Parish Government

The Market Place, Sutton-in-Ashfield, c.1905.The Market Place, Sutton-in-Ashfield, c.1905.

Perhaps the oldest form of Local Government in Sutton-in-Ashfield was the Vestry meeting, so-called from its being the place where the inhabitants met to discuss any parish affairs. They usually met on Easter Monday for the election of Parish officers such as Churchwardens, and after A.D. 1603 of Overseers of the Poor, Woodwards to attend to the unenclosed lands a Headborough to regulate Tithes and probably roads, and a Thirdborough or under Constable; but it met on any occasion when duly summoned, to pass Accounts, to arrange for the collection and distribution of any Charitable endowments, the letting of the Common lands, and maintenance of order. The ancient Vestry books of Parishes are a mine of information concerning Parish affairs, and it is to be regretted that the oldest vestry book of Sutton has disappeared. The earliest record we have is that of a meeting in March, 1777, when Saml. Boot and Thos. Wood were elected Churchwardens, Henry Morris, Overseer, Saml. Barnes, Constable (Thirdborough) Joseph Lee, Headborough, and Ben Sansom, Woodward. The meeting was held at the Workhouse and an Agreement made that "every person having a Stackyard or Sheep pen upon the Forest to pay for each 2d. and every person that gets clay on the Forest to pay . . . . (illegible)." In 1780 appears "Memo of an Agreement made at ye Vestry meeting at ye Workhouse on April 7th that Thomas Panniston is to have ye Ground called Town Piece containing 189 acres of land more or less at £10 a year to commence from ye 5th April, 1780 for seven years, the Rent to be paid to the Overseers of ye Poor of Sutton, and one fourth to be paid to the Overseer of Hucknall, as witness my hand (signed) Thomas Peniston, Witnesses Nathaniel Bacon, Thomas Gadsby, John Clarke, Henry Ullyat, Wm. Adlington, Thos. Else, John Clarke, Wm. Gibson, Wm. Tomlinson, John Chambers, John Fletcher, Saml. Hall, Richard Haslam, Henry Morris, Thos. Dove, Wm. Earl, Saml. Ward, Saml. Boot, Saml. Stafford, Joseph Lee.

The part of the Forest known as the Town Piece was what is now known as Blackmires, and was dealt with on the enclosure of the Forest in A.D. 1803. Many names survive; Sherwood Street is still remembered as Gadsby's Yard, Mount Street, as Haslam's Hill, and it is to be noted that Hucknall Huthwaite was treated as an integral part of the parish.

In 1781 Wm. Bower was elected Titheman, Saml. Boot, Churchwarden, Saml. Downing and John Chambers, Overseers Jonathan Leevars, Constable, John Tomlinson, Headborough, and John Pride and Saml. Boot, Woodwards. On Friday, 14th September, 1781 at the Vestry meeting held for the purpose it was agreed that a Subscription be opened by Mr. Saml. Boot, Wm. Bower, Saml. Downing, John Chambers, and Jonathan Leivers, "That each man failing to serve on the Militia as above to pay into the above names six shillings." These were trying times. England was at war with the United States as well as with France, Spain and Holland, and it is truly marvellous how the country bore up under such a strain.

In 1782 Saml. Downing and Wm. Bower of the Potyard were elected Churchwardens, John Allwood, Constable, Henry Ullyat, Headborough, Natl. Bacon, and Thos. Gadsby, Woodwards, Thos. Barnes and Saml. Saunders, Overseers.

In 1783 John Tomlinson and John Chambers, Churchwardens, Clay Hall, Charles Ellis, Overseers, Zachary Downing Constable, Wm. Godber, Headborough, Sam Downing and John Chambers, Woodwards.

A large meeting was held at the house of Wm. Brandreth, the Trooper Inn, 10 October, 1786 to authorise the repair of the road from the town of Nottingham to Mansfield. It may be remarked here the burden on Sutton that the repair of these roads made. This road as well as the road from Mansfield to Annesley and from Mansfield to East Kirkby, all much used by the public at large were practically unused by the people of Sutton.

