West Bergholt: Local government

Pages 34-35

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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The lord of Bergholt Hall manor claimed view of frankpledge, gallows, and the assizes of bread and of ale in 1273-4. He was granted free warren in 1347-8. (fn. 1) Courts leet were held until 1645 and courts baron until 1918; thereafter land transfers and enfranchisements took place out of court. (fn. 2) Two constables were elected in 1488 and the office was last recorded in 1642. (fn. 3) Two aletasters were recorded in 1413 and continued to be elected annually until 1615. (fn. 4) Court fines were assessed by two affeerors in 1413, but by the whole homage from 1495. (fn. 5) Surveyors of highways and rangers of the commons were first elected in 1632. The rangers were last recorded in 1827. (fn. 6)

The medieval and early modern courts of Bergholt Hall manor dealt with varied business. Transfers of land were recorded, pleas of debt heard, pannage collected, and orders were given to maintain the hedges and gates next to the common, and to ring pigs. Regular offences included breaches of the assizes of bread and of ale, trespasses of stock, theft of timber, the wast- ing of tenements, overcharging the common, breaking the lord's pound, and assaults. (fn. 7) In 1505 the court confiscated the chattels of a fugitive tenant who had committed a felony. (fn. 8) In the early 16th century arbitrators were appointed to settle disputes, in 1516 on penalty of forfeiture of 6s. 8d. to West Bergholt church. (fn. 9) From the later 16th century business was largely confined to the transfer of copyholds and the regulation of the heath. (fn. 10)

The manor of Cooks Hall, Netherhall, or Beaumonds also had courts leet, first recorded in 1542. They were irregular from the later 16th century and last recorded in 1656. The court baron met until 1897 and thereafter land trans- fers took place in the steward's office. (fn. 11) A single constable was usually elected annually from 1576 to 1650. Fines were assessed by the whole homage from 1577. (fn. 12) The operation of the court leet on the site of Cooks Hall was challenged by the lords of Bergholt Hall manor as an infringe- ment of their own court's jurisdiction, Cooks Hall, although not Netherhall, being a freehold of Bergholt manor. (fn. 13) The courts concentrated upon land transfers and orders to scour ditches, ring pigs, and to repair Joyers bridge. (fn. 14) Attendance at the leet declined from the later 16th century but, as on Bergholt manor, the 17th- and 18th-century courts dealt with a rising number of cases involving the heath. (fn. 15)

Few records of vestry government survive. There were three constables 1578 and two surveyors of highways in 1608. (fn. 16) The Bergholt Hall manor pound probably lay between the Hall and Lexden Road where Pound field survived in 1843. (fn. 17) Stock was rescued from Cooks Hall pound in 1823. (fn. 18) The brickbuilt parish cage stood on a triangle of waste on the crossroads near the White Hart in 1857. It was demolished about 1870. (fn. 19)

In 1776 a poor rate raised £100 7s. 6d. Expenditure had nearly doubled by 1783-5 and reached a peak of £831 19s. 8d. in 1801. It fell quite sharply to £249 10s. 10d. in 1804 but then crept upwards again, averaging c. £418 between 1805 and 1823. In 1824 expenditure suddenly leapt to £810 1s. and was generally high throughout the rest of the 1820s. Expenditure in 1830 fell to £234 2s. but averaged c. £581 between 1831 and 1836. Throughout poor relief expenditure per head of population was one of the lowest in the hundred. (fn. 20)

The three almshouses 'on the green' in 1768, probably unendowed, may have later become the parish workhouse sited on the heath edge south-west of New Church Road near its junc- tion with Lexden Road. It presumably shut and was demolished c. 1834. (fn. 21)


  • 1. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), i. 155; Rot. Chart. (Rec. Com.), 208.
  • 2. E.R.O., D/DMa M2-15; D/DMa M26; D/DMa M29; D/DC 5/124-6; D/DRb M3; D/DRc M35-7.
  • 3. Ibid. D/DMa M2, rot. 5; D/DC 5/126, rot. 1.
  • 4. Ibid. D/DMa M2, rot. 1; D/DMa M4, rot. 10.
  • 5. Ibid. D/DMa M2, rot. 1; D/DMa M29, rot. 3.
  • 6. Ibid. D/DMa M15, p. 13; D/DRb M3.
  • 7. Ibid. D/DMa M2-13; D/DMa M26; D/DMa M29.
  • 8. Ibid. D/DMa M29, rot. 8.
  • 9. Ibid. D/DMa M3, rott. 15-16, 23d.
  • 10. e.g. ibid. D/DMa M4, rott. 6-9, 12, 16; D/DMa M15, pp. 3, 8, 20, 24, 42-3; D/DC 5/126, rott. 1-2; above, this par., Econ.
  • 11. E.R.O., D/DMa M3, rot. 29; D/DLl M1-8, M12-16.
  • 12. Ibid. D/DLl M2, rot. 1 and d.; D/DLl M3, rot. 5.
  • 13. Ibid. D/DMa M3, rot. 29; D/DMa M15, p. 5; D/DC 5/144, rot. 2; above, this par., Manors.
  • 14. E.R.O., D/DLl M14-16.
  • 15. e.g. ibid. D/DLl M2, rot. 6 and d.; D/DLl M3, rot. 2; D/DLl M4, rot. 6d.; D/DLl M5, rott. 1-3; D/DLl M7, pp. 7-9; D/DLl M16.
  • 16. Ibid. Q/SR 66/34; 186/93.
  • 17. Ibid. D/CT 33.
  • 18. Ibid. Q/SBb 473/73.
  • 19. E.A.T. n.s. vii. 38.
  • 20. E.R.O., Q/CR 1/1, 1/12, 1/9/16; Rep. Sel. Cttee. on Poor Rate Returns 1822-4, H.C. 334, 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.
  • 21. 'Workhouse field' lay nearby in 1843. E.R.O., D/P 59/1/4; ibid. D/CT 33; West Bergholt Local Hist. Group, Walk Around West Bergholt, (1), 13.