A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 4, the City of Gloucester. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1988.
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During the 18th century and the early 19th the corporation, particularly the aldermen in their role as magistrates, remained dominant in city government. Other citizens were able to play some part in government through the parish vestries, which elected representatives and levied rates for statutory bodies set up to administer poor relief and city improvements. Involvement of corporation members and supervision by the magistracy were important elements in the statutory bodies, and the local Acts which constituted them were promoted and fashioned by the corporation and city M.P.s with whom it had influence. Control by the corporation was, however, sometimes thwarted by the independent attitude of the parish vestries.
The corporation underwent no modification between the charter of 1672 and municipal reform in 1835. It remained a closed body, comprising the mayor and his fellow eleven aldermen, the two sheriffs, a maximum of 28 common councilmen, and the two largely honorary officers, the high steward and the recorder. The wider involvement of citizens in corporation decisions was limited to meetings called by the mayor to 'take the sense of the city' on matters of unusual importance, such as improvement Acts or possible threats to the city's trade. (fn. 1) Such weighty matters varied the usual round of common council business, made up of management of property, administration of the city almshouses and other charities, upkeep of the public buildings, management of the markets, and control of the freedom. Complex matters were usually referred to ad hoc committees. (fn. 2) From 1732 there was a standing committee to vet admissions to the freedom (fn. 3) and from 1740 there was another to survey property before leases were renewed. (fn. 4)
In the day-to-day administration of corporation business the two most important officers in the earlier 18th century were the town clerk and the chamberlain. The office of town clerk continued to be held by prominent city barristers until 1813 when an attorney was appointed for the first time. (fn. 5) The town clerk, who also acted as clerk to the magistrates, (fn. 6) was aided by a deputy from at least 1727. (fn. 7) The chamberlain, annually elected from among the senior common councilmen but usually continuing in office for a number of years, (fn. 8) had sole responsibility for the corporation's revenues until 1738. From 1738 a treasurer was appointed to hold office during pleasure and do the rent collecting and accounting, while the chamberlain (from that time one of the aldermen) retained the general supervision of property management. (fn. 9) The treasurer also served as rent collector and accountant for the three ancient almshouses and for Sir Thomas Rich's school, (fn. 10) and until 1827 the same man seems usually to have been appointed by the city magistrates in quarter sessions as treasurer for their 'county stock'. (fn. 11)
The annual corporation budget (fn. 12) which the chamberlain, and later the treasurer, administered amounted to c. £1,300 in the 1720s, rising to £5–6,000 by the early 1830s. As well as the revenues of the corporation in its own right, it included the revenues of St. Kyneburgh's Hospital, the Crypt school, and various minor charities; for the three ancient hospitals, under their board of governors, (fn. 13) and for Sir Thomas Rich's school the accounts were kept separately. The bulk of the income was drawn from property, which produced an annual rental rising during the period from c. £900 to c. £2,500. In addition a variable sum, £200–300 in some years, was produced by renewal fines for leases.
