The History of Ilmington - Chapter 14
The Parish Council 1894-1923 and Ilmington Charities
The Parish Council, resulting from the Local Government Act of 1894, met for the first time in December of that year. The administration of village affairs up to the time of the Enclosure in 1781 has already been described but no records have been found to show what happened in this village in the intervening period. The Poor Law and the setting up of a national police force in the early years of the 19th century would appear to displace the village overseers and parish constable. The minutes of the newly formed Council reveal its struggles to establish its authority in such matters as would previously have come under the court baron. After enquiry of the charity commissioners they appear to have gained jurisdiction over all charities except Cleobury's. These are described in a later section.
A matter causing considerable concern was the state of the roads, and there was much correspondance with the County Council, and the Rural District Council (then Brailes) before responsibility for different sections was finally established. It appears that the Parish Council had responsibility for footpaths. There are many of these in Ilmington and as late as 1903 there is, to paraphrase, the rather despairing question of what are and what are not footpaths? To this there appeared no clear answer. They were, however, determined to prevent the riding of horses along the narrow connecting lanes. To this end posts were erected where they still stand. But for the ones in Middle Street they had to establish that 'old stones' had previously stood in that position. Numerous notice boards forbidding horse traffic were erected, and removed by recalcitrant villagers. These horses were most probably those of the famous jockey E.P. Wilson and his brother W. Wilson. Later, bicycles caused trouble. Today notices from the County Council occupy these positions. They cause little trouble as they are largely ignored.
Encroachment on paths was another matter of concern. That these encroachments were usually heaps of manure or ashes is an indication of the state of the village at that time. Instances occur as late as the 1920s. Ducks 'abusing the village stream' were a matter for the Quarter Sessions in the 17th century. Two hundred years later they were polluting a trough of drinking water on the village green. High hedges were a danger to traffic and it was the business of the Council to see that they were cut. Cross Leys pool at the north end of the village, now filled in, was a constant source of trouble. It frequently needed to be cleaned out, and when this was accomplished, the mud, evidently dumped at the side, caused a further encroachment and arrangements for its removal had to be made.
With the large number of thatched roofs still existing fire prevention was important and Shipston's offer of the use of its fire engine for a subscription of £1 a year was accepted. When it was proposed to culvert the ditch at the south end of the village because it was a danger to traffic, the proviso was made that spaces must be left so that water was available for the fire engine.
One of the first requests made to the Council was from seven inhabitants for pasture allotments of four acres each. They made numerous attempts to obtain these, but success was never reported in the minutes. Farmers who were approached said their farms were too small to divide. When the rector offered certain fields the parish meeting turned them down as being too inconvenient. At other times the rent was considered too high. At a later date the County Council offered land, probably when certain small holdings were being set up after the first world war, but again the result is not clear.
Successful negotiations for a Telegraph Office were concluded in 1898. A number of guarantors were required to finance the deficit if any, and significantly E.P. Wilson, the jockey, was the largest contributor. Evidently this service operated seven days a week for in 1909 Sunday telegrams were limited to the hours of 8-10 am. At this time too, the Council tried to secure an afternoon and even a Sunday delivery of letters. Alas, even then Ilmington's postal deliveries did not pay for themselves so this was refused. However, it was not till 1910 that the Post Office closed at noon on Bank Holidays! In 1913 a request was made to the Council to ask for a telephone call office. This they considered unnecessary and refused to do.
The most interesting material in the minutes concerns the village greens. From its inception until the early 1920s the Council waged a continuous battle to prevent encroachment on these greens. That these greens are a heritage to be preserved is now so firmly rooted in the minds of Ilmington inhabitants that only a few years ago the Parish meeting was highly indignant that the Council itself had allowed an encroachment, albeit a very small one.
