The First 60 Years of the Parish Council

April 4, 2006

In December 2004 we published an article about the first meetings of the newly formed Parish Council (PC) which dealt with the inaugural meetings in December 1894 and January 1895. This new article highlights some of the issues that confronted the council during its first sixty years of service to the community. It is based on the hand-written minutes contained in a single, hard-backed volume now deposited in the Dorset History Centre in Dorchester.
The traditional hierarchy of village life was retained for several decades, and it is noteworthy that the councillors were almost to a man (never a woman) all from the relatively privileged, the Church, the gentry, the shop keepers, and the wealthier farmers. But this was all starting to unravel at the approach of the second world war. Fontmell was seen, in the restrained words of the several clerks and their measured, quiet minutes, as an uncomplicated and united village, in no way remarkable except in its normality and comradeship.

Sir Richard Glyn

Sir Richard Glyn

The PC, in the early days of its existence, could talk as much as it liked, but it was usually reduced, for the implementation of its aspirations, to engage the lord of the manor, Sir Richard George Glyn, through his factor (or land agent) George Carlton Day. Sir Richard was also the local county councillor, and Mr Day was the district councillor. These accidents probably helped.
The village school was hugely

Fontmell school class

Fontmell school class

important and largely beyond the access of the PC, even though the chairman of the board of governors of the school and the chairman of the PC were, until 1937, always the same person, the Rector of the Parish Church. The nearest hospital was the Shaftesbury Cottage Hospital, endowed largely by the family which owned most of Shaftesbury, the Westminsters. The PC had a moral obligation to aid fund raising for it.
The chairmen of the PC in its first 60 years were Rev. F W Glyn (1894-1900); Rev. John Lonsdale, (1900-1902); Rev. Charles Pigott Edmonds (1903-1937); Charles Green (1937-1950); A J Ryall (1950-51) and Ben Chick
(1952- ).

POSTAL SERVICES

Methodist Chapel, village shop,malthouse and maypole

Methodist Chapel, village shop,malthouse and maypole

In 1895 the clerk was asked to write to the postmaster at Shaftesbury, requesting the outward post from Fontmell village to be collected about 90 minutes after the Sunday delivery. This was not granted, and the request was repeated in 1908. In 1925 it was confirmed that the last collection from Fontmell post office (in the picture to the right of the Methodist Chapel) on Saturdays would be at 4.10 pm, and from Bedchester at 5.30 pm and that all letters collected on Saturdays and Sundays would be delivered on Monday morning. The PC noted all this with satisfaction, but the promised Monday delivery time of 9 am was thought to be an hour too late. Those were the bad old                                                                                           days!

THE ROADS
These were the responsibility of the Dorset County Council

The sheep wash, Mill Street

The sheep wash, Mill Street

(DCC), which had come into being a bare four years before the parish councils. At first the road surface most criticised locally was Mill Street, especially at its junction with the main road between Blandford and Shaftesbury. In 1896 the junction and much of Mill Street was under water because of damming of Fontmell Brook by the brewery. In May the district surveyor was called, and eventually in 1906 the recurrent nuisance ceased when the brewery closed.
As motorised traffic came in, increasing in power and speed, the danger of roads, almost exclusively the main road, was raised as an issue again and again. In the first twenty years there was much ignorance about which council ran what. In 1911 the PC hoped it would not have to pay for the steamrolling of the main road when it required Tarmacking. They need not have worried.

Cattle on the A350 passing Collyers Cottage

Cattle in Lurmer Street passing Collyers Cottage

After much lobbying, Lurmer Street between the Crown Inn and Middle Farm was widened after repeated complaints and several accidents. The work was completed just before 1939, but not before the PC grumbled at the price paid by DCC for the 1/10th of an acre they purchased for a whole £150.
Requests for warning signs to be erected were made as early as

Police House, Fontmell Magna

Police House, Fontmell Magna

1909 when Sir Richard Glyn was asked ‘to obtain the Royal Automobile Club’s danger notices’. In 1911 DCC was also asked for danger notices outside ‘the police station’ and ‘at the Shaftesbury end’ of the village, and in 1935 ‘Fontmell Magna Village’ signs were erected at both ends of the village. There were always many complaints about footpaths in the parish, but it was not until 1953 that Ben Chick and F R Merefield became footpath officers, reporting blockages to DCC whose monumental footpaths survey had been published the previous year.

