Sunbury: 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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, 'Sunbury: 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. 59-61. British History Online [accessed 22 May 2024].

. "Sunbury: 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) 59-61. British History Online, accessed May 22, 2024,

. "Sunbury: 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, (London, 1962). 59-61. British History Online. Web. 22 May 2024,


During the Middle Ages the administration of the parish was shared between the manors of Sunbury, Kempton, Charlton, and Halliford. Sunbury manor claimed to have view of frankpledge and the assize of bread and ale in 1293. (fn. 1) In 1704 the lord of this manor was said to have 'leet and lawday' within the manor, (fn. 2) and courts continued to be held until 1906. (fn. 3) This manor claimed some kind of jurisdiction over the whole parish in the 18th and 19th centuries. (fn. 4) In 1704 the lord claimed the right to drive the common of Ashford, Charlton, Feltham, Halliford, Kempton, and Sunbury. (fn. 5)

Feltham seems to have been absorbed in Kempton manor by 1229, (fn. 6) and in Edward III's reign the Kempton view of frankpledge also covered La Hyde, in Laleham, and at least part of Halliford. (fn. 7) There were separate ale-tasters for Kempton, Feltham, and La Hyde in the 14th century, (fn. 8) and common fines were payable to the court for Kempton, Feltham, Halliford, and Sunbury in 1604. (fn. 9) In 1375 the whole homage chose three men from whom the lord appointed the reeve. (fn. 10) In 1694 Kempton and Feltham each had a reeve. (fn. 11) About 1680 the court baron and leet was generally held around Michaelmas. (fn. 12) During the later part of Henry VIII's reign Charlton manor held views of frankpledge. (fn. 13) Courts baron were held in the 19th century until 1889 but view of frankpledge was held only once, in 1850. (fn. 14) The manor of Halliford, which exercised view of frankpledge in Upper Halliford, is discussed elsewhere. (fn. 15) In 1702 Kempton manor appointed its own constable, (fn. 16) but in 1725 a constable for the whole parish was appointed at the Sunbury manor court. From 1734 to 1741 two constables were elected there each year, one for Charlton and Halliford and the other for Kempton and Sunbury. In 1844 Sunbury manor still appointed two constables but in 1856 the constable was to be appointed by a magistrate. (fn. 17) By this time the parish formed part of the Metropolitan Police District. (fn. 18)

The surviving vestry records date from 1652. (fn. 19) The number of vestry meetings held in a year varied but the meetings were almost always held in the vestry room with the vicar as chairman. The number attending the meetings usually varied between 5 and 15, and on special occasions it rose to 30, and in 1717 to 50. In the early 18th century those attending included members of prominent local families. Voting by proxy was allowed in 1859. At the end of the 17th century the vicar seems to have possessed a right of veto over the appointment of parish officers. In 1693 one of the surveyors of the highways was chosen for Kempton and Sunbury and the other for Charlton and Halliford. About 1834 it was usual to serve two years as an overseer of the poor and then one year as a churchwarden. (fn. 20) A parish beadle is mentioned in 1796, and a beadle's staff and bell are still preserved at the urban district council offices.

In 1652 the parish spent £8 12s. 3d. on poor relief, most of which was given in doles to a widow and an illegitimate child. In the early 18th century relief was given in clothes, cloth, and coals, (fn. 21) and in 1715 the herbage on the field tracks was reserved for the poor people's cows. (fn. 22) In 1716 the 'parish house' on the south side of the churchyard was in disrepair and was pulled down. (fn. 23) A new one, incorporating materials from the old building, was erected within a year on Sunbury Common near the windmill by Green Street, on a site given by the lord of Sunbury manor. It was used to accommodate poor families, and a regular workhouse was built nearby about 1765. (fn. 24) The cost of the building was met by selling the stock of Turner's charity. (fn. 25) From the 1770's some of the poor were provided with work, (fn. 26) and by 1792 their medical care was farmed for a lump sum. A soup shop was started in 1800, which was at least partly supported by voluntary subscriptions. Between 1813 and 1815 there were about 20 people in the workhouse and 47 people outside receiving regular relief. (fn. 27) The poor rates reached a maximum of £1,500 in 1817. (fn. 28) In 1822 a select vestry of 15 was set up and in the next seven years the poor rates dropped by a third. (fn. 29) By 1833 there were only 16 people in the workhouse but there were 59 receiving out-relief, the amount of which varied according to their reputation for industry. Five of them were labourers who were in work but had large families. The workhouse was farmed at 4s. a head, though it was reckoned to cost 5s. a head to maintain. No work was provided for the inmates except gardening or housework. (fn. 30) The parish became part of Staines union in 1836 and the workhouse was sold in 1841. (fn. 31)

The Urban District of Sunbury.

Parted fesswise gold and silver, a fess vert between the chief two shepherds' crooks croosed saltriwise and in base two bars wauy, all azure; and on the fess a mitre between two Saxon Crowns, all gold.(Granted 1948).

