Buckland Monachorum Parish CouncilCoat of Arms of Sir Francis Drake - courtesy of Buckland Abbey Coat of Arms of Sir Francis Drake - courtesy of Buckland Abbey

A Brief History of the Parish Elections

The Borough and Parish Council elections that we now expect as part of our lives every 4 years have evolved over more than a thousand years. When the Normans arrived in England they found local institutions of government already in existence, as they had been for two hundred years. The system put in place by the Saxons based on the shire, hundred, burgh, vill, tything or township was developed over the centuries by successive rulers. One noteworthy addition to this development occurred at the end of the 12th century with the adoption of the European commune system whereby the citizens of a city or larger town elected a 'chief citizen' or 'mayor'. Meanwhile, the parish (whether township, rural or ecclesiastical division in a city) became the basic unit of local administration overseen by justices of the peace, parish vestries or often corrupt town corporations.

By the beginning of the 19th century the growth in the population together with the expansion of the towns, particularly the industrial ones, created huge social problems and to help combat these a range of acts was passed from 1834. The Municipal Corporation Act of 1835 was of particular importance as it established the right of all ratepayers to vote in elections to create municipal corporations. In later years various Health Acts were passed and local government boards created, leading in 1888 to the Local Government Act which set up County Councils. Six years later another local government act, seen as 'providing government of the people, by the people for the people', established parish meetings for every rural parish and a parish council for every parish with a population of at least 300. At the same time urban and rural sanitary authorities were renamed urban and rural district councils.

In 1891 Buckland Monachorum Parish had a population of 1414 and was entitled to 3 district councillors and 12 parish councillors. The notice of the Parish Meeting, which would lead to the creation of the first Parish Council, had to be published by Saturday 24th November 1894 with free nomination papers being available from the Overseers. Any nomination had to be in writing and signed by 2 parochial electors which was to be handed to the chairman of the Parish Meeting. The Meeting was held on Tuesday 4th December when 12 councillors were duly elected. However, one parochial elector who was present was not satisfied with this election and, as was his right under the Local Government Act, he demanded a poll of the Parish and this was duly held on 18th December. The poll opened at 8 a.m. and closed 12 hours later with the count being completed at around 10.30 p.m. There were 429 electors (including duplicates) on the Register and 243 of these voted. The 12 nominees who had the most votes, from a total of 21 who presented nomination papers, were elected as parish councillors and came into office on Monday 31st December 1894.

The gentlemen who had called for the poll, who was an unsuccessful candidate, was still not satisfied and seemed determined to have one of the duly elected councillors removed from office. On 16th February 1895 the Chairman of the Parish Council received a letter of resignation from the councillor concerned. However, matters did not end there as a court case ensued... but that's another story!

Coat of Arms of Sir Francis Drake - courtesy of Buckland Abbey