Wivenhoe: Local government

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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'Wivenhoe: Local government', A History of the County of Essex: Volume 10, Lexden Hundred (Part) Including Dedham, Earls Colne and Wivenhoe, (London, 2001), pp. 288-290. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/essex/vol10/pp288-290 [accessed 21 June 2024].

. "Wivenhoe: Local government", in A History of the County of Essex: Volume 10, Lexden Hundred (Part) Including Dedham, Earls Colne and Wivenhoe, (London, 2001) 288-290. British History Online, accessed June 21, 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/essex/vol10/pp288-290.

. "Wivenhoe: Local government", A History of the County of Essex: Volume 10, Lexden Hundred (Part) Including Dedham, Earls Colne and Wivenhoe, (London, 2001). 288-290. British History Online. Web. 21 June 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/essex/vol10/pp288-290.

In this section


From 1246 the lords of Wivenhoe manor were entitled to free warren in their demesne lands in Wivenhoe. (fn. 1) In the 14th and 15th centuries courts with view of frankpledge were held at least once a year, with usually 12 to 16 jurors. Cases of animals trespassing on the lord's land, breach of the assize of ale, and of infringing the lord's rights of avesage, pannage, and larder were heard; admissions to and surrenders of copyholds were enrolled. (fn. 2) Courts also dealt with portions of the manor called Cockaynes, in Elmstead and Alresford, and Kelars or Rebandishide, in Elm stead, except in the reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII when those estates were treated as separate manors. (fn. 3)

A court leet continued to meet once a year during the 16th and 17th centuries; the number of jurors was sometimes as high as 21. (fn. 4) In 1584 a court baron was held every three weeks; there were stocks in the parish. (fn. 5) In 1624 two con- stables, 2 alefounders, and 2 heath drivers were appointed. (fn. 6) Between 1743 and 1786 the court baron met between one and four times a year, with a leet at the spring meeting, when 2 constables, 2 common drivers, 2 bread and ale tasters, and 2 meeters (perhaps officers connected with measures) were elected; the court was usually held by the lord's steward, Charles Gray, or his deputy. By that period the business was mainly concerned with conveyancing. (fn. 7) An annual court baron with leet was still held in 1850, with 11 to 13 jurors, conducting similar routine manorial business. The last court was held in 1898 at the Rose and Crown public house. (fn. 8)

From 2 to 7 overseers and 2 or occasionally 3 surveyors were recorded from 1629, and 2 con- stables from 1723. Two sidesmen were recorded in both 1629 and 1633. A female overseer was appointed in 1750. Members of the Corsellis and Rebow families sometimes served as church wardens, and members of prominent local farming and trading families like the Blyths and the Sandfords frequently occupied various offices in the 18th and 19th centuries. The vestry was largely composed of small businessmen, farmers, and craftsmen. (fn. 9) In 1787 one of the overseers, John Thomas, accused the other, James Went, of absconding with parish money. Eventually both men submitted to arbitration, and Thomas's original prosecution was declared to be 'founded in malice'. (fn. 10) In the 18th and early 19th centuries the vestry met at the Swan, the Falcon, or the Anchor, inns. (fn. 11) Between 1847 and 1894 it met at the church from 5 to 13 times a year; before 1886 fewer than 16 usually attended but thereafter attendances were frequently higher. (fn. 12)

In the 16th century bequests were often made for relieving the poor, (fn. 13) and weekly collections are recorded for poor relief from 1577; regular cash payments and relief in kind were given. Occasional cash doles were made to poor per- sons, some of them sailors. (fn. 14) Between 1576 and 1594 parish expenditure on poor relief was between c. £5 and £7 a year. (fn. 15) In 1692 the justices ordered that the poor be badged and in 1701 that they be set to work. (fn. 16)

In 1726 Nicholas Corsellis granted for the use of the poor a cottage lying between Wivenhoe heath and Wivenhoe Cross, which was con- verted to a parish workhouse. (fn. 17) In 1750 parish officers intended to build a new parish work- house, but they apparently extended the existing small workhouse instead. (fn. 18) The surviving build- ing is arranged as a terrace of late 18th-century houses.

