Thursday, June 29, 2000

Catholic Young Mens Society

The oldest society in Athy has closed its door, possibly for the last time. The Catholic Young Men’s Society is no more and the billiard and snooker table so beloved of young and not so young alike have been disassembled and put in storage.

My earliest memory of the CYMS is of the building which occupied a corner site next to the Parish Church in Stanhope Street. Originally built as a Parish School in the early part of the 19th century it was part of the Sisters of Mercy Convent School from 1851. The building was later adopted and used by the CYMS from 1892. With the introduction of technical instruction in 1900 part of the building was requisitioned for use as a Technical school and continued to be so used until the opening of St. Brigid’s School on the Carlow Road in 1940. Thereafter the “L” shaped three room building remained the centre of CYMS activity for another thirty years.

I can just about remember Patrick Webb of St. Patrick’s Avenue who was the Caretaker of the CYMS in the 1950’s. He had been appointed to that position in 1954 after a number of other local men had held the job for short periods. E. Keogh was Caretaker for four months after replacing Christopher Ward who held the job for an even shorter period. Before them Patrick Hayden was Caretaker for one year while Jack Doyle had taken on the role in May 1949 and remained for almost three and a half years. George Sharpe was Caretaker from December 1945 until he died in May 1949 and he had replaced Richard Connor who filled the position during the Second World War. Thomas Maher was for many years previously the CYMS Caretaker and during his term he served under at least three Honorary Secretaries including Anthony Reeves of Reevesmount, Fintan Brennan of Rathstewart and Jimmy O’Higgins of Woodstock Street. Jimmy was Honorary Secretary of the CYMS between 1935 and 1948 when the position was taken up by M. McEvoy who resigned five years later to be replaced by J. McEvoy.

The Minutes of the CYMS meetings held during the 1920’s and 1930’s invariably noted Canon McDonnell, P.P. as being in the Chair which he almost always vacated before the meeting ended resulting in the usual note by the Honorary Secretary, “at this stage Canon McDonnell left the meeting”. Usually at the AGM of the Society the Canon would speak of the evils of communism which was perennially condemned by the Bishops in their pastorals. The evils of anti-Christian periodicals was another source of concern for the Canon whose admonitions to the AGM’s were faithfully recorded. However, billiards and snooker, together with card playing and the throwing of rings were more favoured activities of Society Members in the pre War years. The Society’s Honorary Secretary on occasions had practical matters to report as when, for instance, in March 1932 he secured the Committee’s agreement that if “the Gallery” insisted on interfering during a game of cards the card players would have the right to have the offenders removed from the Club premises.

The high stakes at card games were always a source of concern for the spiritual director of the CYMS and invariably the concerns of the Catholic Curates who occupied that role were transmitted to the Lay Committee. This inevitably lead to numerous Committee decisions banning the playing of cards for high stakes. What constituted high stakes was not clarified until the 1942 Committee limited poker games to an opening stake of six pence, with the highest bet of ten shillings raising by a maximum of 2/6. A reference in the 1947 Minute Book to playing “on the bow” may be understood by some of my readers but I must confess to never having previously heard of the activity which was actively discouraged by the Committee. Inevitably the poker players came into conflict with the Committee as when the March 1950 Committee discussed a complaint by Fr. Carey C.C. regarding a “late” and “very high” poker game which went on until 1.30a.m. on Tuesday, 3rd January. The Committee which consisted of Tom Moore, J. Prendergast. J. McEvoy, Tosh Doyle, Michael McCabe and T. Purcell decided that if there was any reoccurrence the game of poker would “be stopped completely in the Club.”

The CYMS which had started in the town in 1862 or thereabouts affiliated to the Diocesan Council of the CYMS in January 1953. The local branch was now renamed “Our Lady of Fatima” and arrangements were made for a statue to be erected on the premises and for the Rosary to be said each night at 8.30p.m. For how long this lasted I cannot say but certainly I can’t remember any religious aspect to membership of the CYMS in the late 1950’s. That same year it was agreed to celebrate An Tostal, starting with the members marching to 10.15 a.m. Mass on Sunday, 12th April. On the following Tuesday a lecture was arranged with Fr. Kehoe C.C., Fintan Brennan and Liam Ryan as speakers. The Irish and Papal flags were flown during the An Tostal celebrations and it was agreed that the CYMS premises were to be decorated and cleaned for the same purpose.

