A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 8. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1963.
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Local Government and Public Services.
In the Pipe Roll for 1172–3 (fn. 1) Newcastle was referred to as a borough for the first time and it may well be that a royal charter recognizing this status was granted to the inhabitants in or about that year. It is certain that when in 1179 Henry II granted a charter to Preston (Lancs.), the Newcastle charter, of which there now remains no trace, was taken as the model and the burgesses of Preston were conceded the same liberties and free customs as had been given to the burgesses of Newcastle. (fn. 2)
For the grant of burghal status, and such privileges as accompanied it, the town appears to have incurred a debt to the king of £23 6s. 8d., that being the sum for which the sheriff accounted in 1173. (fn. 3) Paid in instalments, the debt was finally extinguished in 1186. (fn. 4) Under Henry III a notable step forward in recognition of Newcastle's importance as a trading community was achieved. (fn. 5) This was the issue in 1235 of a charter (fn. 6) establishing a guild merchant in the town, with all the liberties and free customs belonging to such a guild, (fn. 7) and adding the declaration, which may have been included in Henry II's charter, that Newcastle should be a free borough. The new charter omits any reference to Henry II's charter and so implies that the status was being conferred for the first time. (fn. 8) A further advance on the road to burghal autonomy was marked in 1251 by the issue of another royal charter, which gave the mayor (here mentioned for the first time) and burgesses the right to hold the town at a fee-farm rent, payable annually to the king's bailiff at Newcastle. (fn. 9) That payment of the fee-farm rent did not ensure freedom from external interference appears from a royal mandate of 1282 directing the local bailiffs to protect from interference the burgesses, good men, bakers, brewers, butchers, fishers, carriers, millers, or other artificers of Newcastle. (fn. 10)
Although the grant of charters guaranteeing their rights and liberties would seem to have placed the inhabitants of Newcastle in a strong position, it was by no means unassailable. When, in 1267, Edmund, Earl of Lancaster, upon acquiring the castle and manor, (fn. 11) seems to have secured a controlling interest in the affairs of the borough, (fn. 12) he was concerned to assert his authority and, though the stages of the dispute are not known, it is clear that the burgesses had finally to bow to his will. In 1293–6 the mayor and community, while they had claimed to farm the borough for 40 marks, renounced this right and acknowledged that Edmund and his heirs should hold the borough and its appurtenances and dispose of them in future at will, subject, however, to the liberties granted to the borough by the charters of Henry III and Edward I. (fn. 13) It is probable that on the death of Edmund in 1296 the borough was able to regain its financial and other privileges; by 1322 it was paying a farm of £20, which was less than the original 40 marks and probably a good deal less than what had been exacted by Edmund. (fn. 14) In 1325 the burgesses were petitioning the king for confirmation of 40 marks as the fee-farm rent and exemption from attendance at outside inquests or assizes. (fn. 15) Nevertheless the farm remained at £20, though the borough was not always prompt in payment. In 1494 the corporation, being then £166 in arrear, was threatened by the duchy council with the deprivation of its liberties in default of settlement. (fn. 16)
The constitutional development of Newcastle may be traced from the records of its governing body inscribed in a series of minute books, beginning in 1369 and continuing, with a gap of eighty years, from 1411 to 1491, to the present day. (fn. 17) According to the earliest of these records supreme authority resided in the mayor and the community (communitas), but it appears that the day-to-day administration of the borough was carried on by the mayor, the bailiffs, and a body of 24 burgesses, first mentioned in 1371. (fn. 18) Nevertheless, for certain enactments touching the generality of burgesses, the participation and consent of the community as a whole were deemed advisable, as, for example, in 1379–80 when regulations were adopted for the fencing of the common lands and the building of houses; (fn. 19) and again in 1384–5 when approving an ordinance that no 'foreigner' (unless he was a burgess) should be permitted to set up as a brewer or baker. (fn. 20) From the point of view of the evolution of the borough council it is perhaps significant that in 1379–80 the Twenty-four are described as elders (seniores) and in 1382–3 as aldermen. (fn. 21) For most of the 15th century no minute books have survived so that the stages in the development of town government are not on record, but in 1498 the 'counsell of the towne' is definitely associated with the mayor and 'his brethren' in giving its consent to a proposal relating to the common lands. (fn. 22) This body is presumably identifiable with the 'twelve' who both before and after 1498 assented pro communitate to borough business. (fn. 23) That the 'twelve' were representative of the burgesses as a whole is attested by the appearance of their names in 1496–7 as giving 'a whole assent and consent of the cominaltie' to action taken by the mayor and his brethren. (fn. 24)
In 1547–8 the minutes record the names of twenty persons as constituting the 'counsell of the towne', (fn. 25) indicating an enlargement of the earlier body of twelve. By 1572–3 the 'counsell' had increased to 24 (fn. 26) and at that figure it remained until the grant of the new charter in 1590. Election to this council was in the hands of a committee of eight, four chosen from the Twenty-four and four from the council itself. (fn. 27)
1590 CHARTER. By patent of 18 May 1590, granted at the instigation of Robert, Earl of Essex, the town was incorporated and certain constitutional changes, which formed the basis of the government of Newcastle for the next two and a half centuries, were promulgated. (fn. 28) Henceforth the governing body, to be called the Common Council, (fn. 29) was to consist of the mayor, the bailiffs, and 24 'of the more discreet and better men' of the borough, to be called the capital burgesses. The members of the council so set up were nominated in the charter itself and consisted of the then mayor, the 2 bailiffs, and the 24 burgesses, comprising 6 ex-mayors, 7 ex-bailiffs and 11 members of the last 'counsel of the towne'. Power was given to the mayor, bailiffs, and capital burgesses to make ordinances regarding the method of election to the council and the filling of vacancies. In exercise of this power the council in 1596 enacted that vacancies in the capital burgesses should be filled by a majority of the capital burgesses themselves, (fn. 30) and again in 1599 that the election of the borough officers was to lie with the mayor, bailiffs, capital burgesses, and so many other 'of the beste sorte of the commonaltye' as should bring up the total of the electing body to thirty-two, in addition to the mayor and bailiffs. (fn. 31) When it is realized that the eight additional electing members were chosen by the council, it will be apparent that the ordinary inhabitants had no voice in the government of the borough, a state of affairs which remained unchanged until the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835. In fact, such meagre acknowledgement of the right of the 'commonalty' to have a say in the election of their masters as had been conceded in the ordinance of 1599 was later withdrawn, for in 1620 it was ordered that in future the election of officers should be made solely by the mayor, bailiffs, and 24 capital burgesses without the participation of the 'commonalty'. (fn. 32)
While the 1590 charter chiefly deals with the above changes in the governing body, it contains many other provisions which in the main are declaratory of existing custom and practice as exhibited in the minute books of the earlier period. From them a picture of the mayor as the chief administrative and judicial officer clearly emerges; in the 1590 charter his pre-eminence is amply recognized and the clerkship of the market was then added to his other functions. (fn. 33) Next to the mayor in the official hierarchy stood the two bailiffs whose chief duty it was to collect and pay the farm rent due from the borough. From 1490 to 1590 one bailiff was elected to represent the Twenty-four and the other to represent the community. (fn. 34) The other officers elected annually were the common serjeant (a second serjeant to serve the mayor appears to have been appointed by 1490), (fn. 35) two wardens of the assize of bread and ale, (fn. 36) two constables, two receivers of money, and two churchwardens. (fn. 37) The 1590 charter also provides for the appointment of a town clerk, an official who must have existed before, though references to him in the early minutes are curiously scanty; in 1379–80 there is a reference to 'communis clericus', (fn. 38) who presumably exercised functions roughly corresponding to those of a town clerk, while in 1383–4 there is included an item of 6s. 8d. 'pro feodo clerici ville'. (fn. 39)
The charter also provided for the holding of three borough courts: a tri-weekly 'court of record' before the mayor, bailiffs, and steward, to deal with trespasses and actions for debt and contract up to £40; a twice-yearly view of frankpledge; and a court of piepowder at the Monday market and the St. Giles, Trinity, and Easter fairs. (fn. 40) Apart from view of frankpledge, which was to be held 'in the manner as hath been used from ancient time', it is not known how far these courts already existed before 1590.
