Vestry Minute Book
The Vestry Minute Book was likely kept under lock and key within the parish church.
[The following is taken from unverified typed transcripts. The entries are generally brief and summary, mostly just confirmation of the rate in the pound set for the poor law rate. However, its numbered pages enable something to be gleaned of the history of poor relief in Aldershot from 1835 to 1853.]
The notes referring to the Vestry meeting held in April 1853, written on page 109 of the Vestry Minutes Book were very brief indeed, noting little more than agreement to make a rate for the relief of the poor at 15 pence in the pound. They had been written by Reuben Attfield in his role as the Assistant Overseer.
Page 2 – 10th April 1835
The minutes of a meeting held almost twenty years previously were at the start of the Minutes Book. The names of Richard Allden and John Eggar. were listed as the churchwardens.
=> John Eggar
The curate had met Richard Allden several times already. He would later learn that John Eggar had inherited the Manor Halimote for Aldershot as far back as 1808 and had been a man of significant influence for over thirty years before he retired to Bentley. Now, in 1853, there was none of the name Eggar living in the village.
Of more direct interest for the young curate was the fact that it was the curate, Reverend Hume, who had been the chairman of the Vestry meeting in 1835, not one of the churchwardens, as now seemed to be the practice.
- By 1835, the Reverend William Wheeler Hume, baptised in Bilton, Warwickshire in March 1802, was 33, older than Dennett and had been perpetual curate at St Michael’s for about five years. Three of his children were born and baptised in Aldershot before he moved on to become Rector of Scaldwell in Northamptonshire, having both a large family and household by 1841. In 1851, whilst retaining that position, he was living in Sussex with his wife and eleven children and five servants (one born in Aldershot).
The main item of business on that Friday in 1835 concerned the terms set by the Vestry as permission for James and William Stonard to erect a brick kiln on the ‘Common Land’, including their payment half-yearly to the churchwardens of 1/6d per thousand bricks. The Parish Officers of the Vestry were behaving as though they had authority over ‘the waste of the Lord’.
The minutes of a follow up meeting ten days later, Thomas Smith, a local farmer who was one of the two Overseers alongside William Gosden in 1835, was designated to be the Assistant Overseer, with payment of 12/- per week. This decision was renewed later until such time as there was “any alteration to be made by the Poor Law Commissioners.” The Vestry was the centuries-old seat of local government for a parish but with the passing of the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 there was the beginning of greater supervision by central government.
The Vestry was proactive, also agreeing that Thomas Smith could spend five shillings per week for the relief of the unemployed. Unemployment amongst labourers had been an issue for the parish in 1835. Reverend James Dennett was too young to have known much first-hand about the Swing Riots of the 1830s, but he was doubtless aware of the impact that fluctuations in the agricultural economy could have upon rural workers.
The same minutes contain reference to a petition made to the Dean of the Cathedral, who was the formal Lord of the Manor for all of the Hundred of Crondall, for permission to dig clay for bricks, tiles etc. There were limits to the sense of ownership of the Common exercised by the Vestry.
The minutes of the September meeting in 1835 indicate that the policy of the Vestry was to favour outdoor relief, rather than recourse always to send the poor to the workhouse. However, this was a policy which was carefully managed, the assistance being given to Widow Matthews for her children was reduced from five to four shillings a week.
- Two of her children were buried in 1835: Maria Matthews was buried in February, aged 13; her brother Mark was buried in August that year.
As further example, it was agreed in March 1837 that James Robinson, another local farmer, was to be provided with 30 shillings to clothe and wash Henry Hall for a year. A year later, it was Thomas Harding [of Shearing Farm in North Lane] who was provided with £2 to clothe and wash George Hall.
Page 8 – 25th March 1836
Earlier, on page 8 of the Minute Book, the meeting held in March “Resolved that Thomas Attfield was appointed to serve the Office of Clerk of the Parish”.
The new curate, Reverend James Dennett, would surely have been interested to note this about his Parish Clerk, a decision taken by the Vestry for a position generally regarded elsewhere to be at the discretion of the parish curate.
- What Dennett was unlikely to have then known was that the previous Parish Clerk, John Chitty, had passed away earlier in the year in February 1836, aged 76. Thomas Attfield, son of an agricultural labourer in North Lane, had married Rebecca, the daughter of John Chitty, five years before. At that wedding in February 1830, Thomas, Rebecca and her father John had all been able to sign their name in the marriage register.
- Appointment as Parish Clerk provided Thomas with the right to hold Clerk’s Land as a freehold possession. This was land which had been set aside for the role of clerk since mediaeval times and was noted as an added memorandum for the ‘Tithing of Aldrisshott’ in the 1568 Crondal Customary.
