Rule by the Margate Local Board of Health 1851 - 1858
Margate Incorporation 1855.
Kentish Gazette, October 9 1855.
On Monday, the 1st inst., a public meeting was held at the Town Hall, to receive the report of the committee appointed in May last, to consider and devise the best means for either joining Margate to the county, or obtaining a separate charter of incorporation. T. Blackburn, Esq., was in the chair, and several gentlemen were present on the bench, including D. Price, Esq., M.D., J. T. Friend, Esq., J. Swinford, Esq., J. Harvey Boys, Esq., R. G. Wiggins, Esq., J. Towne, Esq., G. Ovenden, Esq., F. Abbott, Esq., Messrs. Bath, Mercer, Burlton, Caveler, Mascall, Cutten, Chancellor, R. Woodward, Relph, Norwood, Admans, Holness, Gardner, Sayer, Wood, Crickett, Bentley, Culmer, Edwards, Rose, Powell, Wales, E. White, Wright, Woolford, Flint, &c., besides a large and attentive audience filling the hall.
The Chairman having introduced the subject in a few brief remarks to the attention of the audience,
The Secretary (Mr. Abbott) read the report of the Committee, from which we extract the subjoined recommendations.
"Under Dover.— Margate has no control over, or knowledge of its expenditure. No voice in electing its executive, and consequently has no person responsible for its interests. The whole cost expended away from Dover, in addition to the expense annually incurred by sixty-four jurors at 20s. each, (nearly equal to a ½ d. rate). To which may added the expense and inconvenience attending the transfer of licenses.
"Annexed to the County. — The same observations would generally, though in a modified degree, apply. The advantages being — The more convenient and less expensive distance of Canterbury from Margate — the licensing being in the hands of the local magistrates, and the probability of Margate being made a magisterial division. “Incorporated.— Margate would elect its own executive — have control over its expenditure (nearly the whole of which would be circulated in the town). Much of the inconvenience and all the expense to jurors, &c., before referred to would be saved. The licensing and transfers granted at Margate. Other indirect advantages might reasonably be expected from holding sessions at Margate. And the Local Board of Health would be superseded by the Corporation.
"It appears, therefore, to the Committee — That, by joining the county, an increase of one penny in the pound upon the present rate would be incurred, with a trifling personal saving and but little advantage. That, with a Charter of Incorporation, a reduction of one penny in the pound upon the present rate, and considerable personal saving, would be effected, whilst many local advantages would be secured.
“The foregoing estimate in reference to a Charter of Incorporation is made without any provision for the Mayor; but the Committee, in conclusion, would especially direct attention to the very important advantages which would result from liberality in this particular — Margate being so peculiarly dependent upon personal favour and patronage."
The report having been received, with but two dissentients — Messrs. Swinford and Mascall,
The Secretary said, that on the last occasion of their meeting, he had endeavoured to show the advantages of the proposed separation, and moved — "That it was expedient for Margate to shake off the yoke of Dover," which resolution he was happy to say was unanimously adopted. A committee was also appointed to carry out the intentions of that meeting, to ascertain the views of the Home Office, and to have an interview with the county member. They would see by the bill held in his hand that they had then the power of petitioning her Majesty for authority to join the county, and by a subsequent clause, they had also the power of obtaining a charter of incorporation, and from the period of its coming into operation all the previous acts relative to their position as regarded Dover would cease and determine, so that the rate-payers of Margate had the power either of joining the county or applying for a separate charter of incorporation. Mr. Abbott then proceeded to explain and comment upon the various items of the report of the committee, which had been circulated through the town. First as regarded the salary of the Mayor. It had been left open simply because there was no absolute necessity for them to allow their chief magistrate any salary at all, though it would be a matter for their consideration, whether it would not be a judicious expenditure were they to offer a liberal salary. Regarding the item of £10 for treasurer, he already received £15 for keeping the accounts of the Local Board, the £10 was additional for his extra trouble; their town clerk also would obtain £20 more in addition to the £50 he already received in his situation under the Local Board; then again, they already paid 60s. to their collector of the polling papers for the members of the Local Board, so that an actual saving of 20s. would be effected in that item. The lunatic paupers was the next thing for their consideration, they might either send their lunatics to the county or contract with a private institution to receive them; in the latter case the charge was 12s. per week for their maintenance; in the former 10s. 6d.; but that was exclusive of the entrance fee, which had to be paid. They must bear in mind that in thirty years two very important items would cease; viz: — the compensation of the Dover officers, and the payment of the debt, which would by that time have been discharged. He then commented upon the various disadvantages under the Dover system, already set forth in the report given above, and also the advantages to be anticipated from a charter of incorporation. The Local Board would then be superseded (cheers); and he believed that one thing alone was sufficient to recommend the plan he proposed, for there never was a public Board which had sunk so low in the public estimation, or whose members had so little confidence in themselves. (Loud cheers.) He was aware that many were of opinion that since the passing of the Municipal Act it was not required; but in that opinion he could not coincide. It was evident that by joining the county they would incur an increased rate of 1d. in the pound, while by obtaining a charter they would save 1d. in the pound. For his own part, he was opposed to joining the county. The argument used was that by doing so they would take one step towards obtaining a charter; but he would rather take the two together. (Cheers.) It was also supposed by some that the magistrates would make a reduction in the estimate they had given of the cost of Margate joining the county; but he could not think it probable that gentlemen occupying the high position they did, would go from their word, especially after having refused an application to that effect already made. Mr. Abbott then read a letter from Mr. Wildes, Clerk of the Peace for the County, correcting several inaccuracies which had appeared in a Maidstone paper, relative to the proposed separation. Mr. Wildes assured them that many of their estimates were under