There were 25 people in the workhouse in 1755, and 22 in 1756. In 1759 there were only c. 16 but also 10 households received outdoor relief. A spinning wheel was provided in 1757 and another in 1759, and in 1765 the workhouse master was a bayweaver from Colchester. (fn. 19) The workhouse master and mistress were required to understand spinning. (fn. 20) The wedding expenses of inmates were paid on four occasions between 1759 and 1765. The vestry agreed in 1766 that relief would be given in the workhouse only and that rents would be paid only in cases of sickness. (fn. 21)

By 1798 between 21 and 25 persons or families received regular out relief each quarter and there was a maximum of 16 persons in the workhouse at any one time. There were above 30 house holds receiving out relief in the period 1801-3. Numbers in the workhouse were significantly higher in the period 1799-1803. From c. 1800 more cash doles were paid than relief in kind; occasionally money was paid for making clothes for paupers. In 1826 there were 44 people receiving regular outdoor relief. (fn. 22) A payment was made for the care of a parishioner at Bethlehem hospital (Lond.) in 1756. (fn. 23) In 1798 there was a parish surgeon; in 1799 he inoculated 51 paupers. A surgeon was still employed in 1827. (fn. 24)

In 1807 the workhouse keeper was allowed 3s. 3d. per head a week. In 1823 and 1824 it was 3s. per head, though the amount could be varied slightly according to the number of inmates and the price of flour. Paupers were to be treated 'with kindness and humanity' and to receive three meat dinners a week 'such as is wholesome and good with pudding or dumpling'. (fn. 25)

Some poor children were put out to service in the 17th century. (fn. 26) Many were apprenticed in the 17th to 19th centuries, mostly in Wivenhoe and Colchester, but also in other towns in north Essex and in ports on the east coast of England from Kent to Northumberland. The boys were bound mainly to mariners, fishermen, and oyster dredgers, with a few to weavers outside the parish in the 17th and 18th centuries, and the girls usually learned housewifery. (fn. 27)

In 1776 the cost of poor relief was £268 and in 1783-5 it averaged £289 a year. (fn. 28) Expenditure rose to £845 in 1802, equivalent to c. 15s. 6d. per head of population, and then fluctuated between £507 and £631 in 1803-11 before rising again to range between £907 and £1,152 in 1817-21, equivalent to c. 16s. a head, in 1821. (fn. 29) It fluctuated between £1,069 and £1,268 between 1822 and 1830, was £926 in 1831, equivalent to c. 10s. 10d. a head, and fell further to £694 in 1834. Poor law expenditure per head in Wivenhoe was always one of the lowest in Lexden hundred. (fn. 30)

In the early 19th century surveyors supervised the spreading of gravel and stones on the roads. Wivenhoe became part of Lexden and Winstree Highway District in 1868. (fn. 31) An iron parish cage on Anchor Hill, repaired in 1810, was in use until c. 1850. (fn. 32) Wivenhoe vestry used its few remaining powers after 1834 actively: a nuisance removal committee was set up in 1855 and a sanitary inspector employed; vigorous attempts were made to provide public services, preparing the way for the vestry's transformation into an urban district. (fn. 33)

Wivenhoe urban district was created in 1898, coterminous with the parish, and a council of 9 was elected which appointed a salaried medical officer of health, surveyor, and sanitary inspector. Committees were set up for finance, highways and drainage, public health and sanitation, improvement and lighting, and burial. (fn. 34)

In 1920 Wivenhoe urban district council built 16 houses on the Rectory Field site, and demolished a few unfit houses in the roads near the quayside in 1932-4. (fn. 35) From 1948 the council built houses on the former Corsellis Park estate west of The Avenue. (fn. 36) By 1960 eight bungalows and 13 flats for the elderly were included in the total council housing stock of 140. (fn. 37) Further houses, bungalows, and flats were built by 1974. (fn. 38) In 1971 ten per cent of all housing was rented from the council, but only 5 per cent in 1991. (fn. 39)

In 1974 Wivenhoe urban district council became part of Colchester district (later borough). A town council with a mayor as chairman retained limited powers. (fn. 40)


An engine which may have been a parish fire engine attended a fire in 1774. (fn. 41) In 1904 the urban district council formed a fire brigade of eleven men, which at first stored its barrow, bucket, and hoses at 30 Alma Street, and by 1932 in a shed behind the council offices in High Street. (fn. 42) In 1941 under wartime legislation the fire service was transferred to the Home Office and after the war to Essex county council. (fn. 43) Before 1964 there was a fire station in Brook Street, a former boathouse, sited there apparently so that part time firemen from the shipyard could reach it quickly; it was replaced in 1990 by one built on the west side of Colchester Road at Wivenhoe Cross. (fn. 44) From 1847 or earlier a policeman appointed by the Essex force was stationed in the parish. (fn. 45) A police station and two houses were built in High Street in 1952. (fn. 46) A burial board was established in 1855, and a cemetery of 2 a. was opened in 1858 c. ½ mile north-east of the church. (fn. 47) In 1899 the urban district council bought an additional 2 a. of land opposite the existing cemetery. (fn. 48)

