Local government


Victoria County History



T F T Baker, R B Pugh (Editors), A P Baggs, Diane K Bolton, Eileen P Scarff, G C Tyack

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'Enfield: Local government', A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 5: Hendon, Kingsbury, Great Stanmore, Little Stanmore, Edmonton Enfield, Monken Hadley, South Mimms, Tottenham (1976), pp. 241-243. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=26955 Date accessed: 28 November 2014.


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In 1294 Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford and Essex, successfully claimed view of frankpledge and infangthief in his manor of Enfield from time immemorial. The abbot of Walden also sustained his claim to certain rights in Enfield, including view of frankpledge and the assizes of bread and of ale, although he admitted that he had never had a pillory or tumbril and that the earl's bailiffs had always taken amercements of blood and of hue and cry. (fn. 55) The abbots' rights derived from a grant of 1248 by the earl's grandfather (fn. 56) and their estate became Rectory manor, for which a court leet was being held in the 18th century. (fn. 57) Courts were being held for Enfield manor in 1324 (fn. 58) and a court leet met annually after Michaelmas in 1363. (fn. 59) Court rolls, however, survive only from 1618 to 1649 and from 1705 to 1850, during which period the lord exercised view of frankpledge and the two assizes. (fn. 60) In 1823 courts leet and baron met twice a year at the Rose and Crown, Enfield Highway, having formerly been held in a barn and then at the King's Head. (fn. 61)

Thomas Durant claimed view of frankpledge in the mid 14th century (fn. 62) on the estate which later became the manor of Durants, for which a court book records courts baron from 1689 to 1905. (fn. 63) A court book for the manor of Honeylands and Pentriches records courts baron from 1509 to 1909 and courts leet with view of frankpledge in 1785 and 1786. (fn. 64) Courts for the manor later known as Worcesters were being held in 1412 (fn. 65) and court rolls survive from 1599 to 1732, with an abstract from 1599 to 1759; (fn. 66) in 1823 courts baron were still held at irregular intervals. (fn. 67)

By 1618 Enfield manorial court appointed a constable, two capital pledges (later called headboroughs), and a bread-weigher and ale-taster annually for each of the four wards or quarters of the parish: Enfield Green, later called Enfield Town, Bull's Cross, Ponders End, and Horsepool Stones, later known as Green Street. (fn. 68) Quasi-criminal jurisdiction was no longer exercised in the 17th century but there were several presentments over fencing, ditching, and pasturing animals, while the court continued to mete out fines for offences connected with the Chase. (fn. 69) In 1823 the officials chosen at the court leet were a constable, two headboroughs, a brander, and an aleconner for the Town quarter, a constable, a headborough, and a brander for Bull's Cross quarter, and two headboroughs, a brander, and a hayward for Green Street and Ponders End, which by then had amalgamated. (fn. 70) The office of aleconner had been revived in 1813, when 20 shopkeepers were fined and 150 publicans' pots were destroyed. (fn. 71) The proceeds from the fines were invested and in 1885, when the office of aleconner had again lapsed, a Charity Commissioners' Scheme directed that the annual income of £5 be spent on maintaining Chase Green. (fn. 72) The last manorial court was held in 1925. (fn. 73)

A pillory stood in the market place in 1646. (fn. 74) Stocks were mentioned in 1682 (fn. 75) and still existed east of the market place in 1876, by which date the pillory had disappeared. (fn. 76) A cage at Enfield Highway, with stocks attached, was dilapidated by 1833; (fn. 77) it was superseded by a building which may have been the lock-up which stood on the south of Brick Lane, near the junction with the Hertford road, in 1868. (fn. 78) A watch-house at Enfield Town replaced an older one in 1784 (fn. 79) and in turn was replaced in 1830 by a watch-house east of the market place, with a beadle's house attached, which had been paid for out of King James's charity. (fn. 80) The Enfield association was formed to preserve public order in 1794, when 14 people volunteered as special constables. (fn. 81) In 1798 the association met twice a week in order to police the parish and in 1805 it was offering rewards for information which would lead to arrests. (fn. 82)

