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I. Of Overseers, Assistant Overseers, and Guardians.

Relief of the



(First), for what Places Overseers may be appointed. According to the early writers upon the subject, one of the first conse. First, For what quences of the establishment of the Christian religion in this kingdom, was place. a provision for the maintenance of the poor. It is stated that a fourth part of the tithes of every parish was devoted to this purpose under the direction

poor anciently of the minister, assisted by the churchwardens and other principal inhabi- an ecclesiastical tants; and as it was regarded as a matter of ecclesiastical concern, the whole was under the supervision and controul of the bishop whenever his interference became necessary.

Blackstone upon this subject says, “ The poor of England till the time of Funds were colHenry VIII. subsisted entirely upon private benevolence and the charity of lected from yolwell disposed Christians. For though it appears by the Mirrour, that by the tions. common law the poor were to be sustained by parsons, rectors of the church, and the parishioners, so that none of them die for default of sustenance;' and though by the statute 12 R. II. c. 7, and 19 Hen. VII. c. 12, the poor are directed to abide in the cities or towns wherein they were born, or such wherein they had dwelt for three years, (which seem to be the first rudiments of parish settlements), yet till the statute 27 Hen. VIII. c. 25, I find no compulsory method chalked out for this purpose; but the poor seem to have been left to such relief as the humanity of their neighbours would afford them.” i Bla. Com. 359. Still however if the contributions were voluntary, the method was so far reduced to a system, as to be sanctioned and upheld by acts of parliament, for by the statute last cited, the churchuardens or two others of every parish were to make collections for the poor on Sundays. By 5 & 6 Ed. VI. c. 2, the minister and church wardens were annually to appoint two able persons or more to be gatherers and collectors of alms for the poor. By 5 Eliz. c. 3, the parishioners were to choose these collectors, and by 14 Eliz. c. 5, the appointment was to be made by the justices, who were also to appoint orerseers. And the 18 Eliz. c. 3, is to the like effect. By 39 Eliz. C. 3, the church wardens of every parish, and four substantial householders, were to be nominated yearly in Easter week by two justices, and called overseers of the poor. Next followed the important statute out of which more litigation, and a greater amount of revenue have arisen, with consequences more extensive and more serious in their aspect, than ever were identified with any other act of parliament or system of legislation whatever. The portion of the act which relates to the appointment of overseers is as follows:

43 Eliz. c. 2, s. 1. “Be it enacted, That the churchwardens of every Who shall be parish, and four, three, or two substantial householders there, as shall be overseers: their thought meet, having respect to the proportion and greatness of the same parish and parishes, to be nominated yearly in Easter week, or within one month after Easter, under the hand and seal of two or more justices of the peace in the same county, whereof one to be of the quorum, dwelling in or near the same parish or division where the same parish doth lie, shall be called overseers of the poor of the same parish; and they, or the greater part of them, shall take order, from time to time, by and with the consent of two or more such justices of peace as is aforesaid, for setting to work the children of all such whose parents shall not, by the said churchwardens and overseers, or the greater part of them, be thought able to keep and maintain their children; and also for setting to work all such persons, married or unmarried, having no means to maintain them, and use no ordinary or daily trade of lise to get their living by.”

The period at which the election of overseers is to be made, was changed

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office, &c.

First, For what to “ the 25th day of March, or within 14 days next after the said 25th of places. March” in every year. (See also 59 Geo. III. c. 12, s. 6, 7, post 16, 17.)

As the statute related in terms to parishes only, it was found expedient in a subsequent reign to extend the system, by express enactment, to townships and vills, whether parochial or extra-parochial. The act passed for this purpose is the 13 and 14 Car. II. c. 12, s. 21, which recites that " whereas the inhabitants of the counties of Lancashire, Cheshire, Derbyshire, Yorkshire, Northumberland, the Bishopric of Durham, Cumberland, and Westmorland, and many other counties in England and Wales, by reason of the largeness of the parishes within the same, have not nor cannot reap the benefit of the act of parliament made in the three and fortieth year of the reign of the late Queen Elizabeth for relief of the poor;" therefore be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, “That all and every the poor, needy, impotent, and lame person or persons within every township or village within the several counties aforesaid, shall, from and after the passing of this act, be maintained, kept, provided for and set on work, within the several and respective townships and villages wherein he, she, or they shall inhabit, or wherein he, she, or they was or were last lawfully settled, according to the intent and meaning of this act; and that there shall be yearly chosen and appointed, according to the rules and directions in the said act of the three and fortieth year of Queen Elizabeth, mentioned, two or more overseers of the poor within every of the said townships or villages, who shall from time to time do, perform, and execute all and every the acts, powers, and authorities for the necessary relief of the poor within said township or village, and shall lose, forfeit, and suffer all such pains and penalties for non-performance thereof, as is limited, mentioned, and appointed