Apart from rents, the other consistent, though smaller, item in the corporation's income was made up of tolls on trade. In the 1720s they comprised various dues collected at the gates, the quay, and Westgate bridge, which had long formed part of the fee-farm revenues, and in the early 18th century those tolls remained the responsibility of the sheriffs under an annual lease made to them by the corporation. (fn. 14) Difficulties of collection, however, made the sheriffs' office burdensome and dissuaded young men from entering the common council, and so in 1732 the tolls and responsibility for payment of the annual fee farm were transferred to the chamberlain's account, bringing to an end the historic distinction between the revenues of the sheriffs and the city chamber. (fn. 15)
After 1732 the former sheriffs' tolls were usually granted out among a number of lessees for short terms of years, though sometimes salaried collectors were used. The tolls formed four main categories, those on corn and other market produce brought into the city, those on cattle and other livestock brought to the markets and fairs or driven through the city, the water bailiff's dues charged on goods carried under Westgate bridge and landed at the quay, and 'wheelage' charged on laden wagons and packhorses entering the city. (fn. 16) In addition there were tolls which had long been leased with the Boothall inn; those collected at weights at the quay on wood and coal (fn. 17) were removed from the lease in 1742, (fn. 18) the innkeeper retaining the right to the profits of the weighing beams in the wool, yarn, and leather market in the great hall of the Boothall. (fn. 19)
For most of the period the tolls produced only small sums and were sometimes difficult to collect. Those from the Boothall weighing beams probably lapsed altogether in the mid 18th century as a result of the failure to control sales outside the market. (fn. 20) Attempts to enforce the levy of pontage charged for passing Westgate bridge apparently ceased in the mid 1720s with the failure of lawsuits brought against Severn trowmen by the sheriffs, (fn. 21) though it was still claimed later. (fn. 22) The lessee of the cattle tolls periodically encountered difficulties with the Welshmen who drove large herds through the city on their way to the fattening pastures in the Home Counties; in 1770 one drover was distrained for toll owed on 3,560 beasts. (fn. 23) Ancient exemptions, claimed by tenants of the duchy of Lancaster and freemen of the borough of Monmouth among others, also caused difficulties for the collectors. (fn. 24)
New facilities provided by the corporation enabled it, however, substantially to increase its profits from trade in the city. Shambles set up in Southgate Street from 1737 to accommodate butchers from the surrounding countryside on market days (fn. 25) produced rents of £110–20 a year in the 1740s and 1750s. A public weighing machine provided by the corporation in 1779 (fn. 26) was leased at c. £50 in the 1780s; it was replaced by a new machine in Upper Quay Lane in 1815 and a second machine was installed near the Foreign bridge in 1825. (fn. 27) Cranes were provided at the quay in 1812 and 1828 for the use of the lessee of the weights there. (fn. 28) The most significant improvements were two new market places for produce opened in 1786 and a new cattle market opened in 1823. (fn. 29) At first the produce markets brought in c. £395 a year from tolls and rents of standings (including those of the country butchers who were installed there, but excluding tolls of corn which were separately leased); after 1814, when the lease of the profits was publicly auctioned, (fn. 30) £700 a year was produced. The tolls of the new cattle market were usually let for c. £300 a year in the 1820s and 1830s.
The corporation's total revenue from trading activities in the city was £270 in the year 1742–3, made up of £133 from the former sheriffs' tolls, £20 from the quay weights, and £117 from the butchers' shambles, and it remained at much the same level until the 1770s. By 1790–1, after the provision of the new markets and the weighing machine, the revenue had risen to £583; by 1814–15, mainly due to the increased value of the produce markets, it had risen to £865; and by 1833–4, after the opening of the new cattle market and an increase in the tolls taken at the quay, it had risen to £1,360.
Another regular source of revenue was provided by freemen's fines, a modest total sum in most years. Usually no more than two or three men purchased the freedom each year at a fine which remained at £20 until c. 1812 when it was doubled, reverting to £20 c. 1830. The fines of 6s. 8d. and 2s. 8d. respectively for those taking up the freedom by apprenticeship or patrimony amounted to a noticeable sum only in years, such as 1726–7 and 1804–5, when a contested election encouraged registration.
