125 years of the Parish Council

Happy 125th Anniversary to the Parish Council

In the beginning, or at least from Anglo-Saxon times, was the Manor. Every parish had at least one; Child Okeford had two – Superior and Inferior; the parish governed by a local lord through a system of manorial courts. As the manors declined over the centuries they were replaced by a committee of parishioners who, because they met in church, became known as the Vestry. For many centuries these Vestries were de facto local governments responsible for all secular and ecclesiastical matters including:

– law and order, maintained by the tything man

– hedgerows and gates to common land maintained by the hayward

– maintenance of the roads by the waywarden

– rounding up stray animals by the pinder (the village pound is now the car park by the church

and not forgetting “repressing vagrancy, relieving destitution, destruction of vermin, suppression of nuisances, furnishing of soldiers and sailors”.

This all changed with the Local Government Act of 1894 which abolished the Vestry and created “The Parish Council”. Under this act the parish council was empowered to:

– appoint overseers of the poor

– maintain and repair closed churchyards

– hold or maintain parish property (eg allotments, recreation grounds) for the benefit of the inhabitants

– maintain public footpaths as delegated by the rural district council

Other secular duties were to be undertaken by Sturminster Rural District Council and ecclesiastical duties undertaken by a parochial church council. As is evident, the local power and influence of the Vestry was considerably reduced by the Act which also stated that the first meeting was to be held on December 4th 1894 to choose the councillors. The number of councillors was determined by the county council and today remains the same as in 1894 – nine.

As an aside, this 1884 act also gave women the vote in local elections provided they owned property. One woman, Mrs. Mary Holdway, was nominated as a parish councillor for Child Okeford but was not elected.

Parish Council Inaugural Meeting 4th December 1894

At a meeting held in the National School Room Child Okeford on the fourth day of December 1894 for the purpose and nomination and Electing Parish Councillors for this Parish. Mr Wm Woolfrey (overseer) proposed and Mr G.R.Baverstock seconded that H.S.Bower Esq be the chairman. This was agreed to. Mr Bower having taken the chair at 7.15pm and after a few remarks as to the business of the meeting asked that nomination papers be handed in which was accordingly proceeded with – Mr Bower finding himself nominated a candidate for Parish Councillor and having decided to stand he vacated the chair.

Hon C.B.Portman was then elected chairman and the rest of the nomination papers were handed to the chaiman when it was found that the number of persons nominated was 16. The chairman having read the names of the proposed candidates in alphabetical order with the name of each candidate’s proposer and seconder called for a show of hands.




* BAVERSTOCK Frederick George

Tom Woolfrey

John Matcham

* BOWER Henry Syndercombe

George R Baverstock

William Hurdle

* BRYMER John George

Henry Syndercombe Bower

William R Currie


James R Eaton

Tom Woolfrey

* CURME Decimus

Robert E Holdway

Sydney Sheppard


James Read

Edwin H Hutchings

GOODRIDGE John Baldwin

William White

John G Brymer

* HALL John

Eli Goddard

George Budden

HARRIS Alfred John

John Hall

James R Eaton

HOLDWAY Mary Alice

Arthur S Lacey

George Chamberlain

* OLIVER Frederick

Eli Percy

Samuel Hurdle

* PACKARD Frank Cooper

Tom Croft

Charles Lemon

TUFFIN Harry Albert

Edward H Woofrey

Pedro C Pethen

WHITE William

James W Harvey

R John Turner


William Walley

William Hurdle


Decimus Curme

John B Goodridge

* Indicates those elected at the ballot

Mr H Woolfrey withdrew his name as a candidate and signed his nomination paper to that effect. The number of candidates was then reduced to 15.

The electors however considered a show of hands for each of the candidates an unsatisfactory way of electing Parish Councillors and after consulting together decided not to proceed with a show of hands. Mr F.G.Baverstock thereupon rose and demanded a poll so that the true intentions of electors might be ascertained by ballot. The demand not being withdrawn, a poll was agreed upon.

Two nominations for Rural District Councillors were handed to the chairman for the following gentlemen – Henry Syndercombe Bower Esq and Mr George Rossiter Baverstock. Mr Bower decided to withdraw from the contest in favour of Mr Baverstock and to save the parish from the expense of a double election.

The Chairman fixed Friday evening January 4th 1895 at seven o’clock for the fist meeting of the Parish Council. A vote of thanks to the chairman for presiding terminated the meeting.

Parish Council Minutes: January 4th 1895,

The first meeting of the Child Okeford Parish Council was held in the National School room, Child Okeford on Friday Evening January 4th [email protected] seven o’clock.

The whole of the Councillors having signed the Declaration of Acceptance of Office in the Book provided for that purpose viz Mr J.G.Baverstock, H.S.Bower,Esq., Mr Frederick Oliver, Mr Frank Cooper Packard, Mr Decimus Curme, Mr Eli Goddard, Mr John Hall, Mr Tom Woolfrey, Rev J.G. Brymer.

It was proposed by Councillor F.C.Packard and seconded by Councillor F. Oliver that Councillor H.S.Bower be Chairman of the Parish Council. This was unanimously agreed to.

Proposed by Councillor Hall and seconded by Councillor Goddard that Councillor J.G.Baverstock be Vice Chairman. Carried unam.

Proposed by Councillor Packard and seconded by Councillor J.G.Baverstock that Mr J.Symonds of Messrs Williams Bank, Sturminster Newton be Treasurer of the Council.

Mr I.D.Clench, Assistant Overseer was appointed clerk with one pound as remuneration for his duties until the Annual Meeting to be held in April next.

The various books belonging to the Council were to be placed in the custody of the Clerk.

A letter was presented to the Council by Councillor Goddard from a number of the Allotment Tenants in the Higher Common Allotment requesting the Council to take measures for improving the state of the allotments and requesting the Council to drain the allotment if possible also calling their attention to the desire of the Tenants for a Middle Road in lieu of the present (???) Bar or Gapways. The whole council decided to visit the Allotment in question on Thursday Jan 10th and see the state of the grounds with a view to improving the same.

The question of the Charities of this village was discussed.

The clerk was requested to complain to the District Council of the state of the following footpaths viz Crate Lane, Abbegavenny Lane, and Longmoor Lane (commonly called Dirty Lane in this parish).

It was decided that the next Council meeting be held on Friday Evening February 1st 1895 at seven o’clock.

Transcripts of these meetings can be downloaded :

Inaugural meeting of the Parish Council

First meeting of PC January 1895

Comments are closed.