Unreformed boroughs in England and Wales 1835–1886

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Unreformed boroughs were those corporate towns in England and Wales which had not been reformed by the Municipal Corporations Act 1835. A handful of these obtained new charters under the 1835 Act. A royal commission was established in 1876 to inquire into these boroughs, and legislation passed in 1883 finally forced the reform or dissolution of these corporations by 1886.

Boroughs reformed 1835–1881[edit]

Only eight unreformed boroughs obtained new charters under the 1835 Act:

Borough Year
Honiton, Devon 1846[1][2]
Hartlepool, County Durham 1850
Yeovil, Somerset 1854
Aberavon, Glamorgan 1861
Hedon, Yorkshire 1861[3]
Reigate, Surrey 1863
Dunstable, Bedfordshire 1864
Lewes, Sussex 1881

Three other towns incorporated in this period are sometimes listed as unreformed boroughs. The first of these was Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire, incorporated in 1847. Although it may have had an existence as a municipality, it had ceased to exist by the nineteenth century. Peterborough, in Northamptonshire and Huntingdonshire, was incorporated in 1874. The town was governed by officials of the dean and diocese of Peterborough. Taunton, in Somerset, whose charter had been nullified in 1792 due to a failure to fill vacancies in the corporation, continued as a parliamentary borough and the town was incorporated as a municipal borough in 1877.[4]

The Royal Commission of 1876[edit]

A royal commission was appointed in 1876 which investigated the unreformed boroughs and made recommendations on which towns might be brought under the Municipal Corporations Act. The commissioners identified 75 towns with corporations still functioning, and recommended that 26 of them should be reformed, the others being abolished. They also named a further 32 towns in which the corporation had become extinct, although the boroughs still had a legal existence. Of these, 10 had ceased to operate since 1835. The commissioners’ report was not acted upon for seven years. In the meantime, one of the towns they considered suitable for municipal government, Lewes was reformed, and the 1835 legislation was replaced by the Municipal Corporations Act 1882.

Municipal Corporations Act 1883[edit]

The Municipal Corporations Act 1883 provided for the abolition of unreformed borough corporations, unless they obtained a new charter under the 1882 legislation.

Section 3 stated that “The place shall not be a corporate town or borough, and any municipal or other corporation thereof existing shall be dissolved” if a new charter had not been obtained by 29 September 1886.

The first and second schedules listed the corporations investigated by the 1876 commission:

Corporation or reputed corporation

County

Commissioners’ report

Fate of corporation

Successor

Aldeburgh Suffolk Recommended reform Reformed 1885 Aldeburgh MB
Alnwick Northumberland Recommended reform Abolished 1886 Alnwick LGD
Alresford Essex Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 absorbed by Tendring RSD
Altrincham Cheshire Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 ‡ Altrincham LGD
Appleby Westmorland Recommended reform Reformed 1885 Appleby MB
Axbridge Somerset Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 absorbed by Axbridge RSD
Bala Merionethshire Long extinct Abolished 1886 Bala LGD
Bangor Caernarfonshire Long extinct Reformed 1883 Bangor MB
Berkeley Gloucestershire Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 absorbed by Thornbury RSD
Bishops Castle Shropshire Recommended reform Reformed 1885 Bishop's Castle MB
Bossiney Cornwall Extinct since 1835 Abolished 1886 absorbed by Camelford RSD
Bovey Tracey Devon Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 absorbed by Newton Abbot RSD
Brackley Northamptonshire Recommended abolition Reformed 1886 [5] Brackley MB
Brading Hampshire (Isle of Wight) Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 absorbed by Isle of Wight RSD
Bradninch Devon Recommended reform Abolished 1886 absorbed by Tiverton RSD
Bridlington Yorkshire Long extinct Abolished 1886 Bridlington LGD
Caerwys Flintshire Extinct since 1835 Abolished 1886 absorbed by Holywell RSD
Camelford Cornwall Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 absorbed by Camelford RSD
Castle Rising Norfolk Extinct since 1835 Abolished 1886 absorbed by Freebridge Lynn RSD
Chipping Campden Gloucestershire Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 absorbed by Shipston on Stour RSD
Chipping Sodbury Gloucestershire Long extinct Abolished 1886 absorbed by Chipping Sodbury RSD
Christchurch Hampshire Recommended reform Reformed 1886 Christchurch MB
Clun Shropshire Extinct since 1835 Abolished 1886 absorbed by Clun RSD
Corfe Castle Dorset Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 absorbed by Wareham & Purbeck RSD
Cowbridge Glamorganshire Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 absorbed by Bridgend & Cowbridge RSD
Criccieth Caernarfonshire Long extinct Abolished 1886 Criccieth ICD
Crickhowell Brecknockshire Long extinct Abolished 1886 absorbed by Crickhowell RSD
Dinas Mawddwy Merionethshire Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 absorbed by Dolgelley RSD
Dunwich Suffolk Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 absorbed by Blything RSD
Dursley Gloucestershire Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 absorbed by Dursley RSD
East Looe Cornwall Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 absorbed by Liskeard RSD
Farnham Surrey Long extinct Abolished 1886 Farnham LGD
Fishguard Pembrokeshire Long extinct Abolished 1886 absorbed by Haverfordwest RSD
Fordwich Kent Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 absorbed by Bridge RSD
Garstang Lancashire Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 absorbed by Garstang RSD
Grampound Cornwall Long extinct Abolished 1886 absorbed by St Austell RSD
Great Dunmow Essex Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 absorbed by Dunmow RSD
Harlech Merionethshire Long extinct Abolished 1886 absorbed by Ffestiniog RSD
Harton Devon Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 absorbed by Bideford RSD
Hay Herefordshire Long extinct Abolished 1886 absorbed by Hay RSD
Havering-atte-Bower Essex Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 absorbed by Romford RSD
Henley-on-Thames Oxfordshire Recommended reform Reformed 1883 Henley-on-Thames MB
Higham Ferrers Northamptonshire Recommended abolition Reformed 1886 Higham Ferrers MB
Holt Denbighshire Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 absorbed by Wrexham RSD
Ilchester Somerset Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 absorbed by Yeovil RSD
Kenfig Glamorganshire Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 absorbed by Bridgend & Cowbridge RSD
Kidwelly Carmarthenshire Recommended reform Reformed 1885 Kidwelly MB
Kilgerran Pembrokeshire Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 absorbed by Cardigan RSD
Lampeter Cardiganshire Recommended abolition Reformed 1884 Lampeter MB
Langport Eastover Somerset Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 absorbed by Langport RSD
Laugharne Carmarthenshire Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 absorbed by Carmarthen RSD
Llanelly Carmarthenshire Extinct since 1835 Abolished 1886 Llanelly LGD
Llanfyllin Montgomeryshire Recommended reform Reformed 1885 Llanfyllin MB
Llantrisant Glamorganshire Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 absorbed by Pontypridd RSD
Lostwithiel Cornwall Recommended reform Reformed 1885 Lostwithiel MB
Loughor Glamorganshire Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 absorbed by Llanelly RSD
Lydd Kent Recommended reform Reformed 1885 Lydd MB
Machynlleth Montgomeryshire Long extinct Abolished 1886 absorbed by Machynlleth RSD
Malmesbury Wiltshire Recommended reform Reformed 1886 Malmesbury MB
Marazion Cornwall Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 absorbed by Penzance RSD
Midhurst Sussex Long extinct Abolished 1886 absorbed by Midhurst RSD
Montgomery Montgomeryshire Recommended reform Reformed 1885 Montgomery MB
Nevin Caernarfonshire Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 absorbed by Pwllheli RSD
New Romney Kent Recommended reform Reformed 1885 New Romney MB
Newborough Anglesey Long extinct Abolished 1886 absorbed by Carnarvon RSD
Newport Shropshire Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 Newport LGD
Newport Pembrokeshire Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 ‡ absorbed by Cardigan RSD
Newton Lancashire Long extinct Abolished 1886 Newton in Makerfield LGD
Newtown Hampshire (Isle of Wight) Extinct since 1835 Abolished 1886 absorbed by Isle of Wight RSD
Okehampton Devon Recommended reform Reformed 1885 Okehampton MB
Orford Suffolk Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 absorbed by Plomesgate RSD
Over Cheshire Recommended reform Abolished 1886 ‡ Winsford LGD
Overton Flintshire Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 absorbed by Ellesmere RSD
Petersfield Hampshire Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 absorbed by Petersfield RSD
Pevensey Sussex Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 absorbed by Eastbourne RSD
Plympton Earle Devon Extinct since 1835 Abolished 1886 absorbed by Plympton St Mary RSD
Presteigne Radnorshire Long extinct Abolished 1886 absorbed by Knighton RSD
Rhuddlan Flintshire Extinct since 1835 Abolished 1886 absorbed by St Asaph RSD
Queenborough Kent Recommended reform Reformed 1885 Queenborough MB
Radnor Radnorshire Recommended reform Abolished 1886 absorbed by Kington RSD
Romney Marsh Kent Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 absorbed by Romney Marsh RSD
Ruyton Shropshire Long Extinct Abolished 1886 absorbed by Oswestry RSD
St Clears Carmarthenshire Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 absorbed by Carmarthen RSD
St David's Pembrokeshire Long Extinct Abolished 1886 absorbed by Haverfordwest RSD
Saltash Cornwall Recommended reform Reformed 1885 Saltash MB
Seaford Sussex Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 Seaford LGD
Sutton Coldfield Warwickshire Recommended reform Reformed 1885 Sutton Coldfield MB
Tavistock Devon Long Extinct Abolished 1886 absorbed by Tavistock RSD
Thornbury Gloucestershire Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 absorbed by Thornbury RSD
Tregony Cornwall Extinct since 1835 Abolished 1886 absorbed by Truro RSD
Usk Monmouthshire Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 Usk LGD
Wareham Dorset Recommended reform Reformed 1886 Wareham MB
Weobley Herefordshire Long Extinct Abolished 1886 absorbed by Weobley RSD
Westbury Wiltshire Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 absorbed by Westbury & Whorwellsdown RSD
West Looe Cornwall Extinct since 1835 Abolished 1886 absorbed by Liskeard RSD
Wickwar Gloucestershire Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 absorbed by Chipping Sodbury RSD
Wilton Wiltshire Recommended reform Reformed 1885 Wilton MB
Winchcomb Gloucestershire Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 absorbed by Winchcomb RSD
Winchelsea Sussex Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 absorbed by Rye RSD
Wiston Pembrokeshire Long Extinct Abolished 1886 absorbed by Haverfordwest RSD
Wokingham Berkshire Recommended reform Reformed 1883 Wokingham MB
Woodstock Oxfordshire Recommended reform Reformed 1886 Woodstock MB
Wootton Bassett Wiltshire Recommended reform Abolished 1886 absorbed by Cricklade & Wootton Bassett RSD
Wotton-under-Edge Gloucestershire Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 absorbed by Dursley RSD
Yarmouth Hampshire (Isle of Wight) Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 absorbed by Isle of Wight RSD