- This could have been Mary (b. 1796), the wife of James Fludder, whose child was baptised in Aldershot in December 1838..
Richard Allden and James Elstone were confirmed as the churchwardens for the coming year. Another two yeoman farmers, James Robinson and Richard Stovold, were elected as the two Overseers, with Thomas Smith continuing as Assistant Overseer. John Eggar was described in the minutes as the ‘Visitor’, an office latter office was held by Rueben Attfield in 1837/38 and James Robinson in 1838/39.
Page 15 – 8th March 1837
In March 1837, the Vestry agreed to let two acres of land at Brixberry to Richard Cawson, to expire at Michaelmas 1841. Brixbury (Bricksbury) Hill, a place known previously as Tuxbury (Tukesbury) Hill, lay outside the parish boundary of Aldershot, located to the north of Farnham Park .
- The present-day Bricksbury Estate is situated on Hungry Hill and not Bricksbury Hill.
The 1841 Census would list two families at Brixbury within the schedules for Aldershot. The Tithe Apportionment Survey of the same year recorded 42.1 acres at Brixbury as amongst a total of 69.3 acres owned by the ‘Aldershot Parish Officers’. James Paine and Richard Barnett and their families were included in the 1841 Census as occupying the two cottages at ‘Brix Berey’ in 1841; they were listed, respectively, in 1851 as an agricultural labourer and ‘on parish relief’.
=> More on Brixbury [In preparation]
Page 19 – 14th July 1838
In their meeting held on In July 1838, the Vestry considered and approved an appeal from Mr (William) Tice for reduction in the rateable value of Cross [‘Croft’] House. The curate would learn that William Tice had played a significant part in the history of the parish. He had died in 1848, his widow Elizabeth Tice having moved to Cross House by 1851.
Page 27 – 26th July 1839
The name of Joseph Miles appeared in the minutes in 1839, appointed to look after the Common and to prevent the cutting of fuel by persons without the Authority and selling it out of the Parish. This post for which he was paid £2 annually, is described elsewhere as the parish hayward. He was also given the task of measuring the highways.
John Eggar and Richard Allden were reinstalled as the Churchwardens..
Pages 31 & 32
There was also a long minute about an agreement signed in June 1839 to settle a dispute by which Robert Lloyd could cut ten thousand of turf a year, at a rate of one shilling per thousand, for the use of a cottage he had erected on the Common waste land belonging to the parish. The agreement was signed by Robert Lloyd and Stephen Luff, both by making their mark.
- Robert Lloyd had married Anne in 1838, the only daughter of Thomas Harding of Shearing Farm; by 1851 he was a farmer of 10 acres, Ann’s father having died in the previous year.
- Stephen Luff was an elderly agricultural labourer living at West End; he died in September 1851, aged 90.
Page 35 – 25th July 1840
The meeting of Vestry in March 1840 confirmed Joseph Miles in his role [as hayward] both for “looking after the Common and to prevent the cutting of fuel by persons without any Authority or selling it out of the Parish”. At the next meeting in April, a rate for the repair of the Highways was set at a rate as high as 10s. in the £.
Page 41 – 19th March 1841
James Elstone and George Robinson were selected as the Overseers, Richard Allden the Guardian and John Eggar as the Visitor
The Vestry showed an entrepreneurial side to their proceeding advanced a business venture at that meeting in March, engaging Mr Edmund Smith to plant “the newly brockenup (sic) ground and £6 10s. per acre of larch fir and £4 per acre of Scotch Fir …paid for two acres within two months and the remainder … the following year.”
The minutes of the he next meeting in April confirm John Eggar and Reuben Attfield as the Churchwardens; in June, a rate for the repair of the Highways was set as high as at 10s. in the £.
Page 45 – 19th October 1841
Mr Barron took the chair for the meeting of the Vestry in October 1841. It might have been shocking to read the entry in the Minute Book clearly stating that the Parish was then in debt by over £26. The Poor Law Rate Book had debt of almost £69, offset by a positive balance in the Highway Rate.
- Charles Barron Esq was a London land proprietor who had decided to settle at Aldershot Park. He had inherited the land in 1828 following the death of his mother’s second husband and had now commissioned he build of a mansion, later to be called Aldershot Place.
It was agreed to commission Mr Keen of Godalming to re-value the properties in the Parish. This action led to the Tithe Apportionment Survey of 1841 and the publication of its report in 1843.