The corporation's revenues generally proved adequate to meet its annual expenses, namely its charity obligations, the tax and chief rents owed on its property, the hospitality allowances made to the mayor and sheriffs, the salaries of the other officers, and (the largest items) tradesmen's bills for maintenance of the public buildings, pavements, and bridges. Only rarely did it have to resort to borrowing. The principal occasions were in 1785 when it found the £4,000 needed for the new markets by organizing a tontine among leading citizens and local gentry, (fn. 31) and in 1826 when recent expenditure of over £10,000 on the cattle market and substantial sums on other projects made it necessary to raise £8,000, (fn. 32) the bulk of which was borrowed from the treasurer Henry Hooper Wilton. (fn. 33)
Financial problems were threatened not so much by a shortfall of revenue as by lax rent collecting, accounting, and auditing. In 1779, when it was realized that the correct procedure for auditing the city and hospital accounts had been allowed to lapse in 1757, the common council made a determined effort to establish stricter supervision. A committee of inquiry was set up and, after considerable difficulty in extracting the books from the aged Alderman Gabriel Harris, who had served as treasurer since 1749, began a minute audit. It revealed that £2,639 in rent was in arrears and that several loans made under tradesmen's loan charities had not been recovered. Harris, judged to have been negligent rather than corrupt, was forced to resign and stricter procedures for auditing the accounts, authorizing disbursements, and granting leases were introduced. (fn. 34) The actions taken in 1779 may have been linked to the espousal of the cause of parliamentary reform by some corporation members and the withdrawal of support from the city M.P., George Selwyn; Gabriel Harris was a supporter of Selwyn and had acted as his election agent. (fn. 35) In 1801 as a further incentive to efficient rent collecting the treasurer's salary, then £30, was replaced by a commission of 6d. in the £ on all the money he received. (fn. 36)
After 1779 the committee of inquiry remained a permanent part of the administration, used to audit the annual accounts and to inquire and make recommendations to full council on matters of particular complexity. From the early 1820s, under the style of committee of estates, it also became responsible for surveying property and recommending terms for leases. (fn. 37)
The composition of the aldermanic bench (fn. 38) and of the full council during the 18th century reflected fairly accurately the principal sources of wealth in the city: in the 1720s (fn. 39) the distributive trades still predominated, but in the mid 18th century the growing prosperity of the pinmakers and woolstaplers became evident and towards the end of the century that of the wine merchants and bankers. In the early 19th century, however, professional men, mainly surgeons and attorneys, played a disproportionate role compared to the tradesmen. Only occasional representatives of the local gentry served on the council and bench at the period. Members of the Selwyn and Guise families were introduced for political reasons, and one or two lesser gentry, such as Thomas Mee (d. 1812) of Tuffley (fn. 40) and Daniel Willey (d. 1817) of Moreton Valence, (fn. 41) also served.
Several families were represented on the corporation in two or more generations, with the tradesmen families of Webb, Jefferies, Weaver, Baylis, and Saunders particularly prominent. Towards the end of the period the most significant family in the city administration were the Wiltons. (fn. 42) The involvement of the family firm of solicitors dated from at least 1775 when Henry Wilton became steward of the court leet; (fn. 43) in 1779 he was appointed clerk to the new committee of inquiry, becoming city treasurer on Gabriel Harris's resignation, (fn. 44) and by 1786 he was also deputy town clerk. (fn. 45) Henry Wilton's son Henry (d. 1822) and grandson Henry Hooper Wilton followed him in the office of treasurer; (fn. 46) another son Robert Pleydell Wilton was town clerk from 1813 until his death in 1827, from which time Henry Hooper Wilton combined that office with the treasurership. (fn. 47) Two other members of the family, the surgeon John Pleydell Wilton and his son John William Wilton, became aldermen at the period. (fn. 48)
A strict order of precedence was maintained in the corporation according to length of service; members could be degraded for poor attendance and for other reasons. (fn. 49) Members who got into financial difficulty, particularly the aldermen with their magisterial duties, were expected to resign. (fn. 50) The most spectacular departure was that of Sir James Jelf, whose bank failed during his mayoralty in 1815. (fn. 51)
Civic ceremonial included attendance by the mayor and corporation at Sunday service in the cathedral. Between 1738 and 1751, however, a dispute with the chapter over seating led to the use of St. Nicholas's church and a chapel fitted up at the Tolsey and to the appointment of a corporation chaplain. (fn. 52) In 1782 some members were avoiding attendance at church because of the heavy and 'uncouth' gowns worn; new silk gowns in a more fashionable style were acquired. (fn. 53) Major national events, such as coronations and military successes, were marked by a procession of the full corporation, sometimes joined by the trade companies with their banners. (fn. 54) In August or September the city bounds were perambulated by the mayor, some corporation members, and the Bluecoat school boys; sometimes one of the boys was paid 1s. for swimming the river, while the rest of the party crossed in a hired barge. (fn. 55) From 1737 a dinner was held on the perambulation day, (fn. 56) adding to the array of dinners which marked the other landmarks in the civic year. In the early 18th century the mayor held one at his own expense and another, at general corporation expense, was held at his nomination in August; the sheriffs out of their traditional revenues then provided dinners at the four quarter sessions, at the two lawdays of the court leet, and at the election of the officers on the Monday after Michaelmas. (fn. 57) The most important of those events was the nomination dinner which in the 1720s and 1730s cost £50–80, the inn to provide it being chosen by vote of the common council. (fn. 58) In spite of periodic attempts to limit it, expenditure on the civic dinners remained considerable (fn. 59) until 1798 when the council decided to discontinue the nomination and perambulation dinners to enable it to make a grant of £500 to the national war effort. (fn. 60) Resumed after the war, the civic dinners were worth up to £300 a year to the corporation's favoured inn, the King's Head. (fn. 61)