THE POST-RESTORATION BOROUGH. The restoration of the monarchy in 1660 heralded the beginning of an attack on the independence of the boroughs which was to continue, in the case of Newcastle, until the Revolution of 1688. The detailed story of the attempts of the Crown to obtain control of the borough with the principal object of influencing the election of the borough representatives to Parliament has already been told. (fn. 41) Briefly, a new charter was granted in 1664 which the borough council was in effect forced to accept. (fn. 42) The charter's most significant innovation was the insistence that royal approval should be obtained for the election or appointment of the recorder and the town clerk, the object being to safeguard and promote through these two important officers the interest of the Crown in the borough. In January 1684 when the mayor and corporation wanted to appoint John Turton as steward or recorder, the king did not approve and the borough was obliged to elect the royal nominee Peter Broughton of the Middle Temple 'though unknown to them'. (fn. 43) The charter also provided for the appointment of three justices of the peace, namely the mayor and two capital burgesses, (fn. 44) and confirmed the power of a majority of the borough council to fill casual vacancies and the place of anyone (including the recorder and town clerk) removed from office for bad behaviour. (fn. 45) In the same year Newcastle, like other boroughs, found itself the target of an even more determined attack by the Crown on the entrenched position of the ancient corporations. In October the council minutes record the decision to surrender their charters to the king, (fn. 46) but before doing so the corporation prudently granted to a body of local trustees the town lands and rents on trust to permit the mayor, bailiffs, and capital burgesses to dispose of the rents and profits for the maintenance of their church minister and for the relief of the poor. While negotiations were going forward in London for the grant of a new charter, Charles II died (6 February 1685). The charter of James II granted in the following month provided for a complete reconstitution of the governing body. The new council was to consist of a mayor, twelve aldermen (the mayor being one), and fifteen capital burgesses, out of whom the two bailiffs were to be chosen. There was also to be a high steward, (fn. 47) a recorder, and a common clerk. The charter nominated those who were to be members of the corporation and officeholders, and these were clearly chosen for their amenability to the policy of the Crown. Even so the Crown reserved to itself the power at any time to remove any member of the council or any of the before-mentioned officials from office. The duration of this charter was brief. James thought it advisable, as with other boroughs, to try to placate local antipathy towards him by restoring the status quo and rehabilitating the old pre-1685 council; the change was effected by an Order in Council of 4 December 1687, (fn. 48) under the power reserved to the Crown in the 1685 charter. Under general proclamation of 17 October 1688, the charter of 1685 was itself annulled and constitutionally the borough regained the liberties and privileges it had enjoyed under the charter of 1664.
Nevertheless, though James's interference with the borough had been unsuccessful and of brief duration, it brought in its train two evils, namely financial difficulties and dissension among the burgesses. Considerable expenditure had been incurred in connexion with the surrender of the charters and the grant of the new charter in 1685. (fn. 49) To meet their difficulties, the council had recourse to borrowing, £220 from a Mr. Allen in April 1685 and £400 from William Sneyd in May 1685, (fn. 50) but this expedient also produced its problems, for succeeding minutes illustrate the council's difficulty in discharging its debts. (fn. 51) In fact, it is clear that between 1683 and 1688 the affairs of the town were in a very disordered state, to which the bitter political and personal rivalry of two opposing factions in large measure contributed. When the old council was reinstated in 1688 its resentment against its predecessors found expression in an attack upon Thomas Hemings, mayor in 1686–7, and in January 1689 it was agreed that he and all other persons who had intermeddled with the rents, money, or stock of the town, or received any of the same by virtue of the late charter, should be called to account. (fn. 52) Proceedings against Hemings and some of his colleagues were instituted, and in 1693–4 and 1695–6 two separate suits appear to have been in progress simultaneously. (fn. 53) How these actions were finally determined is unknown and there is no further reference to them in the council minutes. It is probable that the death of Thomas Hemings on 30 November 1698 (fn. 54) put an end to what must have been protracted and costly litigation.
Throughout the 18th century the government and administration of the borough preserved its oligarchical pattern and it was not until 1827 that the right of the council to elect the mayor without the participation of the general body of the burgesses was questioned. By a decision of the Court of King's Bench (fn. 55) it was held that the council's ordinance of 1620 (fn. 56) was illegal, and consequently in 1833 the mayor and bailiffs were elected by the burgesses at large. A curious result of the decision was that, the former mayoral elections having been held to be bad, several of the capital burgesses were liable to be ousted as having been elected under bad presiding officers, which had the further consequence that vacancies in the council could not be filled because eligible persons refused to accept office for fear of legal proceedings. (fn. 57)
THE BURGESSES. (fn. 58) Such, in outline, is the history of the governing body. Something must, however, be added about the qualifications for burgess-ship. In origin the burgesses were presumably the holders of burgages, of which there were 160 in the early 13th century. (fn. 59) From 1369, when the minute books begin, ample information is provided about the election of burgesses, the conditions attached thereto, and the fees payable for admission to the freedom of the borough. The usual conditions required the burgess to reside in the town and to follow his trade or occupation there. Burgess-ship for life only could be conferred on 'foreigners', i.e. those living outside the borough. Regulations regarding such burgesses were made in 1596. (fn. 60) In the medieval period the fee payable for admission varied considerably up to a maximum of 40s. In the earlier 16th century the usual fee on election was 10s., raised to 20s. in 1560, to £2 in 1577, and to £5 in 1589, at which figure it remained until 1835, apart from the two years 1608 and 1609 when 20 marks were exacted. (fn. 61) Apprentices who had served their seven-year term with a burgess in trade paid a smaller fee which from the first quarter of the 17th century was usually fixed at 33s. 4d. (fn. 62) Those who were wholly excused payment of admission fees included free-born burgesses if resident within the borough, and usually the persons elected to represent Newcastle in Parliament. (fn. 63) The last burgess admitted without payment to enjoy the full privileges was Josiah Wedgwood on 30 April 1831. (fn. 64) Honorary freedom of the borough without the full privileges is still bestowed in special cases.
Occasionally the burgess-ship was granted, not for a monetary payment, but as a consideration for the rendering of a special service. Thus in 1589 Humphrey Smith was made free for life on condition that he provided ropes for the church bells and clock. Again, in 1614 Humphrey Liversage, and after him his son Thomas in 1622, were admitted to their liberties so long as they maintained the windows of the church, school house, and steeple in sufficient repair, for which they were also to receive 6s. 8d. from the town yearly. (fn. 65) In 1627 Richard Ashe and his son William were likewise admitted on condition that Richard should flag and pave the ground under the New hall (fn. 66) over a period of five years. (fn. 67)
While the records are for the most part silent about the privileges attached to burgess-ship, the obligations incurred thereby are clearly revealed. The efficient government of the urban community depended upon the co-operation of the burgesses who were required voluntarily to undertake such offices as that of bailiff, town serjeant, constable, receiver of town money, churchwarden, overseer of the poor, and surveyor of the highways.
