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The Parish Council Centenary

From the Barwicker No.34
June 1994

Council Officers for 1st 100 years

In 1894, a century ago, the Barwick-in-Elmet Parish Council met for the first time. The elected council was responsible for providing some of the services in the newly-created civil parish. This comprised the present civil parish of Barwick-in-Elmet and Scholes and also a large area to the west including Wellington Hill, Cross Gates and part of Manston. Voting in the parish was organised in three wards, Barwick, Scholes and Cross Gates. Along with 40 or so similar parishes, Barwick was a part of the Tadcaster Rural District, with its own elected council. More important services were provided by a third tier of local government, the West Riding County Council.

The history of the area and of its council are interconnected and we thank the council for allowing us to draw on its records for some of the articles in past editions of 'The Barwicker' and our other publications. The history of local government however dated from long before 1894. The civil parish was not a new geographical entity as it had existed as Barwick-in-Elmet Township for centuries. The democratic processes of the township, which were well regulated by acts of parliament, involved holding vestry meetings, where ratepayers met to elect the township officials, monitor their expenditure and set the annual rates. The Barwick Township account books from the late eighteenth century onwards exist in the Leeds District Archives.

The newly-formed council met in either the parish church or the Barwick schoolroom but during the first decade of this century it was decided that it needed its own meeting place. It was planned to build council offices, together with a house for the parish clerk, in Scholes which was then the central part of the parish.

The new offices were opened on 2 July 1909 in the presence of a large gathering of councillors from Barwick and neighbouring parishes, local officers and other dignatories. Presiding over the opening ceremony was the chairman of the parish council, the Rector, Rev. F S Colman. He drew attention to the importance of Barwick parish within the Tadcaster Rural District, being the largest in area and rateable value, but fourth in population. He explained that the money to build the new offices had been raised by the trustees of the poors' estate and that the council would pay rent to the charity to repay the loan and interest.

The offices were opened by Mr E C Brooksbank, the chairman of the Tadcaster Rural District Council, who congratulated the council and the inhabitants of the parish on the acquisition of the building. He stressed the good relationship enjoyed by Barwick and the district council and praised the efforts of the Barwick representatives on that body. He hoped that this situation would not be altered by any future boundary changes. Mr Brooksbank presented a silver key to Mr Henry Chippindale, the architect, and the building was officially opened. A vote of thanks was proposed by Mr Alvara Chadwick, the vice-chairman of the council, and seconded by Mr I J Dewhurst, a councillor from Cross Gates who used the occasion to complain that his ward was bearing too heavy a share of the rate burden. Mr Brooksbank in reply noted the work being planned by both councils to improve the water supply to the parish.

During this decade the parish council pressed the responsible authority, the Tadcaster Rural District Council, to provide a piped water supply for those parts of the parish which still relied on wells and for a more efficient supply for the Cross Gates area which received its water by pipes from Leeds, (see 'The Barwicker' No. 3). A scheme to pump water from a deep well at Kiddal quarry was well advanced but was abandoned because of boundary changes that took place at that time. This delayed the supply of piped water to Barwick and Scholes for a decade.

Mr Brooksbank had warned that "Leeds with its large grasping hands was ever ready to snap up any district which might conveniently fall within its rateable area". The boundary changes which took place in 1911 were part of such an expansion of Leeds, the boundary of which was extended to take in a substantial part of the Cross Gates Ward, the most populous part of the parish at that time. The remainder was renamed the 'Wellington Hill Ward'.

The outbreak of the Great War (World War I) in 1914 must have occupied the minds of the parish councillors but this is not revealed in the minutes of their meetings. No mention of the war occurs until 1915 when several requests for the use of the council room were made, first by the recruiting service, then by the Belgian refugees organisation, the Scholes and Barwick Platoon of the Aberford Volunteer Reserves for drilling purposes and from a sewing party for soldiers and sailors.

Decisions concerning the war were taken at a higher level and the council received notices from such bodies as the West Riding War Agricultural Committee, the Food Production Committee and the rationing authorities. These were usually for information only but some required implementation locally. Perhaps the most immediate concern of the council was the call-up of its clerk in 1917 but it had already taken steps to recruit his wife to take his place.

By contrast the parish council took a much more active part in World War 11 and this is well described in the Historical Society's publication 'The Maypole Stayed Up'. The council was involved in such areas as ARP (Air Raid Precautions), black-out regulations, air raid shelters, fire fighting, fundraising to help the war effort, extra food production, collection of scrap and many other activities.

An important structural change in the government of the locality occurred at this time when, in 1941, Wellington Hill and the western part of the parish were taken into Leeds. To take account of the loss of the third ward and the increasing size and importance of Scholes, the name was changed to 'Barwick-in-Elmet and Scholes Parish Council'.

The list of council chairmen on the back cover reveals names of many who have played an important part in the history of the parish. The longest serving of these was Rector Colman, who occupied the post for seven years, as well as finding time to write his monumental history of the parish. We might also draw attention to the first lady chairman, Mrs Braham, and to Raymond and Betty Ives, the only husband and wife to have each individually occupied the post.

In 1974, at the re-organisation of local government, the parish of Barwick-in-Elmet and Scholes was put into the newly-formed Leeds Metropolitan District in the county of West Yorkshire. The Tadcaster Rural District Council and the West Riding County Council were abolished.

Every four years the parishioners elect a total of 12 parish councillors, six to represent the Barwick ward and six the Scholes ward. :Monthly meetings are held in the council offices on the first Monday of each month, except August, and commence at 7.30 pm. Any member of the public may attend and, by giving prior notice to the clerk, may address the council on any relevant topic. An annual general meeting is held, usually in May, on which occasion one of the councillors is elected chairman. In practice, and traditionally, the post rotates between a councillor representing Barwick and one representing Scholes.

Each year the council prepares a Precept which shows the estimated expenditure for the specific additional needs of the parish. Leeds City Council makes this money available to the parish council and includes an additional appropriate charge in the annual council tax bill. The current Precept totalling ct31,373 includes funds to equip new play areas in the villages and it is the intention of the council to complete these in this 'The Centenary Year'.

The council becomes involved with a wide variety of topics and activities including:
  • Consideration of planning applications.
  • Attendance at road inquiries.
  • Maintaining playing fields and play areas.
  • The collection of litter and the dumping of rubbish.
  • The creation, maintenance and diversion of public rights of way.
  • The repair of public highways.
  • Provision of road signs.
  • Liaison with the police.
  • Keeping a watchful eye on proposed development, e.g. the Unitary Development Plan.
  • Neighbourhood watch schemes, etc., etc.

  • Plans for restructuring local government have, in the past, included proposals for the abolition of parish councils but so far they have always managed to survive. It is hoped that they will continue to serve the needs of local people and so provide the 'grass roots' of the democracy in which we all live.

    Arthur Bantoft

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