& District Councils
The term “Borough” was derived from the Saxon word “burg” that was a defended settlement. It was originally applied to a settlement in medieval England that was granted some form of self-government. Shrewsbury and several other towns in Shropshire were growing in size and the feudal system did not work there. As a result, they sought a charter from the king to give themselves self-governing status and paid taxes directly to him. The citizens became “burgesses” rather than serfs and were free men. Such towns, for an annual rent to the crown, were given privileges such as the right to hold a market and to levy certain local taxes. They were run by a corporation, made up of town elders called “aldermen”. These were usually self-elected, new members only being co-opted by the existing members. A mayor was elected from within their number to serve for a given period.
Bishop’s Castle was granted a charter by King Henry III in 1249, with a licence for a weekly market and an annual fair.
Bridgnorth was granted a charter by King Henry I in 1102 and the town became a borough. Its last governing charter was issued by King Henry VIII in 1546.
Clun was granted a charter by King John in 1204, with a licence for a three-day fair to be held at Martinmas (11th November). At a later date, a licence was issued for another three-day fair commencing on 12th May (the feast of Saints Nereus, Achilles and Pancras).
Ludlow was granted a charter to make it a borough in medieval times but the exact date is unknown. Its last governing charter was issued by King Charles II in 1665. One of the rights was claimed to be exemption from the county rate but this was never pursued.
Much Wenlock (originally called Wenlock) was originally granted a charter by King Henry I and In 1138 King Stephen granted a licence for a three-day fair to be held between 23-25th June. King Henry II confirmed all the franchises and customs which they had been previously given. King John granted them a charter in 1215 that exempted the burgesses from tolls throughout England except the city of London. In 1227, King Henry III conferred several new rights and liberties, among which were the right to set up a merchant guild, membership of the Hanseatic League (a confederation of trading partners) and a licence for a Monday market. These early charters were confirmed by several succeeding kings. King Henry VI granted an “Assize of Bread and Ale” (regulation of the price, weight and quality of bread and beer manufactured and sold) and other privileges. In 1359, King Edward III granted a licence to hold a fair on the feast of the Translation of St Leonard and for the 3 following days. Its last governing charter was issued by King Charles I In 1631, who also granted a licence to hold a fair on the Thursday before the first week in Lent and for the 2 following days, plus another between 5-7th October. Wenlock existed as a borough until 1966 and, at that time, was the largest borough in England outside London. It encompassed several of the towns that now constitute Telford, ie Little Wenlock, Broseley and Ironbridge. When it ceased being a borough, it became part of Bridgnorth Rural District, with the other parts going to Dawley Urban District and to Wellington Rural District.
Newport (originally called Newborough) was granted a charter by Henry I, with a licence for a market.
Oswestry was granted its governing charter by King Charles II in 1674.
Ruyton-XI-Towns was granted a charter in 1308.
Shrewsbury was granted a charter by King Henry I allowing the collection of rents. King Richard I granted charter in 1189 and from that time the town’s regional importance and influence increased, as well as its autonomy from the county of Shropshire. Further charters were granted by King John in 1199, King Henry VIII in 1495 and King Charles I in 1638. Its last governing charter was issued by King James II in 1685. In 1974, a charter from Queen Elizabeth II incorporated the Borough of Shrewsbury and Atcham.
The Municipal Corporations Act 1835 changed 5 of the existing Boroughs into Municipal Boroughs but Bishop’s Castle, Clun, Newport and Ruyton-XI-Towns were not changed because they had shrunk in size. It also introduced a uniform system of town government, with an elected town council consisting of a mayor, aldermen and councillors to oversee many local affairs. The legislation required all municipal corporations to be elected by the town’s property owners for a three-year term, with one third of their membership retiring each year. Boroughs with a population of more than 6,000 were divided into wards with separate elections held in each ward annually. One quarter of the council were aldermen, who were elected by the council for a six-year term. Half of the aldermen were elected every third year at the council's annual meeting. It was originally envisaged that the council would choose persons from outside of the municipal body. In practice, however, the aldermen were almost exclusively ex-councillors. The mayor of the borough was elected for a one-year term, although he was eligible for re-election indefinitely. The council could elect any suitably qualified inhabitant of the borough as mayor but it was usually conferred on a senior alderman or councillor.
