Aldham: Local government

Pages 18-19

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.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.



Laurence of St. Martin (d. 1274) removed Little Fordham manor from the sheriff's tourn, and in 1274 Thomas of St. Martin claimed gallows and view of frankpledge with the assizes of bread and of ale. (fn. 1) The gallows presumably stood at the later Gallows green, called Gallow tye in 1584. (fn. 2) Free warren was granted to Laurence of St. Martin in 1247, and to John Bourchier in 1384. (fn. 3) John Goldington was granted free warren in Aldham Hall manor in 1328. (fn. 4)

Courts were held for Little Fordham in 1498, and courts leet for the manor, then Bourchiers Hall, in 1598. (fn. 5) The courts were held regularly in the early 17th century, electing 1 constable and 2 aletasters and dealing with offences such as using false measures, taking in inmates, erect- ing cottages with insufficient land, failing to scour ditches, obstructing the river, and en- croaching on the road. (fn. 6) By 1671 leets were held infrequently, and they ceased after 1704. (fn. 7) In the late 17th century courts baron were occasionally held annually, but in the 18th century they were usually held only every 3-4 years. (fn. 8)

The lords of Aldham Hall manor held courts baron from 1325 or earlier. The chief business was the conveyance of customary holdings and the collection of heriots (apparently charged on small freeholds in 1334 and 1439) and reliefs. The court also dealt with small debts, stray animals, and trespasses in the demesne crops or the pannage. (fn. 9)

Courts were held for both manors until 1908. (fn. 10)

In 1675 there was a pound on the west side of Gallows green, and in 1810 one on the north side of the Halstead road, but in 1860 the magis- trates ordered the erection of a pound. (fn. 11) Payment was made for a cage in 1825. (fn. 12)

Easter vestries, recorded from 1754, were nor- mally chaired by the rector or his curate and attended by 7-10 parishioners, attendance declining during the 18th century. About 6 other meetings a year were held, usually in the church vestry. In the periods 1757-78, 1781-8, and 1828 only 1 churchwarden was elected or re-elected. (fn. 13) In 1754 the churchwardens were empowered to act as additional overseers, and in 1828 the sole churchwarden was also over- seer. Two overseers, 2 constables, and 2 sur- veyors were appointed regularly, the overseers serving for 6 months each. In 1757 a widow served as overseer. Constables were appointed until 1872. (fn. 14)

In 1584 Aldham had many impotent poor, and in 1589 Petty Sessions met at Fordham ford, near the house of one of the chief constables, to deal with local unemployment. (fn. 15) There was a workhouse by 1757, apparently at Westons on Gallows green. Paupers there span wool in the 1780s. The house was enlarged in 1801 and was leased by the overseers until c. 1835. (fn. 16) Two other houses were used as pauper housing in 1783. (fn. 17)

In 1753 three adults and 3 children, and by 1782 twelve people, received regular out-relief. (fn. 18) By 1800 weekly payments were made to 33 families with young children, and between 1817 and 1819 a flour allowance was given to families with 4 or more children. Several poor families received bread in 1836. Between 1819 and 1822 payments were made to unemployed men and those on low wages, and in 1823 men were employed in the gravel pit. In 1833 the vestry resolved to levy a labour rate, based on a wage of 9s. a week, to help provide employment. In 1830 one man was helped to emigrate to New York. (fn. 19)

Expenditure on poor relief rose from c. £120 in 1776 to an average of c. £211 between 1783 and 1785 and to £338 in 1803. (fn. 20) By 1813 it had reached £792 or £2 1s. per head of population, one of the highest rates in the hundred. It dropped to £18s. a head in 1814 and remained well below that thereafter, except in 1820 and 1831. In most years up to 1836 expenditure, at 18s.-25s. a head, remained about average for the hundred. (fn. 21)


  • 1. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 139, 155.
  • 2. E.R.O., D/DWe M8.
  • 3. Cal. Chart. R. 1226-57, 315; 1341-1417, 296; E.R.O., D/DVz 2.
  • 4. Cal. Chart. R. 1327-41, 99.
  • 5. E.A.T. n.s. xxiv. 125; E.R.O., Q/SR 142/22.
  • 6. E.R.O., D/DU 91/1.
  • 7. Ibid. D/DWe M21.
  • 8. Ibid. D/DWe M21-6.
  • 9. Ibid. D/DWe M1-6. The reference to a court with a view in 1444 appears to be an error.
  • 10. Ibid. D/DWe M9-12, M21, M25.
  • 11. Ibid. D/DWe P2, P9; ibid. D/P 208/8/1.
  • 12. Ibid. D/P 208/12/4.
  • 13. Ibid. D/P 208/12/1.
  • 14. Ibid. D/P 208/8/1; D/P 208/11/1; D/P 208/12/1; ibid. D/DU 91/1.
  • 15. P.R.O., REQ 2/68, no. 45; E.R.O., Q/SR 111/95.
  • 16. E.R.O., D/P 208/8/1; D/P 208/12/1-2, 4; ibid. D/DWe M12, M18, M26.
  • 17. Ibid. D/P 208/12/2.
  • 18. Ibid. D/P 208/12/1.
  • 19. Ibid. D/P 208/12/2-5; D/P 208/11/1.
  • 20. Ibid. Q/CR 1/1; Poor Law Abstract, 1804.
  • 21. Rep. Sel. Cttee. on Poor Rate Returns 1822-4, H.C. 334, App. (1825), iv; ibid. 1825-9, H.C. 83, p. 62 (1830-1), xi; ibid. 1830-4, H.C. 444, p. 60 (1835), xlvii.