Glossop Heritage Trust

Theo Walter Ellison's Glossop Dale Reminiscences.


Municipal Work Accomplished 1866-1919 (published 1 March 1935).

Before describing the gradual growth of Municipal duties and powers and the steady progress made during the period from the incorporation of the Borough to the conclusion of the War, I am yielding to the temptation to reproduce a remarkable passage in the eloquent and well deserved tribute paid by the Mayor (Councillor George Platt) two years ago on the retirement of Mr Fletcher as Borough Treasurer, and which was reported in our local newspapers.

His Worship said :-
“I speak without disrespect to the previous holders of the Office when I say that, prior to the War, affairs of local government ambled along in leisurely fashion, and Borough officials as the poet Gray said, ‘pursued the even tenor of their way’. The principal testing time for the Treasurer occurred during the first post war decade. It was then that affairs of local government surged forward, bursting the bonds of all restraint, and local authorities in the country brought within their purview matters with had hitherto been left alone. The whole face of civic conscientiousness and civic responsibility was altered. The outlook not only of Councils but of the general body of ratepayers wandered to a further horizon. It is possible that historians will point to the phenomenal activity of local authorities during the ten years I have referred to as a golden age which has relatively achieved miracles in the cause of public health”.

I imagine those who read the report of this speech, if not those who heard it, would be puzzled to know how or when affairs of local government ‘ambled along in leisurely fashion’ or what officials ‘pursued the even tenor of their way’. Not my father, the first Town Clerk, whose reputation was rather for ‘galloping’, at least on horseback. Nor myself, for I positively aver that my long and active period of service gave me little time to amble. My readers will not, I think, attribute the pleasantry to the general body of pre-war officials, but at least they may have been misled into accepting it at face value, the account of the work accomplished, which I am about to present, should effectually dispel any misapprehension. I have not the pleasure of a personal acquaintance with Councillor George Platt, but I think he will not be offended if I say that a careful perusal of his speech gave me the impression, reversing an old scriptural episode which caused mirth to most schoolboys, that though the voice was the voice of Jacob the hand was the hand of Esau, and I will leave my readers guessing.

However, I am quite sure that Councillor George Platt will join with me and all of us in recognising the value of the services rendered by that army of municipal workers whether voluntary or paid and whether they leisurely ambled or galloped for half a century prior to the war.

As to the ‘golden age’ – No! not in this Borough – we grieve to think. The ‘phenomenal activities’ and phenomenal trade depression have increased the indebtedness and the burdens of the ratepayers, which coupled with depressed trade, diminishing population and reduced rateable values, mar the enjoyment of the benefits conferred. Councillor Platt was wise in sounding a note of warning in subsequent parts of his speech.

Now let us first consider the powers and duties entrusted to the Town Council by parliament. The Statutes are multitudinous, largely outside the ordinary class of work undertaken by solicitors, and call for special study and training. They may be divided into three classes: first, the Municipal Corporation Acts and kindred Acts relating to Municipal work, strictly speaking; secondly, the Public Health Acts and Statutes incorporated with or ancillary thereto, by virtue of which the Council acts as Urban Sanitary Authority for the Urban Sanitary district, which is identical with the Borough, and in this category are comprised a mass of subjects relating to Public Health; thirdly, the Education Acts relating to Elementary and Higher Education. The carrying out of these duties and exercise of these powers are ‘the public affairs’ to which may be added the Administration of Justice.

In the early days the corporation possessed very limited powers. During the first dozen years after the incorporation in 1866, several Acts were passed conferring additional powers, e.g.: Poor Rate Assessment, Factory and Workshop, Ballot Act, Borough Funds Act, Electric Lighting, Loans, Sale of Foods and Drugs, Rivers Pollution and Prevention, Parliamentary and Municipal Registration, Contagious Diseases (animals), Weights and Measures. Then came the Municipal Corporation Act, 1882, which contained in effect an improved code for the election and constitution of the Council and its officers, and the management of municipal affairs (as distinguished from Public Health matters). This, with some amendments, has served very well until recent Local Government Acts of 1929 and 1933 came into force.

County Councils were brought into existence by the Local Government Act, 1888, and a material change with regard to the cost and maintenance of main roads was thereby effected. This was followed by several Acts amending or ancillary to the Public Health Acts, and the Technical Instruction Act, 1892, empowered the Council to provide technical instruction. The Local Government Act 1894, at one bold stroke divided existing Parishes, established Parish Councils and Parish Meetings, transferred to the Council the granting of Game Licences and Pawnbrokers’ Certificates, and provided for Joint Committees such as the Burial Board Joint Committee. It was a historic transformation when the old Parish of Glossop of venerable antiquity, which in addition to the area of Glossop Borough, included Charlesworth, Ludworth, Mellor, Marple Bridge, Hayfield, New Mills and Chapel-en-le-Frith was reduced to a fraction of its former area and made co-extensive with the area of the Borough, the other Districts being constituted separate Parishes. The more recent transference of the Glossop Dale Rural District to the Chapel-en-le-Frith Rural District, which is now causing some heart burning and regrets, has effected an even more extensive change in Local Government in this Dale. This enumeration will give but a faint idea of the nature of the work involved in the performance of the statutory duties.