In July 1952 the CYMS Committee consisting of J. McEvoy, J. Daly, Tom Moore, M. McCabe, Paul Matthews, J. Cardiff, John McEvoy, J. Jackson and Willie Bracken decided to hold what the Minutes described as “the first ever dance held ever by the Branch”. In point of fact a previous CYMS Dance had been held in 1936. Nevertheless the 1954 occasion was somewhat special as Athy CYMS had invited Howth CYMS to Athy where a football match was arranged to be followed by a Ceili and old time Dance in the Town Hall. Strangely the football game was played in Kilberry rather than Geraldine Park. Was this perhaps the time when the Geraldine pitch was undergoing development or did it merely reflect the fact that Tom Moore, Secretary of the Rheban Football Club was in charge of the sporting arrangements.

Looking back over the years of my membership of the CYMS I can recall some of the great characters who were once part and parcel of the Club. “Blue Beard” Dunne, “Sooty” Hayden, Ned Cranny, Willie Bracken and Tom Moore were just some of those men who were so involved in the running of the oldest Club in town. Sadly the CYMS left its premises at Stanhope Street after an occupancy of almost 70 years in 1960 to facilitate the building of St. Michael’s Church. Moving to the former Social Club in St. John’s Lane the Society seemed to lose something in the move and never quite garnered the enthusiasm and life it had enjoyed in it’s former premises. In 1984 the Society was on the move again, this time by agreement with the Parish Priest and the support of the Sisters of Mercy to Mount St. Mary’s in Stanhope Place. This signalled the death knell of the CYMS and with falling membership the uneven struggle was lost when the Club premises was closed for the last time.

Efforts are being made to bring together the Minute Books of the CYMS for some of these records are missing. If anyone knows where any material, record book or documents relating to the local branch of the CYMS are located I would welcome hearing from them.

Thursday, June 22, 2000

Athy in Modern Tourist Guides and 18th Century Toll Roads

I was amazed to find in a recent publication by Bord Failte a very unworthy reference to Athy. The Ireland Guide published this year is intended for visitors to this country, hence Bord Failte’s involvement. The entry reads :-

“Athy is a pretty though perhaps slightly run down town towards the Carlow end of the county. Earlier in this century it was a popular circuit for the Gordon Bennett car racing. Today it boasts sounds of motor cars slugging through viscous traffic.”

That’s all it had to say of Athy, the very same town to which Bord Failte saw fit to give substantial grant aid for the provision of a Heritage Centre. The Centre was officially opened in May of last year and yet it fails to get a mention in Bord Failte’s own publication.

Contrast that with the information on Athy to be found in another recent Publication, this time The Green Guide published by Michelin Travel Publications.

“Athy is a pleasant small town on the River Barrow, for many years the property of the Fitzgeralds, Dukes of Leinster. At the beginning of the middle ages it was the largest town in County Kildare, clustered ‘round a fortified crossing of the river. Athy marks the confluence of the River Barrow and the Barrow line, the southern branch of the Grand Canal. It provides pleasant riverside walks and good fishing for coarse and trout anglers. In 1944 Macra na Feirme, a cultural and social organisation for young farming people was founded in the Town Hall. The present bridge, known as Crom a Boo bridge from the war cry of the Geraldine family dates from 1796. Beside it stands Whites Castle which was built in the 16th century. The main square beside the river is graced by the Courthouse which was built in 1856 as the Corn Exchange. On the opposite side of the Square stands the Town Hall which dates from the mid 18th century and has housed a market, Council Chambers and Law Courts. The brick vaulted ground floor now houses the Heritage Centre. It’s displays evoke the history of the town and of the personalities and events associated with it such as the Antarctic Explorer Ernest Shackleton and the famous Gordon Bennett Motor Race. The fan shaped modern Dominican Church is furnished with stain glass windows and stations of the cross by George Campbell, a noted North of Ireland artist of the earlier 20th century.”

There then follows a page devoted to excursions which visitors can take to interesting sites in the Athy area including Ballytore, Moone High Cross, Castledermot High Cross, Baltinglass Abbey, Rock of Dunamase, etc.

If we are relying on Bord Failte as our National Tourism Organisation to encourage tourists into this area I’m afraid we can never hope to achieve much success. Their efforts as indicated by their references to Athy in The Ireland Guide are as about as effective as were the Trustees of the Kilkenny and Athy Turnpike Road in encouraging farmers and traders to attend the fairs and markets in Athy at the beginning of the 19th century.

Turnpike roads were an 18th century initiative which allowed private individuals to develop and maintain sections of the highway in return for the right to impose and collect tolls from those using the road. There was a toll gate at the Dublin road entrance to Athy and another approximately 700 yards from Whites Castle on the Kilkenny Road. These toll gates barred from entering into the town anyone with produce, animals or goods to sell unless and until an appropriate toll was paid. As a consequence thriving unofficial markets developed on both approach roads to the town but outside the toll gates. This of course resulted in a loss of business for the local traders and in 1849 they began to agitate to have the toll gates removed.

