Stanwell: Local government

Pages 45-46

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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In 1293 Richard of Windsor disclaimed any right to frankpledge or the assizes of bread and ale in Stanwell. (fn. 1) The tenants of Poyle manor owed suit to the hundred court in the 13th century (fn. 2) and no suggestion that the other manors were exempt seems to have been made. In the 17th century Stanwell manor court met generally twice a year and seems to have appointed officers annually. (fn. 3) They were the constables for Stanwell (or 'the town') and Rudsworth; the tithingmen or headboroughs for Stanwell, Rudsworth, Stanwellmoor, and West Bedfont; the drivers for Stanwell, Stanwellmoor, and West Bedfont, and in the early 17th century for Rudsworth; and the haywards in the early 17th century for Stanwell and Rudsworth. There was also an aletaster. The constable for Stanwell town also served, on confirmation by Quarter Sessions, as parish constable, though in 1609 at least the Rudsworth constable acted jointly with him. (fn. 4) In 1775 the manor court was still appointing officers, though some changes had been made: a constable, a tithingman, and a driver were appointed for Poyle, and not for Rudsworth.

The territorial limits of the Stanwell manor court's jurisdiction are not clear. Hammonds manor had customary tenants in the 17th century, but it had no separate population and probably no common fields to regulate. (fn. 5) Poyle was an independent estate but probably had no court, (fn. 6) and the Rudsworth officials may have had jurisdiction over Poyle in the 17th century. In spite of this, however, both Poyle and Rudsworth may have been in some ways independent of Stanwell, since the town of Colnbrook was incorporated in 1543, and in 1635 its boundaries on the Stanwell side ran from Mad Bridge to Gray Bridge (now Lintells Bridge) and then, apparently, more or less west to the Colne Brook. (fn. 7) This must have included all Poyle as well as Rudsworth, or Colnbrook End, itself. The corporation was in decay by the 17th century but the town was apparently administered until its dissolution in 1832 by chapel-wardens, overseers, and bridge-wardens. (fn. 8) There is, however, no evidence that Quarter Sessions or Stanwell itself recognized the independence of this part of Stanwell from the jurisdiction of the parish.

Stanwell may have had some kind of poor-house in the 16th century, when an 'almesse house' was excepted from leases of part of Andrew Windsor's property. (fn. 9) In 1771 Sir John Gibbons gave the parish a poor-house at the south-east corner of Hithermoor in compensation for inclosing some open-field land. (fn. 10) There was said, however, to be no workhouse in 1777, (fn. 11) and the parish records, which are preserved from 1785, at first give no evidence of one. The records show that parish business was conducted by the vestry, which generally comprised six to a dozen persons. Though the vicar or curate often, and Sir William Gibbons sometimes, attended on the whole the vestry was composed of farmers and small-holders, a number of whom were unable to sign their names. (fn. 12) The poor rates rose from £176 in 1785 to £598 in 1803 and £1,023 in 1821. They dropped in the thirties to under £200, rising again later. (fn. 13) In the 1780's a surgeon was paid 14 gns. a year to undertake all attendance on the poor except for confinements which were paid for separately. The rest of the money was spent mostly on small regular doles, with some occasional payments and some gifts of clothes. About 1790 the parish owned five cottages which were used as poor-houses, presumably in addition to the house given by Sir John Gibbons. Three of these had been sold by 1823, and no later references have been found to the others. (fn. 14) In 1813-15, when the rates were nearly at their height, there were 32 adults in the workhouse and 22 others permanently on relief. About 100 more received occasional payments. (fn. 15) In 1834 it was said that no relief was given to employed persons nor regular relief to the able-bodied. Of the inmates of the workhouse, the men cultivated the garden and the women looked after the house, so that only the boys, who worked for farmers, were profitably employed. All the men receiving relief had formerly been agricultural labourers. (fn. 16) By this time there was a salaried assistant overseer, and parish affairs were said to be managed by a committee appointed by the vestry, though there is no trace of this in the vestry records themselves. The workhouse was presumably sold after the parish became part of Staines union in 1836. (fn. 17) It is said to have stood on the site of Cheltenham Villas in Hithermoor Road until it was demolished shortly before the villas were built in 1934. (fn. 18)

