total weekly cost ranging from £3 to £5.
In 1613-14 the cost of poor relief was £4 10s.
which was distributed to 5 people. (fn. 56) In the last years
of the 17th century the total cost of poor relief was
always below £20 a year and was sometimes as little as
£7. In the 18th century much higher figures were soon
reached, rising to an average of £32 a year in the three
extreme years 1716-19. There was then a rapid fall
to a minimum of £3 14s. 5d. in 1723-4. In the period
1725-42 figures have survived for only seven years.
These are within a range £16-£31. In the period
1743-54 expenditure only once fell below £45 and on
two occasions reached nearly £60. In 1754-5 it was
£71. Between 1759 and 1771 it averaged about £85.
In 1772 the cost reached the £100 level and from then
until 1782 it remained fairly stable between £100 and
£120 a year. It then rose to £165 in 1782-3 and to
£197 in 1784-5. In the next ten years the cost
remained within the range £160-£190. In 1794-5 it
was £170. In 1795-6 it jumped to £273. After a
slight drop in the next three years it rose to £290 in
1799-1800 and then in the following year to £505, its
maximum. In 1801-2 the cost was £450. It then
dropped to £293 in 1802-3. Between 1803 and 1811
it varied between £246 and £331 a year. It then rose
to £477 in 1812-13. After this it varied between
£280 and £480, the peak year being 1819-20.
In 1836 Bobbingworth became part of Ongar Poor