A burgess, if elected a capital burgess, was required to undertake the office or submit to a pecuniary penalty, which could be substantial; in 1797 James Breck was fined 50 guineas for refusing to take up office. (fn. 68) In the sphere of trade regulation, in addition to the usual assize lookers, as they are termed, for bread and ale, and also for meat and fish, (fn. 69) from 1631 two burgesses were appointed to act as searchers and sealers of leather. (fn. 70) Their duty was to ensure that all leather brought into the town for sale was properly tanned and to seize all footwear made of leather mixed with horse hide or other leather prohibited by law. (fn. 71) Recalcitrant burgesses and those who showed disrespect towards the mayor, by no means a negligible number, were punished by loss of their burgess rights, which, however, seem to have been restored after an interval and on payment of a fine. (fn. 72)
POST-1835 CONSTITUTION. Under the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835, the corporation was styled the Mayor, Bailiffs, and Burgesses of Newcastle-under-Lyme, (fn. 73) and the borough council was reconstituted to consist of six aldermen and eighteen councillors elected by the ratepayers. (fn. 74) For the purpose of municipal elections the borough was divided into two wards, (fn. 75) increased to twelve in 1932. (fn. 76) From that year, when the borough boundaries were extended, (fn. 77) the council has consisted of 48 members, namely 12 aldermen and 36 councillors, but the total is increased by one if the mayor is not an elected member. (fn. 78) These added parts were predominantly mining and industrial districts and, although at the time of the extension, membership of the council appears to have been largely on a nonparty basis, (fn. 79) since the end of the Second World War municipal elections have been contested between candidates supporting the aims and policies of the Labour party on the one hand and mainly Independent candidates on the other. In the period 1947–49 the council was controlled by Independent members. Since that date Labour has been generally in control. (fn. 80)
The new council elected under the 1835 Act met in the first week of January 1836 (fn. 81) and proceeded to establish committees to enable it to discharge its wider functions of government. As required by the Act, (fn. 82) a Watch Committee was constituted forthwith, followed by a Markets and Tolls Committee, (fn. 83) a Highways Committee, and in the following year, a Finance Committee. (fn. 84) As the work of the council expanded, so did the number of its committees. In 1849 a Sanitary Committee was formed (fn. 85) and by 1880 there were, in addition to those already mentioned, a Burial Board, and Lighting, Fire Brigade, and Building Committees; (fn. 86) in the following year the Gas Works Management Committee was established. (fn. 87) In 1890 it was found necessary to effect a reorganization of the committee structure. Highways, Sewerage, Town Walks and Lighting, General Purposes, and Watch were made committees of the whole council, while the other committees constituted were Finance, Gas Works Management, Markets and Fairs, Corporation Estates, Burial Board, Sanitary, Building, Fire Brigade, Public Buildings, and Library. (fn. 88) In 1958 the total number of committees was still the same as in 1890, but changes in individual committees had taken place, brought about by the discharge of old responsibilities and the assumption of new ones: Sewerage, Town Walks and Lighting, Gas Works Management, Fire Brigade, and Public Buildings had given way to Allotments, Baths, Education, Rating, and Town Planning. (fn. 89) In 1850 the council constituted itself a local Board of Health and appointed its first medical officer. (fn. 90) The board remained in existence until 1876. (fn. 91)
At first the chief executive officer of the new council, as he had been of the old council, was the town clerk who was paid a yearly salary of £40; (fn. 92) before 1801 he had received no salary, but in that year his emoluments were fixed at £20 yearly, raised to £40 in 1827. (fn. 93) The office, a part-time one, was filled by a local solicitor who was also able to practise privately. So things remained until 1933, when, following the extension of the borough, the appointment was made a full-time one. (fn. 94)
A treasurer was one of the officers of the Improvement Commissioners (fn. 95) and it was no doubt his appointment that was continued by the new council. (fn. 96) Although by 1871 a borough treasurer was included among the officers of the corporation, (fn. 97) his was probably only a part-time appointment, and as late as 1914 the treasurer was the manager of a local bank. (fn. 98) The genesis of the borough surveyor is presumably to be found in the office of Surveyor of Works, a paid official of the Improvement Commissioners. (fn. 99)
When the reformed council met in the first week of January 1836, (fn. 100) the finances of the town were in jeopardy. The expensive litigation of the period 1827–32 (fn. 101) —the legal expenses had amounted to more than £4,000 (fn. 102) —had played havoc with the borough finances and when the new council took office the balance in hand amounted to 2s. 10½d. (fn. 103) Investigation was clearly called for and a Revenue Committee appointed for that purpose quickly reported that there had been slackness in the collection of rents from corporation property, the arrears amounting to £258. (fn. 104) The appointment forthwith of a Markets and Tolls Committee (fn. 105) also reflected the council's concern about the financial position, as the income of the corporation consisted largely of the tolls and stallage duties of the fairs and markets. (fn. 106) In 1833 £431 out of a total revenue of a little over £600 came from this source. (fn. 107)
The Improvement Commissioners under the 1819 Act had been empowered to levy highway, lighting, and improvement rates and had done so fairly frequently. (fn. 108) Under the 1835 Act, however, the council was authorized to levy a general rate to meet its expenditure under all heads. (fn. 109) In 1838 a borough rate was levied for the first time and the total required was £301 9s. assessable on a rateable value of £21,128. (fn. 110) Fifty years later the rateable value was nearly £50,000 and the product of the borough rate £3,759. (fn. 111) In 1891 the rateable value was £60,705 and this had risen by 1901 to £69,217, (fn. 112) while in the decade from 1901 to 1910 the total borough rate levied rose from £5,000 to £6,980. (fn. 113) The extension of the borough in 1932 led temporarily to a slight diminution in the rate: in 1931 it was 15s. 6d., (fn. 114) in 1932 14s. 6d., (fn. 115) and in 1933 15s., (fn. 116) but by 1937 it had risen to 15s. 6d. (fn. 117) In 1943 the borough rate was 17s. in the £, in 1947 23s. 10d., in 1951 20s., in 1955 24s., the highest figure so far reached; in 1956, 1957, and 1958, the rates were 16s. 6d., 19s., and 19s. 6d. (fn. 118) From 1901 to 1921 the rateable value did not change appreciably, but by 1931 it had risen to £98,470. (fn. 119) The extension of the borough in 1932 resulted in a substantial accretion to the rateable value, which in that year rose to £216,758. (fn. 120) By 1955 it was £366,258 and in the following year, as a result of a revaluation of rateable properties, the rateable value reached £728,107. (fn. 121)
In addition to rates, the markets have continued to be a source of income. In 1901 the rent received from market dues was £650 yearly. (fn. 122) The leasing of the market tolls, with the exception of those arising in the cattle market, ceased in 1926 (fn. 123) and from that date the corporation has collected its own tolls. In 1958 the gross receipts from this source amounted to nearly £8,000. (fn. 124)
OTHER ORGANS OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT. In addition to the borough council, both the guild merchant and the court leet in early times shared in the government of the town, though the records relating to these bodies are very fragmentary. Of the former the only extant records are of three meetings noted in the earliest borough council minute book; (fn. 125) these took place in Whitsun week, in 1382, (fn. 126) 1389, (fn. 127) and 1396. (fn. 128) The record of the proceedings provides little more than a skeletal view of the guild organization. The officers of the guild, namely, steward, clerk, two door-keepers, two treasurers, and two butlers (pincerne), are mentioned as also are the names of the members of two bodies known as the Prima Duodena and the Secunda Duodena, in whom, it may be surmised, was vested authority to manage the affairs of the guild and to promulgate its regulations. The guild officers were for the most part members of one or other of these two bodies. The sole mention of the statutes of the guild occurs in 1372–3 when, in the case of a John de Wygan who had 'rebelled' against the mayor and other officers a second time, it was ordained by the mayor, the Twenty-four, and the statutes of the guild (per majorem et xxiiiior et statuta Gilde) that if he offended a third time he would be fined 20s. and lose his liberty for ever. (fn. 129)
The business transacted at the assemblies of 1389 and 1396, as recorded in the minute book, was limited to the admission of a number of the inhabitants to their liberty, but as the guild met for three successive days in Whitsun week (fn. 130) it is obvious that much more must have taken place than it was thought necessary or fitting to insert in a book used for recording the official acts of the borough. In fact, it would seem that the guild merchant was, in the matter of admitting persons to the liberty of the town, i.e. the burgess-ship, performing a function of the borough council, for in the form of admission, the fee, and the requirement of pledges there is nothing to distinguish the procedure of the guild from that of the borough council at this period. The closeness of the relationship between the two bodies is illustrated by the case of John Bikley of Cheshire, who in 1409–10 was elected by the borough council to the liberty of the town so long as he remained resident there but with the additional proviso 'that if at some future time some guild or leet should change the rules about liberty then John and his heirs would have to conform to the rules as amended by the guild.' (fn. 131) But whereas John Bikley paid his admission fee to the receivers of town payments, the burgesses admitted by the guild paid their fees to the receivers of guild payments; they may have been town receivers as well, for it is a fact of some importance that in 1389 and 1396 there are no recorded meetings of the borough council. Though the evidence is scanty it seems reasonably clear that there was some overlapping of the functions of the two bodies at this time; it may even be that at an early period of the borough's history the guild merchant was the governing body out of which the borough council developed, but no evidence exists to support this possibility.
