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Tale of Crich
A History of Our Parish
by Geoffrey Dawes
Chapter 3 - Village Government
Before the death of Alfred the Great in 889 A.D. it was established that the responsibility for keeping "The King's Peace" [3.1a] - the legal name for the normal state of society - fell upon the people each in each locality.
The vill - which consisted of a village or an adjacent collection of settlements - was the smallest unit of social government and one of the important functions it acquired was the 'policing' of the district. The problem was to discover and punish those evil doers whose actions disturbed the local society. The solution adopted was to require every male person, unless excused through high social position or property, to be enrolled in a group of about 10 families - known as a tything - headed by a tythingman.
If any member of the group committed a crime the group could be fined or called on to make compensation if they could not produce him for trial. There was also an obligation on all members of the tything to join in pursuit of a felon who avoided or escaped arrest.
Groups of tything's were formed into a hundred (or wapentake), the head man of which was no as the hundred man, or reeve, and he exercised administrative and judicial powers through our 'hundred court'. This was under the supervision of the shire-reeve, or sheriff - who had the general responsibility, under the King for preserving the peace of the shire.
Canute, who in 1016 became King of what became the 'Danish Empire' in Britain, ordained that enrolment in a tything was compulsory: "And we will that every freeman be brought into a hundred and into a tything - as soon as he is 12 years old".
Before the Norman conquest in 1066, the local community in Crich was under the control of Leofric and Leonoth who were, it is thought, kin of Godwin the Saxon Earl of Wessex who died in 1053. Between them they held 32 manors between Dinting in Longendale and the Trent. They were taxable on 4 bovates of land.
[3.1a] A recent definition of the "King's Peace" was given by Newsam in 1954 - as follows: "the maintenance of condition's under which the normal functions of civilised government can be carried on, where obedience to the law is adequately secured and the people are free to pursue their lawful ends without threat of interference. (Return to text)
3.2 After the Conquest
The Normans, the conquerors, hated and feared by the English, took over the tything system for maintaining peace but also introduced a system called 'frankpledge'. This imposed a charge for bail on a tything, fixed for individuals - not after their arrest for some crime, but as a safeguard in anticipation of it. It was a means of holding the natives in repression. The system was supervised by Sheriffs, who were Royal Officers and who held a special court, which sat twice a year to make sure that all who ought to be enrolled in a tything and pledged good behaviour were in fact coverered by the frankpledge.
Originally members of a tything only had to produce one of their number, when demanded as a 'hostage' by the authorities, but additionally the Assize of Clarendon of 1166 required villagers to report to the Sheriff's court of scrutiny - or 'tourn' - any suspicions they might harbour about one another, together with anything affecting the affairs of the vill. These 'presentments' were made by the tythingman to a jury of twelve free men of the hundred, who forwarded serious accusations to the Sheriff. Information was not only demanded about felons but also about any suspicious characters "such as sleep by day and watch by night, and eat and drink well, and have nothing."
The system of 'bail-in-case-of-crime' and of informers was exploited by the Normans to keep the 'natives under submissive control. As with so many conquerors (and not only in the military field) the Normans masked their nervousness by barbarity: - many activities of the royal sheriff's tourn prompted revulsion. Men were deprived of their property and then killed - by 'legal' execution. Many were mutilated - having eyes gouged out, either for minor offences or even the patently innocent in the eyes of their peers.
Eventually as a result of intermarriage between Anglo-Saxons and Normans, and in reaction to the excesses of the unpopular tourns, the 'royal' courts of the hundred were superseded by manorial courts - or courts leet - and there was a reversion to the Anglo-Saxon principle of locally determined law-enforcement, when the freeman of the vill, sitting in the court-leet, decided on guilt and whether or not the case should be referred to a superior court.
Immediately after the Conquest the Sheriffs were direct royal appointments, but as the Sheriff's tourn was deprived of its jurisdiction a new type of Sheriff, elected by all the principal inhabitants of the County, was given power. [3.3a]
Formally the Sheriff was entrusted with all the business of the Sovereign in the Shire (at one time Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire were, together, under the same Sheriff - at Nottingham). The 'executive' government of the County was rested in the Sheriff [3.3b]; the Royal Warrant entrusted him with "the custody of the County." Specifically he
- was the chief conservator of peace in the Shire
- executed the sentences and processes of the sovereign's court - both 'criminal' and 'civil',
- was the principal executive officer (at a later date) of the elections to the King's Parliament.
