Wormingford: Local government

Pages 303-304

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 1328 free warren was granted on Wormingford Hall manor. (fn. 1) Courts leet, recorded for Church Hall manor in the 15th century, handled transfers of holdings and amerced tenants for trespass and nuisances. (fn. 2) A three-weekly court baron was held c. 1528. (fn. 3) Between 1584 and 1634 a leet was held with the court baron at about two-yearly intervals; the number of jurors sworn ranged from 2 to 15, but was more often a higher number. Inhabitants were presented for obstructing the highway, failing to clean ditches and repair boundary marks, taking in lodgers, keeping an unlicensed alehouse, allowing animals to stray, and, in 1586, for playing unlawful games. Stocks, provided in 1593, needed repairing in 1613. In the 17th century courts were held less frequently, mostly with only two jurors, to deal with routine administration. (fn. 4)

Courts baron of Wormingford Hall manor were held from 1627 or earlier until 1931. From 1627 courts were held up to three times a year; usually only two jurors were sworn, but occasionally up to six. In the 19th century and the early 20th the courts of Church Hall and Wormingford Hall manors were held for the same lords consecutively on the same day. (fn. 5)

Between 1764 and 1836 vestry meetings were attended by the vicar and from three to nine parishioners, usually the principal tenant far- mers who served as churchwardens, overseers, surveyors, and constables, and also from 1829 as assessors. Between 1811 and 1813 and in 1815 and 1816 there were three overseers instead of the usual two. A salaried overseer was recorded in 1822. (fn. 6) Women were elected as parish officers in 1785, 1807, and 1814. (fn. 7) In 1706 the highway surveyors were found to have been using rate- payers' money illegally to repair the private road to Garnons (then called Gardner farm), which was occupied by one of them. (fn. 8) In 1795, during the Napoleonic Wars, Wormingford was com- bined with six neighbouring parishes to provide three men to serve in the navy. (fn. 9)

In the later 18th century regular cash doles were paid to the poor, besides extraordinary payments for clothing, fuel, washing, mending, nursing, and burials. Some children were boarded out. Cloth was given to the poor, for example, in a half year in 1768 nine persons received amounts ranging from 2 yd. to 7 yd. each. In 1767 a woman was treated at Guys hos- pital, London, at parish expense. There was a salaried doctor in 1777. Between 1764 and 1798 the number of cases of regular relief ranged from 8 to 19. In 1783-5 the numbers of people in families receiving regular relief ranged from 28 to 37, and in families receiving occasional relief from 42 to 56. The Speenhamland system was applied briefly in 1795 and 1796 at a time of high prices: 20 payments were made to men with families, totalling 108 persons. The number of households receiving out relief rose to 38 in 1800. (fn. 10)

By 1800 out relief was given almost entirely in cash. In 1808 and 1809 some extra payments were made because of the high price of flour. Many recipients were described as ill in the early 19th century, and there were smallpox cases in 1800, 1801, 1807, and 1808. A roundsman system started in 1816, unemployed men being sent to work for different farmers for four days at a time. Between 1827 and 1829 one boy was hired out to work in the village, the vestry receiving his wages. (fn. 11) Surveyors paid unem- ployed men 10d. a day in the early 19th century to extract and sift gravel, repair roads and water- courses, and clear snow, mostly in the winter months when farm work was scarce. (fn. 12)

Eight surviving apprenticeship records from 1764 to 1837 show boys apprenticed by the parish to a merchant, oyster dredger, cord- wainer, mariner, shipowner, husbandman, black- smith, and shoemaker in nearby parishes. (fn. 13)

In 1765 and 1766 extensive work was carried out on the town house and parish house, perhaps both names for the workhouse. In 1776 the workhouse master was paid 20s. a week for 13 inmates from which he was to provide food, lodging, and clothing; he could take earnings from any who went out to work. From 1778 he agreed to pay doctor's fees, except for smallpox and fractures. Numbers in the workhouse ranged from 13 to 19 between 1789 and 1798, from 18 to 25 between 1799 and 1808, and from 5 to 13 between 1809 and 1814. In 1795 the workhouse master was allowed 1s. 9d. a head which rose to 4s. between 1811 and 1813. Provisions included brandy and brimstone in 1790, beer and sugar for the old people in 1791, and pork, cheese, potatoes, onions, flour, mutton, bacon, cabbage, milk, oatmeal, green tobacco, and beer in 1815 and 1816. Three spin- ning wheels bought in 1801 formed part of the total of 11 in 1802, and, although 4 more were bought in 1815 and 6 in 1818, none was listed in the spinhouse in 1825. (fn. 14) There was a pig sty in 1802. A straitjacket was bought in 1811. (fn. 15)

A house called Lays was rented from John Everard in 1790, probably as an addition to the workhouse, for in 1799 a rent was received from the old workhouse. (fn. 16) The parish workhouse, on the Bures road, was built in the late 18th cent- ury. When it was sold in 1837, it had 2 lower rooms, 4 bedrooms, and 5 attics, and apparently included four adjacent cottages with a detached bakehouse and brewhouse, and a large garden. (fn. 17) Known as Black House in the 20th century, the weatherboarded house is of two storeys with a mansard-roofed attic. Abutting the east end is a range of cottages with one storey and attic, apparently early 19th century.

Annual expenditure on poor relief fell from £154 in 1776, equivalent to 8s. 8d. per head of population, to £125 in 1783-5, 7s. a head. (fn. 18) In 1801 costs per head were 51s. 7d., and in 1802 were 37s., but then fluctuated in 1803-16 between 17s. 9d. and 32s. 9d., except for 1813 when they were 42s. 8d.; they reached 55s. 9d. in 1817, fluctuated in 1818-25 between 30s. and 45s. 2d., and then fell to 15s. 11d. in 1834. Before the 1830s Wormingford's rate of expenditure was always one of the higher ones in Lexden hundred. (fn. 19)


  • 1. Cal. Chart. R. 1327-41, 76.
  • 2. P.R.O., SC 2/174/31.
  • 3. Ibid. E 36/163/89.
  • 4. E.R.O., D/DTu 264-6.
  • 5. Ibid. D/DGe M202-9, M221-2, M278; D/DTu 267; D/DMa M 137-40; above, this par., Manors.
  • 6. E.R.O., D/P 185/8/3, 185/12/1-3.
  • 7. Ibid. D/P 185/12/1-2.
  • 8. Ibid. Q/SBb 35/19.
  • 9. E.R. liv. 42.
  • 10. E.R.O., D/P 185/12/1-2, 12.
  • 11. Ibid. D/P 185/8/3; 185/12/2-3.
  • 12. Ibid. D/P 185/21/1-2.
  • 13. Ibid. D/P 185/14/1-3.
  • 14. Ibid. D/P 185/12/1-3.
  • 15. Ibid. D/P 185/8/3; 185/12/2.
  • 16. Ibid. D/P 185/12/1-2.
  • 17. Ibid. Sale Cat. B1916; ibid. D/DEl T338; Dept. of Env., Buildings List.
  • 18. E.R.O., Q/CR 1/1.
  • 19. Ibid. Q/CR 1/10, 12; 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.