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1854 Public Health Inquiry Part 5

 Local Acts

In 1825, an Act was obtained at the cost of 970l, entitled An Act for paving, lighting, watching, cleansing, regulating, and improving the town of Stroud. In the preamble it is “that alleged the streets, lanes, roads, way and other public passages and places in the town are very ill-paved and cleansed, and are incommodious to passengers by reason of nuisances &c in the same; and that it would be a grate benefit and advantage to the inhabitants if the same were properly paved, cleansed, lighted, watched and freed from all nuisances and annoyances, and if the narrow and incommodious parts of the streets , lanes roads, ways and passages were widened, enlarged, and improved and proper regulations were made and established for the government and police thereof.”

By this Act 6 Geo 4 C vi the limits of the town of Stroud are made to comprehend to so much of the said parish of Stroud as lies within the distance of one mile in every direction from the parish church of Stroud aforesaid.

Mr Parsons stated,-

“The limits of the Act is an evil seriously felt. It extends to one mile from the parish church, so far as relates to the said parish, whereas some parts of the town are located in two other parishes; a great many of the more opulent families being resident in those parishes.

Mr C. Staunton said:-

“The promoters of this (Improvement) Act wished its limit to be half a mile from the town, and it passed the House of Commons upon this basis. But in the committee of the House of Lords the Earl of Shaftesbury suggested that it should be extended to a mile, which was assented to by the promoters, and the bill was altered accordingly, to the surprise of himself and other of the inhabitants. I occupy property out of the town but within the limits of the Improvement Act hand have no compliant to make respecting the rates. The commissioners appointed to carry out the said Act amounted to 52 in number exclusive of all justices of the peace for the county of Gloucester, the officiating minister and churchwardens for the timebeing of the said parish of Stroud. By the 5th section, it is enacted that when the number of commissioners shall be reduced by death or disqualification to the number of twelve, the surviving commissioners are required to convene a meeting of the inhabitant householders resident within the limits of the town, by giving 14 days notice thereof; and at such meeting the inhabitant householders, then and there assembled shall elect and appoint by the majority of votes , persons to fill the vacant places in the said commission; the qualification being of possession or receipt of rents or profits of the clear annual value of one hundred pounds above reprizes, an heir apparent of a person seized of lands or tenements of the clear annual value of one hundred and fifty pounds above reprizes, or possessed of real or personal estate, or of both together of the full value of three thousand pounds above the payment of all just debts.

The meetings of the commissioners (of whom any five form a quorum), must take place between the hours of 9am and 4pm, and that no business is to be done by the commissioners before 11 o'clock in the forenoon, nor any meeting be appointed to be held later than 4 o'clock (except the first meeting). The commissioners to pay their own expenses except any sum not exceeding ten shillings a day for the use of the room wherein to meet for the purposes of the Act.

It is enacted, that no order or determination of the commissioners shall be revoked at any subsequent meeting without notice thereof, signed by not less than two commissioners, shall have been affixed upon the porch door of the parish church, and also given at the previous meeting of the commissioners. By the 10th section, the commissioners are to hold annual meetings for the purpose of auditing their own accounts.

They are also authorised to appoint six officers, i.e. A treasurer, clerk, assessor, collector, receiver, and surveyor; also scavengers, rankers, cleansers, lighters of lamps, and such other officers as they shall think proper for carrying the Act into execution.

The Act contains clauses for regulating the duty of the clerk, and provides that the office of treasurer and clerk, shall not be held by the same person.

Working of the Local Act

Mr Thomas Parsons stated, -

“I was one of the commissioners up to within a recent date, when I resigned in order to afford an opportunity to the ratepayers to fill up the board, if possible, more satisfactorily to themselves. The commissioners, were unfortunately between two fires; on the one hand they had been censured for the excessive rates they had been levying; and on the other hand, they had been charged with want of energy in carrying out the necessary improvements. They were limited in the first instance to the borrowing of 3000L, all of which had been adsorbed in the expenditure in the first year or two. The inhabitants had not previously been accustomed to an improvement rate, and felt one or two penny rates rather a heavy charge; and the gentlemen who were first appointed , not liking to be charged with levying heavy rates upon the town, hesitated to make a rate or two, by which they might have kept in repair works already done. The consequence had been that those gentlemen subsequently appointed had had thrown upon their hands a very considerable extent of street paving, lighting, sewerage, &c in a state of great dilapidation. There is no provision in the Act of the repayment of the loan, which consequently exists to the present day; and an amount of interest has been paid more than sufficient to repay the whole of the loan, principal and interest. Had this provision been made we should have been in a very different position from what we are.”


