Navestock: Parish government and poor relief

Pages 148-149

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

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Vestry minute-books for Navestock survive for the period 1806 to 1870. (fn. 1) Meetings of the public vestry were held at irregular intervals, averaging about 8 a year until 1810 and subsequently about 5 a year. The number of persons attending the meetings, in addition to the churchwardens and overseers, varied between 1 and 7. Until 1838 the chairman was never named as such in the minutes but the vicar, or in his absence one of the churchwardens, always signed first. From 1806 until 1816 the vicar, J. Filkes, attended the vestry regularly, but after 1816 rarely, and between March 1818 and 1830 he attended only once. Ford, when vicar, always attended regularly and usually signed the minutes as chairman.

In 1824 the parish adopted the second Sturges Bourne Act (59 Geo. III c. 12) and set up a select vestry, which held its first meeting on 29 July of that year. (fn. 2) In 1826 the select vestry included twelve members in addition to the vicar, churchwardens, and overseers. (fn. 3) It apparently ceased to function after 12 April 1832. (fn. 4)

The work of the open vestry consisted mainly in nominating parish officers, granting rates, and auditing the overseer's accounts. The overseer presented interim accounts at nearly every meeting of the vestry and a final account at the end of his year in office. In 1806 a 1s. rate yielded £173 and between then and 1834 there was no great variation.

There was probably a poorhouse in Navestock from 1741. In that year the churchwardens and overseers were negotiating with Elizabeth Merrick of Caversham (Berks.) for the lease of her house, called the White House, and two fields belonging to it, containing 10 acres, for the purpose of making a poorhouse. It was proposed that the premises should be leased for 21 years at a rent of £14 a year. It is not certain that these negotiations were completed, although they reached an advanced stage. (fn. 5) It is certain that by 1770 the workhouse was on a site which it continued to occupy until 1836. This was just south of the vicarage and was some way from a house owned in 1770 by Elizabeth Merrick. (fn. 6) In 1826 the workhouse was repaired at a cost of £60. In 1834 a cottage belonging to Green's Charity was also being used by the overseers to accommodate paupers. (fn. 7)

In 1776 £272 was spent on poor relief in Navestock. (fn. 8) In the three years 1783-5 the average poor rate amounted to £444, and the average cost of poor relief to £400. (fn. 9) In the year 1800-1 the cost of relief was £1,705. It was £1,624 in the following year. From then until 1816-17 it varied between £1,020 and £1,674, being highest in 1812-13 and lowest in 1815-16. (fn. 10) In 1816-21 the poor rates varied between £1,012 (1815-16) and £1,433 (1817-18). (fn. 11) The total sum collected in 1828-9 was only £511. The income from work done by the paupers in the workhouse was about £40 a year from 1806 to 1810-11. The rates were very high in 1809-10 and 1810-11 and it is probable that a special effort was made to increase paupers' earnings, which rose to £57 in 1811-12 and £111 in 1812-13. That high level was not maintained but for some years the earnings ranged between £52 and £92. From 1821 onwards they were much lower, reaching a minimum of £23 in 1823-4.

For some years before 1834 James Lash was governor of the workhouse; it may have been to this post that he was appointed in 1813 at a salary of £17. In 1832 it was agreed that he should farm the poor at 3s. a head for all above one year of age. At that time there were 30 persons in the workhouse, of whom 7 were named Noaks, 5 Burns, and 3 Eldred. In 1834 Samuel Randal was appointed to succeed Lash. It was agreed that he should receive a minimum of 2s. 6d. a head for 17 paupers and 2s. 6d. a head for all above that number.

In December 1830 the salary of the parish surgeon was reduced from 40 to 35 guineas. (fn. 12) In July 1831 the vestry ordered that the overseer should pay the surgeon the amount of his extra charges, £8 6s., and request him to call at the poorhouse each week.

In 1836 Navestock became part of the Ongar Poor Law Union. In the same year the workhouse at Navestock was sold by the union to David Pinchon, at a net profit of £164. (fn. 13) In 1840 the building consisted of several tenements. (fn. 14) About 30 years ago it was demolished. (fn. 15) The gardens are immediately south of the 'Plough'.


  • 1. E.R.O., D/P 148/8/1-3. Unless otherwise stated all the following information is based upon these books.
  • 2. E.R.O., D/P 148/8/4.
  • 3. E.R.O., D/P 148/8/6.
  • 4. E.R.O., D/P 148/8/4.
  • 5. E.R.O., D/DHh O1.
  • 6. E.R.O., Q/RDc 1B; D/DXa 24; G/On M1, p. 166.
  • 7. See below, Charities.
  • 8. E.R.O., Q/CR 1/1.
  • 9. Ibid.
  • 10. E.R.O., Q/CR 1/9.
  • 11. E.R.O., Q/CR 1/12.
  • 12. E.R.O., D/P 148/18.
  • 13. E.R.O., G/On M1, p. 145, 166, 261.
  • 14. E.R.O., D/CT 248.
  • 15. Inf. from local carpenter.