Risley with Hopwell Parish Council

Serving the people of Risley with Hopwell

Clerk RFO: Sue Dunkley
34 Sparrow Close, Ilkeston
Derbyshire DE7 4PW

Tel: 07854591073

Chapter 5
THE PARISH CONSTABLE

The constable, like the other officers was elected on a yearly basis. There was no property qualifications and the man appointed was usually a small freeholder or someone who followed some trade. He was responsible for maintaining law and order, and although serious cases had to be carried to a J.P. he could himself carry out some punishments such as beating vagrants or detaining in the lock-up. He had to see that no-one settled in the parish without permission, and those travellers who had a pass to move to their legal parish were assisted on their journey. When a crime had been committed and a 'hue and cry' raised, it was the constable's job to assure himself that the man was not in his parish and to carry the hue and cry to the next parish.

There were also many administrative duties that were imposed on him by the government. There were various taxes such as the window tax. As early as 1702 the constable was noting on his accounts three shillings expenses for going in to Derby 'about ye window tax'. Several houses in Morley have bricked-in windows which suggest that as the tax grew heavier, householders tried this method of lessening their dues. Morley Hall, Morley House Farm and the Rectory all show such windows.

The army was recruited on a basis of so many men from each area being 'called up'. They were not named but the required number had to be found, and it was the constable of the parish who had to produce the 'Volunteers'. Sometimes men could be hired and in 1794 the constable's accounts show the sum of £3.13s.0d. paid to 'a trand(trained) soulger'. In 1799 the. Constable goes on an a'Journey to Cotmanhay to fetch Harrison for ye militia' and in the same year (which is the middle of the Napoleonic Wars) he goes round the parish with a list for the general defence. He had to keep lists of those who could be called on for army service, and these lists were sent to Derby regularly until well into the nineteenth century.

The duties of the constable included those of Pest Officer and there are many entries in the parish records referring to payments for the destruction of sparrows, hedgehogs and moles. A few coppers were paid for a hedgehog, and from 1825 to 1850 the yearly payments 'to Mole catcher' average nearly six pounds. The amount paid for birds, also for the quantity caught is given in the accounts for 1840:/p>

Paid for birds at 1d each £2.17s.0d

Oct.5th Paid 840 small birds at ld £1.15s.0d

Paid 32 score of birds 6d per score 16s.0d

Paid George Taylor for birds 11s.9d

There were other parish duties that fell to the constable and one that is, frequently mentioned is tending gates. While Morley: had a common on which all animals could be pastured these animals had to be prevented from straying. If they strayed within the parish they were caught and 'pinned' i.e. locked up in a pound, and the owner had to pay a fine to get them out. Brackley Gate and one at Morley Lime are mentioned and this must have been to prevent animals straying out of the parish. Details of building the Pin fold are given in the accounts:

July 28th 1810

Thos. Seals bill for stone and building Pinfold £4.1s.0d

Rbt. Kingts bill for ale, iron and lead £1.2s.1d

One man one day fil/ing stone 2s.6d

Gave the men for helping to load 1s.6d

Drawing stone 3 days £1.4s.0d

Lime and fetching sand for do 4s.6d

Pd. Rbt.Alldopp:for agate £1.08.6d

A lock for same 10d

Our man a day for levelling the Pinfold 2s.6d

There were too occasional domestic crises, for instance the constable's accounts for 1800 show a payment to Rbt. King at the Smithy Inn for lodging Samuel Slater when he and his wife quarrelling. Occasionally too the constable would use the inn when holding men who were before the magistrates; Isaac Archer was served with a warrant in 1808 and two shillings was charged by the constable for stopping with all night at the Smithy. He similarly attended Lark Wathall all night in 1810 and later in year for two days and a night, but why Wathall needed these attentions is not clear. £3.5s.0d was paid for a licence for him and a subsequent shilling for his examination at Smalley, so possibly the man was ill in some way and had a licence to beg. Poor travellers were lodged at the inn and Robert King was paid for this by the constable, and these travellers were themselves given money to continue their journeys. As early as 1699 the constable's accounts show small sums, from twopence to a shilling, 'given to travellers with a pass' and on one occasion sixpence was paid for 'carrying a cripple to Breadsall'.

Crime seems to have come rarely to Morley. The method of catching criminals by the hue and cry seems very crude and inadequate and indeed only important case of trouble in Morley, it was not used as far as we can see by the records. The report in fact comes from the 'Derby Mercury' of 1781. The Rector Robert Wilmot had an advertisement put in regarding William Lee who 'is charged with a violent suspicion of having robbed the church at Morley... Whoever will apprehend him and lodge him in any of His Majesty's Gaols of this Kingdom shall receive five guineas reward from the Rev. Mr. Wilmot; and in case he is convicted they will be entitled to £40 more'. Nothing of this is mentioned in Morley's parish records and how William Lee was suspected is unknown, but their suspicions were correct for he was captured 'at a Publick House in this Town (Derby) where he had just called in for a Pot of Ale' and the silver chalice cup and large pewter tankard which he had stolen were recovered from the sand bank at Nottingham where he had hidden them. Lee was tried at the next Assizes, found guilty and sentenced to death (the normal, punishment for stealing any article worth more than five shillings) but he was later reprieved. From the bill for the prosecution it appears this affair cost the parish £20.17s.1d. Forty Pounds was allowed by Act of Parliament as reward for detection of culprit which was paid by the under sheriff.

The Reverend Charles Kerry writes 'Tradition says that Lee obtained entrance to the church by breaking the painted window immediately over the recumbent effigy of Katherin Babington when the nose and finger ends of the figure were broken off by the unscrupulous visitor'. He also states that the silver chalice cup given to the church by Elizabeth Sacheverell was still in use at Morley in 1902.

Apart from crime there were other points the constable had to attend to. Everyone had to pay a levy for the expenses incurred by the constable and moneys had to be paid to the County for 'Houses of Correction, board of prisoners, marshalls, a country gaoler and also country bridges'. This levy was the constable's responsibility. He had also to present lists of Jurors to the Derby magistrates and lists of assess¬ments for any taxes.

It was not all hard work however, for there are also fairly regular entries in the account of 'paid to parish meeting' and in 1841 a more specific 'paid for Beef at parish meeting 8s.0d. and for ale at same 13s.0d.', and by 1862 the account for ale at one of these meetings reached the sum of nineteen shillings. It is hardly surprising that the levy for all that the constabi had to do reached two shillings in the pound a times in the nineteenth century.