In addition to penalties for various nuisances as given in the quotations from the several clauses, section 39 to 49 provide for the enforcing a penalty on persons damaging gas-pipes &c; also on commissioners or contractors suffering liquids produced by manufacture or gas to flow into any stream. Section 100 imposes a penalty on persons obstructing commissioners or any of their officers in the performance of their duty; and section 81 gives power to levy a fine on persons destroying any works; whilst sections 102,103 and 104 provide for proceedings before the magistrate.

Proceedings Relative to an Amended Local Act

On the 18th of October 1853, a committee was appointed to consider the Acts for Improvement of Towns and Removal of Nuisances, in order to ascertain what improvements could be effected in the Town Act, 6 Geo 4 cap vi., and to report thereon (see appendix p 54). And on the 25th of the same month a memorial from several inhabitants was presented to the commissioners, requesting a meeting of the ratepayers might be convened with a view to obtaining their sanction to an application to Parliament for more extensive powers. Whereupon it was resolved to convene a meeting of the ratepayers to consider the propriety of their authorising the commissioners to make application to Parliament for an extension of power, and effecting additional improvements in the town.

On the 8th November (1853), upon Mr Winterbotham presenting the resolutions passed at a meeting of ratepayers to the commissioners, with a request that the commissioners would give their attention thereto, the following resolution was passed (subject to one dissentient):

“A public meeting of the ratepayers having been called by the commissioners in pursuance of a requisition signed by 35 ratepayers, and a resolution recommending an application to Parliament having been proposed and negatived at such meeting, the Commissioners consider further proceedings unnecessary, and they therefore decline acceding to any subsequent resolutions of the ratepayers at their adjourned meeting.

It was at the same time resolved that the commissioners would be happy to receive any suggestions for the improvement of the town on the part of the ratepayers.

Nine commissioners were present at this meeting.

At the same time it was resolved by the majority of the commissioners then present,

That in their opinion they have no authority under the existing Act to make any application to Parliament , either for a new Act or for an amendment of the present one.”

It had been decreed on the 1st of the month (November) at a meeting of the commissioners (six being present) by a resolution:

“That it would be more expedient at present to raise the money for the sanitary improvements of the town by means of the rates than to incur the expense of amending the present Act or procuring a fresh one.”

And on the 22 of the same month, Mr Parsons was appointed by the Commissioners to attend on their behalf at a public meeting and there to state,-

“That the Commissioners are anxious to avoid al unnecessary expenses; at the same time they are desirous of giving every consideration to the suggestions of the ratepayers, with a view to an amicable arrangement for the carrying out improvements in the town.

Nothing further, however, appears to have been done until August 8th, 1854 when the commissioners a appointed a committee “to examine the Health of Towns Act with a view of ascertaining what provisions in that Act they should recommend to be incorporated with the existing Local Act.

And on the 15th of the same month, it was resolved (with respect to the preliminary inquiry).-

“That the commissioners are desirous of meeting the wishes of the ratepayers; but in case any provisional order be made, they reserve to themselves the right of apply for the incorporation of such clauses of the Health of Towns Act with the present Improvement Act as they may think will meet the requirements of the town.”

Signed by five commissioners.

Mr Witchell, clerk to the commissioners, said,-

There have been three elections in eighteen years for filling up vacancies in the committee under the 5th sect., namely, in 1827,1835 and in 1845. The intervals between the meetings have not extended beyond a month. I have seldom had to call a meeting from non-attendance of a sufficient number of commissioners to constitute a meeting, five forming a quorum. The accounts are open to inspection, but they are not generally advertised. They are audited by the commissioners as per 9th section. The officers which have been appointed consist of a treasurer (unpaid) a clerk; and collector, but no surveyor as the commissioners have discharged this latter office themselves. A scavenger has been appointed within the last year; previous to his appointment the streets were swept by the persons engaged in repairing the roads.”

Appointment of Committees

At the annual meeting of the commissioners four committees are appointed for the ensuing year, and consist of a limited number, for the superintendence of the following matters:-

Repair of highway committee consists of five members

Repair of footways committee consists of five members

Repair of sewers and drains committee consists of five members

Repair of watering streets committee consists of three members

Rates to be made

For the purposes of the Act (6 Geo 4 c. vi) the commissioners are empowered to make and levy one or more rates annually “upon the tenants or occupiers of all dwelling houses, mills, workhouses, shops, workshops, cellars, vaults, warehouses, stables, coach-houses, brewhouses, granaries, malthouses, and of all other buildings and erections whatsoever within the limits of the town, and upon the several yards, gardens and appurtenances thereto belonging and adjoining,” and “also upon all orchards, paddocks, closes, lands, tenements and hereditaments within the said limits;” so as the sums to be raised by virtue of the said rates do not in any one year exceed the sum of three shillings and six pence in the pound upon the annual value of the same premises, “the annual value being regulated by reference to the rate for the time being for the relief of the poor of the parish.”