In 1848, when certain 'filthy and unwhole some' houses, and 'foul and offensive' drains, privies, and cesspools were inspected, the vestry resolved to attempt to improve water supply, drainage, and unfit housing. In 1866 a vestry committee, having inspected pollution in Wivenhoe brook, acknowledged the need for a pure water supply. In 1872 water was piped from the corner of Mill field to reservoirs in Queens Road and Brook Street, but in 1886 typhoid cases were linked with a polluted water supply. (fn. 49) In 1902 the urban district council opened a waterworks at Queens Road to pump water from the borehole to a water tower in Tower Road west of Wivenhoe Cross. (fn. 50) The council sold the waterworks in 1961 to Tendring Waterworks Co. which supplemented the supply by feeding in water from outside the urban district. (fn. 51)

Attempts to provide a sewerage scheme from 1899 onwards were opposed on financial grounds until 1932 when a pumping station was opened near Anglesea Road and a disposal works ½ mile east. The scheme was given 75 per cent of the cost by the Unemployment Grants Committee to provide work for the unemployed. (fn. 52) About 1965 a trunk main linked Wivenhoe's sewerage system with Colchester's Hythe sewage works. (fn. 53)

A gas company was formed in 1861, perhaps that described in 1878 as Wivenhoe Gas Co. which was still trading under that name in 1937. The gasworks were in St. John's Road. (fn. 54) By 1947 gas was supplied in bulk by Colchester Gas Co. In 1949 gas was nationalized and Wivenhoe was supplied by the Eastern Gas Board, later British Gas. (fn. 55)

Forrestt's, the shipbuilding firm, was lit by electricity in 1900, presumably using its own generator. (fn. 56) Wivenhoe Electricity Co. existed by 1928 when Colchester borough council agreed to buy it. (fn. 57) Electricity was nationalized in 1948 when Wivenhoe was included in the Suffolk subarea of the Eastern Electricity Board. (fn. 58) In 1862 some streets near the quay were lit by gas, financed by extra rates levied on the houses there. (fn. 59) Street lighting was gradually extended, partly by gas and partly by oil lamps. (fn. 60) In 1929 the street lighting was converted to electricity. (fn. 61)

In 1888 the vestry appointed a scavenger to remove house refuse, and keep the ground near privies, ashpits, and cesspools cleaned. Lexden and Winstree rural district council became responsible for the removal of house refuse in 1895, and Wivehoe urban district council in 1898. (fn. 62) In 1964 there was a municipal refuse tip near Wivenhoe wood. (fn. 63) In 1974 the enlarged Colchester borough council took over refuse disposal and other remaining local authority services from Wivenhoe urban district council.