The Municipal Corporations Act 1883 formally changed the status of several towns that had previously failed to qualify as Municipal Boroughs. Bishop’s Castle was now regarded as qualifying and became a Municipal Borough in 1885. Clun, Newport and Ruyton-Xi-Towns had their status as Boroughs abolished in 1886.
The Local Government Act 1958 caused 5 of the remaining Municipal Boroughs to be absorbed by a surrounding rural district to become a Rural Borough within a Rural District. These had the powers of a Parish Council and the following were changed :-
Bishops Castle – absorbed into Clun & Bishop's Castle Rural District in 1967
Bridgnorth – absorbed into Bridgnorth Rural District in 1967
Ludlow – absorbed into Ludlow Rural District in 1967
Oswestry – absorbed into Oswestry Rural District in 1967
Wenlock – absorbed into Bridgnorth Rural District in 1966
This left Shrewsbury as the last remaining municipal borough in Shropshire.
The Local Government Act 1972 authorised the abolition of Rural Boroughs, converting them to Parishes within their existing Rural District. The 5 Shropshire Rural Boroughs were finally abolished in 1974. In the same year, Shrewsbury Borough merged with Atcham District Council to form Shrewsbury & Atcham Borough Council.
2002 – following failure to obtain city status in 2000, the new Telford & Wrekin Unitary Authority was granted a royal charter as a borough. The title is purely honorary and does not give any additional powers.
The Poor Law Amendment Act 1834 allowed Rural Parishes to group together as Poor Law Unions to administer the Poor Law more effectively. These Unions were able to collect taxes (rates) in order to carry our poor-relief and were run by a Board of Guardians, partly elected but also including local Justices of the Peace.
The Public Health Act 1848 established a Local Board of Health in towns to regulate sewerage and the spread of diseases. In municipal boroughs, the town corporation selected the board but in other urban areas it was elected by the rate-payers. Although the boards had legal powers, they were non-governmental organisations.
The Public Health Act 1873 & Public Health Act 1875 established new organisations to administer the poor law, public health and sanitation. Urban Sanitary Districts were created from the Local Boards of Health and continued to be run by in similar fashion. Rural Sanitary Districts were created from the Poor Law Unions and similarly governed. In Shropshire these were :-
Atcham Rural Sanitary District
Bridgnorth Rural Sanitary District
Church Stretton Rural Sanitary District
Cleobury Mortimer Rural Sanitary District
Clun Rural Sanitary District
Dawley Urban Sanitary District
Ellesmere Rural Sanitary District
Knighton Rural Sanitary District (Teme Parish)
Ludlow Rural Sanitary District
Madeley Rural Sanitary District
Market Drayton Rural Sanitary District
Montgomery Rural Sanitary District (Chirbury Parish)
Newport Rural Sanitary District
Oswestry Rural Sanitary District
Shifnal Rural Sanitary District
Tenbury Rural Sanitary District (Burford Parish)
Wellington Rural Sanitary District
Wem Rural Sanitary District
Whitchurch Rural Sanitary District
The Local Government Act 1894 abolished Sanitary Districts and created a second tier of local government. Urban Sanitary Districts were renamed as Urban Districts and governed by an Urban District Council. Rural Sanitary Districts were replaced by Rural Districts with a Rural District Council. Shropshire was thus divided into either Rural or Urban Districts, ie
Atcham Rural District
Bridgnorth Rural District
Burford Rural District
Chirbury Rural District
Church Stretton Rural District
Church Stretton Urban District
Cleobury Mortimer Rural District
Clun & Bishop’s Castle Rural District
Clun Rural District
Dawley Urban District
Drayton Rural District
Ellesmere Rural District
Ellesmere Urban District
Ludlow Rural District
Market Drayton Rural District
Market Drayton Urban District
Newport Rural District
Newport Urban District
Oswestry Rural District
Shifnal Rural District
Teme Rural District
Wellington Rural District
Wellington Urban District
Wem Rural District
Wem Urban District
Whitchurch Urban District
There were subsequent changes as follows :-
Oakengates Urban District created
Burford Rural District absorbed into Ludlow Rural District
Chirbury Rural District absorbed into Clun Rural District
Church Stretton Rural District absorbed into Ludlow Rural District
Cleobury Mortimer Rural District absorbed into Ludlow Rural District
Newport Rural District absorbed into Wellington Rural District
Teme Rural District absorbed into Clun Rural District
Wenlock Rural District created from part of Madeley Rural District.
