South Mimms: Local government

Pages 294-296

A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 5, Hendon, Kingsbury, Great Stanmore, Little Stanmore, Edmonton Enfield, Monken Hadley, South Mimms, Tottenham. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1976.

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In 1294 a jury upheld Roger Lewknor, lord of South Mimms, in his claim to exercise view of frankpledge, tumbrel, waif, judgement of robbers, the assizes of bread and ale, and free warren. The abbot of Walden also claimed view of frankpledge and the assizes of bread and ale in South Mimms but later withdrew his claim. (fn. 1) In 1345 Roger Lewknor exercised view of frankpledge on Thursday in Whitsun (fn. 2) and presumably similar courts were held between 1345 and 1451. Court rolls survive, with some gaps, from 1451 (fn. 3) and court books run from 1702 to 1913. (fn. 4) Until the early 17th century (fn. 5) a view of frankpledge, occasionally called a court leet, and a court baron were normally held on Thursday in Whitsun week. For most of the 17th century a view of frankpledge and a court baron were usually held in April, but sometimes an additional court baron was held in February, May, June, or July. Throughout the 18th century there was a view with a general court baron in April, and by the late 18th century normally at least one special court baron a year. After 1824 views lapsed and general courts baron were usually held several times a year. They met at Mimms Hall until 1875 and subsequently at the White Hart.

Aleconners are mentioned at the view of frankpledge held in 1345. A constable was elected in 1452, two constables were appointed in 1455, and three headboroughs in 1475. By 1610 the manorial officials consisted of two constables, four headboroughs, and two aleconners. From 1639 until 1777 two beastmarkers in Enfield Chase were elected annually. Constables, headboroughs, and aleconners continued to be appointed by the manorial courts until 1824. From the 17th century most of the courts' business related to land transactions, although attempts were also made to limit vagrancy by fining tenants who took in strangers.

No details survive about courts on the manors of Durhams and Old Fold. Copies of a few early 17thcentury proceedings and court books from 1727 to 1926 exist for the manor of Wyllyotts; (fn. 6) earlier rolls have been lost although an index from 1440 to 1757 survives, (fn. 7) as well as a custumal compiled c. 1700. (fn. 8) For most of the 18th century there was at least one court baron, in September. It usually met at the Cross Keys in the 18th century, and subsequently at the White Hart or White Horse. The bulk of the business at the court baron consisted of management of the commons and waste. (fn. 9)

The South Mimms manorial pound, recorded in 1598, (fn. 10) still stood near the Greyhound inn in 1864. (fn. 11) The Wyllyotts pound was situated at the Mutton Lane crossroads in 1594. (fn. 12) Instruments of punish ment were provided by the lord of South Mimms manor but in 1489 there was neither a gallows nor a cucking-stool, (fn. 13) and no pillory in 1501. (fn. 14)

Two churchwardens were mentioned in 1580. (fn. 15) The earliest surviving minute book of the parish dates only from 1727. (fn. 16) It covers eight years and is concerned solely with the parish workhouse. Vestry minute books survive from 1752, (fn. 17) with a gap between 1839 and 1846, and churchwardens' accounts from 1854. (fn. 18) The vestry minute book for 1752- 1806 (fn. 19) records only the two meetings held at Easter and September or December each year, at one of which the appointment of the manorial officials was approved and at the other churchwardens and overseers were elected. The vestry generally met on the first Wednesday in the month at the beginning of the 19th century, often seventeen or eighteen times a year between 1812 and 1834, and usually four or five times a year in the 1860s. Meetings were held at first in the Cross Keys, the Bull, the White Hart, and the Green Dragon. From 1804 they usually met in the church or in the vestry room at the workhouse. The vicar or assistant curate often took the chair but in their absence a leading landowner, such as George Byng, presided. Attendance fluctuated from about 7 or 8 in the late 18th century to 2 or 3 in 1808-10, and to 65 in March 1831. Meetings had to be adjourned in 1821 and 1823 as only parish officers were present. The vestry, apparently open, was dominated by the big landowners, although regular attenders included bricklayers, carpenters, and innkeepers. (fn. 20) Efforts were made to control the parish officers: in 1800 the overseer was ordered to justify his bill and the surveyor of the highways was to be summoned before two justices for having failed to account to the vestry.

