Cowley: Local government

A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 3, Shepperton, Staines, Stanwell, Sunbury, Teddington, Heston and Isleworth, Twickenham, Cowley, Cranford, West Drayton, Greenford, Hanwell, Harefield and Harlington. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1962.

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'Cowley: Local government', in A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 3, Shepperton, Staines, Stanwell, Sunbury, Teddington, Heston and Isleworth, Twickenham, Cowley, Cranford, West Drayton, Greenford, Hanwell, Harefield and Harlington, (London, 1962) pp. 174-175. British History Online [accessed 15 April 2024]


In 1274 Cowley was said not to 'participate' in Elthorne hundred, and in 1293 a jury of the hundred said that the Abbot of Westminster had withdrawn the suit of part of the vill of Cowley from the shire and hundred courts since 1235. (fn. 1) This had been done under a charter of that year which granted the abbey wide liberties in all its lands, including frankpledge and freedom from amercements in shire and hundred. (fn. 2) Although its manor at Cowley had been subinfeudated, therefore, the abbey retained some jurisdiction, and in 1410 the abbot is known to have exercised return of writs in Cowley. (fn. 3) Lucy Peachey, who held the manor under the abbey in 1293, claimed view of frankpledge and lesser liberties. (fn. 4) By the 17th century the manorial courts were being held at irregular intervals and views of frankpledge generally occurred only once every few years. (fn. 5) Although the parish constables sometimes served for several years, (fn. 6) quarter sessions had to intervene more than once to appoint a new one because there had been no leet. (fn. 7) The only business transacted at these courts of frankpledge, of which the last is recorded in 1738, was the election of constables and the making of orders about the fencing and stinting of the open fields and commons. Since no vestry records have been preserved, almost as little is known about administration by the parish as about that by the manor. Between 1775 and 1831 the rates rose from under £40 to over £100. (fn. 8) Most of this was of course spent on poor relief, but in 1815, when the rates were at their height, only eight persons were on permanent relief. There was no proper workhouse, but in 1834 'the few poor' were housed with small allowances in an almshouse which had probably been used for the purpose for many years. The vestry at that time employed an assistant overseer on a small salary, since they found that the poor could impose less easily on a permanent official. The overseers often served for more than one year at a time because it was difficult to find eligible men in so small a parish. The two churchwardens had different views about whether relief was ever given to those at work, and whether those relieved were set to work. (fn. 9) In 1836 Cowley became part of Uxbridge union (fn. 10) and such administrative functions as the parish had exercised dwindled away. In 1894 a parish council of six members was formed, and a greater corporate life for the parish was made possible the following year when the boundaries were enlarged to include the whole village. (fn. 11) The Lighting and Watching Act, 1833, was adopted in 1902 and allotments were started about 1919. The council met in the school, and for its last eighteen years was under the chairmanship of S. Burnand. Neither of the rectors holding office between 1894 and 1929 served on the council, which ceased to exist when Uxbridge rural district was dissolved and the parish was added to Uxbridge urban district. (fn. 12)


  • 1. J.I. 1/540, m. 13d; /544, m. 52d.
  • 2. Cal. Chart. R. 1226-57, 208.
  • 3. Cal. Close, 1409-13, 59.
  • 4. J.I. 1/544, m. 51d.
  • 5. M.R.O., Acc. 374/1.
  • 6. e.g. M.R.O., Cal. Mdx. Recs. 1607-8, 225; 1609-10, 56; Mdx. Cty. Recs, N.S. i. 251; iv. 333.
  • 7. M.R.O., Cal. Mdx. Sess. Bks. 1679-82, 49, 142; Mdx. Cty. Recs.: Sess. Bks. 1689-1709, 326.
  • 8. Rep. Cttee. on Rets. by Overseers, 1776, ser. 1, ix. 396, and cf. ibid. 627; Rets. on expense and maintenance of poor, H.C. 175 (1803-4), xiii (demi-folio); ibid H.C. 82, p. 262 (1818), xix (demi-folio); Rep. Poor Law Com. App. B (2), H.C. 44, p. 90f (1834), xxxv.
  • 9. Rep. Poor Law Com. App. B (2), 90f-h.
  • 10. 2nd Annual Rep. Poor Law Com. H.C. 595, p. 534 (1836), xxix (1).
  • 11. M.R.O., Rep. of local enquiry on proposed extension of Cowley par. boundary, 1895, 7-8.
  • 12. Uxbridge B.C., Cowley Par. Meeting Min. Bk. 1894- 1928; Cowley Par. Co. Min. Bks. 1894-1929.