In the 15th and 16th centuries nothing is known of the history of the guild merchant and it may be supposed that in Newcastle, as in other towns, it slowly disintegrated, its function of guarding and supervising the trade monopoly being superseded by the activities of craft guilds and by the growing control of the central government over matters of trade and commerce. It is of some significance, however, that as late as 1502 the borough council disfranchised four burgesses because they had disobeyed the guild rule (fn. 132) and that in 1588 a burgess was disfranchised for bringing an action against another burgess contrary to an ordinance contained in the guild book, thus suggesting that some at least of the old guild statutes were still in force. (fn. 133) Two years later when the borough was granted its charter of incorporation (fn. 134) the grant specifically confirmed the liberties, exemptions, and customs of Henry III's charter of 1235 but mention of the guild merchant itself was significantly omitted. (fn. 135)
With regard to leet jurisdiction the council minute books in the 15th and 16th centuries (fn. 136) record a series of enactments in which the law-making body is described as 'the mayor and his brethren with the great inquest and the small', (fn. 137) though this formula is at times subject to slight variation. The judicial and administrative business effected by this body showed a wide range and it seemed on occasion to be discharging the undifferentiated functions of a court baron, a court leet, a guild merchant, and a borough council. In 1491 the court made regulations about the common gaps and gates for entry into the common fields of the town as a court baron might do, but at the same court the mayor was enjoined to see that no man bore any unlawful weapon. (fn. 138) The names of the two sets of jurors are given, twelve each for the inquisitio magna and inquisitio parva. Leet jurisdiction seemed to be involved in 1496 when it was laid down that an arrested man should be released only on giving his bond (fn. 139) and again in 1497 when rules for the levying of distress were promulgated. (fn. 140) The court performed the functions of a guild merchant in 1502 (Uttoxeter men to be allowed to trade only on payment of toll), (fn. 141) in 1510 (regulations for butchers), (fn. 142) and in 1540 (free entry of merchants). (fn. 143) But on the last-mentioned occasion the court also concerned itself, as a court baron would, with laying open of the Holt Fields after harvest. And finally, the great and small inquest participated in what appears to be purely borough business such as the elections to the borough council by the sworn men in 1571, (fn. 144) the payment of the school master in 1567, (fn. 145) and the readmittance of a disfranchised burgess in 1581. (fn. 146) It would seem, therefore, that the court, while at times transacting manorial business, at the same or other times concerned itself with mercantile or municipal affairs.
The nomenclature of the court as exhibited in the minute book shows considerable variation and it is notable that in the later entries there is a greater tendency to employ manorial terminology than in the earlier. In 1531, 1532, and 1581 it is styled simply the great court, (fn. 147) though in the last-named year the term great leet is also used synonymously. In 1583, 1588, and 1590 the court is referred to as the great leet, (fn. 148) while in 1635 and 1637 it is described as the court leet. (fn. 149) At all these courts the business transacted, or at least recorded, concerned the admission or readmission of burgesses or the imposition of penalties on those who had proved recalcitrant. It is not until 1653 that those customary officers of a medieval manor court, the 'afferers' or assessors of the amercements due for offences presented by the jury, are found, and at a second court in that year a shoemaker was fined for refusing to allow his wares to be searched by the sworn 'afferers'. (fn. 150) It is possible that the persistence of such medieval terminology into the 16th and 17th centuries is of no great significance and that what is noteworthy is the continued use of the jury of presentment, even into a period when its functions had been absorbed by the borough council and borough Quarter Sessions.
There was evidently a parish vestry in Newcastle in the 18th century at least, although almost nothing is known of its activities before the 19th century. (fn. 151) The functions of the vestry were in large measure discharged by the borough council, which for a considerable period exercised control over the appointment of parochial officers. The election of church- or chapel-wardens by the council dates from at least 1490 (fn. 152) and continued until 1707. (fn. 153) Its election of overseers of the poor is first recorded in 1622 (fn. 154) and it was still appointing them in the 18th century. (fn. 155) The election of two 'supervisors' of the highways began in 1626 (fn. 156) and the council made annual appointments down to the end of the 18th century when the borough court of Quarter Sessions appointed them until 1819, at which date the Improvement Commissioners assumed responsibility in this sphere. (fn. 157)
Because, in the words of the Act, (fn. 158) the borough was 'very populous, a place of considerable trade, and also a great thoroughfare for travellers', a body of Improvement Commissioners was set up in 1819 who were made responsible for paving, lighting, watching, cleansing, regulating, and improving the town. They consisted of the mayor, the recorder, the borough justice of the peace, the bailiffs, the capital burgesses, and the town clerk, and were to be assisted by a staff of officials including a clerk, a treasurer, and a surveyor of works. (fn. 159) Under the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835 (fn. 160) the reformed borough council took over the functions exercised by the commissioners, the decisions taken by the council in that capacity being recorded, not in the council minutes, but in the order books of the commissioners; this procedure continued until 1850. (fn. 161)
RELIEF OF THE POOR. In Newcastle the parochial responsibility for the relief of the poor seems to have devolved upon the borough council early in the 17th century. It was the council which thereafter undertook the organization and distribution of relief, including many of the charities, the appointment of overseers, and the maintenance of a workhouse. This lasted until 1838 when the Newcastle Poor Law Union, consisting of Newcastle and eight neighbouring parishes, was created and control vested in a board of eighteen guardians, six of them representatives of the borough. (fn. 162)
Until the later 18th century the corporation was successful in finding expedients to avoid the need for poor rates, though very occasionally, as in 1630 (fn. 163) and 1699, (fn. 164) a levy was imposed. Special income was sometimes assigned to the poor—part of a fine imposed for contempt of the mayor in 1623, (fn. 165) fines for defective chimneys in 1689, (fn. 166) the fees paid by two newly admitted burgesses in 1729. (fn. 167) But the first main source of relief during this period was the borough malt mill erected c. 1657 to provide for the maintenance of the poor. (fn. 168) The mill was formally settled in trust for the poor in 1687 specifically in order that a poor rate should not be necessary; if the income from the leasing of the mill proved insufficient the poor were to have also £12 a year out of the toll of corn ground there. (fn. 169) Although the arrangement at first achieved its purpose, (fn. 170) the need for new sources of revenue had arisen again by 1730 and it was then agreed to inclose some 8 acres of The Marsh and use the rents in lieu of a rate. (fn. 171) It is not clear whether this scheme was ever carried out, but by a Chancery decree of 1740 the proceeds of the mill, £45 a year charged on the market tolls, stallage, and profits from admissions of burgesses, the £30 annual income from Lord Ward's charity, and the rents from land bought with other charity money were devoted to poor relief by the corporation in satisfaction for all gifts made to them for the poor and as a further means of avoiding a poor rate. (fn. 172) The charity land was sold c. 1795 and the proceeds were applied to parochial purposes. (fn. 173) The money arising from the sale of the malt mill in 1796, however, was assigned to the poor, (fn. 174) and the £45 and £30 were still paid to the overseers of the poor in 1903. (fn. 175)
By 1774, however, the corporation was in debt to the amount of £1,600 on account of the poor, and a rate was thenceforth imposed in addition to the other charges. (fn. 176) In 1775–6 the product of this rate amounted to £584. (fn. 177) In 1782 23 acres of The Marsh were inclosed (fn. 178) and, leased out as building plots, produced an income which was used to subsidize the rates; this amounted to £131 19s. 6d. in 1835–6. (fn. 179) The average annual rate in 1783–5 had dropped to £563 19s. 6d., but in 1802–3 the poor 'and other rates', assessed at 1s. 3d. in the £, totalled £964 7s. 6d. (fn. 180)
