PARISH GOVERNMENT AND POOR RELIEF
The court rolls of the manor of Abbess Roding survive for 1472-1530 (fn. 86)
and those of Berwick
Berners for 1382-1819
with a gap between
1484 and 1574. (fn. 87) Both courts exercised leet jurisdiction and each elected its own constable. The last
recorded appointment of a constable for Berwick
Berners manor was made in 1681. A manorial pound
is mentioned in the Abbess Roding roll of 1473.
The earliest surviving minutes of parish vestry meetings are entered in a parish register. (fn. 88) They cover the
period 1708-52. They are continued in a separate
parish book from about 1752 to 1803, but most of the
entries for the first dozen years of the new book are
illegible owing to decay. (fn. 89) The Easter vestry at which
officers were elected was generally the only one in the
year, and the rector usually took the chair. From 1785,
coinciding with a change of rector, the vestry's interest
in the parish government almost ceased. The entries
were no longer signed and recorded only the continuing
in office of the same three persons as churchwarden
and constables. Their accounts were passed without
scrutiny and there never remained any balance to be
carried over. In 1729 it was agreed to hold a vestry
dinner at Easter for all ratepayers, each to pay 6d.
whether he attended or not.
The parish clerk had an income of £2 a year from a
rent charge left under the will of Nicholas Burton
(proved 1678). (fn. 90) In 1834 the sum was allowed in the
rent paid by the then clerk, who happened to live in
Falkiners, the house charged. In 1910 the property
charged was called Willington Cottages, and the clerk
was still receiving the payment in 1914. The payment
is now being made from Falkiners at the rate of. 10s.
a quarter. (fn. 91)
The vestry appointed two constables, one for the
'township' and one for 'Berwick hamlet'; perhaps
originally each represented a separate township or vill
and subsequently the manors of Abbess Roding and
Berwick Berners respectively. Morant (c. 1768)
stated that the constable of the hamlet of Berwick
Berners attended at the court of the hundred of
Dunmow, 'which causes it to be reputed within that
hundred'. (fn. 92) There had been an ancient connexion
between the manor of Berwick Berners (see above) (fn. 93)
and Dunmow hundred. Separate surveyors of highways were nominated for the township and Berwick
hamlet and sometimes also separate rates were levied.
In 1762 a rate of 3d. in £1 for the hamlet produced
just over £3. An earlier undated memorandum in the
parish register shows that a rate for the township produced one third more than that for the hamlet. In
1836 the rateable value of the whole parish was
£859. (fn. 94)
During the first half of the 18th century only one
overseer was appointed and he almost invariably served
for two consecutive years. There is no reference to the
overseer in the parish book covering the second half of
the 18th century, but between 1824 and 1836 two
overseers were sometimes appointed. (fn. 95) During the
whole of this latter period five persons only shared the
offices of churchwarden and overseer. They occupied
the largest farms in the parish and included the widow
of a previous overseer.
In 1710 the overseer spent £20 on poor relief. After
that date the vestry minutes ceased to record the
detailed disbursements of any officer, but only gave the
balance in hand. After 1785 even this was abandoned,
and for information on parish expenditure we are
dependent on parliamentary returns. (fn. 96) These show
that between 1783 and 1785 an average of £150 was
raised by the poor rates. This rose to a peak of over
£644 for 1800-1. This was the equivalent of a rate
of 15s. in £1 on the rateable assessment of 1825. No
other year's rates were as high as this but between 1800
and 1817 the annual average was about £400. Between 1824 and 1833 an average of £330 was raised
each year by the poor rates.
In 1776 the parish was renting a house for use as a
poorhouse. (fn. 97) In 1829 it united with Stanford Rivers
(q.v.) and other parishes in a voluntary poor law
Union under Gilbert's Act. In 1836 Abbess Roding
became part of the Ongar Poor Law Union.
||E.R.O., D/DP M55-84.
||E.R.O., D/DHf M28-41 (1382-
1484 and 1574-1727); ibid. M16 (1729-
1819). The last is a book recording courts
||E.R.O., D/P 145/1/1.
||E.R.O., D/P 145/8.
Rep. Com. Char. (Essex), H.C. 216,
p. 241 (1835), xxi (1); Char. Com. files.
||Inf. from Miss Rowe of Falkiners.
||Morant, Essex, i, 139.
||E.R.O., D/P 145/11: Overseer's
||E.R.O., Q/CR 1/1, 1/9, 1/12.
Rep. Sel. Cttee. on Overseers' Retns.
1777, H.C. ser. 1, vol. ix.