Eventually, he was assisted by a Lord Lieutenant, who was head of the local military forces in the County, but even so, the Sheriff could, even until the 19th century, summon the whole force of the County - a summons which each and every able-bodied commoner was required to obey under penalty of fine or punishment.
The Sheriff's Court - presided over by the local Sheriff - who was often the local Earl - was the main place in which all official business in the County was co-ordinated and through which royal writs were executed. Subordinate to it were the hundred (or wapentake) courts and the monthly meetings of these courts heard cases concerning breaches of the peace, levied taxation and transacted business brought to them by private citizens. The manorial courts brought the more serious cases to the hundred court for consideration and were responsible for promulgating - at the level of the village - the requirements of superior legislation.
[3.3b] In 1361 Roger Beler of Crich was Sheriff for two years, and in 1369 was appointed for another four years. In 1442 John Pole of Wakebridge was also appointed Sheriff of the County. (Return to text)
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3.4 Manorial Courts
At the time of the Domesday Survey, the tenant-in-chief at Crich was Ralph FitzHubert. He and his successors, who eventually became known as the Lords of the Manor, did not actually 'own' the land, in that they could do with it and its produce as they liked: but they were in control of it and were entitled to certain dues from its occupants. Ralph held his land on behalf of the Crown and was responsible immediately to the Sheriff of the County. In exchange for his possession of the estate he was required by the king to provide, on request, the services of an agreed number of 'knights' for military service. These armed serving men were kept, by the Lord of the Manor, about his hall. In 1166 the Crich Manor was held to be of equal value to 30 knight's fees.
Usually when a knight's position became permanent he was given a parcel of land to provide him with an income. His 'farm' would be occupied by serfs, who were required to work it for him. Other people on the manor would include freemen - who were quite independent and could even choose under whose lordship, and on which manor they would live. There were tenants of sokeland (sokemen) who were comparatively independent farmers (though they may have kept well in with the Lord of the Manor by giving him presents): however, although not required to labour on the Lord's demesne (or home farm) they were 'bound' to the land and were under the control of the Lord's manorial court - where they were required to serve, and where they went for justice. In the 11th century there were, in Crich, three parcels of 'sokeland'. The majority of the Crich villagers (ten plus two small holders) would be villeins or lower orders of peasant and serf. Such were required to provide labour-service to the Lord of the Manor.
As time went by, the elements of personal service - of the Lord of the Manor to the King; of knights, sokemen, villeins and subordinate classes to the Lord of the Manor - were replaced by money dues of one kind or another. The feudal land-holder paid a money 'fine' (called a scutage) to the Crown in lieu of personal service to the King, and Knight's fees were paid for release from the requirement to provide fighting men for the King. The Knight's, no longer on direct call for military service, would pay rent for their land to the Lord of the Manor, and through him to the King. Within the manor the sokemen were usually subject to a charge on their farm (a 'feorm') or annual food rent, also due to the King. Such were early forms of 'national taxation'.
By the 12th Century even villeins were paying 'rent' to the local Lord rather than labouring for him. By the end of the 13th Century Lords everywhere were receiving more from tenants by way of rents - in money or in kind - than by way of service. In nearby Yorkshire perhaps no more than 10 percent of dues to local landlords were in the form of actual personal service. In Crich, the proportion would probably be similar.
The local government of a parish or manor such as Crich was carried out through the local Lord's court, the court-leet or manorial court. National levies, for instance, the tribute known as 'custom' - in origin a food rent - at the time of Domesday were normally paid in coin and were handled through the manorial court. In 1086 Ralph FitzHubert's dues for Crich [3.4a] were assessed at 30s 0d. Such courts dealing with the affairs of the local community - or vill - had the right from the Crown not only of collecting 'dues' (or taxes) but also receiving fines for misbehaviour.