There were three churchwardens in 1481 (fn. 83) and four in 1580. (fn. 84) In 1691 each of the four wards had a churchwarden but in 1696 Green Street and Ponders End wards were amalgamated. The churchwarden for Enfield Green or Town ward was appointed by the vicar, the others by the vestry. (fn. 85) Vestry meetings were held monthly in 1616 (fn. 86) and were recorded in order books which survive from 1671 to 1744 and from 1797. (fn. 87) Meetings took place in a room at the church and were still monthly in the early 19th century, when they were usually chaired by the vicar; prominent local landowners often attended and numbers rarely fell below eight, sometimes rising to twenty or more. (fn. 88)

A parish clerk was mentioned in 1524 (fn. 89) and an overseer of the poor was appointed annually in 1580 for each of the four wards. (fn. 90) An irregular series of overseers' accounts survives from 1750 to 1834 and poor-rate books exist from 1740 to 1842. (fn. 91) During the early 18th century a constable had special responsibility for vagrants (fn. 92) and in 1750 there was a beadle for Bull's Cross quarter. (fn. 93) In 1807 the beadle, who was paid, had responsibility for the whole parish (fn. 94) but in 1827 two paid assistants were appointed and given uniforms. (fn. 95) An assistant beadle for St. James's, Enfield Highway, was appointed in 1836. (fn. 96) Other officials included a sexton in 1807, (fn. 97) a crier in 1798, (fn. 98) and a salaried apothecary and surgeon in 1807. (fn. 99)

In 1630 Robert Curtis was paid for setting the poor to work. (fn. 1) A workhouse at Chase Side was leased from 1719 (fn. 2) and bought in 1740. (fn. 3) It had been extended to include a school-room (fn. 4) by 1788 and a pest-house by 1802. (fn. 5) The workhouse contained 60 inmates in 1826, when its state was said to be 'tolerable', (fn. 6) but in 1827 it made way for a new brick building, also at Chase Side, (fn. 7) which later became Edmonton union school. (fn. 8) The poor were farmed out in 1765 to a contractor who would feed and clothe the workhouse inmates and relieve the out-poor when required by the overseers; all paupers were to wear uniform and be badged. (fn. 9) In 1778 poor-relief was said to be costly and complaints were made about non-parishioners in the workhouse. (fn. 10) In 1802 a committee was set up to manage the workhouse, which was to be inspected weekly, and new rules were devised. (fn. 11) Conditions were still deplored in 1806, when 'rags and idleness' were prevalent, (fn. 12) but had improved by 1813. (fn. 13) From 1806 poor boys and girls from the workhouse were sent to work at a silk factory at Sewardstone (Essex). (fn. 14)

There seem to have been no parish houses. (fn. 15) Several charities helped to lighten the burden of poor-relief, while common rights may have lessened the demand for relief before inclosure. Thereafter poor-rates could be supplemented by rents from the parish's allotment out of the Chase and by the sale of timber. (fn. 16) In 1775-6 £1,022 was raised from the poor-rates, of which £857 was spent on the poor, (fn. 17) and in 1831 the rates brought in £4,118. (fn. 18) Subscriptions were raised for a lying-in fund, to employ a midwife, in 1797 (fn. 19) and to supply cheap bread in 1799. (fn. 20) The Enfield philanthropic institution was established in 1836 to relieve the deserving poor. (fn. 21)

In 1784 there was a complaint of confusion at the vestry meetings (fn. 22) and in 1802, after financial irregularities, the vicar was made treasurer and the vestry clerk collector of rents, gifts, and poor-rates. Accounts thenceforth were to be audited annually, the overseers were to answer to a committee, and attempts were made to limit expenditure at inns. In 1803 the churchwarden for the Town quarter was censured for profiteering over supplies to the workhouse and in 1806 the overseers were ordered to collect the poor-rates more rigorously. By 1806, however, it was claimed that the parish was out of debt (fn. 23) and in 1808 its management of the poor was said to have improved greatly. (fn. 24) In 1821 a select vestry was established, meeting weekly or fortnightly at the workhouse to supervise poor-relief. (fn. 25) In 1834 the vicar stated that it contained gentlemen, farmers, and tradesmen, and had worked very advantageously. (fn. 26)