The commissioners for municipal reform, on their visit to Gloucester in 1833, received many complaints about the functioning of the corporation: among matters raised were the use of its influence at parliamentary elections, the lack of energy in some aspects of administration, and the animosities and jealousies caused by the exclusion of some prominent citizens from the governing body. The commissioners' verdict was that the evils of the closed system were less developed than in many other towns, and particular charges of corruption were not substantiated. (fn. 62) During the period 1720–1835 the corporation appears to have been generally free of corruption, with the exploitation of its patronage at election times the only regular complaint made against it. It seems, too, to have been reasonably attentive to the needs of the city, defending the economy against possible threats, giving financial support to canal schemes and turnpike trusts, and actively promoting market and street improvements. Its administration of a wide range of city charities with extensive endowments was, by the standards of the period, reasonably efficient. The four main city almshouses and Sir Thomas Rich's Bluecoat school remained effective institutions; the occasional piece of muddled accounting, or failure to maintain a proper distinction between their funds and endowments and those held by the corporation in its own right, caused problems only after municipal reform, when the charities were placed under separate administration. (fn. 63) More serious was the corporation's failure to preserve the funds of the tradesmen's loan charities (fn. 64) or to halt the decline of the Crypt grammar school. The Crypt school had sunk from its previous high reputation to a condition described as 'fatal' in 1765, and in the early 19th century its masters taught only fee-paying pupils, refusing to take any boys on the foundation. (fn. 65) The obvious remedy of paying the master a living wage was not applied, presumably due as much to lack of concern on the corporation's part as to the restrictive terms of Joan Cooke's gift, which made it difficult to realize the value of Podsmead farm and the other endowments. (fn. 66)
Among other ancient institutions, the trade companies continued, with the support of the corporation, sporadic attempts to enforce their restrictive practices; the last occasion was perhaps in 1781 when the mercers abandoned a suit against an unfranchised linen draper for trading in the city. (fn. 67) In the 1760s and early 1770s at least five companies were active enough to seek new bylaws from the corporation. (fn. 68) In 1787, however, it was recognized that many companies had lapsed, at least for the purposes of regulating their trades, and a new system of registering freemen by apprenticeship was adopted. (fn. 69) The ceremonial and social functions probably lasted a bit longer. In 1792 it was said that 12 companies, the same number as had existed at the start of the 18th century, still accompanied the mayor on civic occasions, (fn. 70) but membership of some was probably very small. The tanners' company comprised only two members in 1801, (fn. 71) and in 1825 the mercers' company was said to have long since ceased to exist. (fn. 72)
Of the city's ancient courts, the ordinary sessions of the hundred court had degenerated by the 1720s to a single annual session, which, though held until at least 1796, did no business apart from occasionally taking the oaths of new officers of the trade companies. (fn. 73) The bi-annual views of frankpledge (usually called lawdays) continued to be held in the Boothall before the two sheriffs and seem to have been reasonably effective in rectifying minor public nuisances, which by the beginning of the period were the sole content of the jury's presentments. By the late 1780s, however, only one session a year was held and meetings later became more sporadic, with no business done in the last few recorded sessions up to 1819. (fn. 74) The piepowder court continued to be used until 1787 or later by tradesmen recovering debts of up to c. £10, (fn. 75) and a considerable volume of business was done throughout the period by the newer court of conscience, which met once a month before a group of aldermen at the Tolsey to deal with actions for debts of up to 40s. (fn. 76)