The first reference to overseers of the poor occurs in 1622 from which time they were appointed— usually two a year—by the corporation. (fn. 181) If a person chosen was unwilling to serve he was required to find an approved substitute or pay a fine. (fn. 182) In 1720 it was decided to create the two paid offices of standing 'supervisor' and standing overseer; the fines for exemption were to be £1 10s. and £2 respectively, and appointment was to be in the hands of the mayor and aldermen. (fn. 183) At first only one official, described as an overseer, was appointed, (fn. 184) but, after the repetition of the order in 1727, (fn. 185) an overseer and a supervisor were elected in 1728 and 1729 (fn. 186) and two overseers in 1730. (fn. 187) From 1731 there seems to have been only one overseer, (fn. 188) but, from at least 1786, there were again two. (fn. 189) In 1759 it was resolved by the corporation that a Mr. Cartwright was to be elected overseer for the following year at a salary of £10. (fn. 190) Payments to the poor by the overseers had been under the direction of the corporation from at least 1661. (fn. 191) In 1685 the amount of the allowances dispensed was placed under the control of the bailiffs, the churchwardens, and four others. (fn. 192) The corporation was paying the overseers a minimum of £3 10s. from 1720, (fn. 193) £10 by 1759, (fn. 194) and £12 with a further allowance of £2 a year for help in collecting the toll of corn in 1771. (fn. 195) In 1766 the overseer was ordered to present accounts each week of the bills for goods bought on the corporation's behalf; the overseer's accounts were to be inspected once a month by the mayor, the justices, and four others. (fn. 196) At the beginning of 1771 the accounts were laid before the whole corporation. (fn. 197) The vestry were electing the two overseers and passing their accounts by the 1830's. (fn. 198) When by the Rating and Valuation Act of 1925 the office of overseer was abolished, the Newcastle overseers' functions were transferred to the rating committee of the borough council. (fn. 199)
The relief, apart from charities, (fn. 200) granted to the poor of Newcastle at various times from the later 17th century onwards included weekly and occasional money grants; (fn. 201) grants in kind; (fn. 202) whole or part payment of rent; (fn. 203) grants for apprenticing; (fn. 204) and the provision, during the 1730's and 1740's at least, of medical attention, the doctor being given two bags of malt a year and in 1741 admission 'to the rights and privileges of the borough'. (fn. 205) The total expenditure on poor relief in 1775–6 was £577 10s. (fn. 206) In 1802–3 £574 5s. 7d. was spent on out-relief within the borough for 153 adults, 62 children under 15, and 23 persons requiring only occasional help; £223 8s. 1d. was spent on the workhouse, into which 18 adults and children were admitted that year. (fn. 207)
From the later 17th century, however, there was a steady stiffening in the corporation's attitude towards poor relief. In 1685 the overseers' expenditure was placed under stricter control (see above). In 1686, eleven years before the statute requiring such measures, the corporation ordered that anyone in receipt of weekly pay from the borough should wear a badge of red cloth in the shape of a castle on pain of losing the pay; (fn. 208) in 1717 the form of the badge was altered to the letters np in red. (fn. 209) By the early 18th century the corporation order books indicate a reduction in the scale of relief. (fn. 210) A fine of 10s. was imposed in 1707 on all those who relieved vagrants and beggars, (fn. 211) and the following year a salaried official was appointed to arrest and punish vagrants and beggars. (fn. 212) In 1731 the poor who were not in the newly established workhouse had their weekly pay cut by half. (fn. 213) In the same year the corporation ordered that all clothing given to the poor should be of blue cloth; (fn. 214) the colour was fixed in 1742 as green for men and boys and yellow for women and girls, 'that it may be visible who are clothed by the town'. (fn. 215) In 1745 it was ordered that no medical help was to be given unless on the instructions of the overseer. (fn. 216) The town clerk was directed in 1756 to strike off the roll of freemen any who were paupers or in receipt of pay for themselves or their families, (fn. 217) and in 1774 the corporation decided that too much was being spent on the poor and that in future no part of their revenue should go to the poor except what was assigned under the decree of 1740. (fn. 218)
In 1731, following a report from an exploratory committee and the unanimous approval of a public meeting, the corporation resolved that 'the houses in Ireland [Higherland] be immediately repaired and converted into a workhouse'. (fn. 219) The standing overseer was ordered to remove all the poor into the workhouse and to 'employ them in a proper manner and provide necessaries for them'; he was to receive a salary of 4s. a week as master of the workhouse. (fn. 220) In 1732 a George Alker was appointed to teach the poor to spin cotton. (fn. 221) The master was still paid 4s. a week in 1739, and his appointment included the stipulation that he should live in the workhouse. (fn. 222) The capacity of the workhouse was 40 in 1776. (fn. 223) In 1786 the corporation gave it into the control of the churchwardens and overseers on a 99-year lease at a rent of £5 10s. a year. (fn. 224) The overseers were given notice to quit in 1808 and a 21-year lease was granted to the parish vestry at a rent of £10. (fn. 225) The period was extended to 99 years in 1809 on condition that the parish should spend £300 on repairs and that the governor should take charge of debtors committed to gaol as well as paupers. (fn. 226) In 1838 the workhouse was temporarily taken over for the ablebodied poor of the new union by the guardians (fn. 227) who on inspection found the house 'extremely clean and well-regulated' with 'provisions of the best kind'. (fn. 228) There were 64 inmates, 29 of them children, and the accommodation included 12 sleepingrooms, with 33 beds, a laundry, a bakehouse, stabling for a horse and a cow, and a recreation yard each for the men and the women. (fn. 229) After the building of the union workhouse in 1838–9 (see below), the corporation regained possession of the old workhouse (fn. 230) but had sold it by 1849 to the trustees of Orme's Charity, from whom in that year the union clerk was ordered to secure its use for cholera victims. (fn. 231)
The union workhouse, a building in the Elizabethan style, was erected in the Keele road, east of the old workhouse, in 1838–9 with accommodation for 350 paupers. (fn. 232) An infirmary was added c. 1842. (fn. 233) In 1885–6 a new infirmary was built, the earlier building being converted into wards for the old and infirm. (fn. 234) The west wing of the workhouse, occupied by the women and girls, was burnt down in 1890 (fn. 235) and rebuilt in 1892–3. (fn. 236) The casual wards were closed in 1914, the responsibility being transferred to Stoke. (fn. 237) The building was closed and demolished in 1938. (fn. 238)
PUBLEC HEALTH. The history of sewage disposal in Newcastle seems to date from the appointment, in 1635, of a common warder whose duties, in addition to those of acting as scavenger and carting the refuse to a convenient place, included the oversight of the town fields and hedges, the removal of cattle from those fields, cleansing the church gutters, and whipping dogs out of church. (fn. 239) In 1670 the council decided to appoint a common scavenger (fn. 240) but none filled the office until 1682. (fn. 241) In 1685 every inhabitant was ordered to clean twice a week the street in front of his house to the pavement channel and also all causeways against every house. The refuse was to be laid in a heap and carried away by the occupiers within ten days. In default the scavenger was to perform the task and to levy 4d. on the offender. (fn. 242) In 1723 (fn. 243) and again in 1755 (fn. 244) the cleansing of the streets was included in the bellman's duties. In 1726 the making of 'middens' in the streets was prohibited and those already in existence were to be removed. (fn. 245) In 1813, on the recommendation of the vestry, the governor of the workhouse was appointed town scavenger at a salary of £10 yearly. (fn. 246) In 1821 street cleansing was placed in the charge of the Improvement Commissioners (fn. 247) and ten years later their Surveyor of Works was appointed scavenger also, with the injunction to use extraordinary exertions to keep the streets free and clear from all kinds of nuisance. (fn. 248) In 1845 the streets were being cleaned twice weekly, but the courts and alleys inhabited by the poorer people were not brought within the scope of public scavenging. In them the refuse was flung into promiscuous heaps near each property and was only removed 'at the capricious pleasure of the occupants or landlords'. (fn. 249)