The vicar and vestry each elected a churchwarden. From c. 1776 until c. 1843 it was usual for the people's warden to serve as vicar's warden in the following year. Some churchwardens held office for long periods: Henry Taylor served from 1840 until 1865 and Zachariah French from 1867 until 1903. In 1679 John Wells, high constable of Edmonton hundred, was chosen overseer of South Mimms but quarter sessions ordered his discharge, considering it impossible to perform both offices satisfactorily. (fn. 21) From 1724 there were usually two overseers, who, on relinquishing their posts, sometimes became churchwardens. Most overseers were gentlemen, although a few were tradesmen, and in the 19th century many held office for four or five years. Their accounts run from 1806 until 1828. (fn. 22) Surveyors of the highways were mentioned in 1752 (fn. 23) and their accounts date from 1833. (fn. 24) Two surveyors, often substantial landowners, were generally appointed each year but by 1770 the number had risen to ten. A salaried surveyor of the whole parish was appointed in 1793. In 1772 the parish was divided between Mimms Town, Kitts End, and Potters Bar for roadrepairing. Mimms Hall was added as a fourth division in 1783 but replaced by Dyrham Lane in 1793 and by Mimms Side, Barnet, in 1798. A highway rate of 4d. in the £ was levied by the vestry in 1799 and thereafter the rate fluctuated from 3d. to 6d. (fn. 25) The (fn. 26) constables' expenses were paid by the vestry in 1800, although it was not until 1826 that the vestry itself appointed either constables or headboroughs. It was decided in 1812 that a beadle should be chosen annually, paid, and clothed, and in 1802 a salary was voted to the vestry clerk. The church clerk was paid in 1805 and his duties combined with that of sexton in 1822.

The poor-rate, 4d. in 1675-6, (fn. 27) was levied twice a year by 1727. (fn. 28) In 1775-6 out of £392 raised £358 was spent on the poor. (fn. 29) Vagrancy was a special problem, for in 1730 it was said that the two great roads from London and the proximity of Enfield Chase were responsible for a large number of idle people from other parishes. (fn. 30) In 1714 the constable was given an allowance of £40 a year by the county authorities for passing vagrants. (fn. 31) Frequent petitions were made by the constables for vagrant money and were usually granted until 1740, (fn. 32) when the court allowed only 75 per cent of the amounts claimed for 1737-40. (fn. 33) During the 18th century (fn. 34) the vestry often paid paupers to move, as in 1727 when they gave 6s. to a sick man, thinking it 'proper to give him something to be rid of him'. The demand for outdoor relief increased at the end of the 18th century, and the vestry in 1799 decided to raise £450 by subscriptions in order to reduce the price of bread. In the following year wages were supplemented from the rates on a sliding scale. In 1807 the cost of outdoor relief was £31 but by 1813 it had risen to £329 and by 1817 43 persons received outdoor relief. Although numbers fell in the 1820s, distress was still apparent from the many fines for turnip-stealing. The parish continued to give occasional relief to discharged soldiers and seamen. From 1817 it employed the able-bodied poor on the roads but by 1825 single men were denied work on the roads and wages for married men fell. In 1832 the vestry considered providing further employment for the poor by renting a piece of land from Lord Salisbury.

In 1637 a house on the east side of Blackhorse Lane, standing in a block which comprised the rectory and Shenley poorhouse, had been bought by the parish with £85 given for the poor. The profits were either to be distributed twice a year to the most needy parishioners or to be used for apprenticing orphans or poor children. (fn. 35) In the later 18th century poor people were accommodated in a parish house at the obelisk, Hadley Side, (fn. 36) probably that later known as Silk Weavers' Hall, (fn. 37) and in another house at Dugdale Hill. (fn. 38) In 1724 it was decided to repair and use as a workhouse the property which had been bought in 1637. (fn. 39) Between 1727 and 1734 the trustees met occasionally at Kitts End, but more usually in the workhouse itself, where outbuildings were to be converted in 1729 in order to provide additional accommodation. In 1730 a widow was paid to teach the other inmates to spin and to 'keep them constantly to it' but in the following year the trustees found the wheels standing idle; accordingly smoking in the spinning-room was banned and, instead, tobacco was to be distributed monthly by the master. (fn. 40) In 1754 all persons in the workhouse were to be badged and in 1755 any troublesome inmate was to be confined to the village cage. (fn. 41)

In 1776 the workhouse was said to accommodate 55 persons, (fn. 42) and the average number rose from 32 in 1816 to 52 in 1817 and remained at c. 30 in the 1820s. (fn. 43) In 1801 the spinning-room had 22 jersey wheels and three linen-spinning wheels. (fn. 44) The poor were farmed out (fn. 45) for a fixed sum, £360 in 1778 (fn. 46) and £570 in 1801 but lower in 1814 than in 1778. The vestry had to investigate the conduct of the workhouse-master in 1728 and 1810, and dismissed the master for drunkenness in 1832. (fn. 47) In 1812 the vestry itself decided to assume responsibility for the indoor poor but a fortnight later it reverted to the old system. From 1814 the contractor also had to relieve the out-poor.