On 25 February, 1788 at a meeting held at the house of William Godber, the White Swan Inn, it was agreed to let a piece of land called Blackmires or Round Hill for 12 years, adjoining Kings Mill Dam, and at end of term to be laid down with Ry Grass. A meeting of the Vestry had been held on 11 February at the house of John Wass, the Dog and Duck Inn, when land was let to defray expenses of Workhouse and the Fire Engine, that is to say Hatchcar, little Smeeze field and Thos. Penistone's field, the names of the persons who bid for Blackmires or Round Hill being John Fletcher £5 per annum: Thos. Chambers £10 10s. 0d., Saml. Stafford £15 15s. 0d., John Dove and Thomas Eldergill £15, Thos. Chambers £10 10s. 0d., Sam Downing £16 6s. 0d., John Burton £17 1s. 0d.

Many entries relate to the Workhouse and will be found under that heading. On 6 December, 1791 a meeting was held to let a Close called Hardwick Sick towards building the Workhouse. The Parish Officers in A.D. 1792 were John Allwood, Saml. Sanders, Churchwardens, Jas. Foulds, John Jackson, Overseers, Wm. Godber, Constable, Jos. Sims, Headborough, Wm. Rowbotham, Jos. Sims, Woodwards.

On 14 May, 1793, a public meeting held at the house of Wm. Godber, The White Swan Inn, agreed by the Free and Copy holders that Joseph Milnes, Butcher of Mansfield had broken his Agreement by breaking up and getting clay in a piece of ground near Hamilton Hill, commonly called Godbers Croft, that we the said Free and Copy holders do mutually agree to meet on Wednesday morning the 22nd of this month of May by 10 o'clock in the Market Place and go and fill up the Clay holes and pull down the Fence belonging to the said Croft and we also do agree to support each other in any expenses. Signed Wm. Butcher, Nat. Bacon, Thos. Dove, Rich. Haslam, Saml. Downing, Jas. Foulds, Chas. Ellis, Jno. Didsbury, Saml. Ward, Thos. Halton, Thos. Harvey, Jno. Clarke, Jos. Halton, Thos. Cursham, Wm. Godber. It does not appear what was the result of this pact. The Vestry however decided soon after, viz. 20 May, 1795 to meet in future in the Vestry of the parish Church !

In 1796 Mr. John Kitchen presented his Accounts as follows :—

-   £   s.   d.
To 3 Books at £65 0s. 9½d   195   2  
2 Books   70   2  

The items of amounts raised for the Navy, and for the oldest form of National defence (the Militia) are interesting as reflecting the form of National responsibility where every Town realised its obligations.

On 14 August, 1797, it was agreed that 3d. a dozen shall be paid to any person bringing Sparrows, their eggs l½d., and for every dozen of Crows 1/-. Differences arose concerning the boundaries between Sutton and Kirkby caused by Mr. Thomas Clarke appealing against the Assessment of Ling Close. Mr. Hall of Alfreton was engaged to oppose his appeal, and on 2 January, 1798 Mr. Nuttall of Matlock was appointed Arbitrator between Sutton and Kirkby respecting the boundaries of Ling Close, and also a parcel of land at Fulwood. It is remarkable that no record of the decision appears.

In 1801 James Hulme was appointed as Overseer and Headborough. He was a Doctor of Medicine, and had married 28 July, 1800, Elizabeth Anne, widow of Samuel Unwin who had died suddenly 19 February, 1799.

At a Vestry meeting 5 August, 1805 it was agreed "That a Book for the collection of an Assessment or sum of money agreeable to an Order from the Chief Constable to raise or Inlist four men for the defence of the realm be immediately provided and money collected." England was again at War with France, the Emperor Napoleon having been recently crowned. A coalition was formed against him the same month. So much had the affairs of Sutton increased that it was found necessary on 5 November, 1805 to appoint Phineas Smith as clerk on the Parish Account solely preparing Books for the Overseers, Churchwardens and other Parish Officers

2 Navy Books 130 1 7
Cash for Militia 90 19 6
Of Mr. Harvey on account 8 8
£ s. d.
By Cash for Sundries 344 18 6
To S. Butterworth, Esq 10 2
Cash to Supplementary Militia 121 13 2
Due to Parish 24 9

at a salary of £20 per annum and in June following Wm. Stanhope, John Clarke, and Thos. Barnes, Overseer and Churchwardens, gave up their accounts for raising men for the Army of Defence. On 9 December, 1806 Thos. Barnes was engaged to clean the streets to 1 October, 1807, for 55/-,the Overseers to scrape the streets and fill the carts.