After 1836 the vestry continued to meet, generally with the vicar presiding, to elect parish officers and raise rates. (fn. 19) A burial board was formed in 1892 and a cemetery was opened in 1895. In the same year a parish council of nine members was formed. Contested elections for this were very rare. The longest tenure of the chair was that of Sir Alexander Gibbons in 1922-30. The vicar never sat on the council but often presided at the annual parish meetings. The whole council constituted a burial board and churchyard committee for the parish; it also had a finance committee, on which latterly all the members sat. The council was an active one; it intervened with partial success in the negotiations for the building of the reservoirs and was concerned in the provision of allotments in 1918 and of a recreation ground in 1927. Its first complaint about dangerous driving along the London Road was made in 1909. In addition to the overseer, who was unpaid, the council had two salaried assistant overseers, one of whom was also clerk to the council and the other of whom was the rate collector. The council protested against the inclusion of Stanwell in Staines urban district, which nevertheless took place in 1930, so that the council was dissolved.

In 1905 gas street-lighting was provided in Poyle. An annual meeting of the inhabitants of Poyle thereafter raised the necessary rates while the parish council administered the lighting. Lighting was given up in 1914 and not resumed until electric lighting was provided for the parish as a whole in 1926.

The administration of Stanwell after 1930 forms part of the history of Staines urban district council. (fn. 20)


  • 1. Plac. de Quo Warr. (Rec. Com.), 476; cf. 17th-cent. records where view of frankpledge is attributed to the manor.
  • 2. J.I. 1/540, m. 16d; /544, m. 54.
  • 3. The surviving manorial records, upon which this paragraph is based, are B.M. Add. MS. 21206 (court book 1605-16); Bodl. MS. Don c. 26 (court rolls 1630, 1673, 1674, 1704); B.M. Add. MS. 21559, f. 142 (court paper 1775).
  • 4. M.R.O., Cal. Mdx. Recs. 1607-8, 225; 1608-9, 108; 1609-10, 57; 1610(1), 52; cf. B.M. Add. MS. 21206, ff. 9b, 14, 24, 31.
  • 5. See pp. 40, 44.
  • 6. See p. 39.
  • 7. V.C.H. Bucks. ii. 247-8.
  • 8. Ibid.
  • 9. Cal. Pat. 1557-8, 141-2.
  • 10. See p. 38; 'Plans etc. of manors of Stanwell and Hammonds, 1796' (folio MS. vol. penes Mr. H. Scott Freeman, Staines).
  • 11. Rep. cttee. on rets. by overseers, 1776, H.C. Ser. 1, ix. 397.
  • 12. Par. Rec., Overseer's Acct. Bk. and Vestry Min. Bk. 1785-91; Churchwardens' Acct. Bks. 1788-1808, 1816-70.
  • 13. Rep. on expense and maintenance of poor, H.C. 82, pp. 254-5 (1818), xix; Rep. Poor Law Com. App. B(2), H.C. 44, pp. 177g-i (1834), xxxv, xxxvi.
  • 14. Par. Rec. cited above.
  • 15. Rep. on expense and maintenance of poor (1818), 254-5.
  • 16. Rep. Poor Law Com. App. B (2), 177g-i.
  • 17. 2nd Annual Rep. Poor Law Com. H.C. 595, p. 534 (1836), xxix.
  • 18. Ex inf. an inhabitant of Cheltenham Villas. Cf. M.R.O., Stanwell Tithe Award.
  • 19. The rest of this section is based on Par. Meeting Min. Bk. and Par. Council Min. Bks. penes Staines U.D.C.
  • 20. See p. 27.