Madeley Rural District absorbed into Wellington Rural District, Wenlock Rural District and Shrewsbury borough.
Wenlock Rural District absorbed into Bridgnorth Rural District.
Market Drayton Rural District created
Church Stretton Urban District absorbed into Ludlow Rural District
Drayton Rural District absorbed into Market Drayton Rural District
Madeley Urban District absorbed into Dawley Urban District
Market Drayton Urban District absorbed into Market Drayton Rural District
North Shropshire Rural District created
The Wrekin Rural District created
Clun Rural District absorbed into Clun & Bishop’s Castle Rural District
Ellesmere Rural District absorbed into North Shropshire Rural District
Ellesmere Urban District absorbed into North Shropshire Rural District
Whitchurch Rural District absorbed by North Shropshire Rural District.
The Local Government Act 1972 abolished all previous administrative districts to establish a uniform two tier system across the country. Shropshire County Council was retained to generally administer the county and provide certain county-wide services. The second tier of the local government was divided into districts. Such districts were permitted to style themselves as borough councils or district councils, the difference was purely academic. The new system of local government came into force in 1974. The new Districts were :-
Based at Bridgnorth and including Albrighton, Broseley, Cosford, Much Wenlock, Sheriffhales and Shifnal. It was a merger of the Bridgnorth Rural Borough, Wenlock Rural Borough and nearly all of the Shifnal Rural District.
North Shropshire District
Based in Wem and including Baschurch, Ellesmere, Market Drayton, Shawbury and Whitchurch. It was a merger of Market Drayton Rural District and North Shropshire Rural District.
Based in Oswestry and including Gobowen, Morda, Pant, Ruyton-XI-Towns, St Martin's, Trefonen and Whittington. It was a merger of Oswestry Rural Borough and Oswestry Rural District.
Shrewsbury & Atcham Borough
Based in Shrewsbury and including Atcham, Bayston Hill, Bomere Heath, Condover, Cressage, Cross Houses, Ford, Minsterley, Nesscliffe, Pontesbury, Shrewsbury Borough, Uffington and Westbury. It was a merger of Atcham Rural District and Shrewsbury Borough.
South Shropshire District
Based in Ludlow and including Bishop's Castle, Church Stretton, Cleobury Mortimer, Clun and Craven Arms. It was a merger of Clun & Bishop's Castle Rural District, Bishop’s Castle Rural Borough, Ludlow Rural Borough and Ludlow Rural District.
The Wrekin District
Based in Telford and including Dawley, Newport, Oakengates and Wellington. It was a merger of Dawley Urban District, Newport Urban District, Oakengates Urban District, Wellington Urban District, Wellington Rural District and part of Shifnal Rural District.
The Local Government Act 1992 authorised the creation of two new unitary authorities. Telford & Wrekin Council was created in 1998 and Shropshire Council in 2009. The existing 6 Districts were abolished and merged into the new unitary authorities, Telford & Wrekin Council taking The Wrekin District and Shropshire Council the other 5 Districts.
Whether you are a Shropshire solicitor or a Cincinnati criminal lawyer, it is important for all members of the legal profession to know their local history. While knowing the laws and breakdown of city government are mandatory, lawyers can gain a greater understanding of the law when they know their local area history.