the mark — such for instance, as their item for the cost of the maintenance of their prisoners at 7s. per week; the county charge being 9s. He (Mr. Abbott) certainly thought it very strange, that while for a pauper, who had committed no crime whatever, 3s. 6d. per week was allowed for his maintenance, a prisoner, who had broken the laws of his country, should have double that sum expended upon him. Surely there should be some alteration in such a state of things. Then, as regarded their estimate of prisoners, they must remember that the recent Summary Jurisdiction Act would make some difference in that item; inasmuch as many prisoners could then be convicted, and receive their punishment at the hand of the presiding magistrate, who would otherwise have been obliged to have gone to the gaol. Margate could not, in her present position, participate in the advantage of that Bill, while she would were she to obtain a charter; which was another recommendation. There was, he was aware, one very powerful and influential portion of the inhabitants of Margate who were opposed to the charter, — he alluded to the agriculturists. They fancied that if Margate were a corporate town, they would become liable to pay the rates and taxes which they were then exempted from; and they considered the present scheme simply as a by-wind to entrap them; but that was a mistake. Margate could not enlarge her rating areas because she was a corporate town; and for his part, he would have been willing to have altered the word "parish" into "town," but insuperable difficulties presented themselves; for, in such a case, what would the agriculturists do? They could not join the county — they would be distinct from Margate — and they would be obliged to go to Dover. He could assure them that all they would have to pay would be £24 extra, distributed over the whole district; and they would certainly get their quid pro quo. He begged to move — "That having regard to the resolution — 'That it is most desirable that Margate should be emancipated from Dover, and an independent jurisdiction secured,' (unanimously passed at the public meeting on the 21st May last), and fully recognising the value of the report of the committee just received, do now resolve — That a memorial be forthwith prepared, praying her Majesty graciously to be pleased to grant a charter of incorporation to the parish of Margate, in accordance with the provisions of 18 and 19 Vic., c. 18."
Mr. Ovenden rose to second the resolution. He was highly pleased with the great attention they had paid during the speech of the mover of the resolution; and as they might expect some opposition from certain persons, he could only hope that they would offer it in the same friendly spirit in which his friend's address had been delivered. He was sure that all who had carefully watched Dover during the past few years would consider it desirable that Margate should be emancipated; and as regarded the financial part of it, he could say that not only would their expenditure not be increased, but it would actually be diminished. He believed, for his own part, that the burdens they then suffered under Dover were even greater than under the old corporation; while many of those burdens would still remain, were they to come to the determination of joining the county. He must ask them one question — Would Margate increase in respectability or not, by obtaining a charter of incorporation? They could not surely reply in the negative. With a charter, every gentleman of respectability would have an equal chance of being elected, whether he came from the country or the town; and he was convinced that the charter would make their respectability greater. Again, they would not then throw the power out of their own hands. At present they were merely considered as a limb of Dover; and, he must say, as a mortified limb. Look, for instance, at a recent example — but a week ago, and while in the height of the season, — between 60 and 70 of their publicans had to go to Dover to renew their licenses; which would be entirely avoided if they had a separate charter. Before sitting down he must congratulate them on the very diligent services they had received from Mr. Abbott and Mr. Harvey Boys.
Mr. Woodward thought that the question ought to be approached with a great deal of caution, and he would advise all present to act upon that principle. He could remember the time when Margate had no rates at all to pay. (Laughter.) In 1812, at a meeting in that hall, the old commissioners stated to the inhabitants that a rate of 1s. in the pound would be sufficient, and that it would never exceed that sum. There was an opposition to it, and it was ultimately agreed that 1s. 6d. in the pound should be the limit, the commissioners solemnly promising at the time that they would never levy more than a shilling rate. But what did they do? A one shilling and sixpenny rate was invariably collected; and during the time the commissioners governed the town they managed to incur a debt of £8,000, which was the state in which the Local Board found it. But that Board was then found to be an iron collar round the neck of the town; and unless they were very cautious they would find the charter nothing but the padlock. (Laughter.) Mr. Woodward then commented upon the various items of the bill — such as the six guineas estimated as the coroner's inquest; he could not see how that was to be done, inasmuch as the coroner alone charged a guinea as his fee; again, the doctor charged half-a-guinea, beside other expenses. No man wished for the prosperity of the town more than himself (cheers); but its real prosperity was about 1815, when there were between 300 and 320 workmen engaged building the Fort Crescent and its neighbourhood; but lately that property had become almost valueless owing to the high taxation it was subject to; and he had no hesitation in saying that if a charter of incorporation were granted, it would subject the town to an increased rate of 6d. in the pound. He feared the present scheme was one similar to their Local Board, than which a more villainous or preposterous act had never been passed, and again he would say that they ought to know what they were going about before they went about it. Nor was it true that all the money would be spent in town. How would the lunatic's maintenance, the prisoners' maintenance, how the compensation to officers be expended? He moved — "That the further consideration of the report be adjourned for three months to give the committee the opportunity of communicating with the county justices as to a reduction on the sum asked by them, and the ratepayers of further examining and considering the report." One more question he must put, though it would not be a very agreeable one to the inhabitants; he would ask — are you fit to govern yourselves? — and if you are, why have you not managed yourselves better than you have (laughter); for even in his own time he could remember that the parish rates had been run away with —the highway rates had been ran away with — and the savings' bank twice broken open. (Renewed laughter.)