The following concise description of this work will assist in appraising its nature and value. In 1880 the Corporation purchased the Glossop Waterworks from Lord Howard for £30,000 and effected loans to defray the purchase money. I just remember this, my association with municipal work commencing as an articled clerk in my father’s office in 1881. The following year the Turnpikes were discontinued and the old turnpike roads became main roads repairable by the Council, the cost being repaid by the County Justices, and for a number of years several miles of main roads were repaired and scavenged by the Borough Surveyor with the Corporation workmen. Frequent disputes occurred between the Town Council and the Justices and also with the County Council as to the amounts to be paid to the Town Council for the cost of maintenance and repair.

In 1887-89 the Hospital, Public Library and Victoria Hall were vested in the Council and appropriate Committees appointed to manage. Then the Public Health Amendment Act, 1890, containing new and important provisions was adopted, and two years afterwards the Infectious Diseases and Notification Act, 1889, and Prevention Act, 1890.

In 1892 the Council made a series of By-laws, duly confirmed, relating to New Streets, Buildings, Nuisances, Sanitary Conveniences, Common Lodging Houses, Slaughter Houses, Whirligigs and Swings, Telegraph and Telephone Wires, and Hackney Carriages; and from 1893-1907, further By-laws relating to Omnibuses, Pleasure Grounds, Public Baths, School Attendance, Dairies, Cowsheds and Milkshops, Offensive Trades; Good Rule and Government, Prevention of Nuisances, and Tramways. When ‘rabies’ were prevalent, muzzling orders were made, dogs in contact destroyed, and compensation assessed. When swine fever or cattle disease occurred, orders were promptly made and the usual steps taken to prevent the spread of the disease.

In 1895 the Power of appointing Overseers and Assistant Overseers of the Poor were conferred upon the Town Council; and in the same year the Woods Baths and Howard Park were transferred to and future management undertaken by the Council.

During the Town Clerkship of Mr Charles Davis the Electric Lighting and Tramway Provisional Orders were obtained in 1900-01 – (a resume of which was published by me in the Glossop Press as Town Clerk in 1901). The powers under these orders were transferred by the Council to the Urban Electric Supply Co. Ltd., with the option to the Corporation to purchase the undertakings at stated periods; the tramways (now abolished) and the Electric Light undertakings, of which Mr C.E. Knowles was the manager, were provided and carried on by that Company.

The Education Act, 1902, came into force in 1903 and a scheme for the appointment of an Education Committee was prepared and approved, consisting of members of the Council and a number of co-opted members. For various reasons I declined to accept the secretarial work of that Committee and Mr J. Walkden was appointed the Secretary. The cost of Elementary and Higher Education forms a very considerable part of the municipal expenditure.

In 1894 the powers of the Vestry under the Poor Rate Act, 1869, were transferred to the Council, and the provisions of the Local Government Acts, 1894, relating to repair of Public Footpaths were conferred on the Council. The making of Orders under the Shop Hours Acts received consideration, and in 1913 the Notification of Births Act, 1905, came into operation.

During all the years down to the commencement of the War in 1914 steady progress was made in improving roads, streets, water supply, construction of sewers and sewage outfall works (cost £40,000), paving and sewering of private streets, abatement of nuisances and other works.

Many private streets and parts of streets were paved and sewered at the cost of owners of adjoining property and dedicated to the use of the public now repairable by the Council.

Lord Howard of Glossop himself constructed and dedicated (in Glossop) Arundel Street, Railway Street, Surrey Street, Henry Street, Edward Street, Bernard Street, Howard Street, Chapel Street, Market Street, George Street, Cross Street, Talbot Street, Fauvel Street, Hall Meadow Road, Talbot Road or Dinting Road, North Road, Shaw, Bridgefield Road, Collier Street, Union Street, St Mary’s Road; (in Hadfield) Railway Street and Bank Street. The Council called upon the property owners and on their default paved and sewered and dedicated the following (in Glossop): Derby Street, King Street, Oak Street, Duke Street, Hadfield Street, Cooper Street, Kershaw Street, Edward Street, Mill Street, John Street, Ebenezer Street, Silk Street, Hadfield Place, Pikes Lane, Queen Street, Princess Street, Mount Street, Sumner Street, Shaw Street, Shrewsbury Street, Surrey Street, Fitzalan Street, Talbot Street, Wood Street, Slatelands Avenue, Hampson Street,Todd Street; (in Hadfield) Church Street, Jones Street, Albert Street, Cross Street, Salisbury Street, Wesley Street, Stanyforth Street, Gladstone Street, John Dalton Street, Green Lane, The Avenue, Walker Street and South Marlow Street.