Among various statutory bodies which played a part in the government of Gloucester during the period the poor-relief corporation was the most important. It had a chequered history in the first part of the century. After the failure of the original workhouse scheme in 1707, the functions of the governor and guardians of the poor were confined to running a charity school and managing the property left by Timothy Nourse. Plans for reviving the workhouse were prompted partly by bequests made to the guardians, principally by Alderman John Hyett (d. 1711) and his son Joseph. A bill was promoted in 1722 (fn. 77) and, after much debate in the city, (fn. 78) was passed in 1727. By the Act the governor and guardians were reconstituted to include the mayor and the five senior aldermen, the bishop of Gloucester, the dean with other cathedral clergy, the trustees of Nourse's will, and 31 members elected by the city's ten parish vestries and a meeting of residents in the close. The main differences from the system set up in 1703 by the original Act were that the outlying hamlets were included in the scheme, which made it necessary to substitute the parishes for the four city wards as the units for electing guardians; the voting qualification was changed from payment of 3d. a week in poor rates to occupancy of a house valued at £5 a year; and the elected guardians' term of office was lengthened from one year to six. The city corporation's distaste for the frequent elections held under the former system lay behind the last-mentioned change. (fn. 79)
The workhouse was opened in 1727 in the former New Bear inn (fn. 80) at the corner of Quay Street and Castle Lane, (fn. 81) and the able-bodied inmates were put to work at heading and packing pins under an agreement with a local manufacturer. (fn. 82) The finance from the parish rates was supplemented by the proceeds of land, (fn. 83) mainly the estate in Longford left by Timothy Nourse, (fn. 84) an estate in Taynton left by Dorothy Cocks, and an estate in Miserden bought in 1733 with part of the Hyetts' bequest. (fn. 85) The guardians also found it necessary on occasion to borrow money at interest. (fn. 86) Their main problem was in collecting the rate income from the parish officers. Particularly recalcitrant were some of the hamlets beyond the city boundary, where the situation was complicated by the fact that it was the county magistrates, rather than those of the city, who had to authorize and enforce collection. (fn. 87) In the late 1720s the total annual sum assessed on the parishes was £859, of which £209 came from the outlying hamlets; (fn. 88) an increase of one eighth on that sum in 1741, a time of high food prices, apparently raised the assessment to the limit imposed by the Act. (fn. 89) In 1755 the guardians were attempting to put the workhouse with its c. 160 inmates out to farm. (fn. 90) By 1757 they were in debt for £830 and, after some of the parishes had resisted a proposal to get parliamentary sanction for higher rates, the workhouse was closed. The poor were returned to the parishes, (fn. 91) two of the most populous of which, St. Nicholas and St. Michael, opened their own workhouses in 1760. (fn. 92)
In 1764, in spite of opposition from some of the parish vestries, (fn. 93) the city workhouse was revived by an amending Act of Parliament. The hamlets, except for Kingsholm, were excluded from the scheme and the city magistrates were given wider powers for enforcing payment of rates; however, the parishes were given greater control by a return to annual elections. (fn. 94)
After 1764 the workhouse functioned without further interruption. The poor were employed principally by arrangements with pinmakers, but in the early 19th century some were employed in ropemaking and flaxdressing, and children were offered as apprentices to cotton manufacturers. (fn. 95) In the year ending March 1803, a time of particular scarcity, 216 paupers were maintained in the house and 578 people were given out-relief. (fn. 96) In the period 1813–15 there were 70–100 adults in the house, c. 185 people each year received out relief, and occasional relief was given to numbers of others. (fn. 97) In the year ending March 1803 the guardians' expenditure, including the cost of their charity school and property expenses, was £2,290, while their income, made up of the assessments on the city parishes (c. £1,660), rents (£267), and interest from investments, was £2,335. (fn. 98) In 1813, after it had become apparent that the school was the sole object of the gifts by the Hyetts and Dorothy Cocks, the rents of the Miserden and Taynton estates were applied exclusively to a reorganized charity school. (fn. 99)
The cost of the city's poor was reasonably well contained until the difficult years at the end of the period. Between 1813 and 1827 the total annual sum required from the parishes remained at c. £2,500, but by 1834 it had risen to £4,617; (fn. 100) as well as the sums raised for the workhouse, those figures included the cost of settlement and removal, for which the parishes were individually responsible and for which the larger parishes found it necessary to employ paid assistant overseers in the early 1830s. (fn. 101)
The burden of the poor on the guardians and the parishes was eased by the wide array of parish charities, and by the corporation almshouses, which supported c. 90 poor people. (fn. 102) In times of particular need, such as hard winters, food shortages, and the severe Severn floods of 1770, 1795, and 1809, when the western part of the city up to the cathedral close was inundated, relief funds were organized and were usually opened by substantial donations from the corporation. (fn. 103) On a regular basis the corporation also continued its supply of cheap coal for sale to the poor. Until 1829, when it was decided to give £20 to the poor at Christmas instead, (fn. 104) one of the city's wharfingers was given the use of a coalyard at the quay and an interest-free loan of £70 to stock it. (fn. 105)
Measures for city improvement during the period, when not directly carried out by the corporation, were administered and financed in a variety of ways. In 1740 a new water supply, though ostensibly a corporation venture, was provided by one of the city M.P.s, John Selwyn of Matson; street lighting, originally provided by some of the parishes, was made a statutory responsibility of the governor and guardians of the poor from 1764; (fn. 106) and in the early 19th century the rebuilding of Westgate bridge and Over causeway and the building of Worcester Street were financed by tolls on road users. (fn. 107) For other measures improvement commissioners were created by Act of Parliament.
