Parish Council

Lydford Parish Council meets on the third Tuesday of the month in the Nicholls Hall, commencing at 7.00pm. For the agenda of the next meeting please click here. Everyone is welcome to attend and see “Grassroots Councils” in action!

To look at the minutes of past meetings please click here.

The Origins and History of Parish Councils

The origin of most English parishes is the same as that of the manors, which commonly formed their nucleus, and with which they were often conterminous; in an era when money was seldom used and trade an abnormal activity, when agriculture was primitive, the countryside was nearly empty of inhabitants and largely virgin.

The Court Baron or the Court Customary upheld what laws there were. As the manor courts declined, the influence, wealth and responsibility of the Church increased. The chancel of the parish church was sacred, but the body of the building was the parish hall and the only sheltered public meeting place of the inhabitants

The parson was paid by means of the tithe, which was a local income tax levied in kind on the produce of the land. ( A ‘tithe’ is defined as “a tenth of the produce of land and stock” and was stored in tithe barns, many of which are still standing today – ed). He combined with his role as parson the offices of schoolmaster, registrar and religious adviser.

Attendance at church was normal and enforceable. Charity remained a virtue and its organisation local. It was accordingly quite natural for the legislators of 1601 to confer upon vestries the power of levying a poor rate. In so doing they were merely strengthening machinery, which existed already and was, in their mind, proper to the relief of poverty and the exercise of charity. However, in the absence of an impartial auditing system they became notoriously corrupt. By the Napoleonic Wars this had become important because the vestries were beginning to administer huge sums of money. By 1819 they were levying rates, which the aggregate exceeded £10 million a year. (In real terms this equates to about one hundred times the sum Precepted in 1966/67).

Reform was demanded and attempted; the Sturges Bourne Act enabled an open vestry, by adopting the Act, to create an annually elected committee (also called a select vestry) to administer poor relief. At the same time the countryside was being transformed by enclosures. In 1868 the church rate was abolished and parish administration was reduced to the barest legal minimum. The Poor Law Act of 1834 withdrew much of the poor law administration from the parochial authorities. The key to the new edifice was the Local Government Act 1894. This took a year to pass with over 800 amendments being made in Parliament by the Gladstone government; the greatest furore being the proposal to create parish councils. Until 1914 parish councils were locally opposed, often derided and poor. Nevertheless, Parliament saw fit to increase their functions and it was in this period that they acquired their modern powers in relation to allotments, postal facilities and open spaces.

The prime function of parish councils was to “focus village opinion”, to represent such opinion to the outside world, as well as to carry out, on a small scale, those local tasks which would be uninteresting or uneconomic for the larger authorities. The details of the negotiations and manoeuvres, which led to the passing of the Local Government Act 1972, are not germane (relevent) to the subject of this web site, however, certain features are.

A clause on bus shelters was added in the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1953. The Parish Councils Act 1957 helped to abolish some of the more absurd controls. Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1963 allowed parish councils to spend a minute sum for the benefit of the parish.

In 1974 there were about 7,600 parish councils and 3,200 parishes without parish councils. In 1987 an extensive re-organisation of parish boundaries was undertaken by Central Government. This was the time when Lydford lost its claim to being the largest geographical parish in the UK. A new parish was formed encompassing Princetown and Dartmoor Forest. This was to be called The Dartmoor Forest Parish Council. The assets of the old parish council were apportioned to the two newly formed ones. Lydford today has a boundary with Bridestowe, Brentor, Mary Tavy and Princetown parish councils. It has a population of approx. 385 inhabitants.

For more information E-mail the
Clerk to the Council


The Lydford Parish Council from 3rd May 2007 is:

Mrs Kate Boyd (Chairman)

Mrs Lorraine Ellicott (Vice Chairman)
Armstor House
Vale Down

Mrs L Cole

Higher Beardon Farm

Mrs S Holland

St Petrocks

Judith Gannon
Bridge House Lodge

Christie Moriarty
7 Hawthorn Park

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