A surveyor of the highways was mentioned in 1705 (fn. 27) and by the end of the 18th century there was a surveyor for each ward. Highway-rate books survive from 1801 to 1828. (fn. 28) A paid 'general surveyor' for the whole parish, except the former Chase, was finally appointed in 1824 (fn. 29) but the surveyors' accounts were so unsatisfactory in 1833 that they raised fears of a return to the system of unpaid surveyors. (fn. 30) Under the inclosure Act of 1777 the king's allotment, the lodges, and the allotments to Trinity College, Cambridge, and the vicar of Enfield became in 1778 a separate highway district, called Enfield Chase district, with two surveyors appointed by the duchy of Lancaster. (fn. 31)

After strong objections from the vestry, which claimed that the parish was more populous than any of the thirty poor-law unions already formed and that the poor would suffer in too large a unit, Enfield joined Edmonton union in 1836, (fn. 32) whereupon the workhouse at Chase Side became the union school. (fn. 33) A highway board was formed in 1841 under the Highway Act of 1835, (fn. 34) and a local board of health, under the Public Health Act of 1848, in 1850. (fn. 35) Enfield became an urban district under the Local Government Act of 1894, with three councillors elected for each of four wards: Town, Chase and Bull's Cross, Ordnance, and Green Street and Ponders End. (fn. 36) Bush Hill Park ward and Hadley Wood and Cockfosters ward were added before 1911. (fn. 37) Enfield U.D. was incorporated in 1955, by which date it was the second largest urban district in the country, with a population exceeding those of 39 of the 83 county boroughs. (fn. 38) The borough had 10 wards: Bush Hill Park, Cambridge Road, Chase, Enfield Wash, Green Street, Ordnance, Ponders End, Town, West, and Willow, (fn. 39) each electing three councillors. In 1965 the borough became part of Enfield L.B., under the London Government Act of 1963.

Urban District (Later Borough) of Enfield.

Urban District (Later Borough) of Enfield.
Or, an enfield rampant gules; on a chief vert a bar wavy argent charged with a barrulet wavy azure [Granted 1946]

The local board met in the Town until 1888, when Little Park, Gentleman's Row, was bought as council offices. (fn. 40) Land for a new town hall in Church Street was purchased in 1902 (fn. 41) but the U.D.C. remained at Little Park until 1961, when the first part of a new civic centre in Silver Street, designed by Eric G. Boughton, was opened. (fn. 42) The uncompleted building was the administrative centre of Enfield L.B. in 1971, when the old offices in Little Park served as the health department. In 1972 work began on extensions to the civic centre, also designed by Boughton and including an eleven-storeyed tower block. (fn. 43)

London Borough of Enfield.

London Borough of Enfield.
Or, on a fess wavy vert, a bar wavy argent charged with a barrulet wavy azure, over all an enfield rampant gules [Granted 1965]

The Labour party dominated Enfield B.C. and at first, by a narrow majority, controlled the new London Borough. Conservatives gained control in 1968 and retained it, with a much smaller majority, in 1971. (fn. 44)