Mr. Harvey Boys seconded the resolution. He asked Mr. Abbott to read a letter he had received concerning the estimated expense of obtaining a charter of incorporation.
Mr. Abbott read the letter referred to, from which it appeared that it was considered the cost of a charter would be £500. He (Mr. Abbott) believed that going to the county would come to about the same amount.
Mr. Harvey Boys merely wished to disclaim any connection with the report which had been read; he had had nothing do with its composition or its recommendations; and could not therefore claim any of the praise which might attach to it. For his own part, he was not prepared to vote against the charter, or for it. He seconded the amendment that he might have time for consideration.
The Chairman then read a letter from J. Boys, Esq., J.P. for the county Kent, regretting his unavoidable absence, caused by excessive ill health, and recommending a further adjournment of the subject in order to allow time for more mature consideration.
Mr. Frederick Boyce hoped that if they were to have a corporation, the qualification would be fixed at £15, and not £30, or otherwise the Town Council would be but another Local Board, under a new name; and they would not have the same amount of power they then possessed of choosing their representatives. His opinion was, that those who did not think it worth while to become a member of the Local Board, or who thought it below them, were not worthy of being made Town Councillors or Aldermen. Mr. Boyce then alluded to the money he had saved the town by his efforts (which was not very favourably received by the audience), and endeavoured to show that the rich and wealthy classes were not the fit persons to govern them.
Mr. Towne thought that after what he had heard that day, any person who had been present must be rather shaken in his opinion as to the necessity or advisability of a Charter — at least, he knew such was the effect upon himself. It was a very fine thing to have a Mayor and Corporation; but he had just received a little light upon the subject, and it then struck him that perhaps after all, it might not be the very best thing. As a lawyer, he must confess that, in his opinion, Mr. Abbott had at present failed in making a case. It was true he had mentioned several little disadvantages resulting from their connection with Dover, but they appeared to him to be very small affairs indeed. Mr. Abbott could not save the town of Margate from serving under juries because they had a charter of incorporation. The only effect would be, that instead of going to Dover they would have to attend at Maidstone. He assured them that they were already in the county as regarded participating in the benefits of the Summary Jurisdiction Act. Again, as regarded the Local Board. He must confess his great sorrow at hearing such remarks on that subject, as had been spoken by Mr. Abbott, one of its own members; probably if he should attend their meetings himself, they would improve under the effect of his eloquence. (Laughter.) Besides, what could they expect from the Town Council, which would be but another Local Board. The name would indeed be changed, but the spirit would be the same. And then, lastly, the inconvenience to the licensed victuallers had been very much dwelt upon; but the few must ever give way to the many; and notwithstanding the respect he felt towards the publicans, yet he could not consider that the trifling personal inconvenience which might be inflicted upon them ought to influence their choice, especially as that infliction, if infliction it was, had been brought on solely by their own act. The present certainly did not appear to him the proper time for the adoption of such a resolution as the one before them. They were something like frogs calling for a king; and he should therefore support the amendment and not the resolution.
Mr. Ovenden would certainly not oppose the amendment, if its object was simply to allow time for further consideration. He had seconded it under the consideration that a Charter of Incorporation would be a great benefit to the town of Margate, which opinion he still retained. He was, however, quite willing to reconsider the subject, and to have some new blood added to the committee.
Mr. Abbott having briefly replied to the objections raised by Mr. Towne and other speakers,
The Chairman proceeded to put the amendment, which was unanimously carried. The original proposition was withdrawn.
Mr. Burton then moved, and Mr. J. Harvey Boys seconded — "That the thanks of the town are due and are hereby offered to Mr. Deedes and Sir Edward Dering, for their assiduous and effective services in promoting the interests of the town, especially in forwarding the Bill through Parliament," which was carried unanimously,— as also a proposition of Mr. Ovenden's, — "That Messrs. R. Woodward, Gladstone, and Towne, be added to the Committee."
A vote of thanks to the Chairman terminated the proceedings.