A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 3, Shepperton, Staines, Stanwell, Sunbury, Teddington, Heston and Isleworth, Twickenham, Cowley, Cranford, West Drayton, Greenford, Hanwell, Harefield and Harlington. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1962.
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During the Middle Ages the manor courts of St. John and Le Mote were no doubt responsible for what local administration there was. The extent of their jurisdiction is, however, not known, though by the 17th century courts leet were being held for both manors. (fn. 1)
By 1545 the St. John manor court was electing three officers: constable, aletaster, and tithing man, (fn. 2) but in the 17th-century court rolls the only officer appointed seems to have been the constable, (fn. 3) and his appointment does not occur often. If no court leet met, the constable was appointed by the quarter sessions. (fn. 4) In the early 17th century another officer, a 'pinner', was elected by the court of St. John to organize the ringing of swine. (fn. 5) In the late 16th and early 17th centuries the manor courts were responsible for regulating the open fields and the fishing in the river. (fn. 6)
The vestry records begin in 1751. (fn. 7) During the 18th century the vestry was a small body, with an average attendance of three to five. On one occasion in 1752 ten people, including the Earl of Berkeley, are recorded as present, (fn. 8) but this number is not found again until the 1870's. (fn. 9) The chairman was almost invariably the rector, and until the 1830's the vestry met usually twice a year, and very occasionally three times, and was almost solely concerned with raising rates, the relief of bastards and other paupers, and the election of parish officers.
In 1752 the officers consisted of two churchwardens, an overseer, a constable, and a headborough. (fn. 10) It was, however, by no means invariable to have two churchwardens, and as late as 1837 there was only one. In 1837 there were also two constables, a headborough, and two surveyors, (fn. 11) an office which had been in existence in 1696. (fn. 12) In the late 18th century the vestry also appointed a salaried mole-catcher. (fn. 13)
In 1776 the vestry was responsible for erecting a poorhouse, or almshouse. The house only accommodated four persons, (fn. 14) and in 1783 the vestry imposed a rent on the inmates, unless they were on parish relief. By 1836 the building was dilapidated, so the occupants were evicted and the house was demolished. (fn. 15) The highest poor rate raised in the village was in 1813 when £227 were collected. The number of people receiving relief about then averaged 14; in 1834 these were 7 old people, 6 orphans, and a cripple. The old people had formerly been agricultural labourers, who were said to be the most distressed class. (fn. 16) In 1836 the parish became part of Staines union. (fn. 17)
Despite the reduction of the duties of the vestry after 1836, interest in it grew until there were over a dozen people about 1888 at the meetings, then held monthly. A small circular lock-up was still standing in the High Street in 1958. It was built some time after 1837 and was later used as a mortuary by the parish council. (fn. 18) A sewerage committee of nine was formed in 1866 under the chairmanship of Warren de la Rue, (fn. 19) and an assessment committee in 1882. (fn. 20)
A parish council was formed in 1895 and until 1914 was largely concerned with the election of parish officers and with sewage disposal. In 1915 the latter question was taken over by the Cranford parochial committee of the Staines rural district council. During and after the First World War the annual parish meeting itself took a larger share in administration, the council being concerned mainly with administering allotments. The council organized the opposition, which was widespread in the village, to the amalgamation with Hayes which took place in 1930. The parish seems rather to have favoured joining Heston and Isleworth, (fn. 21) and this was, in fact, partially achieved in 1933, when the area east of the Crane, including the village, was transferred to that borough. Since then, the history of local administration in the parish has formed part of the history of the two larger areas. (fn. 22)