The first case they fought was the use of the lower green for the storage of timber by the timber merchant. After repeated warnings the case came before the magistrates at Shipston and was fully reported in the Evesham Journal of July 1897. The Council appointed a solicitor, Thomas Mace, to act for them. He admitted that after consultation of a large number of authorities he could find no legal definition of a village green. He waxed eloquent over their antiquity and importance, even quoting Shakespeare, and emphasised the importance of preventing encroachment. The defendant pleaded usage, both by himself and his father before him for 60 or 70 years. In the defence it became clear that not only had timber been stored but at one time there had been a sawpit. Later the sawpits were behind cottages at the end of Middle Street. An Enclosure Act of 1858 appeared to rule out rights of usage and the Council won its case. The defendant was fined £1 with 19/6 costs. This case appeared to establish the greens as something different from merely unenclosed portions of 'the waste'. In the Ilmington Enclosure Award of 1781 though the greens are drawn on the partial map which exists, they are not named, nor is there any mention of them in the Award.
This case was by no means the end of the matter. The next concerned derelict buildings and a well on the upper green, and it would be interesting to know if they were the ones built by Job Archer with permission from the then lord of the manor. They were demolished by the owner who left the stones piled on the site of a stable which had disappeared 25 years before and to which he laid claim. After repeated requests he too was taken before the magistrates. Again the Council won their case but the defendant was only fined 1/- and the Council found the solicitor's charges so high that they suggested a reduction of 20%. This defendant threatened retaliation. He appears to have remembered, belatedly, that he was a trustee of the 'the waste' and threatened the Council with proceedings for allowing a seat, the gift of Mrs Howard of Foxcote, to be placed on the green. When the Council replied that they would defend themselves the matter was dropped.
Feeling must have run very high. The Council decided to plant a tree on the lower green. It was removed. Another was planted. It suffered the same fate. They offered a £2 reward for anyone who would give information concerning the offender but no one appears to have claimed the reward. This planting and removal seems to have continued with variations till 1920 when it was decided to ask Mr Flower, the headmaster, to donate a tree and plant it on Armistice Day. This is most likely the horse chestnut which has survived to the present day near the Howard Arms and seems to be the eighth to have been planted.
The next imbroglio concerned the visiting fairs. Here the Council somewhat overreached themselves as they prohibited their use of the greens. The parish meeting contested this and ultimately a stand of two days was allowed.
Their continual concern was to preserve the greens as a playing place for children, but they prohibited sliding and the lighting of bonfires. Judging from the accounts of bonfires from local memory this prohibition was not successful.
To preserve the greens they forbad their grazing by cows, allowing only horses and presumably donkeys. This they may have been able to enforce, as all rights of common were extinguished for this village in the Enclosure Award of 1781. However, the driving of cows across the green was another matter and the history of this comes to an end so far as this account is concerned when the worst offender became chairman of the Parish Council in 1923.
Street lights for the village, still successfully resisted at the parish meetings, but only just, is a request which goes back more than 70 years to the earliest years of the Council. Then it was confined to lights on the village greens, but they were not installed.
By 1914 the no doubt exasperated Council instructed their clerk to write to the local Government Board to ask if they had any authority over the village greens, and in 1920 they obtained a copy of The Village Green Act. It was not filed with the minutes.
A very interesting minute of 1919 concerns the siting of the first Rural District Council houses to be built in the village. In fact they were not built on any of the sites suggested, which were Berry Orchard, Howard Arms Close, Burlingham's Orchard, and Claude's Meadow. The proposal was for six houses on one of these sites, but in fact ten houses were built along Featherbed Lane, now called Washbrook Place. How this change was effected is not known. There is only a complaint that when a meeting took place to view the sites many of the councillors had not been informed. A further minute refers to the need to cut down the trees along the road or the gardens would be useless, but they decided to leave this to the District Council.
Accounts in the minutes for 1921 show expenditure to have been £15.15.11½. By March 1922 it had risen to £22 and the clerk's salary had been raised from £6 to £9 a year.
Very early in its existence the Parish Council was asked to notify the County Council of the whereabouts of the parish documents. Even at that date most of them had disappeared as the only one on which they reported was the Enclosure Award held by the rector, and the Ilmington documents deposited at the County Record Office are indeed scanty.
In its early days there must have been intense interest in Council matters and there were usually two candidates for every office. The voting seems often to have been even, and the chairman cast his deciding vote, sometimes for himself and certainly for his own nominee. Latterly (1920) there was a meeting at which only two appeared and there was the sad comment that little interest was shown.