The first attempt to deal with sewerage seems to date from 1801 when the corporation contributed towards the cost of two common sewers, one in Red Lion Square and another from the end of Swinnerton's Lane (?now Hassell Street) on the east side of the Market Hall, to join a third common sewer opening into Friars Lane. (fn. 250) But such measures were inadequate. The Commissioners inquiring into the state of large towns drew attention, in 1845, to a widespread lack of sanitation. It was stated that while in some parts of the town the necessaries emptied into drains and cesspools, generally they had confined receptacles behind them which required frequent emptying and carrying away. In the courts and lower parts of the town there were no public necessaries; there were some used in common by inhabitants of certain courts which were in a filthy, neglected state. Even in the modern-built part of the town no public sewers had at that time been constructed and the refuse was thrown into water courses; it either soaked into the sub-soil or remained stagnant on the surface. The general insanitary conditions were aggravated by the over-crowded state of the lodging-houses, where, it was stated, men, women, and children were huddled together indiscriminately upon straw or in five or six beds packed together in one room; the inhabitants of these lodging-houses were said to be Irish 'of whom we have 600 of the lowest order'. (fn. 251)
Outbreaks of fever in 1847 and of cholera in 1832 and 1849 (fn. 252) with heavy loss of life caused general concern (fn. 253) and the Improvement Commissioners admitted in 1847 that the provisions regarding sanitation contained in the Act of 1819 (fn. 254) had not been fully carried out and that the condition of the town was unsatisfactory. (fn. 255) In the following year orders were issued for the removal of nuisances and for the provision of a main covered drain in The Marsh. (fn. 256) In 1849 all members of the borough council were constituted a Sanitary Committee to investigate the health of the town and to report thereon to the council quarterly. (fn. 257) The Local Board of Health created in 1850 (fn. 258) forthwith took in hand a complete system of drainage, the sewage being conveyed some distance from the town to fertilize the land. (fn. 259) In 1851 these measures were reflected in the more encouraging account given by the board's medical officer. He reported that attention had been given to the crowded and unhealthy state of lodging houses situated in the most densely populated parts and to the filthy condition of dwelling houses in the same districts, namely Lower Street, Pool Dam, Upper and Lower Green, Fletcher Street, Dunkirk, Leech's Row, Holborn, Holborn Brook, Penkhull Street, and the cross streets in Higherland. Good results were expected from the intended enclosing of public wells. (fn. 260)
The problem of sewage disposal still remained unsolved. In 1861 an order was served on the borough, on behalf of the Duke of Sutherland, to restrain the corporation from turning sewage into the Lyme Brook. (fn. 261) Apparently the nuisance was not satisfactorily abated, for in 1875 the duke obtained an order for the sequestration of the borough rates, the execution of which was suspended on an undertaking by the corporation to deal effectively with the sewage. (fn. 262) Sewage works on about 30 acres between Clayton Road and Stone Road (fn. 263) were constructed in 1877 (fn. 264) and four years later a lease was obtained of meadows near the works, as a result of which the council hoped that both the duke and the Rivers Pollution Commissioners would be satisfied. (fn. 265)
In 1891 and again in 1894 the County Medical Officer of Health reported unfavourably on the sewerage arrangements, particularly in the Ashfield district, a new part of the town with a population of over 1,000, but by the time of his second report this area had been connected with the general sewerage system. But in the greater part of the town the disposal of excrement and refuse still remained highly unsatisfactory and the report gave strong support to the view of the borough medical officer that the privy system should be abolished on the ground that, apart from the great sanitary improvement thus effected, excrement could be dealt with at the sewage works with a very trifling increase of cost and that the cost of collecting night-soil would be saved. (fn. 266)
In 1919 it was reported that since 1902 1,547 privies had been converted into water closets but there were still 91 privies and 27 pail closets in the town. (fn. 267) By 1926 these figures had been reduced to 4 and 10 respectively. (fn. 268) In 1926 90 ashpits were still in use, though these were gradually being done away with. (fn. 269) The industrial areas added to the borough in 1932 presented the borough council with further sanitary problems and in 1951 out of a total number of 20,637 households there were 83 without a piped water supply and 299 without water-closets. (fn. 270)
In 1906 a sewage disposal plant was erected at a cost of £24,800. (fn. 271) In 1932, by agreement with Stokeon-Trent, arrangements for the sewage of the en larged borough to be dealt with at the city works at Strongford were completed, (fn. 272) though the scheme encountered much local opposition as many thought that the transfer of sewage disposal to Stoke would be used as an argument for a further attack on Newcastle's independence. (fn. 273)
In 1845 it was reported that there were no public baths in the town but that every facility existed for public bathing in the canals, without causing a nuisance. (fn. 274) Public baths in School Street on the site now (1959) occupied by the Public Library were opened in 1852. (fn. 275) They comprised covered and open swimming baths and slipper, vapour, and shower baths. (fn. 276) They were not, however, well supported, and in view of an annual deficit they were closed in 1856. (fn. 277) Four years later the premises were sold to the Wesleyan Society for school building. (fn. 278) The King Edward VII Memorial Baths in Brunswick Street were erected in 1906. They then consisted of two swimming baths and a Turkish bath. (fn. 279) Alterations were made in 1921, 1938–9, and 1946. (fn. 280)
The inadequacy of the burial grounds attached to St. Giles's and St. George's churches (fn. 281) led to the corporation's being empowered in 1863 to provide burial places, (fn. 282) and in 1866 a cemetery was opened between Priory Road and Clayton Road. (fn. 283) It was extended in 1897 (fn. 284) and 1931. (fn. 285) In 1932 Silverdale Cemetery came under the control of the borough council and was added to in 1938. (fn. 286) In September 1954 the council assumed control of Chesterton churchyard. (fn. 287)
A corrugated iron isolation hospital for 27 patients was built beside the cemetery in 1874. (fn. 288) At first it was used for smallpox patients only, but in 1890 it began to be used for other infectious cases as well. (fn. 289) In 1901 the building was replaced by a new hospital, consisting of an administrative block and two pavilions; at the same time a third pavilion, the result of a private benefaction, was added. (fn. 290)
OTHER PUBLIC SERVICES. It was not until the early 17th century that the borough council actively concerned itself with the maintenance of its streets and highways. By 1609 'lunes' or rates were being levied for their repair, (fn. 291) and occasionally the highways or area to be repaired are mentioned: 'Brompton' (Brampton), the lane above the 'Hart's Head', Knutton bridges, and Pool Field in 1628, (fn. 292) and the last two again in 1630, together with the way to Chesterton. (fn. 293) During the 18th century the highway rates were authorized by the borough court of Quarter Sessions on application by the surveyors (fn. 294) and occasionally the latter found it necessary to ask for a considerable levy, as, for example, £40 in 1723 for making a cart causeway in Pool Field leading to Keele. (fn. 295)
Although the town thus tried to improve and maintain its streets, there is little doubt that in the later 18th century the increased number of turnpike roads (fn. 296) and the heavier flow of traffic created difficulties which the old system was ill adapted to meet. It is not clear how far the turnpike trusts were expected to maintain their roads within the borough limits. In 1798 the Tittensor Turnpike trustees repaired the road at the junction of Penkhull Street with The Stubbs, and in the following year widened the footway in Bridge Street and built a stone wall along the new road by the side of Stubbs Field. Also, they widened the pavement near the Guildhall and the entrance into Penkhull Street, the narrowness of which had caused frequent accidents. (fn. 297) These may have been isolated instances and were possibly due to the fact that many Newcastle officials and burgesses were to be found among the trustees. (fn. 298) When, however, in 1763 (fn. 299) new arrangements were being made in connexion with the important Newcastle-Uttoxeter turnpike road, relief was specifically granted to the inhabitants of Newcastle by limiting the obligation for statute work on this road to one day (or a money composition in lieu) because the maintenance of other roads was a heavy burden to them.
