Moreton: Parish government and poor relief

Pages 137-138

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

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The earliest parish book (1666-1815) for Moreton was kept and written by the rector. (fn. 1) In it the rectors from Jacob Houblon to William Salisbury recorded every Easter from 1666 until 1761 the annual elections of officers and summaries of the previous year's accounts. The few vestry resolutions which they entered related to the repair and cleaning of the church, the renting of the glebe and the responsibility for the maintenance of the churchyard fencing. After 1761 the rectors, William Salisbury (to 1796) and William Wilson (1796-1822) used the few remaining pages to record occasional vestry minutes, notes of their own and amounts collected on charitable briefs. The only other surviving parish books are a volume of overseers' accounts for the period 1715-49 and a later parish book which was begun in 1828 but which contained vestry minutes only from 1845. (fn. 2) Thus from the middle of the 18th century there is no record of the general government of the parish. The annual audit of accounts in the rector's book was not signed by the parishioners present but the few vestry resolutions were signed. It seems from these signatures that normally no more than 6 persons attended the meetings. In 1761 and 1762 (fn. 3) 8 or 9 persons attended the important meetings held to consider the repair of the bridge. There were probably other vestry meetings held during the year but not recorded in the rector's book, for in 1724-5 the overseer mentioned in his account book expenses incurred at 9 vestries. William Wilson gave a patriotic lead to the parish during the Napoleonic Wars, heading subscription lists for the dependants of those who fell at Trafalgar and Waterloo and for the relief of prisoners, and sponsoring voluntary bread rationing in 1800. In his will also he left funds to provide annuities for the clerk and the beadle.

A distinction between the various officers' accounts and rates was not always maintained. In 1743 a surveyor's deficit was met out of the churchwarden's rate, and, conversely, in 1744 the surveyor was granted a 4d. rate and was ordered to pay any surplus to the churchwarden. When Jonas Crouchman was both churchwarden and constable between 1743 and 1751, the surplus of one of his accounts was allowed to balance a deficiency in the other. In 1739 a rate of 3d. in the pound produced just over £9; the rateable value of the parish had only advanced to £860 by 1803. (fn. 4) In 1840 a new valuation was made by order of the Ongar Union, when the rateable value was fixed at almost £2,180. (fn. 5) This had risen to £2,452 by 1874. (fn. 6)

The usual officers were appointed at Easter and Christmas and often remained in office for more than a year at a time. A woman occasionally served as surveyor or overseer. In 1673 a scale of expenses was fixed for journeys made by parish officers. Regular payments were made to the parish doctor from 1741.

The average annual expenditure on poor relief in the second half of the 17th century was £25. This had risen to about £100 by 1749 when the detailed overseers' accounts ceased. In the overseers' account book (1715-49), each overseer kept his accounts in two sections called the 'standing' and the 'bye' collections; the former contained the regular weekly pensions, the latter all other payments. Information about parish expenditure on the poor after 1749 depends on summaries given in official returns. In 1776 the cost of poor relief was £105. (fn. 7) In the three years 1783-5 the average annual cost was £140. (fn. 8) In the year 1801-2 the cost was £380. (fn. 9) This was not exceeded until 1812-13 when nearly £560 or the equivalent of a rate of 13s. in the pound was spent. (fn. 10) In December 1800, following a royal proclamation, the vestry agreed to a form of bread rationing reducing consumption by 25 per cent. The same meeting also agreed to offer encouragement 'to render their poor industrious' by providing them with wool for spinning and allowing them to retain their earnings in full. In 1828 and 1829 meetings were held nearly every month, with the overseer presiding, to hear requests for clothing, footwear, and medical attention. Few of these requests were refused. (fn. 11) After 1829 the meetings became less frequent and finally ceased in 1835.

The overseer's accounts for 1726 included a bill for £19 for building a parish house. In 1809 'the able young persons who had been occupying three of the parish houses rent-free to the exclusion of widows and old poor people who had to be furnished with rooms at the parish expense' were ordered to give up possession or pay a weekly rent of 1s. In 1840 there were two parish cottages at Padlers End. (fn. 12) They were sold in 1856.

In 1836 Moreton became part of the Ongar Poor Law Union.


  • 1. E.R.O., D/P 72/8/1. Unless otherwise stated all information in the following account is based on this source.
  • 2. E.R.O., D/P 72/12; ibid. D/P 72/8/2.
  • 3. See below.
  • 4. Retns. Exp. and Maint. of Poor, H.C. 175, p. 160 (1803-4), xiii.
  • 5. E.R.O., D/P 72/11/2.
  • 6. E.R.O., D/P 72/11/1.
  • 7. E.R.O., Q/CR 1/1.
  • 8. Ibid.
  • 9. E.R.O., Q/CR 1/9.
  • 10. Ibid.
  • 11. E.R.O., D/P 72/8/2.
  • 12. E.R.O., D/CT 244.