Whatever the limitation of their powers, and whatever their rivalries the Parish Council appears to have been a body of sincere men, determined to establish their authority and to maintain and improve the amenities of their village, in which matters they were successful.
A report of His Majesty's Commissioners for Inquiring into the Public Charities of the Borough of Warwick in 1826 mentions "the rent of certain lands called Corporation lands, given by the late master of the guild and his brethren". This gift comes under the heading of King Henry the Eighth's Charity so was obviously a redistribution of the lands following their confiscation at the Reformation. These 'certain lands' included what is now called Park Farm in Ilmington and was at the Enclosure marked "for the poor of Warwick". How the master and his brethren became possessed of these lands is not known. It obviously does not benefit Ilmington and in 1826 consisted of a house with just over 39 acres of land let at a rent of £74. References to this charity land are quoted in chapter 4.
In 1741 John Green and Sarah, daughter of Frances Rose, gave £2 a year, a rent charge on House Close which was land near John Green's house, to be distributed in bread four times a year in March, June, September, and December to the poor of Ilmington. In 1890 this was being used to distribute 20 6d. loaves to such poor as were chosen by the rector and churchwardens. In 1895 the Rev C.J. Young reported to his churchwarden that widows and widowers should be preferred. John Green and Sarah Rose were married, as appears on an altar tombstone belonging to the Rose family. John Green is shown as living at the house now known as the Dower House at the time of the Enclosure in 1781 but no trace of land known as House Close is found there. Recent enquiry has revealed that the land is part of Mabel's Farm adjacent to Folly Farm, described in chapter 5. As shown in the illustration of the homestall of Folly Farm there is Mr Green's Barn. Mabel's Farm became one of the Warwickshire small holdings in 1918 and the £2 is now paid by Warwickshire County Council. The charity has long been known as Rose's charity but ceased to be paid in bread during the second world war because of the difficulty of making loaves of exactly the same size.
In 1728 a certain Harbidge gave £5 to be put to interest and distributed to the poor. This ceased to be paid in 1903.
In 1762 John Bartlett (gent) gave 5/- a year from certain lands for distribution to the poor by the rector. This charity has also lapsed, at a date unknown . It was still being paid in 1821, but Rev C.J. Young's statement of 1895 does not mention it.
Cleobury's charity is the interest on £50, again left in trust for distribution by the rector and churchwardens. In 1895 it was paid by the Old Bank in Stratford and distributed on St Thomas's day. In 1972 it yielded £5 and 51 pence. Its date of origin is unknown.
More recently Ilmington has benefited from Badger's Charity which was designed to provide bread, fuel or clothing for the poor. It also appears to contribute a sum towards the repair of the church. In 1972 it yielded £17 plus 48 pence for charity.
Two of the awards made at the Enclosure now appear to be regarded as charities. The larger of these is the grant of about 32 acres at Berry Fields to the churchwardens in lieu of the strips they held in the open fields for the repair of the church. The smaller of the two is the five acres given at Bennetts Furze to provide fuel for those who had previously had the right to cut it from the commons. In 1890 this was providing two 'kids' of faggots per head for poor families.
At a later date the position of Bennetts Furze was found inconvenient on Southfield farm and was exchanged for land known as The Hulks nearer to Foxcote road. The Rev C.J. Young described this as 'the poor's garden land'. It was let off as allotments and the rents were distributed to the necessitous and industrious poor. The land was later sold, the money invested and the yield in 1972 was £9 and 74 pence. It is distributed at Christmas.
A further gift to Ilmington, also mentioned elsewhere, was the little house built by Henry Capel near the spring, reputed to have medicinal properties. This was demolished about 1860. Its demolition resulted partly from the Enclosure Award as at this time the cottage and the spring were awarded to different people. The recipient of the spring is said to have allowed it to become polluted in order to prevent people crossing his land. However, a fairly old man a few years ago remembered fetching water from the spring for his father.
Lower Green. This is most likely the tree planted by Mr Flower. It was the 8th to be planted on this site. It also shows one of the fountains.