Under the earliest improvement Act, that of 1750 for removing buildings in Westgate Street, a body comprising the whole corporation, the cathedral clergy, and various prominent citizens was empowered (fn. 108) and apparently financed its operations by raising subscriptions. (fn. 109) Later Acts authorized the levying of rates and linked the parish vestries with the corporation in an often uneasy partnership. Parish surveyors appointed from 1777 to supervise paving and street cleaning were chosen by the city magistrates from lists nominated by the vestries, (fn. 110) and a body of commissioners appointed in 1781 to remove some of the city gates and build a new gaol was composed equally of corporation members and parish representatives elected by the vestries. (fn. 111) An Act of 1821 established a night watch, to be chosen by the magistrates from lists nominated by the vestries; (fn. 112) earlier schemes for a watch had failed because of opposition from some of the parishes, though some had given their support. (fn. 113) The Act of 1821 also set up a body of street improvement commissioners, comprising the aldermen and elected parish representatives. It proved an ineffectual body, apparently because of the reluctance of the parish representatives to commit large sums from the rates. For the first three years its meetings dealt only with procedural matters and after another four years only two fairly minor projects had been completed. (fn. 114)
The independent character of the parish vestries became evident once again in their attitude to the board of health set up by Privy Council order in May 1832 to deal with the cholera epidemic raging in the city. The 20-strong body included the mayor and four aldermen (three of whom were surgeons), some of the other city medical men, the bishop of Gloucester, and various gentry and clergy. (fn. 115) Some of the parishes gave unqualified support (fn. 116) but three of the most populous, St. Nicholas, St. Mary de Crypt, and St. Michael, were antagonized by the lack of parish representatives on the board and urged that the governor and guardians of the poor should act in its stead. The St. Michael's vestry appointed its own committee and health inspectors to carry out the recommended measures independently of the board. (fn. 117)
In their efforts to maintain law and order in 18th-century Gloucester the main concerns of the city authorities were discouragement of vagrants and control of alehouses. In the earlier part of the century some responsibility for enforcing the vagrancy laws was taken by the governor and guardians of the poor under powers given by the Act of 1703. They managed the city bridewell at the east gate and in 1727 also fitted up a house of correction at the new workhouse. (fn. 118) Following the vagrancy Act of 1740 the bench of magistrates (composed of the 12 aldermen, the recorder, the bishop of Gloucester, the dean, and two cathedral prebendaries) took sole responsibility for vagrancy, levying a separate rate on the parishes for that purpose. (fn. 119) The large number of alehouses in the city was identified as an encouragement to vagrants and a general cause of disorder in 1730, when the magistrates refused to relicence some of them. Undesirable characters expelled from the city could, however, find similar haunts just beyond the magistrates' jurisdiction, and the Gloucestershire magistrates were pressed to take parallel action against alehouses in the suburbs. (fn. 120) In 1747 the city magistrates launched a campaign to establish tighter control over the alehouses. Licences were to be granted only to city freemen; a limit of 90 was placed on the number of licensed houses, which were to be restricted to the more central parts of the city; and there were to be regular inspections of the houses and examinations into the character of their keepers. (fn. 121)