Recognising the desirability of a periodical official inspection of the properties of the Corporation, I recommended the appointment of an Estates Committee. The Council adopted the recommendation and an inspection was made annually, the state and condition of the properties noted and instructions given for remedying defects, a procedure which was attended by beneficial results and has been since continued.

A scheme for the collection of funds for the Woods Hospital and for the Manchester Infirmary and other institutions to which patients were sent from the Borough was inaugurated. It has been customary for the principal employers and private individuals to subscribe direct to the Manchester Royal Infirmary and to be provided with ‘recommends’, some of which were never used or applied for. This did not work satisfactorily, and the Council were urged to secure increased financial support. A scheme was thereupon established by the Council which produced substantial increase in the contributions and an improved method of granting recommends for admission to not only the Manchester Royal Infirmary but the Woods Hospital and several institutions in Manchester and elsewhere.

The celebration of H.M. Queen Victoria’s Golden and Diamond Jubilees in 1887 and 1897; the Coronation of King Edward VII of 1902, and H.M. King George V, 1911, and the Peace Celebrations in 1919 were carried out under the control and supervision of the Council, with the ready financial and personal assistance of some of our illustrious citizens, to whom the Burgesses were greatly indebted. Particulars of the Jubilees and Peace Celebrations have already been given and those of the Coronation festivities may be recalled when needed for similar events.

The question of Railway facilities received frequent consideration and many representations were made to the Railway Company. The late Herbert Partington and myself twice had interviews in London with Sir Sam Fay, the General Manager of the G.C. Railway, and endeavours were continually made by the Council to secure additional and improved facilities. The potentialities in Glossop as a residential district were brought within the orbit of discussion.

With the growth of the Municipal institutions and the exercising of the gradually increased powers, additional committees and officials were from time to time appointed, until in 1919 there were eighteen standing committees (exclusive of the special War Time committees), namely: General Purposes, Finance, Highways, Sewage, Sanitary, Waterworks, Housing, Watch, Woods Hospital, Partington Home, Maternity, Library, Baths and Park, Gamesley Hospital, Education, Burial Board (Joint) Committee, Local Pensions, and also ten permanent sub-committees. There were also seven special War Time Committees, irrespective of the voluntary service committees outside the Council. The work of all these committees and sub-committees (except the Education and Pensions) passed through the Town Clerk’s Department.

The properties of the Corporation at the conclusion of the War included the Glossop Waterworks, Victoria Hall, Library, Whitfield Library, Hadfield Library, Woods Hospital and Endowment, Woods Baths, Howard Park, Technical School (now Grammar School), Police Stations, Fire Stations and Engines, Motor Ambulance, Sewage Outfall Works, Hague Farm, Town Yards, Cottages at Hadfield, Infectious Hospital, Partington Home, the Town Hall and Market, Blackshaw Quarry, five schools (Padfield Council, Hadfield Wesleyan, Hadfield Council, Glossop New Council and Whitfield New Infants), Hadfield open space, together with Material, Stores and Stocks in the Highways, Lighting and Health Departments and several endowment funds. The values of the properties and endowments then amounted to about £200,000.

Turning now to the method of financing the undertakings. Ordinary current expenditure is defrayed out of revenue derived from rates, water rates and income derived from profitable undertakings; and from grants in aid from Government and County Authorities.

The moneys raised by rates were formerly levied by separate rates, namely the Borough, Watch, Library and Education rates (collected by the Overseers of the Poor, with the Poor rate); and by the General District Rates, and Water rents (collected by the Corporation Collectors). These are now all (except the water charges) embodied in one General Rate. The demand notes give the specific proportion of the rate levied for particular purposes and the rate is payable by two half yearly instalments. Every individual occupier was rated until owing to so much difficulty being experienced in collecting the rates for the small tenements and after much contention in the Council the owners of those tenements were rated instead of the occupiers and they receive a discount for punctual payment, whether the property is tenanted or not.

