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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The Abbot of Westminster claimed various liberties, including view of frankpledge, in Teddington as in his other manors, and in 1265 his tenants there, like those in Staines, stopped attending the hundred court. (fn. 1) In the 14th century two or three courts were held in the manor each year. One of them was held between April and June and included view of frankpledge. From the later part of the century the view was regularly held on the Wednesday after Trinity Sunday, and in the 15th and early 16th centuries there was only one other court each year. The lessee of the manorial demesne conducted the courts in the later Middle Ages, though he handed the profits over to the abbey: before this they had been held by the abbey's bailiff. The last court baron was held in 1865, and courts leet had been discontinued at least a century before. These later courts were held at one or other of the village inns. (fn. 2) In Richard II's reign the court appointed a constable, beadle, rent-collector, and two aletasters. (fn. 3) In the later 17th century the manor court apparently failed to appoint a constable in several years, (fn. 4) and by 1822 this duty had been taken over by the vestry. At this time the vestry also appointed a beadle as well as two head-boroughs, who may have been manorial officials at an earlier date. (fn. 5)
Records of the vestry are preserved, with gaps in the earlier years, from 1739. (fn. 6) In the mid-18th century the vestry met sometimes as often as every week, with a dozen to twenty people present, but later in the century both the number of meetings and the interest taken in them by the parishioners decreased. This may have been partly due to the growing age and later the death of Stephen Hales (curate c. 1709- 61), who perhaps attended more frequently than his immediate successors and certainly played a very important part in village life. (fn. 7) In his time the vestry took an interest in changes made to the church building, including the provision of a vestry-room, which enabled them to dispense with the hospitality of the village inns for their meetings. (fn. 8) The chief reason for the decline in the vestry, however, was probably that Teddington managed to avoid the prevalent increase in business connected with looking after the poor. In the mid-18th century the parish seems to have concentrated largely on obtaining settlement certificates as a method of controlling applications for relief. They also paid some of the poor to open the gates which barred the main roads at the entrance to the village. In 1738 Matthias Perkins, the lord of the manor, gave the parish a piece of land on the edge of the common on which four almshouses were built in the next year or so, partly by subscriptions (fn. 9) and partly by a legacy from Sir Francis Bridgeman, Bt. (d. 1740). (fn. 10) These almshouses stood in Park Lane (fn. 11) and were used as cheap or free dwellings for poor families, not as conventional workhouses, and consequently needed little administration. (fn. 12) In 1778 the parish considered building a workhouse but instead, in 1785, they enlarged the almshouses and contracted with Hampton parish to receive the Teddington poor in its workhouse. (fn. 13) Hampton, and later Harmondsworth, Kingston, and even Hoxton workhouses, went on taking the parish poor with brief intermissions until the 1820's. (fn. 14) As a result the vestry had virtually only to provide clothes, together with doles for paupers not in the workhouse, and in 1797 and 1811 it resolved to send all those getting regular relief to the workhouse. (fn. 15) On several occasions it tried dispensing with the services of workhouses elsewhere: (fn. 16) in 1803 a committee was appointed to find a better method, but the vestry ended by resolving to pay no more rents for poor people and by building additions to the almshouses in 1804 and 1811. (fn. 17) These were known as the poor-house but were generally used in the same way as the old houses.