One of the benefits the local Lord derived from the Manorial Court was that the 'profits' arising from 'fines' on villagers went to him. Under the Normans there were fewer freemen than there had been in Anglo-Saxon times and the contests in court were usually between the Lord of the Manor - or his agents - and peasants and surfs under his control. The types of 'civil' case disputed in manorial courts and such as resulted in fines on villeins were for:
Not grinding corn at the Lord's mill
Diverting a water course
Paying rent in bad money
Delay in doing their service on the Lord's home farm or hall
Letting a daughter trespass
in the corn
In some cases, records are available for fines exacted. Two examples are:
6s 0d for not going to was the Lord's sheep
40s 0d for damage and 20s 0d
for dishonour for unlawfully striking
a certain Hugh de Stanbridge and dragging him by the hair out of
his own proper house. (This fine was imposed on the wife of a local
notable's son - and her accomplice).
A minor note of interest showing the range of the Manorial Courts is the payment to the Court (ie., to the Lord of the Manor) by one Walter Hulle of 13s 4d (a mark) for a licence "to dwell off the manor so long as he shall live."
When the manorial courts took over, from the Sheriff's tourn, the responsibility for keeping the King's Peace locally, they also assumed responsibility for electing, annually, the officers who were to serve their turn in assisting the Lord of the Manor to regulate the affairs of the community.
The senior of these officers was the constable - an office dignified by
that title in a statute of 1252 - others included the ale taster, the bread weigher and
the swine ringer.
[3.4a] In 1086 Crich was under the jurisdiction of the Morleyston Wapentake - later combined with Litchurch to form the Morleyston and Litchurch Hundred. A wapentake is a division of a Shire with its own court: equivalent to a Hundred in other parts of the country. (Return to text)
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3.5 The Constables
The Statute of Winchester of 1285 had, as its objective: "to abate the power of felons", and it established the principle that it was the duty of everyone to maintain the King's Peace, and made it open to any citizen to arrest an offender. It was the principle regulation covering the policing of the country between the Norman Conquest and the Metropolitan Police Act of 1829. Unpaid, part-time, constables had the special duty to arrest offenders and present them for judgement to the local court. Although somewhat later, the village constable was put under the more direct control of the Justices of the Peace, his immediate supervisor was the Chief Constable of the Hundred. The village - or petty - constables were required to execute 'warrants' with which they had been charged by the Chief Constable, and they had a number of 'standing responsibilities' including:
organisation of the village 'watch and ward': All able-bodied men
of the village were put on a roster for regular service to provide
for a due watch being kept in the village between sunset and sunrise.
The one acting for the constable on such occasions had the full legal
powers of the constable, such as arresting till morning. The constable
was in charge of the village lock-up - where there was one - used to
retain a prisoner after arrest. (The Rating Survey of Crich of 1839
records that the Parish was then required to pay rates on the Village
Prison [3.5a] - which was a small building of stone, at the northern
end of the block in which the Parish Room is to be found)
starting a 'hue and cry'. This was a way of dealing with alleged offenders
who resisted arrest by the constable or one of his watchmen, and who
escaped. The fugitive was to be pursued by the whole population. Work
had to be laid aside and anyone failing to respond to the call was regarded
as siding with the fugitive and was himself restrained - if necessary by a
further 'chase'. (The progenitor of the Wild West 'posse'!)
the state of the parish stocks.
the presentation, eventually to Quarter Sessions, of lists of freeholders who
could be called to give jury service to the Justices.
the summoning of jurors within their parish.
In the early days after the Statute of Winchester was promulgated each male in the community between the ages of 15 and 60 was required to keep in his house "harness to keep the peace". Men of superior rank had to have "a hauberke and helm of iron, a sword, a knife and a horse": poor people were to have bows and arrows available.
In each hundred 2 high constables were appointed by the hundred court to make a six-monthly inspection of arms, so that if called on, the citizens were equipped to take part in a hue and cry.
An oath used to swear-in a constable has been preserved on record. It requires the office holder to keep the King's Peace, and within the law, to "arrest all those who shall make any contest, riot, debate or affray in breaking said peace and bring them to the house of one of the Sheriffs and if you shall be withstood by strength of such misdoers, you shall raise upon them hue and cry, and shall follow them from street, and from ward to ward until they be arrested. And you also shall search at all times when you shall be required for the common nuisances of the ward until they be arrested".