Some years earlier the Town Commissioners had begun a campaign to have the turnpike gate on the Kilkenny Road removed. On 2nd February, 1846 Mr. Lord, a local Solicitor, was requested to prepare a submission in support of the Town Commissioners’ demand and the Commissioners passed a resolution on 6th April of that year to undertake “the duty and obligation of paving, maintaining, keeping and repairing the street” from White’s Castle to the town boundary. In doing this the Commissioners were attempting to take those functions away from the Trustees of the Kilkenny and Athy turnpike road thereby undermining the main justification for the imposition of tolls at the various turnpike gates along the road.

At a meeting in Kennedy’s Hotel, Athy on Monday, 27th April, 1846 both parties agreed to the removal of the turnpike gate at the Kilkenny Road entrance to the town. Within four years Athy’s Town Commissioners were petitioning the House of Commons against the continuation of the Athy/Kilkenny Turnpike Act. Public subscriptions were taken up in the town to defray the cost of the campaign and a “Turnpike Committee” was appointed by the Town Commissioners to liase with Lord Naas who led the opposition in the House of Commons. The Turnpike Bill was eventually defeated in 1850 as a result of the combined efforts of the Athy Town Commissioners and tenant farmers from counties Kilkenny, Kildare and Leix.

It’s interesting to note that the 18th century Turnpike Legislation is again now in favour, what with the National Road Authority announcing plans for toll roads around Ireland. The Toll Road and the Turnpike Road are based on the same concept. Road users pay for private road development work by paying a toll or tax each time they use the road. It seems on paper a fairly logical idea, but closer examination discloses it’s unacceptable features.

Why is it necessary to raise more indirect taxes (which is what road tolls amount to) when the country is apparently awash with an excess of direct taxes collected from the same people who will be called upon to pay the road tolls? Athy’s Town Commissioners of 1846 were astute enough to realise that tolls on roads were an unreasonable imposition which had the effect of diverting business from the town. Is it not reasonable to believe that new toll roads designed to take traffic away from congested city and town areas will result in diverting that same traffic back to the areas which they were built to relieve?

It’s quite a coincidence that while a modern version of the Turnpike Road is now being canvassed by the National Roads Authority our own Community Council is doing its bit to revitalise another 18th century initiative - the Canal. The first stage of the Barge Project started by the Community Council five years or so ago will be concluded this August weekend with the launch of the newly named Aiseiri. The next stage of the Project could bring enormous benefits to the town in terms of tourism and visitors generally and I hope that the Committee Members involved receive the support of the local people for the funanza planned over the August Bank Holiday weekend to coincide with the launch of the Barge.

Thursday, June 8, 2000

Athy Borough Council in the 18th century

Athy of the 18th Century was a corporate town governed by an elected Sovereign and Burgesses, as it had been since 1613. The Borough records for 1738 which were transcribed by Sir John Gilbert the noted Historian who prepared the Dublin Corporation Records for publication give an interesting account of the following local cause celebre.

“At an assembly held in Athy in and for the Borough of Athy, on the 16th day of October 1738, before the Sovereign, bailiffs and free burgesses of each barony of said borough; whereas at the said assembly it appeared that Graham Bradford was convicted in his Majesty’s Court of Kings Bench of wilful and corrupt perjury and that he was pilloried and is now transported into some of his Majesty’s plantations in America for the said crime, it is therefore declared at the said assembly that the said Graham Bradford be and is hereby disfranchised and removed from the freedom and all other offices and employments of the said borough of Athy. In confirmation of which the said Sovereign and Burgesses have hereunto set their hands and affirmed the Corporation Seal this 16th day of October 1738.

A. Weldon , Sovereign Boyle Spencer George Bradford
J. St. Leger John Berry William Bradford
John Jackson Alexander Bradford Edward Harman”

One notes the use of the pillory in dealing with the perjurer and while transportation appears a somewhat harsh punishment for the offence, it must be viewed against the then contemporary sentence of death for offences which today would be unlikely to merit even a short term of imprisonment. For instance, on 16th August 1743, Luke Sherlock and his companion in crime, a young man named Donnelly, were hanged in Athy after being convicted of robbery. The Dublin Journal of 19th September 1756 reported that “Tuesday next John Cronin will be executed at Athy for Horse Stealing that fact he committed 4 years ago”. The place of hanging was probably Gallows Hill on the approach road to Athy from Dublin. In medieval times and into the 18th Century every town had its Gallows Hill, located on rising ground on the outskirts of the settlement. Athy’s Gallows Hill survives in name of the locality which witnessed many hangings over centuries of use. Indeed, a few years ago local man, Tommy Keegan drew my attention to the discovery of skeletal remains in a sand pit at Gallows Hill, no doubt those of some hapless individuals who suffered the ultimate penalty for some minor infraction.