in and by the said in part recited act.” Officers of corpo. By the 43 Eliz. c. 2, s. 8, it is enacted, That the mayors, bailiffs, or other rate towns have head officers of every town and place corporate and city within this realm, justice of peace. being justice or justices of peace, shall have the same authority hy virtue of

this act, within the limits and precincts of their jurisdictions, as well out of sessions, as at their sessions, if they hold any, as is herein limited, prescribed and appointed to justices of the peace of the county, or any two or more of them, or to the justices of peace in their quarter sessions, to do and execute for all the uses and purposes in this act prescribed, and no other justice or justices of peace to enter or meddle there : (a) and that every alderman of the city of London within his ward, shall and may do and execute in every respect so much as is appointed and allowed by this act to be done and executed by one or two justices of peace of any county within this

realm. A parish extend And by s. 9, If any parish extend itself into more counties than one, or ing into two

part to lie within the liberties of any city, town or place corporate, and part counties, or into

without, that then, as well the justices of peace of every county, as also the head officers of such city, town or place corporate, shall deal and intermeddle only in so much of the said parish as lieth within their liberties, and not any further : and every of them respectively, within their several limits, wards and jurisdictions, to execute the ordinances before-mentioned concerning the nomination of overseers, the consent to binding apprentices, the giving warrant to levy taxations unpaid, the taking account of churchwardens and overseers, and the committing to prison such as refuse to account, or deny to pay the arrearages due upon their accounts; and yet nevertheless, the said churchwardens and overseers, or most part of them, of the said parishes that do extend into such several limits and jurisdictions, shall, without dividing themselves, duly execute their office in all places within the said parish, in all things to them belonging, and shall duly

Aldermen of

two liberties.

(a) This excludes the justices of the tices, the appeal may be to the sessions county. St. Mary, Taunton, 1 Bott, 82. of the county. See 17 Geo. II. c. 38, But in franchises not having four jus- s. 5.

assistant over. seers.


exhibit and make one account before the said head officer of the town or First, For what place corporate, and one other before the said justices of peace, or any places. such two of them, as is aforesaid.

The 17 Geo. II. c. 38, s. 3, relates to the appointment of overseers to Overseers in case succeed those who die, remove, or become insolvent, post, 24.

of death, &c. The 59 Geo. III. c. 12, s. 6, relates to the appointment of non-resident Non resident and or assistant overseers, post, 14, 15.

The 22 Geo. III. c. 83, (called Gilbert's act,) and 33 Geo. III. c. 55, Guardians. provide for the appointment of guardians of the poor.

Churchwardens, it has been seen, were in effect overseers of the poor A church warden long before the 43 Eliz. c. 2, s. 1. And as the statute declares them to be ipso facto such, and requires others to be added to them by the justices, they need no formal appointment, but are overseers, ipso facto, by becoming churchwardens.

As the right and the duty of providing for the poor is created by statutes, for what disno other districts than those mentioned therein, viz. parishes, townships, and tricts overseers rills, can assume or be compelled to adopt the system ; nor can a township may be appointed. or vill separate itself, and form an independent establishment for the maintenance of its own poor, unless it cannot otherwise reap the benefit of the 43 Eliz. See Hilton v. Powle, Cro. Car. 92; Nicholas v.Walker, ib. 394.

“ A parish is that circuit of ground which is committed to the charge of what is a parish. one parson or vicar, or other minister having cure of souls therein." 1 Bla. Com. iii. This, though not a very popular definition, may suffice for the present purpose. However, if a district were a parish by reputation at the passing of the 43 Eliz., and has so continued ever since, it is sufficient under this act, although it may not be a parish in the precise sense of the above definition, but the assumption of that character at any period subsequent to that time, unless it be by express act of parliament, will not constitute it a parish within the meaning of the poor laws. See the cases last cited, and Dean v. Linton, 2 Salk. 487. And the immemorial exercise of some of the rights of a parish, as making rates and having a chapel of its own, will not make a distinct parish without all other parochial rights. Rudd v. Foster, 4 Mod. 157; 1 Bolt 34.