Although originally subordinate to the court-leet which appointed him, the constable eventually became the 'Justices man', even though he still remained the agent of the manor or parish. Like other officers, he was unpaid - though he could claim certain customary fees and expenses. Often the office of village constable was filled in rotation by occupiers of premises listed in a certain order and sometimes in rural areas it depended on the tenure of certain land - depending on the local traditional customs. Refusal to accept office was punishable by a fine.
The constable's symbol of authority was his staff or baton (there was no 'uniform') which he could hang outside his cottage door and which, if necessary he could use as a defensive weapon.
In Tudor times it became the custom for the constable to ask a Justice to grant 'hue and cry' before instituting pursuit of a fugitive - the document then issued has been known since the 18th Century as a 'warrant'.
In later years private and public complaints on a whole range of issues were brought to court by the village constable: criminal offences, public nuisances, and offences against the community. Four times in his year of office the constable would have to make his way to attend Quarter Sessions, and much of his unpaid work was concerned with the 'presentments' - when he was again acting as the representative of the parish.
Two early appointments in Crich were of William Gresley in 1562 who was elected 'Petty Constable' and of William Bowler in the 1630's. It was William Bowler who, in 1634, presented six Crich Parishioners:
Robert Ibberson and Elizabeth his wife
Margery Smith - wife of George Smith
to the Quarter Sessions - "in that they and every one of them have been absent from their Parish Church of Crich three Sabbath days last past". Some other offences presented by the constables to Quarter Sessions were:
Selling ale without a license
Keeping a disorderly house
"Keeping Mans sones and
servants in his house at inconvenient times, in the night,
he beinge an alekeeper"
Denying to sell any ale without her house
"Unlawful gaminge on the Sabbath Day" (1634)
Making and baking of bread on the Sabbath day (1666)
Lodging rogues and beggars
Not serving time of apprenticeship
Neglecting watch and ward
Refusing to help mend highways when commanded by the constable
Keeping greyhounds and guns without license
Hawking or droving without license
Not taking oaths of fidelity (1698)
Assault and Battery
Obstruction and nuisance on the highway
Not repairing the market place
Not repairing the stocks
Befouling a common well
Breaking the pound
Working at a trade without having served an apprenticeship
"Tracing of hares in the snow" (1668)
"Turning a scabed mare
on the common whereby other men's goods are
in danger of being affected"
This list gives an impression of the degree of regulation existing in the 17th Century. The constable, as well as presenting alleged offences against the person and against property for consideration by the Justices, had oversight of activities nowadays the concern of numerous government departments (most with local representatives) - agriculture, the environment, employment, trading, transport and civil responsibilities [3.5b].
The lot of the village constable was by no means enviable, particularly because he was supposed to act as public accuser of the Parish should there be any failure to satisfy the requirements of the law. He held the responsibility to disclose and bring to punishment every breach of the laws by which the village was bound, and if there was any failure in this it rendered the villagers vulnerable to a collective fine payable to the crown, as well as a compensation payment to the injured party. Further, the constable himself could be 'presented' to court by the Chief Constable of the hundred for negligence, and from time to time the Chief Constable himself would be urged by the Justices to 'stimulate' the petty constables into greater activity.
In these circumstances, when it became the turn of wealthier members of the community to act as village constable, there was a tendency for them to pay a deputy to carry out the duties for them. It was easy if you had money to pay somebody else to do the unpleasant work and to incur the risk of being presented to court for inadequate or negligent performance. From about the end of the 16th Century this practice increased and the deputies paid by the wealthier tradesmen and farmers themselves began to pay deputies to act in their place. As a result in some places the office came to be filled by those who could find no other form of employment and so served more or less permanently as parish constable from year to year on a menial wage and the office sank lower and lower in public esteem, especially in the towns. By the time that George I was on the throne no man who could afford to pay his way out of serving as constable (certainly in the towns) neglected to do so. In 1714 Daniel Defoe said "the imposition of the office of constable is an unsupportable hardship and takes up so much of a man's time that his own affairs are frequently neglected, too often to his ruin". Defoe himself paid £ 10 in 1721 (about six months wages for a labourer, "to be excused from serving parish offices" in Stoke Newington.