Vaccination against smallpox was given to the poor in 1768 and the children in the workhouse were vaccinated in 1775. (fn. 48) From 1801 a parish doctor was paid to attend the poor in South Mimms, Barnet, Hadley, and Ridge. The vestry complained of negligence in 1825 but he was re-appointed in 1830 after a contested election and his salary raised. In 1832 care of the poor was given to two doctors, one of whom was to visit the workhouse each month.

In 1626 a whipping-post and cucking-stool were to be erected at Kitts End. (fn. 49) A cage for prisoners, mentioned in 1755, stood by the church gate; a better site was sought in 1812 but the old cage remained until 1847. (fn. 50) In 1792 South Mimms joined the Barnet association, which was formed to prosecute theft and to which fifteen parishioners subscribed, (fn. 51) and in 1823 a bill was paid for watching the church 22 nights. (fn. 52) Stocks were erected in Potters Bar in 1801 but were broken down by the inhabitants. A reward was offered for information and in 1816 the vestry dealt with several persons who had caused a riot there. (fn. 53)

In 1835 the parish became part of the Barnet poor law union. The workhouse was sold in 1836 to the United Society of South Mimms and the inmates were transferred to the new workhouse at Barnet. (fn. 54)

The vestry did not confine itself to church affairs after 1835. It often discussed the water supply and in 1887 it complained about the increased police rate and questioned the necessity of having twentytwo policemen at Potters Bar. A sanitary inspector was appointed in 1859, at an annual salary, but was warned not to incur any extra expenses. In 1849 three inspectors were appointed under the Lighting and Watching Act of 1834 and in 1859 another one was appointed under the Nuisance Removal Act. The parish protested in 1879 against the proposed union of Friern Barnet and South Mimms as Barnet highway district, arguing that the roads were well maintained at moderate cost by the surveyors chosen in vestry. In 1886 the vestry complained that the expenditure of the rural sanitary authority was about the same as when the parish had been double its present size, population, and rateable value. (fn. 55)

In 1863 part of the parish known as Mimms, or Barnet, Side was transferred to Barnet local board, and in 1889 that area, together with 9 a. in the district of East Barnet Valley local board, became part of the administrative county of Hertford. The greater part of the parish was included in Barnet rural sanitary district in 1872 and in 1894 became South Mimms R.D. Under the Local Government Act of 1894 the part of the parish in Barnet U.D. became South Mimms U.D. and that part in East Barnet Valley U.D. was added to Monken Hadley. In 1896 a further 199 a. was transferred from South Mimms R.D. to South Mimms U.D., and from Middlesex to Hertfordshire. (fn. 56) In 1934 South Mimms R.D. became Potters Bar U.D. and was divided into the Potters Bar ward and South Mimms and Bentley Heath ward, returning six and three members respectively. In 1953 there were three wards, returning fifteen members, and by 1959 the number of wards had increased to five. (fn. 57) Oakmere House was used by the district education sub-committee and Wyllyotts Manor was bought by Potters Bar U.D.C. in 1937 to house the departments of the surveyor, treasurer, and public health inspector. (fn. 58) New council offices were subsequently built alongside the manor-house. In 1965 Potters Bar U.D. was transferred to the administrative county of Hertford and South Mimms U.D. became part of Barnet L.B. and was transferred from Hertfordshire to Greater London. (fn. 59) In 1974 Potters Bar was merged with other authorities to form the district council of Hertsmere.