In Rex v. Severn f. Arnold, Say. 278; 1 Bott, 4, two justices appointed The appointment Serern and Arnold, substantial householders in the precinct of the Tower Within, otherwise called the parish of St. Peter ad vincula, to be overseers precinct. of the poor of the said precinct. It was objected, that this appointment was not warranted by the statute, which requires that the churchwardens of every parish, and four, three, or two substantial householders there, shall be appointed overseers of the poor of the same parish. Denison, J., delivered the resolution of the Court (Ryder, C. J., being dead, but concurring with the other justices before his death). This is not a good appointment under the 43 Eliz. c. 2, which requires them to be appointed within a parish ; neither is it good within the 13 and 14 Car. II. c. 12, which says, that there shall be yearly appointed two or more overseers within every township and rillage respectively. Precinct is a word of ambiguous signification; it is not a boundary of any parish or vill; it may be more than a parish, or may be less. If it were a parish or vill by reputation, it might have been good Parish or vill hy (Cro. Car. 92, 394 ;) but the Court cannot intend this precinct to be a vill, reputation may

be good. and the words of the statute ought to be pursued. Neither will the words otherwise called the parish of St. Peter ad vincula aid the want of this in the appointment; for in all constructions of alias dict. the words that go before the alias dict. must be presumed to be true; as in an indictment, the addition of the party not coming till after the alias dict. will vitiate the indictment, for what precedes the alias dict. is the true and proper appellation (3 Bulst. 296.) If in this case the alias dict. had come after the parish of St. Peter, it would have done. And the appointment was quashed.

Rex v. Inh. of Rufford, 1 Str. 512; 1 Bott, 36 ; 1 Nol. P. L. 10. A But the townmandamus was directed to the justices of the peace of the county of Notting- ship or vill may ham, reciting, that within the vill of Rufford there are divers substantial freeholders able to contribute to the maintenance of the poor, and that there are no churchwardens or overseers to make a rate, and that there are poor VOL. IV.


of overseers cannot be for a


must be a town.

First, For what unprovided for, ideo it commands them to appoint overseers. They retur, places. that the vill of Rufford is part of no parish, but time out of mind has been

extra parochial, without church, chapel, or parochial rights, and that there never have been any overseers of the poor, et de causâ they cannot appoint. And there having been only an obiter opinion of the Court in the case of Dolting v. Brewcomblodge, Hill. 11 Anne, B. R. that overseers of the poor might be appointed in an extraparochial place; the Court directed an argument, that the point might be solemnly determined. And after argnment and consideration of all the statutes relating to the poor, the Court were of opinion, that the powers given by the 43 Eliz. to be executed in parishes, were, by the 13 and 14 Car. II. c. 12, extended to all townships and villages, whether parochial or extraparochial, and consequently overseers might be appointed in this case, for which purpose a peremptory mandamus was

awarded. But the place But a township or village it must be. In Rex v. Denham, 1 Bott, 37;

! Nol. P. L. 13; the question was, whether Southwold park, being an extraship or village.

parochial place, and consisting of two houses, and about 300 acres of land, was such a place as was liable to maintain its own poor? By the Court : it is now a settled point that the justices may appoint overseers in an extraparochial place, but such place must come under the notion of a town or village.

Rex v. Welbeck, 2 Str. 1143; 1 Bott, 38; 1 Nol. P. L. 11, 13. Mandamus suggests that there are several householders and farmers inhabiting and residing within the village of Welbeck, able to provide for the poor; and therefore commands the justices to appoint overseers of the poor. To this it is returned, that Welbeck is extraparochial, and is not, nor ever was reputed to be a village or township, and therefore they cannot appoint any persons to be overseers. And upon argument this was held to be a good

For though it does not answer the supposal of the writ, as to there being several substantial householders and farmers; yet it answers the point in 13 and 14: Car. II. c. 12, by saying it is no township or village, or

reputed as such: and it is to such places only that we can send a writ. The place must So also a place in a parish must be a township or vill to have its own either be a vill or overseers distinct from those of the parish. Rex v. Showler and Atter, 3 a reputed vill.

Burr. 1391; 1 Bott, 41.

And in order to obtain a mandamus to compel the appointment of overseers, it must be expressly sworn that the place either is or is reputed to be a vill. Rex v. J. of Bedfordshire, Cald. 167; 1 Bott, 48; 1 Nol. P. L. 10.

And if the sessions fiud as a substantive fact that the place is a vill, the appointment of separate overseers is of course. Rev v. Ronton Abbey, 2 T. R. 207; 1 Bott, 56; 1 Nol. P. L. 13, 14 ; post, 10.

The 17 Geo. II. c. 37, authorises justices in general quarter sessions to allot and annex, to the nearest parish or place, lands improved or drained, when it is uncertain where they belong, so as to subject them to parochial rates, and see 5 B. & A. 775.


Secondly, What a town ship or vill.