As the pace of industrial life grew in the 18th Century, and especially in the towns, the old principles of community service broke down. After perhaps 12 hours hard toil in a factory - or operating a framework knitting machine at home, men simply could not serve twice a year in the court leet to appoint a constable or serve in rotation as night watchman - never mind about calls for hue and cry after a fugitive offender. There was simply no-one to keep order, mend or pave the streets or light them - or even to clear away the accumulating filth and refuse. The former collective effort monitored by the parish constable simply broke down.
There was an influential school of thought in the 17th and 18th Centuries described by Critchley, "which insisted on drawing a distinction between the dissolute ways of the wealthy - which harmed no-one but themselves - and those of the poor, which if persisted in deprived the nation of the produce of their toil and, shall, therefore be penalised". This philosophy, developed at a time when collective responsibility for the common well-being was waning, persisted and the poor suffered.
The wealthier, as crime increased in association with the more evil aspects of the Industrial Revolution, banded together to protect themselves by forming voluntary societies to provide funds for the capture and prosecution of felons. One such was the 'Association for the Prosecution of Felons', based on South Wingfield, in which Joseph Bowmer, Thomas Travis and Sam Turton (all of Crich) took an active part.
Nevertheless, in rural areas such as Crich, even after the Industrial Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, there was still some dependence on the court leet; for instance, in Crich the court leet acted as the agency for maintaining the Crich Mining Laws.
The local Lord's of the Manor and the local Justices of the Peace were still in control of the parish constable, and there was no superior organisation for policing the local community. The situation was most unsatisfactory and change was inevitable.
The first radical change took place in 1827 when an Act abolished all obligation of high or petty constables to make presentments of "popish recusants, persons not attending church, rogues and vagabonds, profane swearers, servants out of place, false weights and measures, highways and bridges out of repair, riots and unlawful assemblies, and whether the poor are well provided for and the constable legally chosen". Thus the duties of the village constable were restricted more towards what today we would regard as the proper duties of the police.
Even so, in 1828, Robert Peel, the Home Secretary, who had initiated a country-wide reform of police, was impelled to remark, when addressing those who lived in country districts: "Why, I ask, should we entrust a grocer, or any other tradesman, however respectable, with the direction and management of a police for 5000 or 6000 inhabitants? Why should such a person, unpaid and unrewarded, be taken from his usual avocations and called upon to perform the laborious duties of a night constable?"
The upshot was the passing into law of the County Police Act of 1839. Although this allowed Justices in the Counties to establish Police Forces if they thought it necessary, and the Derbyshire Justices were in favour of doing so, the 'powerful' members of the population of the County were against the idea on the grounds of cost: it would have cost a penny rate! A compromise was adopted. The Parish Constable was retained and the paid office of Superintendent Constable was introduced. These men were charged with overseeing and assisting the Parish Constable, and they usually lived at the lock-up (like the one on Crich Market Place - at the time of writing a butcher's shop). The Superintendent Constable had to provide his own uniform coat, and this had to meet with the magistrate's approval: but he was supplied with the official buttons!
Over the whole County, eleven Superintendent Constables were appointed
in 1854 and they were each paid £ 140 a year. They were however, soon overtaken by the
establishment of the Derbyshire Constabulary in March 1857. From then on the old, elected
Village Constable disappeared from the local scene. He has, in effect, been replaced in
the 20th Century by the elected Chairman of the Parish Council, who is
responsible to the village for such local functions as are now delegated to 'village
[3.5a] The Village Pound, where stray animals were restrained under the control of the Constable was also itemised in the 1839 rating Survey. It was opposite and to the south of the Church, where there is, today, a house called 'Penfold' - the local name of the pound. In it there is a strongly built room with no windows which, it is believed, was used as a lock-up by village constables. (Return to text)
[3.5b] Even with expert help the author has been unable to discover the names of any Crich 'Petty Constables' - or of information about their presentments - later than those listed by Cox - (Gresley and Bowler). Sydney and Beatrice Webb in their classic studies of local government in the United Kingdom noted that the presentments made by the petty constables to Quarter Sessions were usually 'scrawled' on scraps of paper of all shapes and sizes and often in virtually illegible condition. It has been suggested that at the time Cox and his assistants were preparing material for Bibliographical Reference. Most of the presentments to the Quarter Sessions at Derby, Chesterfield, Chesterfield and Bakewell were separated from other official records, and are now lost. (Return to text)
3.6 The Justices
In the 20th Century, as they have always done, J.P.'s deal with a large number of serious indictable offences (burglary, robbery, offences 'against the person', paternity cases and so on) as well as coping with a plethora of minor offences against the law of the land.