SOCIAL HOUSING
This has always been of the utmost importance. But until the end of the first world war this had always been a private issue in Fontmell between the Glyns and their tenants. (In 1843, for example, well before the PC was established, the Guardians of the Shaftesbury Union sold for the sum of £100, five cottages in Common Lane occupied by paupers, to Sir Richard Plumptre Glyn, the previous landowner.) But in 1919 the PC was confronted by a ‘Housing Scheme’ presented by Shaftesbury Rural District Council (RDC) and the county medical officer. The PC was asked if there were sufficient cottages in the parish for the Working Classes (sic), to which it replied by saying that about 20 were uninhabited, and many of these required reconstructing or replacement.
Not surprisingly the topic of social housing next cropped up at the end of the second world war. Rolf Gardiner asked that ‘the layout of council houses be designed, not piece-meal, but with a view to the maximum development of the village within the next 25 years’. Directly after the war, Orchard Close and West View were built. The two roads were well laid out, and have stood the test of time. In 1952 the PC objected to any further housing development, and pointed out to the RDC that ‘while Fontmell was attractive to applicants, there was no need for new housing’.

WASTE DISPOSAL
Sewage was mentioned for the first time in 1924 when the PC tersely adjudged the RDC’s ideas as ‘not acceptable’. The problem was only partly solved after the second world war when a plant was built as part of the Orchard Close development. There were a few grumbles about teething troubles’ voiced at several meetings when the plant came into operation. But the sewage works were finally approved by the PC in 1953. As far as refuse collection was concerned, the PC was concerned that while the village had a monthly collection, the rest of the parish was not so privileged. (Today there would be widespread panic if the weekly collection failed.) Grumbles about paying for these services through the rates occurred sporadically throughout the sixty years.

THE WAR MEMORIAL

The War Memorial

The War Memorial

The village memorial to those who fell in the 1914-18 war, and augmented by further entries for the 1939-45 war, was erected on land belonging to Sir Richard Fitzgerald Glyn. As he relinquished his enormous land holdings, he decided to convey the memorial and the land on which it stood to the PC. In 1927 the PC agreed to pay £1 a year towards the tidying of the land. There were several mentions of various personnel employed for this duty through the years, and in May 1941 the war memorial plaque was lodged for safety in the church vault. This was part of the policy of de-naming all villages. At the same time all signpost were uprooted, so that the German invaders would not know where they were.

 THE CROSS TREE
Concern was first expressed

Gossip Tree

Gossip Tree

about this tree when a sub-committee was set up in 1937 in order to preserve ‘the Gossip Tree’. Work was done, lopping and the like, in January and February 1938, but the PC was rebuked, because the tree did not belong to them. Nevertheless, in 1946 and 1949 further repairs were reported. Eventually of course, the old Cross Tree had to be replaced.

ALLOTMENTS
These crop up early in 1895. There was a need for additional allotments, and there was a ‘large demand’. A request was made to Sir Richard ‘to grant sufficient land for the purpose as may be needed to meet the case’. 20 persons had approached the PC for 29 acres in all. Sir Richard agreed to grant allotments of up to half an acre each, and also suggested that land at Higher Mill, Bedchester and at the old Sands allotments (off North Street) could be made available. 57 years later the PC agreed to relinquish the allotments.

 STREET LIGHTING AND ELECTRICITY SUPPLIES
In 1895 five oil lamps were placed strategically about the village, but by 1900 the lamps were abandoned and in 1935 the PC refused to re-install them. In 1938 concern was expressed about there being ‘no electricity to sparsely populated areas in the parish’, but it was not until 1946 that the PC urged that wiring should be extended to Bedchester and Kit Hill.

WATER SUPPLIES
These were often patchy in 1895. The PC considered the need for drinking water at Woodbridge, as at that time the water was fetched from Hartgrove. Later a pipe was provided. The haphazard supply of water to village taps was discussed in 1896, but it was not until 1935 that a scheme was received for water mains to be built.

Author: Geoffrey Tapper