Copford: Local government

Pages 148-149

A History of the County of Essex: Volume 10, Lexden Hundred (Part) Including Dedham, Earls Colne and Wivenhoe. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2001.

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In 1321 Stephen, bishop of London, and his successors, were granted free warren in Copford manor. (fn. 1) Annual courts leet for Copford Hall manor, recorded from the late 14th to the early 16th centuries, dealt with offences such as breaking the assize of ale and failing to repair ditches. In 1394, and again in 1399, a woman was presented as a common scold. Courts baron met at least once a year to deal with administration, such as transfers of holdings, the collection of payments for heriots and aversage, and the appointment of reeves, haywards, constables, and tasters. The number of jurors sworn ranged from 14 to 30. (fn. 2) In 1575 stocks were recorded. (fn. 3) In the 17th century the number of courts declined so that in some years there was none, and the number of jurors sworn gradually declined to only 2 or 3. (fn. 4) There was a pound in 1637, probably on the north side of Church Road. (fn. 5) In the 18th century and the 19th courts baron met when administrative business arose, sometimes up to 4 times a year, and two men were usually sworn. The last court baron was held in 1913 and further business was recorded until 1937. (fn. 6)

There were 2 churchwardens, 2 overseers, and 2 constables. A widow was deemed unfit to serve as overseer in 1699. In the later 18th century 2-7 people attended vestry meetings. In 1766 a deputy acted for a female overseer, but in 1776 and 1808 a female overseer supervised the workhouse cloth supplies. In 1818 a salaried overseer was appointed. (fn. 7)

Bequests were sometimes made for the poor, and Hezekiah Haynes by will made 1693 left £5. (fn. 8) Between 1747 and 1755 from 51 to 53 householders paid the poor rate and 9 to 12 families received regular payments; by 1761 there were were usually 12 to 14 recipients but 21 in October that year. In the period 1772-9 the number of regular recipients ranged from 5 to 10 and there were 52 to 56 ratepayers. Occasional cash doles were made for rent, burial expenses, and hospital charges. Children were sometimes boarded out. Relief in kind consisted of food, clothing, shoes, cloth, fuel, household equipment, and nursing and mending. (fn. 9) In 1795 funds were raised to reduce the price of flour for the poor. (fn. 10)

By the early 19th century relief was mainly in cash. On rare occasions between 1824 and 1835 money was given for tea. The number of families receiving regular payments reached 78 in the winter of 1810-11 and was over 50 in the period 1812-14, subsequently declining to c. 30, but rising above 40 again between 1821 and 1823; payments ranged from 1s. to 7s., but were mostly 2s. to 3s. Forty two poor families had settlement in 1817, totalling c. 200 persons, about a third of the total parish population. Numbers receiving outdoor relief fell from c. 40 in the period 1825-7 to c. 27 in the period 1828-35. Recipients were often described as 'ill', especially in 1824-35. A parish doctor was employed from 1751. (fn. 11) Payments were frequently made to large families, (fn. 12) and to unemployed men notably in 1815 and 1822-3, and occasionally work was provided, for example, in the gravel pit, and mending thatch. In 1815 twelve children were out 'at service', and in 1828 a boy was apprenticed to a chairmaker in Colchester. (fn. 13)

In 1753 a parish house was enlarged and adapted as a workhouse, partly financed by the sale of two other houses. Food supplies included meat, bread, flour, pork, milk, peas, beans, onions, nutmeg, oatmeal, and small beer, and cloth bought included calico, dyed cotton, print, bays, check, body lining, and drugget. In 1816 there were four bedrooms for inmates, besides the mistress's room, a working room, brew house, kitchen, parlour, and pantry; the eight spinning wheels remained in 1825. Between 1813 and 1824 the number of inmates ranged from 5 to 22, and between 1824 and 1830 it averaged c. 10, decreasing to c. 8 in the period 1831-5. The weekly cost was 5s. a head a week between 1813 and 1817, but fell to 3s. 9d. in 1818. (fn. 14) Copford workhouse was sold in 1838. (fn. 15)

Expenditure on poor relief in Copford was one of the higher per head of parish population in Lexden hundred. In the period 1748-55 it ranged between £117 and £150 a year, in 1761-2 was £180, and in 1766-7 was £143. (fn. 16) In 1776 costs were £220 and in 1783-5 averaged £252 a year. (fn. 17) In the early 19th century regular payments constituted about a quarter of total expenditure, the workhouse about a tenth, and casual doles the rest. (fn. 18) Costs fluctuated between £646 and £1,686 in the period 1813-27 (equivalent to 24s. 8d. and 36s. 10d. a head), and decreased to range between £728 and £810 (equivalent to 23s. 10d. and 26s. 6d. a head) in the period 1828-34. (fn. 19)

In 1894 Copford parish council was formed with eight members. Before the First World War it provided evening classes in agriculture, nursing, and carpentry at Copford Green and Eight Ash Green. (fn. 20) There was a small police station in London Road by the Second World War. (fn. 21) Eight Ash Green parish council was established in 1949. (fn. 22)


  • 1. Cal. Chart. R. 1320-26, 435.
  • 2. E.R.O., D/DHt M21-4.
  • 3. Ibid. Q/SR 53/50.
  • 4. Ibid. D/DHt M26-31.
  • 5. Guildhall MS. 9628, box 3; E.R.O., D/CT 105.
  • 6. E.R.O., D/DHt M32; D/DEl M92-6.
  • 7. Ibid. D/P 186/12/1-5; ibid. Q/SBb 15; ibid. Q/SR 155/28.
  • 8. Emmison, Essex Wills, i. 51; E.R.O., D/ABW 47/272; ibid. D/ACR 11, f. 47.
  • 9. E.R.O., D/P 186/12/1-3; ibid. D/DR O12.
  • 10. A. F. J. Brown, Prosperity and Poverty 1700-1815, 155.
  • 11. E.R.O., D/P 186/12/2-6; V.C.H. Essex, ii. 350.
  • 12. Rep. Com. Poor Laws, H.C. 44, p. 173 (1834), xxx.
  • 13. E.R.O., D/P 186/12/4-6.
  • 14. Ibid. D/P 186/12/1-6.
  • 15. Ibid. G/LwM 2, p. 410.
  • 16. Ibid. D/P 186/12/1-2.
  • 17. Ibid. Q/CR 1/1.
  • 18. Ibid. D/P 186/12/4.
  • 19. Ibid. Q/CR 1/10, 12; Rep. Sel. Cttee. on Poor Rate Returns, 1822-4, H.C. 334 Suppl. App. p. 81 (1825), iv; ibid. 1825-9, H.C. 83, p. 62 (1830-1), xi; ibid. 1830-4, H.C. 444, p. 60 (1835), xlvii.
  • 20. E.R.O., D/J 67/1/1.
  • 21. East Anglian Daily Times, 6 Dec. 1996.
  • 22. E.R.O., Acc. C926 (uncat.), Eight Ash Green Par. Council Mins. 1949-93.