However - over a very long time, for some 500 years, they were not the only authority under whom the village and the hundred constables sought to keep the King's Peace, but, like them, over most of that time, they had many other 'administrative' functions at the local level.
The forbears of the 'Justices' were particular Knights, commissioned in 1195 by Richard I to take, from everyone over the age of 16, security to keep the peace. In the next century they became known as 'custodes pacis' - custodians of the King's Peace. The first law recognising their existence was an act of 1327, which provided that: "in every county there shall be assigned a good and lawful man to keep the peace". Then, in an Act of 1361, the custodians of the peace were formally recognised as Justices and given a mixture of 'police', judicial and administrative duties. They were appointed by the Crown and they became the natural supervisors of the local constables who had been established following the Statute of Winchester, some 75 years earlier. Usually the Justice of the Peace was the local Lord of the Manor, and at first he or his steward would preside over the village Court Leet. In Crich Parish, Sir William de Wakebridge was one of the first J.P.'s.
In many places, probably too in Crich, the manorial court (or Court Leet) and later, in feudal England, the courts of justice led by the local J.P.'s were held in the Parish Church. The parish was originally an ecclesiastical community, controlled by its vestry: but by the beginning of the reign of Henry VIII it had begun to acquire civil functions and in late Tudor times it had become, in rural districts at least, the important unit of local administration. Many of the functions of the constables came under its control. Eventually the constable was appointed by the Court Leet (and sometimes later by Quarter Sessions) on the nomination of the vestry, and the activities of the parish - hitherto mainly the responsibility of the constable - were linked up through him and put under the organised rule of the J.P.'s. In this way the advent of the J.P.'s downgraded the importance of the constable's office but even so - for centuries they were, together, not only the upholders of the principles of the Statute of Winchester in preserving the King's Peace but also the core of local government based on the parish.
In medieval times only 6 and later 8 J.P.'s were paid in each County (through the Sheriff) to hold Sessions in every Quarter of the year at least. The Justices were mostly resident within the County for which they acted. Other Justices were unpaid and no duke, earl, baron, or baronet was allowed to take one of the paid appointments. After Elizabeth some Privy Council members were made J.P.'s in counties where they had no property. Since the establishment of the office of Lord Lieutenant it has been usual for J.P's to be put on the 'Commission of the Peace' by the Crown on the recommendation of the Lord Lieutenant [3.6a].
As already indicated the Justices of the Peace used the Constables as their executive agents. During the 15th and 16th centuries the Village Constable was still the principal amongst the annually elected (and unpaid) officers of the parish: others were the churchwarden, the surveyor of highways and the overseer of the poor. The Justices, of course, also controlled the functions covered by the surveyors and overseers, and together they could initiate county rates to pay for the services provided to the village community. In these administrative activities the J.P.'s made particular use of the Chief (or High) Constables of the Hundred. Early on, when an 'offence' by a village community was presented to the Sessions (for example a failure to repair a bridge or a road) the result of the 'trial' was commonly to fine the parish collectively. It was the job of the Hundred Constable to see that the money was paid over. From then it was only a small step to introduce community rating to pay for essential public works and by the late 18th century when the inadequacy of local government to cope with the problems of new roads and houses and expanding farms was blatant, and the imposition of rates was extended to meet the new roads, the Hundred Constable was given new duties as a general factotum of the Justices. He undertook the task of inspecting weights and measures and roads and bridges, and he spent much time as a collector of the county rates.
