Theydon Mount: Parish government and poor relief

Pages 282-283

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 of Theydon Mount survive for the period 1715-1942. (fn. 1) Apart from the nomination of the surveyors of highways for 1719-92 at vestries held first in December and at a later period in September, the books have very few entries other than those for the annual Easter vestry for the passing of accounts and the nomination of new officers. It is therefore not possible to obtain a complete picture of the administration of the parish. The attendance at the Easter vestry was usually about five.

In 1715 the rateable value of the parish was £909, a penny rate thus producing £3 15s. 9d. In that year there was a churchwardens' rate of 1d., a constable's rate of 2½d., and two overseers' rates totalling 5¼d. The churchwardens' rate was usually 1d. until 1766, when it was merged in a general rate. The constable's rate was also 1d. for most of the period 1721-2 to 1756-57, when it was merged with that of the overseers. The overseers' rate had slowly increased, apparently to 10d. in 1727-8 and 1s. 6d. in 1752-3. In 1759-60, however, it was only 3d. and in 1765-6 it was 1s. In and after 1766 there was only one parish rate and one account, known as the overseers' account, from which the churchwardens' and constables' bills were settled as well as those for poor relief. About 1766 also the vestry books cease to give details of disbursements, these being transferred to separate volumes, (fn. 2) and only contain brief totals of income and expenditure. In 1774-5 the general rate was 2s. 6d., producing £107. (fn. 3) It rose to 5s. 6d. in 1796-7 and in 1800-1 the rate was 9s., producing £422. This was the peak. The income from the rates dropped to £254 two years later and in 1828-9 was £185. (fn. 4)

The parish had at least one poorhouse by 1776. (fn. 5) In most cases, however, the poor seem to have been relieved outside the poorhouse, by cash payments and to a lesser extent by the provision of clothing, fuel, and rent. (fn. 6) On at least two occasions, in 1783 and 1789, a spinning-wheel was purchased. In March 1796 16 people were receiving weekly relief. In 1810 Robert Burton Hayward, surgeon of Epping, was engaged to attend the poor for a year at a salary of 6 guineas, with travelling allowances and 10s. for confinements. There are references to the inoculation of pauper families in 1772-3, 1792, and 1793. In the period 1757-8 to 1789-90 the overseers held office for two years. Thereafter they served only for one year. Sir William Smijth, Bt., of Hill Hall was overseer in 1792-3. Between 1745 and 1770 four women served as overseers. In 1833 an assistant overseer was appointed at a salary of £10.

A church clerk is mentioned in the churchwardens' account of 1756-7, and again in the overseers' account of 1792-3. His wages were 10s. and 10s. 6d. respectively. In 1842 the parish appointed a paid constable. This is of special interest because the Essex County Constabulary had been founded two years earlier. Theydon Mount appears never to have had a police constable, even in later years.

During the period 1715-92 there were only five years when a member of the Smijth family was not nominated as one of the surveyors. Usually it was the baronet who was nominated.

In 1836 Theydon Mount became part of Ongar Poor Law Union.


  • 1. E.R.O., D/P 142/8/1, 2. Unless otherwise stated all the following information is derived from these vestry books.
  • 2. E.R.O., D/P 142/12/1, 2.
  • 3. E.R.O., D/P 142/12/1.
  • 4. E.R.O., D/P 142/11/1, 2.
  • 5. Rep. Sel. Cttee. on Overseers Retns. 1777, H.C. ser. 1, vol. ix, p. 350.
  • 6. The following paragraph is based on the overseers' account books: E.R.O., D/P 142/12/1, 2.