Nothing unusual appears till 1813, and "At a Vestry meeting 6 April, 1813 it was agreed that the Constable should give public notice by Cryer to discharge all Publicans from having Card playing, Dancing or any illegal associations of whatever nature contrary to law." The inhabitants present at this meeting were Wm. Adin and John Hall, Churchwardens Saml. Smedley, Overseer, Wm. Stanhope, Constable, Saml. Owtram, Rich. Tudsbury, Wm. Gates, Timothy Hall, W. Ward, Jos. Butterworth. It would be interesting to learn how this rather puritanical order was observed and enforced.

On the 19th Geo. Waters was appointed Ass. Overseer, and on 2 May, 1814, a Map of the old Enclosure of the Forest was ordered. It would be interesting to learn the fate of this Map today (1932), but the Parish Award on the Enclosure of the Forest by the Act of 1797 has a Map of the whole Parish.

In June, 1815, it was resolved to allow 2/6 to each man at an Inquest outside the Town and 1/- if in the town, and in 1816 John Cooper and Saml. Downing were nominated Overseers. In 1817 H. Stevenson was Asst. Overseer at a salary of £52 10s. 0d. and 7 April, 1819 it was agreed to allow Mr. Valentine £30 per annum for medical attendance on the Poor. The condition of the Town at this trying period will be judged by referring to the account of the Poor Law.

On 9 April, 1819, a meeting of the Inhabitants resolved unanimously to approve the plan of the Duke of Portland to employ poor persons of Sutton "in cultivating a portion of land on Two Oaks Farm for Potatoes. Also resolved that this meeting approves the plan of the Duke of Portland's Agent of employing other persons belonging to the parish in the manufacturing of stockings, such manufacture to be conducted by His Grace's Agent." This remarkable action of the Governing Body of the Town is to be noted. The appointment of a Select Vestry to manage Town affairs had been regulated by an Act of Parliament in 1831, and at a parish Vestry meeting 24 May, 1820 "It was resolved that a Select Vestry should be formed for the Parish and the following Gentlemen were nominated to act upon such Vestry." As this was the forerunner of our present system of local Government it is interesting to preserve their names. They were John Cooper, John Rhodes, Churchwardens, Clay Fisher, Jas. Lindley, Overseers, and John Clarke, Jos. Butterworth, Sam Owtram, Chas. Neale, Jas. Hulme, Esq., Thos. Heygate, Henry Morris, Wm. Beecroft, George Penistant, Wm. Oatos, Ben Miller, Jas. W. Valentine, Timothy Hall.

Cooper was landlord of the King's Head Inn, which he changed to the Denman's Head, as being an ardent supporter of Queen Caroline, and an admirer of her defence by Mr. Denman. His only son became a most popular Surgeon at Mansfield. Rhodes a Butcher had two well-known sons Archelaus and William, the latter a Schoolmaster. Fisher was a Farmer and Carpenter on the Green. Lindley a farmer at Stonehills, Clarke a Blacksmith and Farmer in Church Street, Butterworth a Hosier and Grocer in the Market Place, Saml. Owtram a Farmer living in John Newton's house in Low Street, now the Rifleman Inn, his name being preserved in our principal thoroughfare. Chas. Neale was Agent for the Duke of Portland, Jas. Hulme a Medical Man living at Sutton Hall. Thos. Heygate was manager and partner in Sutton Works, his mother was a daughter of Saml. Unwin, and his brother Lord Mayor of London. H. Morris a Farmer in Forest Road, Wm. Beecroft a Farmer on the Upper Green, his son marrying Miss Beastall, both names being preserved in that of their son Chas. Beastall Beecroft so long and so well connected with Sutton Church affairs. Wm. Oates was a Farmer and Shopkeeper on the hill known by his name. Benj. Miller a Draper in the Market Place, his father having been a Mercer supplying silk to the Framework knitters. J. W. Valentine was a Surgeon who built the house facing down Market Street. T. Hall a Farmer on Round Hills. A Public meeting was held in 1821 to again select the Vestry. The new members were the Rev. Wm. Goodacre, recently come as Incumbent of the Parish Church, John Shooter of King Street, who ten years later was killed by his son 7 September, 1830, Thos. Gadsby a Grocer, part of Sherwood Street being long known as Gadsby's Yard, John Heath of the Blue Bell Inn, and Richard Tudsbury who had married Hannah Hardstaff 7 October, 1806 and built the Apollo Tavern at Forest Side. He was of an ancient family of Edwinstowe, much respected in Sutton. In 1842 a Library was established in the house of Mr. Charles Stones in the Market Place, and its records along with the Minutes of the Select Vestry have disappeared, the Church Vestry Book only giving an account of the election of Wardens and Overseers.