By 1795 the parish had a fire engine for which a keeper and assistant keeper were appointed. Before 1859 the beadle looked after it and from that year to 1879 the overseer was responsible. A volunteer brigade was proposed in 1879, and had been formed by 1895, when it was decided to hand the engine over to the newly formed urban district council. The vestry agreed to sell the old parish cage or round house in 1859. In 1860 a cemetery was opened by public subscription, (fn. 32) in 1873 a public meeting was held to discuss the management of the greens, and in 1874 committees were appointed for telegraphic communications and for lighting. In or before 1879 part of the parish was made a lighting district. Serious agitation for better drainage began in 1890, and in 1892 the vestry decided to press for urban status. (fn. 33) A parochial committee was formed in the same year under the Public Health Act, 1875. (fn. 34) At a local inquiry which was held in 1893 it was said that middle-class property in the parish was depreciating because of the Staines rural sanitary authority's apathy about drainage. The rural sanitary authority was not represented at the inquiry and there was no opposition to the proposed urban district, which was created in the following year. (fn. 35)

The council comprised 12 members until 1930, when it was increased to 17 on the addition of Shepperton and Littleton to the urban district. By 1957 it had been further increased to 20. (fn. 36) In 1931 all the councillors were independents (fn. 37) and since the Second World War the council has been predominantly Conservative. During the first few years the council met twice monthly but recently it has met thirteen times a year. (fn. 38) The first meeting, in January 1895, was held at the Institute. Thereafter the council met at the Assembly Rooms in Thames Street until it acquired the lease of Church Villa later in 1895. (fn. 39) By 1930 the building was too small and a temporary one was erected in the grounds. The house known as Benwell, which now contains the council offices, was purchased in 1932. Church Villa was bought by the council after 1929 and has since been used as a fire-station. (fn. 40) Since the Second World War additional office buildings have been put up in the grounds of Benwell. In 1895 one person was appointed surveyor and inspector of nuisances, a collector and medical officer were appointed, and the vestry clerk was made clerk to the council. (fn. 41) In 1957 there were five chief officers, including the joint post of public health inspector and chief housing officer, and there was an administrative staff of 48. (fn. 42) The council's own expenditure within the district rose from £7,152 in 1906-7 to £293,872 in 1956-7. In 1896 there were committees for finance, highways and lighting, by-laws, fire brigade, Church Green improvement, sanitary and general purposes, and drainage. The last comprised the whole council, (fn. 43) and a sewerage scheme absorbed much attention at first. (fn. 44) A new cemetery was provided in 1900. (fn. 45) By 1957 the council had built 1,570 houses and flats, of which 996 were in the old parish. (fn. 46)


  • 1. J.I. 1/544, m. 54.
  • 2. M.R.O., Acc. 598/Customs.
  • 3. M.R.O., Acc. 173/6; Acc. 598/Ct. Books.
  • 4. M.R.O., Acc. 598/Customs; L.R.R.O. 60/603.
  • 5. M.R.O., Acc. 598/Customs.
  • 6. See p. 55.
  • 7. S.C. 2/191/41-43; Cal. Inq. p.m. vii, p. 451.
  • 8. S.C. 2/191/41.
  • 9. L.R. 2/220, f. 107.
  • 10. S.C. 2/191/43, m. 15.
  • 11. M.R.O., Acc. 248/Ct. Bk.
  • 12. Ibid. /1b.
  • 13. S.C. 2/188/41.
  • 14. M.R.O., Acc. 175/1-3.
  • 15. See p. 9.
  • 16. Ibid. Acc. 248/Ct. Bk.
  • 17. M.R.O., Acc. 598/Ct. Bks.
  • 18. See Lond. Gaz. 1840, p. 2250.
  • 19. Except where otherwise stated, the following passage is based on Par. Rec., Vestry Min. Bks.
  • 20. Rep. Poor Law Com. App. B(2), H.C. 44, p. 179f (1834), xxxv.
  • 21. Par. Rec., bundle of assessments, &c.
  • 22. M.R.O., Acc. 598/Ct. Bk.
  • 23. A building at the SE. corner of the churchyard is called the almshouse in a painting of the old church (before 1751) which hangs in St. Mary's ch.
  • 24. M.R.O., Acc. 598/Reg. Bk. Teddington, &c.
  • 25. See pp. 65-66.
  • 26. Rep. Cttee. on Rets. by Overseers, 1776, H.C. ser. 1, ix. 397; ibid. 1787, ser. 1, ix. 628.
  • 27. Rets. on expense and maintenance of poor, H.C. 82, p. 264 (1818), xix.
  • 28. Ibid.; Rep. Cttee. on Poor Rates, 1819-22, H.C. 556, p. 100 (1822), v; ibid. H.C. 334, p. 133 (1825), iv; Acct. of money expended on poor, 1823-9, H.C. 83, p. 118 (1830- 1), xi; Rep. Poor Law Com. App. B(2), 179f.
  • 29. Acct. of money expended on poor, 1823-9, 118.
  • 30. Rep. Poor Law Com. App. B(2), 530a, 179g-h.
  • 31. M.R.O., Acc. 598/Reg. Bk. Teddington, &c. f. 463.
  • 32. Goddard, Hist. Acct. of Sunbury par. 16.
  • 33. M.R.O., Rep. of Local Enquiries, 555-63.
  • 34. Par. Rec., Par. Cttee. Min. Bk. and public notice.
  • 35. M.R.O., Rep of Local Enquiries, 555-63.
  • 36. Surrey Comet, 8 Mar. 1930, p. 3; Sunbury U.D. Guide (c. 1955), 11.
  • 37. Surrey Comet, 26 Mar. 1930, p. 8.
  • 38. Sunbury U.D.C. Min. Bks.; ex inf. U.D.C.
  • 39. Sunbury U.D.C. Min. Bk. i.
  • 40. J. S. Mathieson, '25 years at "Benwell" ', Ben Bull, xxv (1957), 7 (TS. jnl. of Sunbury branch of N.A.L.G.O.).
  • 41. Sunbury U.D.C. Min. Bk. i. 11, 13.
  • 42. Ex inf. Sunbury U.D.C.
  • 43. Sunbury U.D.C. Min. Bk. i. 251.
  • 44. Goddard, Hist. Acct. of Sunbury par. 17.
  • 45. Ibid. 16, 18.
  • 46. Ex inf. Sunbury U.D.C.