55 Plac. de Quo Warr. (Rec. Com.), 479.
56 Cal. Chart. R. 1226-57, 337.
57 Lysons, Environs, ii. 311.
58 S.C. 6/1146/20.
59 Cal. Inq. p.m. xi, p. 366.
60 S.C. 2/188/55-64; D.L. 30/99/1371.
61 Robinson, Enfield, i. 97-8.
62 D.L. 43/7/1.
63 M.R.O., Acc. 133.
64 M.R.O., Acc. 16/1.
65 C 137/227/25.
66 M.R.O., Acc. 16/5; Acc. 276/8.
67 Robinson, Enfield, i. 141.
68 S.C. 2/118/55.
69 D.L. 30/99/1371.
70 Robinson, Enfield, i. 97-8.
71 P. Hardy, Hints for . . . the Inhabitants of Enfield, 39-41.
72 Weld, Enfield Charities, 28.
73 Boro. of Enfield, Official Guide [1955].
74 M.R.O., Cal. Mdx. Sess. Bks. (1644-52), 63.
75 Ibid. (1679-82), 147.
76 Thorne, Environs, i. 179.
77 Vestry order bk. (1823-39), 321-3 penes Enfield L.B.
78 O.S. Map 6", Mdx. VII. NE. (1868 edn.).
79 M.R.O., D.R.O. 4/3/18.
80 Vestry order bk. (1823-39), 197, 227.
81 Bodl. MS. Top. Mdx. b. 1, ff. 80-1.
82 Ibid. ff. 85, 137.
83 M.R.O., Acc. 903/123.
84 Guildhall MS. 9537/4.
85 Ford, Enfield, 306.
86 Mdx. Sess. Recs. iv. 4.
87 Penes Enfield L.B. at Enfield civic centre.
88 Vestry order bks. (1797-1807), passim.
89 L. & P. Hen. VIII, iv(1), p. 150.
90 Guildhall MS. 9537/4.
91 M.R.O., D.R.O. 4/23; ibid. /1-308.
92 M.R.O., Cal. Mdx. Sess. Bks. (1722-7), 257-8.
93 M.R.O., D.R.O. 4/23/1.
94 Vestry order bk. (1797-1807), 435.
95 Ibid. (1823-39), 129.
96 Ibid. 432.
97 Ibid. (1807-22), 13, 98.
98 Ibid. (1797-1807), 68.
99 Ibid. (1807-22), 8.
1 M.R.O., D.R.O. 4/1/1A.
2 Vestry order bk. (1690-1744).
3 Robinson, Enfield, ii. 113.
4 M.R.O., D.R.O. 4/3/18.
5 Vestry order bk. (1797-1807), 167.
6 Robinson, Enfield, ii. 113.
7 Whitaker, Enfield, 351.
8 See p. 254.
9 M.R.O., D.R.O. 4/2/10.
10 Ibid.
11 Vestry order bk. (1797-1807), 218-9.
12 Ibid. 383-93.
13 P. Hardy, Hints for . . . the Inhabitants of Enfield, 6.
14 Vestry order bk. (1797-1807), 426.
15 M.R.O., D.R.O. 4/1-308.
16 See below, p. 259.
17 Rep. Cttee. on Rets. by Overseers, 1776, 396.
18 Rep. Com. Poor Laws, H.C. 44, p. 93f (1834), xxxv.
19 Robinson, Enfield, ii. 130.
20 Vestry order bk. (1797-1807), 100-2.
21 Tuff, Enfield, 218.
22 M.R.O., D.R.O. 4/22.
23 Vestry order bk. (1797-1807), 202-5, 239-41, 383-93, 427-8.
24 Ibid. (1807-22), 44.
25 Whitaker, Enfield, 341; M.R.O., D.R.O. 4/22.
26 Rep. Com. Poor Laws, H.C. 44, p. 93f (1834), xxxv.
27 M.R.O., Cal. Mdx. Sess. Bks. (1722-7), 257-8.
28 M.R.O., D.R.O. 4/387-425.
29 Vestry order bk. (1797-1807), 74-5; ibid. (1823-39), 63-4.
30 Ibid. 332-3.
31 17 Geo. III, c. 17, s. 45.
32 Vestry order bk. (1823-39), 419-21; S. I. Richardson, Edmonton Poor Law Union (Edmonton Hund. Hist. Soc.), 11.
33 See p. 254.
34 5 & 6 Wm. IV, c. 50; vestry order bk. (1840-52), 6.
35 Lond. Gaz. 21 June 1850, p. 1747.
36 Whitaker, Enfield, 342.
37 Census, 1911.
38 Boro. of Enfield, Official Guide [1955]; New Enfield Hist.
39 Census (1961).
40 Tuff, Enfield, 217; Whitaker, Enfield, 344.
41 Whitaker, Enfield, 344.
42 I. Nairn, Modern Buildings in Lond. 79.
43 Ex inf. the town clerk and chief executive.
44 Election results in The Times, e.g. 9 May 1958, 9 May 1964, 10 May 1968, 14 May 1971.