It was also agreed to set the Poor Rate in the following year at the exceptionally high rate of 5s. in the Pound in December 1842 in order also to defray the expense of a stone wall around the church yard as well as other purposes. The rate later reverted to the more typical 1s 8d. in the Pound.
Page 47 – 5th January 1842
The Vestry met seven time during 1842. In January 1842 it was called both to set rates for relief of the poor and for repairs to the Highways, also agreeing to “trench the Furse field in a workmanlike manner belonging to Mr Eggar and that the Parish is to hold possession of for two years from that date. ‘James Elstone Junr.’ is mentioned for the first time at that meeting, appointed to a ‘Committee’ empowered to inspect the Parish Accounts on a monthly basis. This is the first sign of what seems to be an impending financial crisis for the parish as well as a shift in the locus of power.
Page 48 – 20th March 1842
John Eggar was reappointed as one of the churchwardens in March, Richard Allden made the Parish Guardian. Charles Barron Esq. did not yet hold any formal office on Vestry.
Page 50 – 13th July 1842
John Eggar was Churchwarden, the last time he held parochial office in Aldershot. This was the year in which he sold the Manor House estate and retired to Bentley, aged 69.
The tax and spend activity continued throughout the rest of 1842 and into 1843. The Vestry set a rate for the ‘Relief of the Poor’ in each of April, July and November, “at 1/8 …1/10 and 1/8 in the Pound”, respectively.
In November it was also agreed to appoint “six Sapient men to serve as Constables in the Parish”. The meeting held in December was to raise a further rate of 5s. in the Pound to defray the expense of a stone wall around the Church Yard “and other purposes”.
In February 1843, a rate for the repair of the highways was set at 10d. in the Pound, and in March “it was unanimously agreed to make a rate of 1/8 in the Pound for poor relief.
Page 53 – 22nd March 1843
Charles Barron was installed as Churchwarden for the coming year, alongside James Elstone. This marked the start of the influence of Charles Barron Esq, aged 41. Having rebuilt Aldershot Place, presumably both stimulating the local economy and being a declaration of his intent that he would make Aldershot his home. He also maintained a London residence in Pall Mall.
The Overseers were Richard John Stovold and James Robinson, both farmers. Thomas Smith was reappointed as Assistant Overseer, at a salary of £26. [This was a significant reduction on the 12/- per week (£31 – 4s.) that he was previously paid.] Mr Richard John Stovold, a yeoman farmer, was awarded £4 “as usual .. for his trouble and expense in serving the office of High Constable.
- The Constable was not a policeman as such but was responsible for receiving complaints of a criminal character and organising the posse to apprehend the offender(s).
The meeting was also attended by James Elstone Junior, Samuel Eggar and John Eggar. The latter was not the John Eggar who had retired to Bentley but his the nephew.
- Samuel Eggar had become the owner of the family’s farmlands in Aldershot, now known as Manor Farm, the Manor House estate having been sold to Matthew Bridges. The younger John Eggar had taken over management of Manor Farm; three of his children would be baptised in Aldershot during the period 1845 to 1849.
The curate might have noticed that his predecessor, Reverend Henry Curate, was in the chair for that meeting.
However, of particular interest to the curate, the minutes stated that “the Paupers of this Parish be removed to the Workhouse at Farnham at a charge of 3 shillings and six pence each person per week”, an annual sum of £9 – 1s.
Page 54 – 27th March 1844
The annual March meeting saw the request that “the Gentlemen of the Committee of Parish Affairs” should continue their service for a further year. Charles Barron was therefore a churchwarden for a second year, James Elstone Senior, then aged 78, the second churchwarden; the overseers were Richard Allden and George Robinson (the Younger). Thomas Smith was retained as Assistant Overseer, at the restored rate of 12/- per week.
Matthew Bridges, the new owner of Manor House estate, was among those attending the meeting.
Page 60 – 3rd April 1844
Unemployment was on the Vestry agenda in April, with a special meeting of the parish summoned by the Churchwardens and Overseers. This was to consider a plan for employing ‘surplus labourers’ in the village during the ensuing winter.
- During this period there had been intense debate about the repeal of the Corn Laws which since 1815 had set tariffs and quotas on the import of cereals. Designed to protect domestic agriculture from such imports, this led to higher prices of bread and the like.
Page 63 – 11th November 1844
The Vestry meeting reconvened in November to confirm and enact the six-point plan, “sharing out the young men amongst the Proprietors and occupiers of the Parish”, employing “surplus Labourers” on roads and footpaths and repairing fences, and setting aside 5 ½ acres of parish land for potatoes.