  • 1. Plac. de Quo Warr. (Rec. Com.), 478-9.
  • 2. Hatfield C.F.E.P. (Ct. Roll) 14/27, f. 1.
  • 3. Ibid. ff. 2-12; 14/28, ff. 1-12; Ct. Rolls 19/10, 14,25, 28/20, 23/12, 23/13, 23/16, 27/13; Gen. 105/1, 2, 116/4, 7, 115/11, 120/2, 10, 136/1, 186/7, 32/6, 8, 9; Legal 24/2; Deeds 68/5; Accts. 106/17; B.M. Add. Ch. 8142; Stowe 847, 848; S.C. 2/227/82; Req. 2/286/72, /35/101.
  • 4. Hatfield C.F.E.P. (Ct. Bks.) i-vii.
  • 5. Except where otherwise stated the foll. paras. are based on ct. rolls and ct. bks: see above.
  • 6. Guildhall MS. 5454/1-9.
  • 7. Ibid. 5455.
  • 8. Ibid. 5456.
  • 9. Ibid. 5454/1-9.
  • 10. Hatfield C.F.E.P. (Gen.) 136/2.
  • 11. O.S. Map 6", Mdx. I. SW. (1864 edn.).
  • 12. M.R.O., F. 58/A.
  • 13. Hatfield C.F.E.P. (Ct. Roll) 14/28, f. 1.
  • 14. Ibid. f. 5v.
  • 15. Guildhall MS. 9537/4.
  • 16. M.R.O., D.R.O. 5/D4/1.
  • 17. Ibid. 5/C3/1; 5/C1/1-4. A fuller min. bk. from 1750 to 1778, now lost, was consulted by Brittain, South Mymms.
  • 18. M.R.O., D.R.O. 5/B1/1.
  • 19. The following paras. are based on the vestry min. bks. and churchwardens' accts.: see above.
  • 20. As listed in Pigot, Com. Dir. (1832-4).
  • 21. M.R.O., Cal. Mdx. Sess. Bks., 1679-82, 49.
  • 22. M.R.O., D.R.O. 5/D1/1; 5/D1/1, 2.
  • 23. Ibid. 5/C3/1.
  • 24. Ibid. 5/E2/1-17.
  • 25. Ibid. 5/C3/1; 5/C1/1-4.
  • 26. Except where stated the foll. two paras. are based on the vestry min. bks.
  • 27. M.R.O., Cal. Mdx. Sess. Bks., 1673-79, 40.
  • 28. In addition to the vestry min. bks. there is a parish receipt and payment bk., 1840-51: M.R.O., D.R.O. 5/D1/3.
  • 29. Rep. Cttee. on Rets. by Overseers, 1776, 396, 627.
  • 30. M.R.O., D.R.O. 5/D4/1.
  • 31. M.R.O., Cal. Mdx. Sess. Bks., 1710-14, 45.
  • 32. Ibid. 1739-41, 47-49.
  • 33. M.R.O., MJ/OC iv, ff. 186-186v.
  • 34. The rest of the para. is based on M.R.O., D.R.O. 5/D4/1; 5/C3/1; 5/C1/1-3; 5/D4/2 (reg. of poor in workhouse and out-pensioners, 1816-27); Brittain, South Mymms, 77.
  • 35. M.R.O., D.R.O. 5/F1/1.
  • 36. Brittain, South Mymms, 59.
  • 37. Silk Weavers' Hall, or Bastick's Lot, is shown near the obelisk: M.R.O., F. 84/6b; see p. 278.
  • 38. Brittain, South Mymms, 59-60.
  • 39. M.R.O., D.R.O. 5/C2/2.
  • 40. Ibid. 5/D4/1.
  • 41. Brittain, South Mymms, 58.
  • 42. Rep. Cttee. on Rets. by Overseers, 1776, 396.
  • 43. M.R.O., D.R.O. 5/D4/2.
  • 44. Ibid. 5/C1/1.
  • 45. Except where stated, the foll. two paras. are based on vestry min. bks.
  • 46. Brittain, South Mymms, 70.
  • 47. Ibid. 92-3.
  • 48. Ibid. 49.
  • 49. Mdx. Sess. Recs. iii. 6-7.
  • 50. Brittain, South Mymms, 58, 59; M.R.O., D.R.O. 5/C1/1-4.
  • 51. Mdx. and Herts. N. and Q. iv. 32-5.
  • 52. Brittain, South Mymms, 78.
  • 53. M.R.O., D.R.O. 5/C1/1-2.
  • 54. Ibid. 5/C1/3; Story of Potters Bar, 106-7; 1st Rep. Poor Law Com. H.C. 500, App. D, p. 250 (1835), xxxv.
  • 55. M.R.O., D.R.O. 5/C1/3-4; 3 & 4 Wm. IV, c. 90.
  • 56. M.R.O., Reps. of Local Inqs. 1889-97, 17, 24, 29; Story of Potters Bar, 110; Brittain, South Mymms, 116.
  • 57. Potters Bar, Official Guide [1972].
  • 58. Story of Potters Bar, 103.
  • 59. Lond. Govt. Act, 1963, c. 33.