The Justices and the constables working with the churchwarden and other
parish officers to carry out the functions of local government operated until well in the
19th century - after the manorial courts and the courts-leet were, by and
large, a thing of the past. Thus in 1818 the Sturgess Bourne's Act recognised and
re-declared the old common custom of notice being given in the Church of the date, time
and place of "Parish Meetings" - the more modern equivalent of the old
freeholders' courts that were usually held in the church (see above). In Victorian times
this Act was rescinded but certainly until the 1970's the Clerk of Crich Parish Council
posted notices calling Parish Meetings on the Church Notice Boards - an act which, in one
form or another, had been carried on for perhaps 600 or 700 years.
3.7 Wage Control
Until the time of the Black Death (1348-1349) each Manor tendered to be governed by its own custom within the framework laid down by such acts as the Statute of Winchester and under the supervision of the county Sheriff reporting to the King and to his Parliament. After the Black Death Parliamentary laws were passed controlling wages (which, because of the shortage of labour, had risen sharply) and society changed from one based on local customs of personal service to one where money was the control on service and goods. It was then that special Justices were appointed, like William de Wakebridge, by the Crown to govern the neighbourhood in the King's name and it constituted the first step away from local government by those who had inherited feudal manorial rights to a wider franchise.
The particular measure was the Statute of Labourers of 1349 and it fixed a day wage of 2d for a labourer - and allowed him 3d a day in harvest, for instance. The fixed levels for wages over many occupations held for a time but, in 1389-90 Parliament abandoned the attempt to keep wages down and instructed the Justices of the Peace to regulate them locally "according to the dearth of victuals" (an early attempt to tie incomes to the cost of living!). By 1420 an unskilled labourer could earn 3d a day, the normal skilled wage being 4d or 5d. By 1445 Parliament had again reverted to the policy of a maximum wage. Under Elizabeth I the national control of wages and prices by the J.P.'s was more wisely carried on, without attempting to impose everywhere a fixed maximum wage. Nevertheless, the J.P.'s decision on wages at Speenhamland in 1795 brought great difficulties in its wake and adverse national consequences - as will be seen.
As early as 1066 the Manorial Court in each soke had handled not only misdemeanours, dues to the King and to the local Lord of the Manor - but also the tithes belonging to the local church. A portion of these went to the Lord. The tithe, literally a tenth part of the agricultural produce, was conceived as due to God and hence payable for the support of the priesthood and of religious establishments. Their payment - in various forms - by villagers was a continuing source of friction until the 20th Century; they were formally abandoned only in 1936.
An early mention of tithes in Crich is the endowment of the vicarage (when Alexander Staverley was Bishop: 1224-1240) with "the tithes of lambs and wool and the usual oblations". In 1278 the then vicar of Crich - William de Draycote - entered into an agreement with the Abbot of Darley Abbey both about those tithes and also about others on the lands and tenements formerly owned by Peter de Wakebridge. These had been granted to Bricius, the first Vicar of Crich (with the agreement of the Abbey of Darley) together with 40s 0d of rent to be paid annually by the Abbey. By 1550 the endowment of the vicarage included Easter offerings, oblations, tithes of hay, lambs, wool, pigs, geese, flax and hemp as well as the annual pension from Wakebridge in lieu of tithes from that Manor. There were two tithe barns in the parish. The northerly one was on Hindersitch Lane, the other on the site of the house now known as 'The Barn' on Chadwick Nick Lane.
Another charge on the villagers, which originated not later than the 14th century was the levy of a parish rate for the maintenance or repair of the church. These ecclesiastical dues, together with those due to the Crown and to the Manor (quite apart from the rents for land paid in substitution for labour) were, for many centuries, the base for charges on the local population to cover local and governmental expenditure.