- Although there had been a good harvest in 1844, members of the Vestry will have been mindful of the reports in newspapers during the previous autumn and winter of outbreaks of unrest and incendiary actions. These were said to be associated with protests against high prices and the arguments of the Anti-Corn Law League. Sir Robert Peel, who favoured the repeal, was reporting a fiscal surplus and the opportunity to reduce or abolish tariffs.
Page 65 – 8th January 1845
The plan which was renewed for a further month at a meeting held at the Aldershot Schoolroom.
Page 68- 31st March 1845
Charles Barron continued as Churchwarden, Richard Allden replacing James Elstone Junior as the other. Mr Barron would leave Mr Allden to attend and supervise most of the subsequent meetings of the Vestry, presumably as Charles Barron was often in London attending to his business affairs.
William Tice and George Charman were the Overseers for the coming year. Reuben Attfield continued in the role of Visitor, the younger John Eggar taking up the position as one of the Surveyors of the Highway.
Page 71 – 27th February 1846
A meeting of the Vestry was called to nominate William Stonard the brickburner and Henry Stovold and John Osgood, two farmers with smallholdings, as qualified to serve as Constables.
- John Osgood was also the local butcher for the village: he was still there in 1851 but would leave in 1853.
Page 72 – 25th March 1846
The minute for the annual Vestry meeting held on Lady Day contained many items of interest.
The leading positions of Churchwarden were once again held by Messrs Barron and Allden. The younger John Eggar was elected to serve as one of the two Overseers for the year following, as was Reuben Attfield, the latter also undertaking the role of Surveyor of the Highway with his brother-in-law William Herrett.
Matthew Bridges was among the attendees, as were William Gosden and William Tice.
The interest of the curate would undoubtedly have been taken by the mention in the minutes of “the prospect of Aldershot Parish being included in the Farnham Parish” [meaning the then new Farnham Poor Law Union] and that the customary offices of Guardian, Visitor and Assistant Overseer should stand over for future consideration.
Page 75 – 26th March 1847
Richard Allden was listed as Chairman of the Vestry meeting.
This year it was the younger John Eggar who would serve as churchwarden alongside Charles Barron. William Gosden’s son George would serve as one of the overseers, together with William Herrett.
G. Newcome appeared for the first time in the Vestry minutes in March 1847. Captain George Newcome had bought the Manor House from Matthew Bridges in that year.
Page 76 – 11th June 1847
Reverend Henry Carey who took the role as Chairman that Friday, at which a majority decision was taken to “consent to the sale .. to the Guardians of the Poor of the Farnham Union of [The Workhouse and Premises].”
Reverend Carey and Messrs Allden, Attfield, Elstone and Tice were directed to negoticiate the sale. There was no note in the Minute Book on the terms of the deal, nor of the capital sum realised.
Aldershot had ceased to operate a workhouse of its own in or before 1845, as implied in an earlier minute and as stated in the report to form the Farnham Union, put forward in January 1846 on behalf of the Poor-law Commissioners.
- A much larger geographical basis for the Union had also proposed to have included Ash, Seal and Tongham, Farnborough and Headley, the Report stating that no part of this proposed union would be more than seven miles from the workhouse at Farnham. The plan for the Farnham Poor Law Union went ahead despite objection from the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor in Farnham who noted that the large number of men and their families who worked on over 1,000 acres of hop fields would be obliged to go into the ‘union house’ rather than receive out-door relief. This presumably referred in part to the occupation of lands at Hoghatch and on Brixbury and Hungry Hills that had been made available by the Bishop.
Page 80 – 23rd February 1848
Henry Hone (blacksmith), John Dutton (farmer) and William Goy (farmer) were nominated as qualified to serve as Constables.
Page 82 – 27th March 1848
In the meeting chaired by Reverend Carey, Charles Barron and the younger John Eggar were confirmed as the churchwardens for the year following. Captain Newcome and John Kimber were elected as the Overseers.
Page 85 – 28th February 1848
The following were proposed as “qualified and liable to serve the office of Parochial Constables”: Henry Hone (blacksmith); John Dutton (farmer) and Thomas Hughes (farmer).
Page 86 – 26th March 1849
George Newcome became a churchwardens alongside Charles Barron, Messrs Allden and Elstone continuing as the Guardians and with William Gosdon and Richard John Stovold as the two Overseers. The younger John Eggar still had a role as Surveyor of Highways and, with William Herrett, as Collector of Taxes. Reverend Carey was in the Chair.