About 1820 a revival took place in the vestry, and monthly meetings became the rule, held from 1832 in the Public School. (fn. 18) In 1819 a select vestry of twelve was appointed, but it is not referred to later. (fn. 19) In 1820 the vestry resolved to vary the usual parish practice by sending one churchwarden and one overseer out of office each Easter. (fn. 20) In 1823 they censured the highway surveyors for the irregularities of their accounts (fn. 21) and in 1822 they seem to have appointed a herdsman for the first time. (fn. 22) In 1860 a second herdsman was appointed and parish herdsmen continued to serve for some years afterwards. (fn. 23) The pound was in Park Lane. (fn. 24) In 1822 a subscription was formed to provide patrols and from 1826 nightwatchmen were appointed each winter. (fn. 25) In 1837 the parish adopted the provisions relating to watching in the Lighting and Watching Act, 1833, and carried them out until the Metropolitan Police came to Teddington in 1840. (fn. 26) The lighting part of the Act was adopted for the main roads in 1852. (fn. 27) The parish cage or roundhouse opposite the almshouses was apparently no longer used for its proper purpose in 1836. (fn. 28) The stocks, which Westminster Abbey had provided in the 16th century, were last mentioned in 1751. (fn. 29) A parish constable was still chosen in 1864 though the appointment of a head-borough was discontinued the year before. (fn. 30) A parish fire-engine was bought in 1831 and put in the care of the beadle. (fn. 31)
On the eve of the Poor Law Reform Act the vestry also began to improve its system of relief. In 1831 it appointed a paid assistant overseer, resolved to keep at work any labourers coming on the parish in winter, and repaired part of the almshouses to be a proper workhouse, run on strict lines. The result was apparently a reduction in expenditure and a check on 'the progress of pauperism'. The workhouse was sold in 1838, after Teddington had been joined to Staines Union. It is still in existence as nos. 32, 34, 36, 38/40, Park Lane. The parish retained the older almshouses for the use of the poor. (fn. 32) They later came under the control of the urban district council and were demolished in 1955, when they were in bad repair. The last one to be occupied had fallen vacant in 1944. (fn. 33)
With the ending of parochial responsibility for poor relief and policing, vestry meetings again became less frequent, and the appointment of officers was their principal duty. Drainage, however, caused growing concern, as the main drain down the village street became less and less adequate. A succession of boards and committees was formed from 1818 with little result, (fn. 34) and eventually, after some years of disagreement, a local board of health was formed in 1867, largely for this purpose. (fn. 35)
The board and the urban district council which succeeded it comprised fifteen members. (fn. 36) In 1900 the urban district was divided into four wards. (fn. 37) It became part of Twickenham borough in 1937 after having protested against the amalgamation since it was first suggested. (fn. 38) In 1875 the local board also became a burial board after a controversy in which the Anglican clergy, who were unrepresented on the board, strongly opposed the opening of a cemetery outside Church control. (fn. 39) Feeling ran high in the board and council on many issues, including for instance the provision of drains, the building of the footbridge, and the housing question, and a good deal of money was spent on legal costs in connexion with the first of these. (fn. 40) A ratepayers' association was formed in 1875. (fn. 41) The council was never organized strictly on the lines of national political parties, but the use of party names began some years before it was dissolved. There were three Labour councillors in 1937. (fn. 42)
The local board met at first in rented rooms (fn. 43) and later in the Town Hall, a privately owned building erected in 1886. (fn. 44) The board bought Elmfield House just before the urban district council was formed, and the council used it until 1937. (fn. 45) It was still used by departments of Twickenham borough council in 1957. At the time when the local board was formed the vestry was served by an assistant overseer, an inspector of nuisances, and an assistant surveyor, who were all paid, as well as by the clerk and minor parish officials. (fn. 46) The board at once added a treasurer, and other officials were appointed as its statutory duties increased. (fn. 47) By 1937 it had a staff of about 35. (fn. 48) The board's first rate was levied at 6d. in the pound and brought in about £475. (fn. 49) The urban district council began by spending about £12,000 a year and this was doubled before the First World War, and continued to rise steeply afterwards. The last rate was 10s. 4d. and brought in about £37,000. (fn. 50)
The local board had committees for finance, general purposes, sewerage, and the fire brigade, as well as for such temporary objects as naming and numbering streets. (fn. 51) The seven committees of the first urban district council had grown to twelve by the 1920's. (fn. 52) The drainage of the parish, the inadequacy of which had been the chief reason why the board was formed, continued to absorb much of its attention until the sewage works in Broom Road were made in 1888. They were enlarged in 1912. The making of roads and the drainage of individual houses also occupied the board. (fn. 53) In its capacity of burial board it opened the cemetery in Shacklegate Road in 1879. (fn. 54) The first recreation ground was opened in Manor Road shortly after 1881, (fn. 55) and the public swimming bath in Vicarage Road in 1931. (fn. 56) The council started a library and reading room in Broad Street in 1900 and in 1906 the Carnegie library in Waldegrave Road was opened. (fn. 57) By 1930 it had 10,000 books in the lending department and 1,000 for reference. (fn. 58) In 1937 it became a branch library of Twickenham. Before its dissolution the council built 323 council houses. (fn. 59)