It is however provided by section 85 that all land which at the time of making the rate shall be used as arable. Meadow, or pasture only; and also all dwelling houses, mills, workshops, workhouses, shops, cellars, vaults &c yards, gardens and appurtenances situated within any street, road, square, crescent, way, lane, passage or place, the footways of which said street, road &c shall not at the time of making the rate bye paved or flagged shall be charged and rated at half only of the full rate for the time being. But houses &c situated within one hundred yards of any street, road, &C so paved are to be assessed the same as if they immediately adjoined such street, &c. This section has been acted upon in making the rate.

It is enacted by the 88th section that any dwelling house assessed to the relief of the poor at an annual valuation amounting in the the whole to less than twenty shillings shall be exempt from payment of rates under the Improvement Act. Sections 89.90 and 91 related to the apportionment of rates on persons removing; and as to landlord and tenant letting their premises in separate apartments for a less term than on year, they may be rated as if they are the actual occupiers of such dwelling.

Amount that my be borrowed on credit of the rates

By section 92 the commissioners are empowered from time to time “to take up at interest any sum not exceeding in the whole the sum of three thousand pounds upon the credit of the rates.

”This sum has been borrowed and is now owing; the rate of interest paid is 4l per cent.  And section 94 provides “that it shall not be lawful for the commissioners for the purpose of making payment or redemption to borrow or take up at interest any further or greater sum than the three thousand pounds as limited by the 92nd section.

Application of rates and money borrowed

The 96th section enacts that the expenses attending the obtaining of the Act should be first paid, with interest for moneys advanced for this purpose. And in the next place in satisfying and discharging the interest of all monies borrowed upon the credit of the rates. And then from time to time in defraying the charges of carrying into execution and effect the several objects and purposes of the Act.

Property Scheduled for Improvement in the Town

The schedule comprises the following properties:-


A garden situated between Rowcroft-buildings and Wallbridge, with a building called the Summer-house


A messuage or public house called the Chequers with the outbuildings, garden and premises thereto belonging

This property has not been purchased


A stable contiguous to the last named premises situated in Badbrook lane, otherwise called Cheltenham street


A messuage, inn or public house, called the Marlborough Head, with the stable-yard situated in High Street


Two messuages or dwelling houses, adjoining the last named premises


Two tenements or dwellings adjoining the last mentioned premises


Tow tenements ditto


A garden adjoining the last-mentioned property


Five dwelling houses situate in Acre-hedge or otherwise Chapel Street


A building adjoining the last-named premises


A court-yard in front of two tenements, situated in Acre-hedge or Chapel-street


A small garden or strip of ground at the west-end of a dwelling-house in Acre-hedge otherwise Chapel-street

Mr Witchell said, -

“Two of the properties have not been taken. 1000L had been asked for the Chequers Inn, which the commissioners thought was too large a sum in proportion to the benefit that would be derived from the purchase. The Act does not limit the time within which the property is the schedule may be taken. By the 44th section, the commissioners are empowered to widen and alter streets, lanes, ways, and passaged, and other communications as they may deem expedient, and to take down and remove any of the houses, &c mentioned in the schedule.

The 45th section gives power to purchase houses &c, for said improvements; and sections 46,47,48.49.50,51 52,53,54,55,56,67,58,59,60,61,62,63 contain provisions for purchasing the property, and mode of fixing the amount to be paid. The 63rd section gives power of Commissioners to cause buildings taken down to be appropriated to the purposes of the Act, whilst the 65th section enables the Commissioners to sell premises not wanted. Sections 66 and 67 relate to the mode of ascertaining the amount and settlement of damages.

Summary of Receipts and Expenditure under the Improvement Act




Rates made




Money Borrowed












Donations &c







Less void houses &c








Total payments

21,266  4   1

Rate uncollected

    119 15 11

Balance of cash in hand

      22 12 11




In addition to the above sum of money borrowed, the commissioners have granted a security of 100l for an account in lieu of paying cash, increasing the mortgage debt that amount.

Expenditure by the Guardians on account of the Parish for the half-year ending Lady Day 1854

In maintenance



4 ½

Out relief in money and kind including relief to non-resident poor



3 ½

Maintenance of lunatics in asylums or licensed houses




Extra medical fees on payments charged to the parishes




Vaccination fees




Registration fees




County Rates




Workhouse loan and interest paid



10 ¼

Salaries of officers and other common charges apportioned according to the existing averages



8 ¾




8 ¾

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