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Gretton Parish Council History

A short history of parish councils in England

Parish Councils were formed in England under the Local Government Act 1894 to take over local oversight of civic duties in rural towns and villages.  Before this date a variety of groups based around ecclesiastical parishes had responsibility for these matters, in a system of local government that originated in the fuedal system of the 8th century.  Their areas of responsibility were known as civil parishes and they were grouped together to form rural districts.  Civil parishes existed in urban districts, but did not have parish councils.

Following the Local Government Act 1972, many small towns which had previously formed municipal boroughs of urban districts became "successor parish's" within larger districts.  Since the enactment of the Local Government and Rating Act 1998, district and unitary councils may create a parish council for a new civil parish wither through a review or in response to a petition.  This has led to the creation of new parish councils at an increased rate, especially in large towns and cities which do not have a history of parish governance.


This itaken from Taking Stock Parish Centenary Edition December 1994. A very interesting look at the first 100 years of the Parish Council and the changes that have taken place.

A Brief History of Gretton Parish Council by Arnold Boon

On the 4th December 1894, 83 Parochial Electors of Gretton assembled in the National School to form a Parish Council for the Village under the recent Local Government Act of 1894.

Although County Councils had been in operation some ten years before, until the Act became operative, Parish matters had been dealt with under the Vestry system involving mostly the Vicar and the churchwardens.

Taking into account that the persons eligible to attend were males of 21 years and over, and the population of the village would be around the 800 mark, the attendance was very good.

The First Council

Mr William George Dunkley, a Yorkshireman, who was Headmaster of the School presided and nine nominations to form the Parish Council were received.  The actual numbers to form the Council had previously been decided by the County Council.  These were as follows:-

Rev. Leonard Addison – Vicar of Gretton

James Eagle – former Agent of Messrs. Lucas and Aird, who was responsible for the building  of the Manton to Kettering length of the Midland Railway.

William Ingram – recorded as a labourer, but was actually a bricklayer on the Harringworth Viaduct

Henry Wortley Lamb – solicitor then resident at Gretton House

Edward Henry Morris – shoemaker, who later set up business at Barrowden.  Many Gretton residents will recall his daughter Gladys teaching at the Gretton School

William Northen – farmer

Richard Readyhoof – recorded as a labourer, who was later a lengthsman ganger on the Railway

William Satchell – farmer

Joseph Spendlove­ – clothier and farmer. He was Manager of Wallis and Linnell’s factory in the village for many years.

There were no withdrawals and the Council was duly formed.

On 13th December, 1894 the first meeting of the Council took place.  The Rev. Addison was elected Chairman, with Joseph Spendlove his deputy.  Thomas Spendlove was appointed Clerk to the Council, a position he held continuously until 1942.

Throwing Light on the Village

It did not take the Council long to get down to business.  Firstly, it was decided to adopt the 1833 Lighting and Watching Act, and provide street lighting for the village.

It was necessary to raise a loan of £100 to purchase cast iron columns – the lamps to be lit by paraffin.  A lamp lighter was appointed to carry out the necessary duties for 18 weeks each year – no street lighting during the summer months nor when the moon was in the full.

The next priority was to bring the Fire Brigade under the jurisdiction of the Council.  The engine house was a building on what is now Arnhill Road.  The crew were men who normally worked in the village and practices were held in the West Well area every three months.  Men so engaged were paid a retainer by the Council.  The brigade functioned until the outbreak of the Second World War, but unfortunately it is not known what happened to the manually operated engine.

The Recreation Ground

Again in the early days the provision for a Recreation Ground was raised, but for one reason or another this was not proceeded with.  In fact there is nothing in the records regarding this subject until September 1919 when the Rev. Maurice Winnard, a well known Gretton sportsman, put forward a motion but at the next meeting for one reason or another this was ‘postponed’.

The situation was not changed until 1964, when the Council decided to proceed with a scheme to provide facilities for sport on a six and a half acre site off Kirby Road which Stewarts and Lloyds had offered for £640.  The area was developed with a pavilion, storehouse, a tennis court, cricket square, toilets and children’s play area, paid for by grants, donations, increased precepts and the sale of two old cottages. The scheme and the methods adopted were passed on to several villages who were considering similar schemes.  Looking back it is difficult to understand why it took nearly seventy years to provide football and cricket facilities in a village which is renowned for its sporting activities.  Until 1964, the football club had played on eight fields and the cricket club had played on three.

Draining Council Resources

Sanitary arrangements also received early attention.  The system of emptying earth closets on a six monthly basis on a moonlight night aided with a packet of Woodbines, was replaced by a bucket system.  These were emptied each week by a local contractor during the night with a local farmer leaving an area of land fallow so that the contents of a large drumlike vehicle could be got rid of.   This system continued until after the Second World War.

On the formation of the Parish Council certain responsibilities continued to be undertaken by the Northamptonshire County Council, but there was a unique situation where the District was concerned: a Gretton Rural District Council was formed in 1894 which included the villages of Harringworth, Rockingham, Wakerley etc. as well as Gretton.  This was administered by Uppingham Rural District Council - a most unusual arrangement as Uppingham was of course in a different county.  This arrangement continued until the mid 1930’s when the Gretton Rural District Council, among other small Rural District Councils ceased to exist and Gretton became part of the Kettering Rural District Council, an arrangement which existed until 1974.