Capital expenditure on works of a permanent nature is met by Loans usually raised by Mortgage of the rates and revenues of the Corporation for which sanction has to be obtained from the appropriate authority, and for which purpose frequently a Public Enquiry is held by an Inspector at which anyone desirous of opposing may be heard. So little interest is now evinced by the general body of ratepayers that these enquires occasionally pass unnoticed, especially when not advertised in the newspapers and by posters as in former days.

It is common knowledge that the salaries were formerly quite inadequate and that these have been considerably increased since 1919, and a superannuation fund has been established. I am not desirous of criticising these. The staff and organisation in existence at the commencement of the War though partially depleted was the staff which stood the test and carried on though the War the normal and a good deal of abnormal work.

The foregoing account of the administration of municipal affairs will, I trust, satisfy my readers that affairs of local government before the War did travel more quickly than supposed, and that the council and their officials were kept pretty busy though they preserved an even tenor.

The properties added or capital outlay made by the Council during the last fifteen years are represented by the following principal additions: Spire Hollin House, Chief Constable’s House, Police Fireman’s Home, Public Mortuary, Weights and Measures, Refuse Tips, Ladies’ Lavatories, Housing, Small Dwellings, Small Holdings, Road Improvements (Newshaw Lane and Hadfield Street), Sewage Works Extension, Sewering Filtration Plant (Baths), Re-roofing Baths, Hadfield Baths, Howard Park Lavatories, Glossop Hall and Manor Park, Bankswood developments and improvements, Recreation Grounds, Bowling Greens, Pavilion, Hare Hill improvements, Gentlemen’s lavatory (Market) and Hadfield Waterworks.

The total value or cost of property (including gifts), Schools, Houses, permanent works, endowments and cash at 31st March 1934, amounts to £444,317 according to the aggregate balance which £355,381 had then been borrowed, and £9,722 remained to be borrowed. The amount of loans redeemed was £143,378, leaving the amount outstanding £209,452.

The Corporation properties so far as professionally valued were valued in 1905, I believe by the late Edwin Collier. Apparently some properties, I suppose, will be revised and depreciation allowed.

With regard to the Revenue and Expenditure in the various departments in salaries, wages, establishment charges, maintenance, and repair of all these undertakings of necessity, there is a considerable increase. £52,000 is a very large sum for the ratepayers to find in a year, and it is no secret that some members of the Council and their advisers, as well as thoughtful townspeople are wondering whether the Borough can stand the strain even of meeting the existing annual charges without embarking into further improvements, and whether a halt should be called.

It is now opportune to mention some at least of the officials of the Corporation, though it is impracticable to give a complete list. Those interested in Glossop Municipal work will know that during the period of 53 years, from 1866 to 1919, there were but three Town Clerks: my father, T.M. Ellison for 30 years, 1896; Charles Davis for nearly five years, 1896 to 1901, and myself for 18 years, from 1901 to 1919. My father and myself were also continuously clerks to the Borough Justices for fifty-four years, 1866 to 1920, and also Clerk to the Justices for the Division of Glossop for a still longer period, and my grandfather, Thomas Ellison, was clerk to the Glossop Association for Prosecution of Felons as far back as 1836 or earlier.

The first Treasurer was Samuel Wood. The practice for many years was to appoint individuals as Treasurers, but after the Manchester and Liverpool District Banking Co. Ltd. had been established, which opened daily in 1867, it became custom to appoint the Manager of the Bank to be Borough Treasurer, though he received no remuneration from the Corporation, the Bank being remunerated by having the custom of the Corporation. So W.H. Hollinbery became Borough Treasurer, and on his retirement in 1896 was succeeded by T.T. Kenyon, who was followed by H. Broadhurst. In June 1909. T.S. Bowden who had been the Assistant Borough Treasurer, was appointed Borough Accountant, and on his retirement in 1909 Samuel Fletcher was appointed Borough Treasurer, which office he held until his resignation in 1932, being followed by E. Boardman.

Former Chief Constables were: Kershaw, W.H. Hodgson, J.G. Hodgson and W.R. Wilkie. The Borough Surveyors, Jepson and T. Haynes; Inspector of Nuisances and Lighting, Inspector, S. Dane; Medical Officers of Health, Dr James Rhodes (a member of the Rhodes family of Tintwistle, who used to go his rounds on horseback and was recognised as a skilled and fearless surgeon), and succeeded by our esteemed old friend Dr D.J. Mackenzie; Waterworks Inspector, John Garner, Assistant, J. Byrom; Park-keeper, Peter Rowbottom; Baths Superintendents, Lamb and Whitehead.

Population – Census: 1901, 21,526; 1911, 21,688; 1921, 20,531; 1931, 19,510. Burgesses – 1914: 4,533. Municipal Electors - 1919, 8,682; 1933 10,168.


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Page last updated: 9 May 2017.