Under the 1819 Act (fn. 300) considerable powers were granted to the Improvement Commissioners to regulate and improve the roads and streets within the confines of the borough, and they were required to appoint surveyors of highways. (fn. 301) They could acquire by purchase and demolish those buildings, scheduled in the Act, which impeded the flow of traffic. Their re-routing of the main thoroughfare has already been mentioned, (fn. 302) while their order books provide information about substantial street improvements during the early part of the century. The considerable expenditure involved was met by an improvement rate of 6d. in the £ levied at the first meeting of the Commissioners in 1819 (fn. 303) and repeated in 1832, 1833, and 1834. (fn. 304) A highway rate was also levied from 1821 to 1834. (fn. 305)
The first attempt to provide a communal watersupply was made in 1727 when the borough council levied a rate for a water-work, which two of the inhabitants, Burton and Bourne, were authorized to construct on a waste piece of ground below the churchyard to supply Lower Street with water. (fn. 306) The town generally was well supplied with springs and wells and the provision of iron pumps was no doubt thought to be adequate. (fn. 307)
In 1795 a more ambitious project was embarked on, when Joseph Tilstone was given the right to lay pipes in the borough to carry water from the spring called Browning's Wells. (fn. 308) He is stated to have laid down lead and other pipes under some of the streets and to have erected an engine to pump the water (fn. 309) to two reservoirs in Merrial Street. (fn. 310) But this was only a partial answer to the problem, accentuated by the town's growing population. In 1811 the council decided to have Saint Sunday's Wells cleaned and the water therein made available for the benefit of the town and neighbourhood, (fn. 311) a clear indication that the system of piped water already in existence was quite inadequate. Over 30 years later it had to be admitted that of 2,039 houses in the town water was laid on in only 215 (fn. 312) For the accommodation of the poor, however, there were fourteen stand pipes in different streets, each on the average supplying twelve houses; for this service each house had to pay 1d. weekly. Those who could not pay so much were supplied by pumps, of which there were seventeen, and from open shallow wells. (fn. 313)
The supply from the water-works, for which the yearly charge to private houses varied from 5s. to 21s., and to public houses and hotels was up to £4, was irregular and water was only available from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (fn. 314) The problem of an adequate watersupply was one that affected not only Newcastle but the whole of the Potteries area, and in 1847 statutory authority was obtained for the formation of the Staffordshire Potteries Water Works Company to provide water for all parts of the Potteries and Newcastle. (fn. 315) The water-works were established at Wall Grange near Leek, and the supply was extended to Newcastle in 1850. (fn. 316)
Since 1925 the water-supply of the area has been the concern of the Staffordshire Potteries Water Board, of which the corporation is a constituent member, (fn. 317) and in that year a main was laid from Hanchurch reservoir to Nelson Place. (fn. 318) In 1932 the number of corporation members on the board was increased from three to seven. (fn. 319)
Newcastle was among the first provincial towns to institute a system of communal street lighting. In 1799 the corporation presented the town with 80 lamps, for the maintenance of which the inhabitants had already agreed to subscribe annually. (fn. 320) By the Act of 1819 the Improvement Commissioners were empowered to light the streets, (fn. 321) and at their first meeting in the same year levied a lighting rate of 6d. in the £. (fn. 322) The Newcastle Gaslight Company was formed and a gas-works erected in Rye Croft to supply gas for both public and private consumption. (fn. 323)
In 1827 the Gaslight Company took over the work of collecting the lighting rate. (fn. 324) In 1833, the commissioners contracted with Cooper, lessee of the gas-works, to light the town for three years at £260 yearly; the lessee was to collect and retain the rate of 6d. in the £. (fn. 325) In 1842 the council complained of poor street lighting, but Cooper retaliated by threatening to place the town in complete darkness unless he was paid money owing to him by the council. (fn. 326)
In 1855 the company transferred its base of operations to Brook Lane, where a larger installation was established, (fn. 327) rendered necessary by the extension of the supply to cover, in addition to Newcastle, Trentham, Stoke-upon-Trent, Keele, Wolstanton, Silverdale, Knutton, Chatterley, and Chesterton. (fn. 328)
Under powers conferred by a local Act of 1877, (fn. 329) the corporation bought the undertaking in 1880, (fn. 330) and in the same year debentures to the amount of £67,625 were issued in connexion with the purchase. (fn. 331) Under the management of the corporation, the length of mains was increased from 13 miles in 1877 to 33 miles in 1901, while the price of gas, 5s. per 1,000 ft. in 1874, had been reduced by 1900 to 2s. 10d. per 1,000 ft. (fn. 332) Between 1882 and 1899 £20,000 (or £1,222 yearly) was paid out of the net profits of the undertaking in aid of the borough rates. (fn. 333) At the end of the century the annual cost of public lighting in the town was £1,139 which was charged on the profits of the undertaking in exoneration of the borough rates. (fn. 334)
In 1906 the main pipes of the Corporation Gas Works in the parishes of Wolstanton, Silverdale, and Knutton were bought by the Wolstanton United Urban District Council. (fn. 335) In 1932, following the extension of the borough, the Wolstanton United Gas Undertaking was transferred to the corporation. (fn. 336) In 1937 the corporation was empowered to supply gas for industrial purposes. (fn. 337) In 1949 the gas industry was nationalized and the supply of gas to Newcastle has since that time been provided by the West Midlands Gas Board. (fn. 338)
In 1899 the corporation set up its own electricity supply works in Friarswood Road, (fn. 339) and the supply of electricity began in 1904. In 1912–13 the works was remodelled and brought up to date. (fn. 340) By 1919 the system had been linked with that of Stoke-onTrent and the corporation agreed to take a minimum of 60,000 units yearly from Stoke. (fn. 341) In 1921 a diesel generating set, the engine having come from a German submarine, was installed, and in 1927 the power station was enlarged. (fn. 342) Electricity supply was installed in Chesterton and Silverdale in 1935. (fn. 343) Nationalization in 1948 (fn. 344) led to the creation of the Newcastle District of the West Midlands Electricity Board, covering an area of 50 square miles and including the Wolstanton and May Bank areas of the borough. In 1953 a grid sub-station was established at Holditch. (fn. 345)
The risk of fire in what was largely a thatch-roofed town (fn. 346) began to be met by the borough authorities in 1623 when every capital burgess was required to provide himself with a leather bucket and every alderman with a hook and bucket. (fn. 347) In 1666 three fire-lookers were appointed (fn. 348) and in 1689 the firelookers, by then two in number, gave notice to the inhabitants to repair their chimneys on pain of a 40s. fine. (fn. 349) In 1678 the inhabitants were forbidden to place 'any kidels of gorse in any stacks' except in covered and walled buildings, (fn. 350) and in 1753 a man was indicted for laying 10,000 'thids' or faggots of gorse so as to 'endanger' fire. (fn. 351) About 1734 the corporation acquired a manual fire pump. (fn. 352) In 1819 it was enacted that thatch was not to be used as a roofing material. (fn. 353)
In 1845 (fn. 354) it was stated that there were two wellappointed engines with a brigade of 24 firemen under the superintendence of the chief constable. (fn. 355) In the event of fire a full supply of water was said to be available from numerous pumps and there were also four fire-plugs. (fn. 356) The organization of a municipal fire brigade seems to have produced successful results, for in the previous five years there had been only three small fires. (fn. 357) No doubt by this time tiles had replaced thatch as roofing material. (fn. 358) In 1848 a new fire-engine was bought (fn. 359) and in 1851 the borough possessed one large and two small fire-engines. (fn. 360)
