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 Commissioners’ report Fate of corporation
Aldeburgh, Suffolk Recommended reform Reformed 1885
Alnwick, Northumberland Recommended reform Abolished 1886
Alresford, Essex Recommended abolition Abolished 1886
Altrincham, Cheshire Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 ‡
Appleby, Westmorland Recommended reform Reformed 1885
Axbridge, Somerset Recommended abolition Abolished 1886
Bala, Merionethshire Long extinct Abolished 1886
Bangor, Carnarvonshire Long extinct Reformed 1883
Berkeley, Gloucestershire Recommended abolition Abolished 1886
Bishops Castle, Shropshire Recommended reform Reformed 1885
Bossiney, Cornwall Extinct since 1835 Abolished 1886
Bovey Tracey, Devon Recommended abolition Abolished 1886
Brackley, Northamptonshire Recommended abolition Reformed 1886 [5]
Brading, Hampshire (Isle of Wight) Recommended abolition Abolished 1886
Bradninch, Devon Recommended reform Abolished 1886
Bridlington, Yorkshire Long extinct Abolished 1886
Caerwys, Flintshire Extinct since 1835 Abolished 1886
Camelford, Cornwall Recommended abolition Abolished 1886
Castle Rising, Norfolk Extinct since 1835 Abolished 1886
Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire Recommended abolition Abolished 1886
Chipping Sodbury, Gloucestershire Long extinct Abolished 1886
Christchurch, Hampshire Recommended reform Reformed 1886
Clun, Shropshire Extinct since 1835 Abolished 1886
Corfe Castle, Dorset Recommended abolition Abolished 1886
Cowbridge, Glamorgan Recommended abolition Abolished 1886
Criccieth, Merionethshire Long extinct Abolished 1886
Crickhowell, Breconshire Long extinct Abolished 1886
Dinas Mawddwy, Merionethshire Recommended abolition Abolished 1886
Dunwich, Suffolk Recommended abolition Abolished 1886
Dursley, Gloucestershire Recommended abolition Abolished 1886
East Looe, Cornwall Recommended abolition Abolished 1886
Farnham, Surrey Long extinct Abolished 1886
Fishguard, Pembrokeshire Long extinct Abolished 1886
Fordwich, Kent Recommended abolition Abolished 1886
Garstang, Lancashire Recommended abolition Abolished 1886
Grampound, Cornwall Long extinct Abolished 1886
Great Dunmow, Essex Recommended abolition Abolished 1886
Harlech, Merionethshire Long extinct Abolished 1886
Harton, Devon Recommended abolition Abolished 1886
Hay, Herefordshire Long extinct Abolished 1886
Havering-atte-Bower, Essex Recommended abolition Abolished 1886
Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire Recommended reform Reformed 1883
Higham Ferrers, Northamptonshire Recommended abolition Reformed 1886
Holt, Denbighshire Recommended abolition Abolished 1886
Ilchester, Somerset Recommended abolition Abolished 1886
Kenfig, Glamorgan Recommended abolition Abolished 1886
Kidwelly, Carmarthenshire Recommended reform Reformed 1885
Kilgerran, Pembrokeshire Recommended abolition Abolished 1886
Lampeter, Cardiganshire Recommended abolition Reformed 1884
Langport Eastover, Somerset Recommended abolition Abolished 1886
Laugharne, Carmarthenshire Recommended abolition Abolished 1886
Llanelly, Carmarthenshire Extinct since 1835 Abolished 1886
Llanfyllin, Montgomeryshire Recommended reform Reformed 1885
Llantrisant, Glamorgan Recommended abolition Abolished 1886
Lostwithiel, Cornwall Recommended reform Reformed 1885
Loughor, Glamorgan Recommended abolition Abolished 1886
Lydd, Kent Recommended reform Reformed 1885
Machynlleth, Montgomeryshire Long extinct Abolished 1886
Malmesbury, Wiltshire Recommended reform Reformed 1886
Marazion, Cornwall Recommended abolition Abolished 1886
Midhurst, Sussex Long extinct Abolished 1886
Montgomery, Montgomeryshire Recommended reform Reformed 1885
Nevin, Carnarvonshire Recommended abolition Abolished 1886
New Romney, Kent Recommended reform Reformed 1885
Newborough, Anglesey Long extinct Abolished 1886
Newport, Shropshire Recommended abolition Abolished 1886
Newport, Pembrokeshire Recommended abolition Abolished 1886 ‡
Newton, Lancashire Long extinct Abolished 1886
Newtown, Hampshire (Isle of Wight) Extinct since 1835 Abolished 1886
Okehampton, Devon Recommended reform Reformed 1885
Orford, Suffolk Recommended abolition Abolished 1886
Over, Cheshire Recommended reform Abolished 1886 ‡
Overton, Flintshire Recommended abolition Abolished 1886
Petersfield, Hampshire Recommended abolition Abolished 1886
Pevensey, Sussex Recommended abolition Abolished 1886
Plympton Earle, Devon Extinct since 1835 Abolished 1886
Presteigne, Radnorshire Long extinct Abolished 1886
Rhuddlan, Flintshire Extinct since 1835 Abolished 1886
Queenborough, Kent Recommended reform Reformed 1885
Radnor, Radnorshire Recommended reform Abolished 1886
Romney Marsh, Kent Recommended abolition Abolished 1886
Ruyton, Shropshire Long Extinct Abolished 1886
St Clears, Carmarthenshire Recommended abolition Abolished 1886
St David's, Pembrokeshire Long Extinct Abolished 1886
Saltash, Cornwall Recommended reform Reformed 1885
Seaford, Sussex Recommended abolition Abolished 1886
Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire Recommended reform Reformed 1885
Tavistock, Devon Long Extinct Abolished 1886
Thornbury, Gloucestershire Recommended abolition Abolished 1886
Tregony, Cornwall Extinct since 1835 Abolished 1886
Usk, Monmouthshire Recommended abolition Abolished 1886
Wareham, Dorset Recommended reform Reformed 1886
Weobley, Herefordshire Long Extinct Abolished 1886
Westbury, Wiltshire Recommended abolition Abolished 1886
West Looe, Cornwall Extinct since 1835 Abolished 1886
Wickwar, Gloucestershire Recommended abolition Abolished 1886
Wilton, Wiltshire Recommended reform Reformed 1885
Winchcomb, Gloucestershire Recommended abolition Abolished 1886
Winchelsea, Sussex Recommended abolition Abolished 1886
Wiston, Pembrokeshire Long Extinct Abolished 1886
Wokingham, Berkshire Recommended reform Reformed 1883
Woodstock, Oxfordshire Recommended reform Reformed 1886
Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire Recommended reform Abolished 1886
Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire Recommended abolition Abolished 1886
Yarmouth, Hampshire (Isle of Wight) Recommended abolition Abolished 1886

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.