The offices of mayor of Altrincham, Over and Newport, Pembrokeshire were deemed to be "purely honorary" and were to be allowed to continue to exist. In each case, the mayor was appointed by the lord of the manor and court leet.

A number of the boroughs abolished in 1886 subsequently regained borough status, the earliest being Cowbridge in 1887. When such boroughs were created, however, they were entirely new creations with no claim to the former property of the abolished boroughs.

Other provisions[edit]

The 1886 Act also dealt with a number of other corporations with a status similar to boroughs:

  • The Confederation of the Cinque Ports were to retain their privileges in those towns with a reformed corporation. Non-corporate members were to be merged with the county and hundred in which they lay geographically. The corporation of the ancient town of Winchelsea was to become a charitable trust.
  • The corporation of the bailiff jurats and commonalty of Romney Marsh was to continue to exist, but would only exercise such non-municipal powers.
  • The Liberties Act 1850 would be extended to the Liberty of Havering atte Bower, allowing for its merger with the county of Essex.

References[edit]

  1. ^ The London Gazette: no. 20606. pp. 1883–1884. 22 May 1846.
  2. ^ Charter dated 17 November 1846, first election of councillors 1 February 1847, first election of mayor and aldermen 3 February 1847. "Honiton". Trewman's Exeter Flying Post or Plymouth and Cornish Advertiser. 26 November 1846. 
  3. ^ The Municipal corporations act was applied to the borough by the Hedon Corporation and Borough Improvement Act 1860 (23 & 24 Vict c.xxxi). The first elections to the reformed borough were held on 1 November 1860. "Municipal Elections". Hull Packet & East Riding Times. 2 November 1860. 
  4. ^ Toulmin, Joshua (1791). Savage, James, ed. The History of Taunton, in the County of Somerset (1822 ed.). Taunton: John Poole. pp. 283–285. Retrieved 30 September 2012. 
  5. ^ "Privy Council Office, December 3, 1886". London: The London Gazette. 7 December 1886. Retrieved 27 July 2012.