Vagrancy and the other petty offences that provided much of the business of the city quarter sessions were usually punished by public whippings through the streets on market days. In the 1760s a person characterized as 'idle and disorderly' might be whipped from the prison at the north gate round the wheat market near the entrance to Southgate Street, while a person convicted of a more serious offence, such as obtaining money by false pretences, might be whipped the length of Westgate Street and back. More persistent offenders were put to hard labour in the bridewell. The pillory and stocks in Southgate Street were still used occasionally in the early 19th century, but the usual punishment for petty crime was then imprisonment in the new city gaol, (fn. 122) built under an Act of 1781. (fn. 123) The new gaol, in Southgate Street south of St. Kyneburgh's Hospital, (fn. 124) was built with separate cells on the lines advocated by John Howard. (fn. 125) It was considerably enlarged to the west c. 1816 when a house of correction was built adjoining it and a treadwheel installed. (fn. 126)
In the later part of the period the magistrates, who by 1802 met twice a week at the Tolsey, attempted more effective policing of the city. (fn. 127) A regular challenge for them and for the city police, comprising 12 ward constables and the minor corporation officers, was provided by the fairs, which encouraged an influx of disreputable characters. In the mid 1780s the magistrates began the practice of searching the cheap lodging houses on those occasions and rigorously excluding likely offenders; the Gloucester Journal co-operated by issuing warnings against pickpockets and tricksters and against the footpads who lay in wait on the outskirts of the city for farmers returning from the fairs. (fn. 128) In 1786 a system of rewards for arrests by the city police was introduced (fn. 129) and a night watch was instituted. The watch was not, however, established on a permanent basis until the Act of 1821 (fn. 130) and even then was not found particularly effective. The funds to cover its expenses were severely restricted by a clause in the Act, and the problem of villains taking refuge beyond the city boundary remained, particularly as few county magistrates lived in the immediate vicinity. (fn. 131) Voluntary efforts to combat crime included a prosecution society, established by 1800. (fn. 132)
On the whole Georgian Gloucester was a peaceful place. The occasional riots reflected national political issues or regional unrest rather than internal tensions. In 1734 a mob destroyed all the turnpike gates outside the city; (fn. 133) during the bread riots of 1766 weavers from the Stroud area invaded the market in an attempt to lower the price of corn; (fn. 134) there were minor disturbances at elections, as in 1780 when reformist zeal was directed against the sitting member George Selwyn; (fn. 135) and in 1792 a 'Church and King' mob burnt Tom Paine in effigy. (fn. 136) In 1804 and 1811 some journeymen shoemakers were proceeded against under the Combination Acts for holding meetings to seek higher wages (fn. 137) but the radical movements of the early 19th century made little impact in the city, where there was only a small industrial workforce. At the autumn quarter sessions of 1819 the city magistrates congratulated themselves on the absence of disturbance in recent years. (fn. 138) The only riot of the early 19th century, in 1827 over tolls charged at Westgate bridge, had, it was said, the tacit support of many respectable inhabitants and the demands of the rioters were speedily conceded. (fn. 139)
As in other cities, public health did not become a cause for concern until the national cholera epidemic of 1832. A voluntary board of health formed in November 1831 to meet the threat found the city at risk through inadequate water supply, scavenging, and sewerage. Highlighted in particular was the state of some of the western districts — the Island, Archdeacon Street, and around the quay — where there were crowded courts of poor housing, whose inhabitants took water directly from the Severn. Those districts suffered most during the epidemic, which between July and September 1832 killed 123 people out of a total of 366 who contracted the disease. Measures taken by the voluntary board and the new board that succeeded it in May 1832 included the opening of an isolation hospital in Barton Street, the issue of regulations and advice, and the encouragement of subscriptions to a relief fund. The epidemic prompted the establishment of a society 'for bettering the condition of the industrious poor', which instituted a clothing and coal charity, but otherwise promoted only the vague aims of encouraging sobriety, industry, and cleanliness. (fn. 140) Concrete measures for improvement were not forthcoming, and at municipal reform in 1835 the city still awaited adequate systems for sewerage and water supply.