3.9 The Relief of the Poor
The main purpose of 'local government' expenditure was the relief of poverty and care for the destitute and aged. For centuries before 1500 there was, in effect, a 'dower house' system for caring for the old. An aged villein could surrender his holding to his son - perhaps retaining a small cottage or a couple of rooms in the farm, and a few acres, in which he could live out his days. As everywhere, until recent times, the able-bodied housed and supported the aged of their families. The sick, the poor and the destitute looked for help from the arms of the Church. It was not always adequate and it was not always forthcoming. Well before the Reformation of the church by Henry VIII the behaviour, particularly of the well-to-do senior clergy, sustained by the regular payment of tithe, was a cause of bitterness towards the Church. Although a rancorous document the mood was well expressed in a pamphlet by Simon Fish called "The Supplication of the Beggars". This was addressed to Henry VIII. It included:
" .In the times of your noble predecessor's past, craftily crept into this your realm another sort, not of impotent but of strong, puisant and counterfeit, holy and idle beggars and vagabonds the Bishops, Abbots, Priors, Deacons, Archdeacons, Suffragens, Priests, Monks, Canons, Friars, Pardoners and Sommoners. And who is able to number this idle, ruinous sort which - setting all labour aside - have begged so importunately that they have gotten into their hands more than the third part of all your Realm? The goodliest lordships, manors, lands and territories are theirs. Besides this they have the tenth part of all corn, meadow, pasture, grass, wool, colts, calves, lambs, pigs, geese and chickens. Yea and they look so narrowly upon their profits that the poor wives must be accountable to them of every tenth egg, or else she getteth not her rights at Easter, shall be taken as a heretic . How much money get the Sommoners by extortion in a year by citing the people to the Commissaries Court and afterwards releasing their appearance for money? Who is she that will set her hands to work to get 3d a day and may have at least 20d a day to sleep an hour with a friar, a monk or a priest".
After the Reformation, Henry - as new Head of the Church of England - decided to overhaul the system of providing relief for the "unfortunate, innocent poor". Earlier legislation had threatened violent beggars with the stocks and flogging "until their bodies should be bloody". In 1517 London had started licensing beggars but the real change came in 1535 - the year of the suppression of 376 lesser monasteries. Parliament enacted that all governors of shires, cities, hundreds, hamlets and parishes should make provision for the poor by receiving charitable alms - so that no person should openly go a-begging. Anyone making an open 'dole' or giving money in alms otherwise than to the poor boxes in each parish were to forfeit ten times the value. This statute took the task of relieving the poor from the church and gave it to the 'civil' power under the control of the local J.P.'s. The response, however, was inadequate to meet the need and when the Justices were told to persuade their neighbours to contribute voluntarily they too were ineffective. So - in 1563 - the local J.P.'s were empowered to assess their neighbours and to imprison those who did not pay what had become a plain, legal, 'poor rate'. If a parish had more destitute poor than it was able to maintain, the Justices were empowered to license them to beg in the hundreds of their county.
An Act of 1572 provided a definition of the 'vagabond' class and ordained punishment for vagrancy (A vagabond over 18 years of age found guilty of a third act of vagrancy could be punished with death - without benefit of clergy). The same Act also took a positive step to help the deserving poor. A compulsory Poor Rate binding on all parishes was declared - with an assessment to be made on each parishioner. This Act also allowed the unpaid and overworked Justices to appoint, year by year, unpaid Parish Overseers of the Poor to carry out those local assessments.
In 1575-6 the Justices were empowered to spend money on stocks of raw material to "set the poor to work" - for instance on spinning wool and flax. In 1597-8 an Act was passed which put 'Parish Administration' firmly in the hands of the Overseers and the Churchwardens. In 1602, the definitive Elizabethan Poor Law was enacted. This brought together many of the earlier provisions and it endured well into the 19th Century. This Act required that the Justices should appoint Overseers in each parish who should assess every property holder for the relief of the poor. If the assessment was not paid, the Justices could seize property of the defaulters or could imprison them. The Act also empowered the Overseers to set the poor to work if they deemed it appropriate. Poor children who came into the hands of the Overseers could be apprenticed by them to a trade - girls until they were 21: boys, like other apprentices, until they were 24. A separate Act dealt with the flogging of vagabonds and the control of "Houses of Correction" - the county provision for the 'undesirable' poor. In these the vagabonds were made to work. (A man in the County Jail for crime was simply detained - he was not made to work).
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