In 1880 the brigade consisted of a captain, who was also the police superintendent, and eleven firemen, together with fourteen members of the police force. (fn. 361) The close association with the police force was broken in 1888 when a volunteer brigade was formed consisting of a captain, lieutenant, and twelve men. The fire-engine was housed in the barracks (fn. 362) and the barrack square was used for drilling. (fn. 363)
By 1901 the fire station, the freehold property of the corporation, was, and still (1959) is, situated in King Street. (fn. 364) It was decided to acquire a motor fire-engine in 1919. (fn. 365) Since the transfer of the fire service to the county council in 1948 (fn. 366) Newcastle has been the headquarters of the northern division. (fn. 367)
During the 20th century housing has become one of the major activities of the borough council. Notwithstanding the Acts of 1882 (fn. 368) and 1890, (fn. 369) it was not until 1900 that the provision of houses began with the purchase by the corporation of some land in Lower Green and with the gift by Ralph Sneyd of other land in the same area. This building land was offered for sale but only five sites were disposed of, and consequently the corporation evolved its own scheme. (fn. 370) In February 1914 plans for twelve workmen's dwellings in Lower Green were approved and in the following month approval was given for a further seventeen to be built on corporation land in Castle Hill Road and Stanier Street. (fn. 371) By September 1915 the new houses, (fn. 372) which replaced 65 buildings in the same area, many of which were in a dilapidated and unhealthy state, were finished and tenanted. (fn. 373)
The First World War interrupted the execution of further plans, but by 1926 the corporation had erected or were in course of erecting 331 houses, 168 in Liverpool Road, 104 in Westlands, and 59 in Stanier Street; a further 213 had been built by private enterprise. (fn. 374) By 1930 a large housing estate had been developed at Poolfields on the north side of the Keele road (fn. 375) and in the same year, in order to rehouse people displaced from Fletcher Street and Shoreditch, the borough council compulsorily purchased from the Burgesses Trust land in Ashfield and also additional land beyond the railway bridge on the west side of Liverpool Road. (fn. 376)
The expansion of the borough in 1932 brought under the aegis of the council the heavily industrialized districts of Wolstanton, Chesterton, Silverdale, and Knutton, in many parts of which clearance and rehousing were urgently needed. Moreover, a large amount of land, both in this area and to the south of the old borough, by this extension of the borough boundaries became available for housing development schemes. By 1938 the corporation had acquired by purchase 200 acres of the Bradwell Hall estate in Wolstanton on which by the middle of that year nearly 200 houses had been erected. (fn. 377) By 1938, too, in the Clayton area much agricultural land represented by Seabridge Road farm, Hill farm, and Roe Lane farm, as well as land bordering on Clayton Road, had been acquired for further housing development. (fn. 378)
At the outbreak of the Second World War nearly 3,000 houses had been built by the council. (fn. 379) About 90 clearance orders had been issued, most of them concerned with the lower and older parts of the borough (fn. 380) but some also with Chesterton, Knutton, Silverdale, and Ravensdale, while some 1,700 families from the demolished areas had been rehoused. (fn. 381)
Since 1945 nearly 5,000 council houses, including 234 prefabricated buildings and 77 bungalows, have been built, the greatest concentration being in the Clayton area. Much new building has also taken place at Bradwell, at Chesterton (Hollow farm, Beazley House, Crackley Bank), at Silverdale on the extreme western boundary of the borough, and at Knutton on the land once occupied by Knutton farm and in the area to the north of the main street. Smaller housing schemes have been accomplished at Basford, Lower Milehouse, and Cross Heath. Slum clearance continued in the post-war period and up to 1959 730 families had been moved from cleared areas into the new housing estates. (fn. 382)
From the outset the work of planning the new estates and designing the houses was carried out by the Bournville Village Trust, but from 1955 the borough surveyor has been responsible for an increasing share of the work. (fn. 383)
It is noteworthy that, whereas before the Second World War, two-thirds of the houses built were of the three-bedroom type, since its close less than half of them have been; there has been a great increase in the demand for two-bedroom houses, maisonettes, and small flats. (fn. 384) In 1959 28 bungalows specially designed for old people together with a communal meeting hall were being built at Porthill Green. (fn. 385) Although the borough boundary still encloses much open land, a large part of it overlies coal-mines, and the consequent risk of subsidence renders its suitability for building doubtful.
Seals, Insignia, And Civic Officers.
The common seal, of which the brass matrix survives, is round, 1¾ inch, and depicts on waves a low embattled wall above which rises an embattled tower with 3 gabled projections in front and 2 gable-ends at each side. (fn. 386) On the tower is a banner flanked by 2 men-at-arms, one holding a battle-axe and the other blowing a horn. On the frieze below the battlements are 3 shields bearing shields of arms: (i) a lion rampant contourne within a bordure charged with roundels, probably for Edmund, Earl of Cornwall, (ii) ? England, and (iii) ? Chester. Legend, Lombardic:
The seal, which is still (1960) in use, has been assigned to the 13th century (fn. 387) and was probably appended to the surrender of privileges by the mayor and burgesses in 1293–6 (fn. 388) but that document exists no longer.
The seal recorded at the heralds' visitation of 1583 (fn. 389) differs slightly from the foregoing in architectural and other details. Legend:
No document bearing this seal has been traced. (fn. 390)
Another common seal (fn. 391) cast in 1687 is round and depicts an embattled castle. Legend, humanistic:
Newcastle Under Line (fn. 392)
A seal of unknown purpose, round, 7/8 inch, bears the same design as the first common seal. Legend, black letter: Newcastle under lyme. (fn. 395) The form of the lettering suggests a mid-19th-century date.
In 1844 Joseph Mayer presented to the borough, for use by the Chief Officer of Police for the time being, a seal engraved on a cornelian, mounted in silver, with an ebony handle. (fn. 396) The design is that of the common seal. Legend:
A seal for the recognizance of statute merchant debts was granted by the charter of 1664. (fn. 397) As was customary it was to be of two pieces, one to be kept by the mayor and the other by the clerk. Impressions have not been traced.
The insignia of the borough include two silver (originally silver gilt) maces presented in 1680 by William Leveson-Gower. (fn. 398) Previously the maces are said to have been of wrought iron. (fn. 399) In 1507 it was ordered that the town serjeant should pay 8d. and the mayor's serjeant 6d. towards their repair. (fn. 400) The insignia also include the high constable's oak staff surmounted by a crown beneath which is the cipher of George II and the date 1732. (fn. 401) The mayoral chain was given to the mayor by the burgesses and inhabitants in 1851 and is so inscribed. The chain incorporates a medallion embossed with a portrait of Queen Victoria and around the edge is inscribed: 'Made of California gold by Joseph Mayer, goldsmith, Liverpool.' (fn. 402)
No complete list of mayors seems to exist. Ingamells gives a list of mayors from 1318 to 1880, (fn. 403) and there is a list from 1900 in the Council Year Book. Ingamells also records the town clerks from the reign of Elizabeth I to 1880. (fn. 404) The names of high constables are extant from 1770. (fn. 405)