Local government


Victoria County History



Janet Cooper (Editor)

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'Birch: Local government', A History of the County of Essex: Volume 10: Lexden Hundred (Part) including Dedham, Earls Colne and Wivenhoe (2001), pp. 50. URL: Date accessed: 16 April 2014. Add to my bookshelf


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Records survive for courts baron held between 1276 and 1324 by members of the Baynard family at Great Birch usually up to three times a year, but occasionally as many as seven times a year. Courts dealt mainly with transfers of holdings, but also with occasional cases of trespass and debt; a hayward was elected in 1295. Courts baron were recorded at Birch Hall in 1420. (fn. 40) Courts baron of Great Birch met rarely between 1669 and 1804, usually only when there was a new lord, and in the period 1804-1909 irregularly, to deal with trans- fers of holdings and other routine business; 1 to 5 jurors were sworn. Business, mainly without a court sitting, was recorded until 1942. (fn. 41) Birch manor court was combined with Easthorpe between 1727 and 1794. (fn. 42) The custom of the manor was inheritance by the eldest son. (fn. 43)

Great and Little Birch were combined for parish government from the 18th century or earlier. In 1757 teams of farmers and labourers from both parishes were set up for highway maintenance. In 1783 there were 31 ratepayers and 20 outdwellers. In 1836 at a vestry seven of the principal inhabitants elected 2 church- wardens, 7 overseers, 2 assessors, 2 surveyors, and 2 constables. In 1726 a woman was paid £4 4s. for cures and physic for the poor. Bread was bought for the poor in 1779 with the proceeds of a fine levied on an unlicensed beerseller. In 1835 the overseers' purchases included loaves and flour; illness and unemployment were fre- quently recorded. (fn. 44) In 1758 a workhouse was built on land near Great Birch church leased from William Round. In 1838 C. G. Round sold the workhouse to Lexden and Winstree poor law union. (fn. 45) The building survived in 1999, called Church Cottages. (fn. 46)

Birch's rate of poor relief expenditure per head of population was about average for Lexden hundred. In 1608 the 'towne house called Stocke house' belonging to Great Birch parish was leased, presumably to raise money for poor relief. (fn. 47) In 1776 costs were £239, and in the period 1783-5 averaged £224 a year. (fn. 48) In 1801 they were £946, equivalent to 33s. 9d. a head. Between 1802 and 1815 they fluctuated between £419 and £822, except for 1812 when they reached £1,103 (41s. 2d. a head). (fn. 49) In the period 1816-22 they ranged between £1,000 and £1,207 and in the period 1823-35 between £615 and £971. In 1836 they were £819 (21s. 11d. a head). (fn. 50)


40 E.R.O., D/DR M1-2; D/DH X29.
41 Ibid. D/DR M3-6.
42 Ibid. D/DE1 M230; above, Easthorpe, Local Govt.
43 E.R.O., D/DR M5.
44 Ibid. D/P 241/5, 8; ibid. D/DR O15.
45 Ibid. D/DR T16; E.C.S. 27 Apr. 1984.
46 Above, this par., Intro., Domestic Buildings.
47 E.R.O., D/P 241/1/1.
48 Ibid. Q/CR 1/1.
49 Ibid. Q/CR 1/9/16.
50 Ibid. Q/CR 1/12; Rep. Sel. Cttee. on Poor Rate Returns 1822-4, H.C. 334, Suppl. App. p. 81 (1825), iv; ibid. 1825-9, H.C. 83, p. 62 (1830-1), xi; ibid. 1830-4, H.C. 444, p. 60 (1835), xlvii; 2nd Annual Rep. Poor Law Com. H.C. 595, p. 108-9 (1836), xxix, pt. 11.