Improvement commissioners

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Boards of improvement commissioners were ad hoc boards created during the 18th and 19th centuries in the United Kingdom. They were an early form of local government.

The first Improvement Commission was the Manchester Police Commission, established in 1765. This was followed by the Birmingham Street Commissioners in 1769.[1]

Around 300 boards were created, each by a private Act of Parliament, typically termed an Improvement Act.[2] The powers of the boards varied according to the acts which created them. They often included street paving, cleansing, lighting, providing watchmen or dealing with various public nuisances.[3]

Commissions were rate levying bodies. They maintained themselves either by co-opting new members, by holding elections at which all ratepayers could vote, or by taking all ratepayers taxed over a certain rate as automatic members.[1]

During the mid-19th century, some commissions came under Chartist control, for example, the Manchester Police and Gas Commissions, the Leeds Improvement Commission, the Bradford Highway Commission and the Sheffield Highway Commission.[4]

Municipal corporations and boards of health would later be able to absorb the powers of the improvement commissioners by promoting private acts.[5]


  1. ^ a b Clyde Binfield et al., The History of the City of Sheffield 1843 - 1993: Volume I: Politics
  2. ^ Ed. Juliet Gardiner, The Penguin Dictionary of English History
  3. ^ Hampton, W., Local Government and Urban Politics, (1991)
  4. ^ Richard Price, British Society, 1680-1880: Dynamism, Containment and Change
  5. ^ Bryne, T., Local Government in Britain, (1994)

See also[edit]