After the initial burst of improvements, the Council settled down to routine activities such as the administration of the three charities, the Thomas Peach Charity, the Matthew Johnson Educational Foundation (as it is now known) and the Gretton Allotments Charity.  Council property included the two cottages off the north end of Kirby Road (since demolished to make way for a road widening scheme), the lamp house, the fire engine house, two small parcels of land known as Stonepit Close and a one acre area of land off the Harringworth Road, both of which had been awarded to the village under the Enclosure Act for the purpose of obtaining stone for road maintenance.  Later of course, the Council owned the present Recreation Ground and the ‘Pick’ Playing Field.

Gretton escapes bombing raid

The First World War also affected the doings of the Council, and of interest is a minute of a meeting held on 16th December 1916 which reads as follows:-                                                                                                                                                                                                                 'That this meeting puts on record our miraculous escape during an air raid by a German Zeppaline (sic) at midnight on 1st/2nd October when upwards of forty bombs were dropped in the Parish.  No lives were lost or material damage to stock and property'.

The end of the First World War saw many changes in personnel and in 1921 eight Council houses were built off Kirby Road, to be followed by an additional 22.

In 1925 the Council had its first lady member when Mrs Grace Chapman joined the Council.  A member of an established Gretton family, a keen Socialist, a staunch supporter of the British Legion and a churchwoman, she had tremendous interest in sport, particularly football.  It would have given her a great pleasure to know the large number of her direct descendants under a variety of names who have and who are representing the village in the various fields of sport and who are continuing to maintain Gretton's sporting reputation.

Since then other ladies to serve on the Council have been Mrs Margot George, Mrs Diane Ogilviie and the current Chairman of the Council Mrs Nora Wilson.

Post War Election shake up

But it is really after the Second World War that the Council's influence has become more marked.  The 1945 Parish Council Election was fought on a party political basis which resulted in only one of the previous Councillors being re-elected.  A piped water supply was made available to residents for first time ever, originally coming from the newly built Eyebrook Reservoir and later from Pitsford.

This was followed by a modern sewerage scheme, which, mainly due to the geographical position of the village, caused many problems which were forever on the Council agenda.  In addition new houses were built on arable land on the an area now known as Fulwell Avenue and later on Southfield Road.

During these operations, the Council was well served by two Rural District Councillors, Vernon Fletcher and Mrs Margot George whose efforts ensured that the village had a fair share of what Kettering Rural District Council had to offer.

Gretton joins Corby

In 1972 there was another re-organisation of Local Government which was to start from 1st April, 1974.  This meant, among other things, the end of the Rural District Councils as such and the formation of new District Councils.  Gretton was placed in the Corby District, together with Weldon, Stanion, Rockingham, Cottingham, Middleton and East Carlton.  This Act also gave increased powers to Parish Councils.

Recent Activities

In the twenty years following this re-organisation, the Parish Council has been involved in a number of major items.  Firstly, due to quarrying permissions, footpaths in the south-east of the Parish were closed for a fifty year period, but with the quarrying ceasing in 1980, the Council commenced a campaign for the restoration of these footpaths, which of course included the popular walk to Kirby Hall.  After many meetings and protracted negotiations which involved land owned by British Steel and the Earl of Winchelsea, all footpaths have now been restored to more or less their original routes. On one occasion, it was necessary to resort to a tribunal over the Gretton-Corby footpath, which the Parish Council won.

On the other hand, the Council's efforts to prevent a gypsy camp being erected within the Parish and off the Gretton Brook Road, proved to be unsuccessful.

Another important matter was the extension to St James Churchyard, Corby District Council refused to pay for this and it was necessary for the total cost, around £6,000 to be met by a separate precept which was not popular among a number of residents.

Gretton nearly loses Kirby Hall

In the recent past there was a move by Corby Borough Council to remove Kirby Hall from the Parish of Gretton to Bulwick which is in the East Northamptonshire District, in exchange for certain areas from the latter authority, including Corby Golf Course.

The Parish Council fought hard and long to retain Kirby Hall in the Gretton Parish and were successful.

Three major items are outstanding.  Firstly the question of quarrying for limestone in the area behind Southfield Road.  Many meetings have been held in an effort to prevent this happening, but in spite of pressure from the Council the issue remains unresolved.

Secondly pressure is being exerted on the Rural Housing Trust to build up to eighteen houses on a site off Southfield Road.  Again this matter has been very time consuming but some progress has been made.

Thirdly, the Council is to purchase the 2.1 acre Gretton House paddock for a Pocket Park.  This has been possible due to grants by the Corby Borough Council and Northamptonshire County Council/Countryside Commission, and much administrative progress has been made by an enthusiastic committee.

Long Service

The history of the Gretton Parish Council is best described by one word - stability.  Over the one hundred years, just 79 persons have served on the Council and there have been just twelve chairmen, four of whom only served for one year.  Over the same period there have been only three Clerks.  Only oner person has been disqualified from serving, and one elected member failed to attend a meeting.

Long service by Councillors has been a feature.  Pride of place goes to Jim Woolston, who has completed 45 years service this year, thus beating William Ingram (43 years) and Joseph Spendlove (40 years).  Councillor Woolston's father, the late Morris Woolston completed 39 years.

Of the present Councillors, Victor Clark has completed 31 years and Barrie Woolley has achieved his majority.  Victor Clark has a record of which he is no doubt justifiably proud; his great grandfather, his grandfather and his father have all served on the Council.

Local Government is once again in the melting pot, but there is no doubt at all that whatever changes are made the future of Parish Councils is assured.