The first meeting of the Hampton Parish Council was held on 31st December 1894 in what is now the library. So this year we can look back on 125 years of active service. This event marked a significant change in the way local interests were represented and was an important step in the development of church and secular responsibilities at Parish level.
The concept of ‘the Parish’ has its roots in the structure of the early Christian Church in Anglo-Saxon England, overlaid by elements of the feudal system introduced by the Normans after 1066. In Medieval times the parish priest managed ecclesiastical matters, while the Lord of the Manor was in charge of administration and justice below the county level. However, with the buying and selling of manorial estates, and the increasing occurrence of ‘absenteeism’ of Lords of the Manor (such as in Hampton before the arrival of Sir Frederick Peel), the Parish Church Council (generally referred to as the Vestry) generally replaced the Manor as the rural administrative centre, and levied a local tax on produce known as a tithe.
However, during the 19th century, the Parish Vestry had progressively lost its powers to ad hoc boards and other organisations, for example the loss of responsibility for poor relief through the Poor Law Amendment Act 1834, whilst Public Health districts with responsibility for water and sewage covered England by 1875.
The Local Government Act of 1894 abolished the non-ecclesiastical duties of Vestries, set up Urban and Rural Districts, established elected Civil Parish Councils for all rural parishes with more than 300 ratepayers, and established Annual Parish Meetings. These new Civil Parishes were intended to be ‘community councils’ and it was under this legislation that Hampton’s elected Parish Council came into being.
Many of the topics considered by the newly formed Parish Council will seem familiar to us today. They included relations with the Fentham Trust, provision of a village hall, lobbying over provision of drainage, street lighting and utilities supplies, provision of ‘affordable’ housing after 1919, acquisition of land for playing fields, and the war memorial, rail station access, maintenance and repair of footpaths and, as early as 1909, traffic speeds through the village!