  • 1. Cal. Chart. R. 1226-57, 292; 1341-1417, 293.
  • 2. E.R.O., D/DHt M88; ibid. T/B 122.
  • 3. Ibid. D/DBm 508.
  • 4. P.R.O., SC 2/174/35-7; E.R.O., D/DA M4.
  • 5. E.R.O., D/DU 612; F. G. Emmison, Elizabethan Life: Home, Work and Land, 257.
  • 6. E.R.O., D/DBm M503.
  • 7. Ibid. D/DEt M10-23.
  • 8. Ibid. D/DBm M508, M518.
  • 9. Ibid. D/P 277/5/1; 277/8/1-2; 277/11/1; 277/12/4; 277/13-14.
  • 10. Ibid. D/DE1 L2.
  • 11. Ibid. D/P 277/11/1; Brown, Essex at Work, 69.
  • 12. E.R.O., D/P 277/8/1-3.
  • 13. e.g. ibid. D/ACR 6, ff. 94, 400; D/ACR 7, f. 289; D/ACW 2, f. 304.
  • 14. Ibid. D/P 277/5/1-2.
  • 15. Ibid. D/P 277/12/1; E.R. Ixii. 14-16.
  • 16. E.R.O., D/P 277/13/1.
  • 17. Ibid. D/P 277/25/20; 277/11/1.
  • 18. Ibid. D/DE1 L8; Dept. of Env., Buildings List, Wivenhoe.
  • 19. E.R.O., D/P 277/11/1.
  • 20. Ipswich Jnl. 2 Mar., 16 Nov. 1765.
  • 21. E.R.O., D/P 277/11/1.
  • 22. Ibid. D/P 277/12/2-4.
  • 23. Ibid. D/P 277/11/1.
  • 24. Ibid. D/P 277/12/2, 4.
  • 25. Ibid.
  • 26. Ibid. D/P 277/5/1.
  • 27. Ibid. D/P 277/12/1,4; D/P 277/13; D/P 277/14.
  • 28. Ibid. Q/CR 1/1.
  • 29. Ibid. Q/CR 1/9/16, 1/12.
  • 30. Rep. Sel. Cttee. on Poor Returns 1822-4, H.C. 334, Suppl. App. p. 81 (1825), iv; ibid. 1825-9, H.C. 83, p. 61 (1830-1), xi; ibid. 1830-4, H.C. 444, p. 60 (1835), xlvii; V.C.H. Essex, ii. 349.
  • 31. Ibid. D/P 277/21/1; 277/8/2.
  • 32. Ibid. D/P 277/12/3; E.R. vii. 255.
  • 33. E.R.O., D/P 277/8/1-3.
  • 34. E.R.O., Acc. C6 (uncat.), Wivenhoe U.D.C. Mins. 1898-1903.
  • 35. Ibid. Acc. C6 (uncat.), Wivenhoe U.D.C. Mins. 1919-22, pp. 9, 16, 24, 121, 286; ibid. T/P 181/12/33.
  • 36. Above, this par., Intro.
  • 37. E.R.O., Acc. C245 (uncat.), Wivenhoe U.D.C. Mins. 1959-61, pp. 26, 124.
  • 38. Ibid. Acc. C245 (uncat.), Wivenhoe U.D.C. Mins. 1967-74, Passim.
  • 39. Inf. from Colch. Boro. Council, Environmental Services, Planning Policy Division.
  • 40. Dunn, Wivenhoe-a Guide and Short History, 15.
  • 41. E.R.O., D/P 277/5/2.
  • 42. Ibid. Acc. C6 (uncat.), Wivenhoe U.D.C. Mins. 1903-9, p. 14; Butler, Story of Wivenhoe, 190; E.C.S. 11 May 1973.
  • 43. V.C.H. Essex, ix. 294.
  • 44. E.C.S. 20 Oct. 1989; inf. from Mrs. J. Bedford.
  • 45. E.R.O., D/P 277/8/1.
  • 46. Inf. from Estates Management Section, Essex Police Headquarters, Chelmsford.
  • 47. E.R.O., D/P 277/8/1; Kelly's Dir. Essex (1866).
  • 48. E.R.O., Acc. C6 (uncat.), Wivenhoe U.D.C. Mins. 1898-1903, pp. 88, 93.
  • 49. Ibid. D/P 277/8/1-3; D/P 277/13.
  • 50. Ibid. Acc. C6 (uncat.), Wivenhoe U.D.C. Mins. 1898-1903, pp. 354-5, 365; E.C.S. 5 July 1902; O.S. Map 1/2,500, Essex XXXIII. 9 (1923 edn.).
  • 51. Barton, Wivenhoe, its attractions, pleasures and eccentric natives, 27; E.C.C. Essex Development Plan, Rep. on First Review, Part II, The Towns, Wivenhoe, 4.
  • 52. E.R.O., Acc C6 (uncat.), Wivenhoe U.D.C. Mins. 1898-1903, pp. 104-5, 135-6, 345; ibid. 1929-33, p. 232; Butler, Story of Wivenhoe, 222-3, 238-9.
  • 53. E.C.C. Essex Development Plan, Rep. on First Review, Part II, The Towns, Wivenhoe, 4.
  • 54. E.R.O., D/P 277/8/1; O.S. Map 1/2,500, Essex XXXVII. 2 (1876 edn.); White's Dir. Essex (1863), 144; Kelly's Dir. Essex (1878, 1937).
  • 55. E.C.S. 23 July 1971.
  • 56. Ibid. 1 Dec. 1900.
  • 57. E.R.O., Colch. Boro. Mun., Electricity Supply Cttee. Mins. 1920-9, p. 170; ibid. 1929-34, accts. 31 Mar. 1930.
  • 58. V.C.H. Essex, ix. 296.
  • 59. E.R.O., D/P 277/8/1.
  • 60. Ibid. Acc. C6 (uncat.), Wivenhoe U.D.C. Mins. 1898-1903, pp. 76, 207, 240; ibid. 1903-9, p. 346.
  • 61. Butler, Story of Wivenhoe, 230.
  • 62. E.R.O., D/P 277/8/3; ibid. Acc. C6 (uncat.), Wivenhoe Par. Council Mins. 1894-8, 13 Mar. 1895.
  • 63. E.C.C. Essex Development Plan, Rep. on First Review, Part II, The Towns, Wivenhoe, 4.