(Secondly)—What is a Township or Vill. Whatever may be the distinction generally between a toun and a village, the words vill, village, and township, are considered as denoting the same topographical division, for the purposes of the poor laws; and a place so called may be such, either in strictness or by reputation ; but it must have been a vill in one or other of these modes, at least as early as the 13 and 14 Car. II. which, as the 43 Eliz. c. 2, has been decided to embrace only parishes in esse when that statute was passed, must be taken to embrace only such vills as had an existence in the year 1662, the date of the 13 and 14 Car. II. Vide Jacob's Law Dictionary, tit. “ Parish;" 1 Bla. Com. 114.

In Rex v. Denham, Burr. S. C. 37, Lord Hardwicke, C. J., observes, “ It is certainly very hard to define exactly what is a township or a village;


it must be left to the judgment of the Court, upon the circumstances of the Secondly, case stated.” Lord Coke says, Villa est ex pluribus mansionibus vicinata,

Il'hat a town. et collata ex pluribus vicinis.1 Inst. 115, b.

ship or vill. In Rex v. Denham, i Bott, 37, it was held that a single house or two What is or is not a houses cannot amount to the notion of a town or village, and that if it had township or vill. been formerly a town or village, if the houses were in fact decayed and gone, it would cease to be a town or village. 1 Nol. P. L. 13.—Lee, J., observed, that the notion of a village, according to the ancient law, is a tithing consisting of ten families; that, according to the modern notion, it is a place that has a constable; that it ought to have at least the reputation of a town or vill: and that a vill must at least mean more than two houses.

In Rex v. Standard Hill, 4 M. f. S. 378, it was argued, that according to Rer v. Eyford, Cald. 542, although there be but one or two houses only, yet it may be a vill by reputation; and that wherever there is a large assemblage of houses, reputation is not necessary: and to shew that a place may become a vill in fact, though it be not so immemorially, Dolting v. Stokelane, Fortesc. 219, was cited; the intent of the 13 and 14 Car. II. c. 12, being, that as soon as it becomes a vill, the justices may appoint. The Court, however, did not seem inclined to adopt this doctrine. And Lord Ellenborough (speaking of a part of the old castle at Nottingham) said, The immediate consequence of holding this to be a vill, for which overseers ought to be appointed, would be that overseers must be appointed for all the inns of court, and every collegiate or ecclesiastical establishment, which would work a great alteration in the laws relating to this subject.

Wherever there is a constable, there is a township; there may be a con- Where there is a stable for a larger district but not for a smaller. Rex v. Horton, 1 Bott, 54, per Buller, J.; 1 Term Rep. 376, S. C. In Rex v. Grafton, Bur. S.C. 101; 2 Str. 1071; 1 Bott, 37; 1 Nol. P. L. Five dwelling.

houses and farms 15; the manor of Grafton, an extra-parochial place, once consisting of a

held not a town. capital messuage and three keepers' lodges in the park now disparked, and ship or village to consisting of five dwelling-houses and farms, occupied by five several which a removal

can be made. tenants, but never having had any overseers of the poor or other officers, till the overseer now appointed for the purpose of the present removal, was aıljudged by the justices to be a township or village within the statute into which a removal might be made. It was moved to quash the order of the justices, and a rule was made to shew cause : and afterwards the rule was made absolute, without defence.

By the case of Rex v. Welbeck, 1 Bott, 38, the fact of there being substantial householders is immaterial, if it appear not to be a vill, (ante, 4).

So in Rex v. Showler and Atter, 3 Burr. 1391; 1 Bott. 41; 1 Nol. P. L. One capital 15; two justices appoint Thomas Showler and John Atter overseers of the poor of the township or village of Haugh. The sessions, upon appeal, cottages, held not adjudge Haugh to be a village or township, and confirm the appointment, vill for the pur. and state specially, that it appears to them, that the said place called Haugh, pose of having consists of a capital messuage, in which Thomas Shouler, in the said separate overappointment named, with all his family, dwells; and of two small ancient cottages; and of one other small cottage lately built (all which cottages are let, along with the said capital messuage and the farm thereunto belonging, to the said Thomas Shouler); and of another tenement, part of the said capital messuage; and all of them inhabited by families; and that one of the cottages is inhabited by the said John Atter, who is a day-labourer, and his family; and another of the said cottages is inhabited by another daylabourer and his family; and the other of the said cottages is inhabited by a shepherd and his family; and the tenement, part of the said capital messuage, is inhabited by a poor widow and her five children ; all which occupiers of the said cottages, and of the said

tenement, part of the said capital messuage, are under-tenants to the said Thomas Showler. It was moved to quash these orders, for that the facts stated shew that this place is neither a township nor a village.—And the Court were clearly and unanimously of opinion, that both these orders ought to be discharged. Lord Mansfield, C. J., observed, that by this method a place might be made into a village,

messuage and of labourers'


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