A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 4, Harmondsworth, Hayes, Norwood With Southall, Hillingdon With Uxbridge, Ickenham, Northolt, Perivale, Ruislip, Edgware, Harrow With Pinner. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1971.
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A manor court is first mentioned in Harmondsworth in 1222. (fn. 1) Consecutive court rolls exist from 1377 to 1530; (fn. 2) these, to some extent, have already been examined in an earlier volume. (fn. 3)
In 1274 the vill of Harmondsworth was said not to owe suit to the hundred. (fn. 4) This statement and the holding at Harmondsworth in 1500 of a view of frankpledge for Harmondsworth, Longford, and Southcote, (fn. 5) are the only indications that Harmondsworth manor ever exercised an independent jurisdiction. In the 12th century there was a court every winter at Martinmas, (fn. 6) but by the late 14th century no clearly defined sequence is apparent, although courts were rarely held at less than quarterly intervals. During the later 15th century the business of the court slackened, and meetings were normally held twice a year; (fn. 7) although the October or November court was the larger, little business was transacted either in the spring or in the autumn. The courts were usually reserved to the lord in leases of the manor, and during the sequestration in the late 16th century the Crown followed the same practice. (fn. 8) By this time courts were held at Easter and Michaelmas, the perquisites going to the lord. (fn. 9) Courts continued to meet at least until 1772, (fn. 10) but there is little indication of their frequency.
During the Middle Ages the manor court dealt with all aspects of local life and agricultural organization. As well as fines and surrenders of land, the court regulated pannage and tallage. (fn. 11) Courts before 1391 were presumably held by the Prior of Harmondsworth, or his deputy, and at least once after that date the Warden of Winchester College himself held the court. (fn. 12) Officials of the manor were occasionally elected there, as were a beadle and keeper of the heath in 1377, and a reeve in 1378, (fn. 13) but these appointments seem to have been exceptional. The beadle, who received an allowance of grain from the manor in 1388, (fn. 14) was evidently a form of constable, and after 1394 the rolls frequently contain details of his attachments. (fn. 15) He seems to have been chiefly concerned with grazing offences, poaching, unauthorized wood-cutting, and the like. He was still receiving an allowance of grain in 1398 (fn. 16) but is not often mentioned in the 15th century. There was, however, a constable of Harmondsworth village in 1405 (fn. 17) and this officer might be identifiable with the earlier beadle, although the beadle reappears in the 1450s. (fn. 18) By the late 1430s there were two subconstables for the parish. (fn. 19) The bailiff was a servant of the lord of the manor rather than an official of the manor court. He was receiving a salary of 40s. in 1434, when the steward, mentioned for the first time, was paid only 16s. 8d. (fn. 20) The bailiff's salary was unchanged in 1451, (fn. 21) and he was probably responsible for much of the work on the manor, the steward occupying a higher and perhaps more honorary post. In the mid 16th century the bailiff was appointed for life by letters patent at a salary of £4 a year, and at the same time a chief steward was appointed by the Crown. (fn. 22) The reeve seems to have been the chief officer of the manor in the 12th century (fn. 23) but is rarely mentioned later. In the 14th century tenants on the Harmondsworth land at Ruislip were under the authority of a woodward who was responsible for making presentments and attachments. (fn. 24) The tenants at Ruislip were also bound to render suit of court at Harmondsworth. (fn. 25)
There were probably court buildings on the manor by 1293-4 when the site of the 'court' is mentioned. (fn. 26) In 1337 the door or gate of the court is recorded, (fn. 27) and references to a house standing by the door of the court are frequently repeated. (fn. 28) In 1688 the lease of the Court Lodge property included the court house; (fn. 29) later leases, however, do not mention it, nor is it known where the building stood. In the late 18th century court dinners were held by the Pagets, the last known dinner being in 1800. (fn. 30) These may have taken place in the court house, if it was still standing at that date.
Little is known of the growth of the parish administration which succeeded the manorial organization. In 1642 there were 2 constables, 2 churchwardens, and an overseer. (fn. 31) Subsequently parish business was presumably transacted by the vestry, which became select after 1819. By 1834 the vestries were said to be rarely fully attended, and parish business was conducted by the churchwardens, overseers, and 2 or 3 inhabitants. (fn. 32) The vestry was responsible for the workhouse which was in existence at least as early as 1776 when it had 40 inmates. (fn. 33) During the first two decades of the 19th century the numbers fell to between 20 and 30. (fn. 34) In 1834 the workhouse contained 21 people classed as 'idle and illiterate', who were alleged to make the other poor dissatisfied. Workhouse poor were farmed at 3s. 6d. per head and their labour. (fn. 35) The workhouse, which stood at Sipson Green, was still standing in 1839 (fn. 36) but had been demolished by the 1860s. (fn. 37) The vestry remained in sole charge of affairs in the civil parish until 1895, and its only salaried officer appears to have been the assistant overseer. He was first appointed in 1833, (fn. 38) and in 1893 was receiving a salary of £40 a year. (fn. 39)
A parish council was formed in 1895. It met four times a year and had a membership of nine. The council appointed one man as assistant overseer and clerk in 1896, and a clerk to the surveyors of the highways was appointed in 1897. (fn. 40) Before the First World War, however, a great deal of local administration was still undertaken by the vestry. (fn. 41) This may have been because at first the parish council was extremely unpopular. The vicar was bitterly hostile, and in 1899 all but two of the members were ousted after a vote. (fn. 42) By 1914 the vestry was still conducting charity business, the piping of gas and water, and the clearing of all ditches, and it was the body which negotiated with the police for a speed limit on the Bath Road at Longford. The parish council, on the other hand, was mainly concerned with sanitary conditions, the fire engine, and the provision of allotments. In many cases, however, membership of both bodies was the same. After 1919 the vestry usually met only once a year. The parish council took over practically all local administration during the war, and, among other functions, elected the burial board and school managers. No permanent council offices were built. In about 1918 meetings moved from the Sipson and Heathrow school on the Bath Road to the parish room, on the same road, and this was subsequently termed the Council Offices. The exact location of the room is not definitely known, but it was possibly attached to the mission church of St. Saviour. It may, however, merely have been a room in the school. (fn. 43)
In 1930 the parish council was dissolved on the transference of Harmondsworth civil parish from Staines R.D. to Yiewsley and West Drayton U.D., which took over all the independent parish administration. The civil parish of Harmondsworth itself was absorbed in 1949 into the civil parish of Yiewsley and West Drayton. (fn. 44) After this date, therefore, Harmondsworth existed only as an ecclesiastical area. Since 1965 Yiewsley and West Drayton have formed part of the London Borough of Hillingdon. (fn. 45)