What came next on page 87 of the Minute Book would have intrigued the curate with its mention of a charitable bequest, a legacy left to the parish by Mrs Viner’s will. The entry read:
“it was unanimously agreed, that for the future the money due to the poor of this Parish according to the Legacy left them by Mrs Viner’s will, and which amounts to 30/- a year, shall be paid annually out of the Rent of the Work House fields to the Overseers of the Parish for the time being for the benefit of the said poor. This arrangement was deemed most convenient, as the House, in the purchase of which the proceeds of the above named Legacy were invested originally, was some years since taken down, & the materials used in the building of the present Workhouse.”
The mystery about Mrs Viner, her will and how that related to the Aldershot Workhouse, was something which the young curate would surely have wished to resolve. It might have taken some years before he knew the full story.
=> Mrs Viner [in preparation]
There was also reference on page 88 to “the Cottages called the Alms-houses being in a state unfit for the occupation of their present inhabitants” and, with no available funds for their repair, of measures for their sale.
Page 90 – 27th February 1850
There was another change in the names put forward for the office of Parochial Constable: John Dutton (farmer), Thomas Hughes (farmer) and Henry Elkins (baker).
Page 92 – 7th March 1850
The curate would have seen very little to detain him in the previous few pages of the Vestry Minute Book. However the minute of this confirmed consent to the sale of the Workhouse. The following were delegated to negotiate and act on the part of the Vestry: Henry Carey (Minister), G. Newcome (Churchwarden), William Gosden and R J Stovold (Overseers).
The presumption is that the Aldershot Vestry had been in receipt of rental income until this time. Again, there was no mention of the capital sum involved by the sale, another presumption being that this would be stated in the Overseers Book of Income and Expenditure which the curate had yet to inspect.
- The Farnham Union subsequently sold the building in 1850 to the Managers of the District School which opened later that year to benefit pauper children from three Poor Law Unions.
Page 94 – 25th March 1850
Charles Barron Esq. continued to be one of the two churchwardens, joined by the yeoman farmer Richard John Stovold. Richard Allden and James Elstone took on the role as Guardians [at the Farnham Poor Law Union] and Thomas Smith and Robert Hart were elected overseers.
William Gosden was appointed as Surveyor of the Highways at an annual salary of £5. The younger John Eggar was listed as having attended.
Page 95 – 26th February 1851
With another small rotation, the names put forward for the office of Parochial Constable were John Dutton (farmer), Henry Elkins (baker) and William Downs (dealer).
Page 96 – 25th March 1851
At next Lady Day, with the same individuals continued as Guardians and Churchwardens, Rueben Attfield and William Fricker were elected as Overseers. Thomas Smith took over the paid role as Surveyor of the Highways.
Manor Farm had been let to Henry Twynam.
Page 100 – 18th February 1852
This meeting was convened for the purposes of adopting provisions in the Small Tenements Rating Act. This was agreed by a majority, lifting the burden of the rates from some of the poorest.
- Passed in 1850, the Small Tenements Rating Act enabled vestries to decide that the owners, rather than the occupiers, should be liable for properties having a rateable value of £6 or less.
Richard Allden had chaired the meeting attended by the Overseers and three “inhabitants”, Henry Twynam, Robert Lloyd and John C. Bailey.
Page 103 – 8th March 1852
John Dutton (farmer), Henry Elkins (baker) and William Downs (dealer) were confirmed for the office of Parochial Constable.
Page 104 – 24th March 1852
The meeting, chaired by Charles Barron, once again confirmed Messrs Allden and Elstone as Guardians and also Charles Barron as Churchwarden, this time alongside Reuben Attfield who was also appointed Assistant Overseer at a salary of £20. William Jefferson and Francis Deakin were made Overseers, James Elstone taking on the post of Surveyor, apparently without renumeration.
George Newcome attended the meeting but was not elected to a parochial office.
There were two more Vestry meetings during 1852, held in April and September, to set the poor relief rate at 15d in the Pound, the minutes signed by Reuben Attfield in his new role as Assistant Overseer.
[Page 106 was missing, perhaps relating to the Parochial Constable. Page 107 was blank.]
Page 108 – 23rd March 1853
George Newcome had chaired this meeting, elected to serve as churchwarden alongside Charles Barron who was absent according to the minutes.
Richard Allden and James Elstone were reappointed as the Guardians to represent the parish at the Farnham Poor Law Union. James Elstone had taken the post of overseer alongside Thomas Deacon.
The attendees listed were Messrs Elstone, Allden, Twynam, Herret, Hart, Stovold and George Gosden (his father William having died in 1851). There was no mention of the Reverend Henry Carey nor of Charles Barron being present.