In 1858 an Act was passed, amended in 1861, giving Localities the power to adopt it, and then to elect a Local Board. This Act was adopted at Sutton in 1865 by an election held on 13 December and much feeling was aroused. The Electors had Votes according to the Rateable value of their holdings, but none having more than 6 Votes. The Act was adopted by 216 Votes for, and 173 against, though the number of Voters was equal, 104 each. The defeated Party published a Poster with the heading "The record of the Poll taken on the occasion of the adoption of the Local Government Act at Sutton-in-Ashfield 13 December, 1865," and at the foot this note—Fellow Townsmen: You are respectfully requested to preserve this Record, that you and your children may know who it was that brought you under this Expensive and Ruinous System." (This Poster has been preserved and placed in the Council Offices by G.G.B.).

At the Election that followed, the Rev. W. B. Stevens, the Incumbent, and Messrs. W. Gates, W. Adlington (of King's Mill), Chas. Oscroft, Saml. Hardwick, Robt. Limb, Geo. Kitchen, G. Clarke, J. K. Daubeny, Chas. Tudsbury, Wm. Parker, Saml. Wilson, H. S. Charlton, W. Mart and John Pickard were elected. Some account of this Local Board will be found elsewhere.

The early years of this new Authority were occupied by business of not sufficient importance to chronicle, though most useful at that time. By Laws were adopted 2 July 1867. In 1869 Plans were approved for the laying out of the district around New Cross, and after a public meeting the Act relating to the establishment of a Market was adopted.

In 1875, 2 June, the old Works of the Unwins Were destroyed by fire, the ancient Fire Engine of the Board being too feeble to fight the flames.

In 1877 the Board purchased the Gas Works, and Plans for the new Outram Street were approved, and in 1880 a scheme for dealing with the Town Sewage was adopted, and in 1881 a scheme for a public Water Supply. In 1885 the site of the Cemetery was purchased for £1,700 and in 1886 the Water Supply was extended to Hucknall Huthwaite at a rate of 7d. per 1,000 gallons, and on October 6 the Waterworks were formally opened by Unwin Heathcote, Esq., of Shephalbury, Herts., the head of the old family of Unwin. In 1887 the plans for Victoria Street were approved, and in 1888 Kirkby and Skegby were connected with the Water Supply, and plans were approved for the Congregational Schools in Victoria Street. The town was divided into two Wards for election purposes. In August, 1889 the Plans for new Wesleyan Schools in Outram Street were passed, and in 1891 Water was extended to Teversal, and the Town of Mansfield congratulated upon its becoming a Borough.

In 1893 the Strike of Miners gave much anxiety with regard to the supply of Gas, and in 1894 the Local Board was supplanted by the Urban District Council, established by an Act of Parliament, 5 March, 1894. The first Election took place under this Act, 18 December, 1894 when Messrs. J. G. Allsop, J. D. Bailey, A. H. Bonser, G. G. Bonser, H. Boot, John Briggs, C. H. Kitchen, J. K. Kitchen, John Pickard, J. C. Sampson, H. Shaw, Frank Tudsbury and Benj. Walton were elected. At its first meeting 28 December it was found to be premature, and it was adjourned to 2 January when Mr. G. G. Bonser was elected Chairman and Mr. John Pickard Vice Chairman. Under the Act Chairmen became by virtue of their Office Justices of the Peace, and Mr. Bonser was sworn in the same day at the Nottingham Quarter Sessions.

In 1851 a Company was formed to supply Gas and Works were built and opened in 1852 on a site now occupied by shops on the west side of Outram Street. The Trustees were the Rev. Wm. Goodacre, Vicar, and Mr. Geo. Oscroft, of Westfield House. The Directors were Messrs. Wm. Oates, Chas. Plumbe, Secretary, and Henry Crofts, Treasurer. The Undertaking was finally sold to the Town in 1877 at the price of £20,000, £17,000 being paid for 650 shares.

In 1934 the Parishes of Teversal, Skegby and Huthwaite were united to that of Sutton-in-Ashfield, under the name of the latter.