Beauchamp Roding: Parish government and poor relief

Page 202

A History of the County of Essex: Volume 4, Ongar Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1956.

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The surviving parish book for Beauchamp Roding covers the period 1723 to 1817. (fn. 1) It records only the annual Easter vestry meetings for the passing of accounts and the election of new officers. John Siday, rector until 1752, presided every year at these meetings. Often the only other attendants were the churchwarden and one parishioner. Siday's successor, William Wicksted, attended frequently but less regularly. After 1780 the name of the churchwarden always headed the list of signatures. There were never more than eight parishioners present during this period, four being the average. In 1745 the church clerk received 25s. in wages-a sum charged to the overseer's account.

In 1699 the rateable value of the parish was £693, (fn. 2) and it was not much higher in 1817, when a 2s. rate produced £81. Rates of 7½d. and 8d. were levied in 1790 and 1791 towards the building of the new Shire Hall at Chelmsford. The parish officers seem to have conducted their business honestly. When expenditure was highest about 1800 balances of as much as £75 were successfully carried from year to year. In 1723 the rector and three parishioners resolved that every parishioner should maintain a poor person for a period proportionate to his rateable assessment, receiving 18d. a week for so doing.

All officers except the overseers tended to remain in office for long periods. Thus Richard Nicholas was surveyor of highways from 1741 to 1757 and churchwarden from 1753 to 1762, and John Lunnon was constable from 1786 to 1815. No woman was ever appointed to a parish office between 1723 and 1817. The overseer served for only one year at a time, and service was probably by rotation. The same names recur at intervals of six or seven years, but the absence of women seems to indicate that the service was purely personal and was not associated with the occupation of particular properties. After 1792 a longer list of nominees was entered each year and the order thus established was strictly observed in subsequent years. Each person thus knew several years in advance when he was due to serve.

In 1613 £2 11s. 10d. was raised for poor relief, assessed on nineteen contributors who paid sums ranging from 2d. to 10s. (fn. 3) At the beginning of the 18th century the overseer's annual expenditure was about £25-£30, and it had not risen much by the middle of the century, when only two or three families were receiving regular relief. Expenditure thereafter rose to £193 in 1795 and then almost doubled in the following year. It reached a peak of £515, the equivalent of a 12s. 6d. rate, in 1800-1. The average annual expenditure between 1800 and 1817 was over £350. (fn. 4) It dropped slightly to £260 for the period 1829-35. (fn. 5)

A parish almshouse existed in 1745 and 1749, when the overseer's accounts included sums spent on its repair. In 1776 the parish was renting a house for use as a poorhouse but its site is not known. (fn. 6) In 1830 the vestry borrowed £350 from Sir Eliab Harvey, the lord of the manor (see Beauchamp Roding manor, above) for the erection of a workhouse. (fn. 7) The final instalment of the debt was repaid in 1837, but by that time Beauchamp Roding had become part of the Ongar Poor Law Union, formed in 1836, and the workhouse was converted into a school.

There were stocks in the parish in 1767. (fn. 8)


  • 1. E.R.O., D/P 146/8. Unless otherwise stated all the following account is taken from this source.
  • 2. E.R.O., D/P 146/1/1.
  • 3. E.R.O., Q/SBa 3.
  • 4. E.R.O., Q/CR 1/9.
  • 5. E.R.O., D/DOp B39/75.
  • 6. Rep. Sel. Cttee. on Overseers Retns. 1777, H.C. Ser. i, vol. ix, p. 350. In 1843 Almshouse Field adjoined Butt Hatch Farm: E.R.O., D/CT 294.
  • 7. E.R.O., D/P 146/18/1.
  • 8. E.R.O., Q/SBb 268.