In 1746, the normally calm proceedings of the Athy Borough were thrown into disarray by the removal from office as free burgesses of the town of Thomas Keatinge, Robert Percy and Nicholas Aylward. The last two named were removed from office on 25th June 1746 for attending a public meeting convened by Keatinge’s for the purpose of electing a burgess in place of John Jackson deceased. The meeting was called by public notice for a premises known as the Queen’s Head and by so doing, Keatinge was guilty of impersonating the Sovereign of the town.

The names of the Borough officials, Burgesses and Freemen of Athy in 1746 with one or two exceptions, clearly indicate Anglo Norman or English antecedents. It is fitting to note that again with those exceptions, the families which controlled Athy almost 250 years ago, are no longer represented amongst the present population. The names include:-

William Willock, Town Clerk Thomas Rutledge Bailiff
William Bradford, Town Sovereign William Hoysted Bailiff
Thomas Burgh , Burgess John Berry, Burgess
Robert Downes, Burgess Moore Disney, Burgess
George Bradford, Burgess John Browne, Burgess
Edward Harman, Burgess Joshua Johnston, Burgess
Walter Weldon, Freeman Edmund Lewis, Freeman
Edward Wale, Freeman James McRoberts, Freeman
Thomas Weldon, Freeman Robert Fitzgerald, Freeman
Jn. Hoysted, Freeman Richard Nelson, Freeman

It was these men who developed the commercial life of Athy and in some cases, provided the financial backing and expertise for the limited industrial growth which the town experienced after 1700. Michael Devoy who wrote a short history of Athy in Anthologica Hibernica tells us that Athy in the 18th Century had one of the best and most extensive tanyards in Ireland. Rocques map of Athy West of the Barrow prepared in 1768 shows two very large tanyards. Located at Beggar’s End was a 24 pit tannery owned and operated by Geo. King. At the rear of St. John’s Street, now Duke Street, in the area known to this day as the Tanyard, the Daker family had a 41 pit tannery. This latter tannery was to go into decline and eventually close around 1790 following the death of George Daker. King’s tanyard appears to have suffered a similar fate, as no trace of the one extensive tanyard is shown on a town map of 1831. Tanning was not lost completely to Athy, as a number of small tanyards were to be found in the town during the 19th century. In 1842 James Doyle had a small tanning business in St. John’s Lane while Stephen Wilson of William Street had a somewhat larger tanyard. These were the sole remnants of the once extensive industry which provided much needed employment to the men of Athy in the previous century.

My recent reference to J. J. O’Byrne the local School Teacher arrested and imprisoned during the War of Independence resulted in a lot of phone calls and letters. It now appears that his arrest followed an attempted to read the Easter Proclamation in the main street of Athy. More about him at a later date. In the meantime, my thanks to those who contacted me about Mr. O’Byrne.

Tolls and Charges and Athy Borough Council

Last week I wrote of the first Town Commissioners elected by the ratepayers of Athy who replaced the Borough Corporation abolished by the Municipal Corporations Act of 1840. The first Corporation members had been appointed following Henry VIII’s Charter of 1515 and those appointed held office for life. In it’s early years the borough of Athy was primarily concerned with fortifying the town and paving the streets. Finance was provided through the tolls and customs collected by borough officials at the Tuesday market and the five annual fairs held in the town. It would seem that in time these monies originally destined for public works in the town were appropriated by the Dukes of Leinster.

The Corporation which had extracted custom and tolls on fairs and market days since 1515 continued to do so throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. At the commencement of the 19th century the following rates of custom were collected.


Covered Standings with soft goods 10d. 1/8
Flat Standings 6d. 1/=
Standings for hand won cutlery 3d. 6d.
Prize or cast cloths standings 1/1 1/1
Hatter standings 1/8 1/8
Breeches makers standings 10d. 10d.
Brogue makers standings 2d. 6d.
Hawkers 2d. 6d.
Each load of wooden Ware 4d. 6d.
Each car with pigs, calves or lambs 6d. 6d.
Each car with one pig, calf or lamb 1d. 1d.
Each car with coals or culm ½ d. ½ d.
Each carcase of Pork, Bacon or Mutton 1d. 1d.
A strange butchers car standing 4d. 4d.
Bacon or salt meat per tub or table 2d. 2d.
Earthen wares per load 4d. 4d.
Calves, sheep, pigs or lambs each 1½ d.
Horses, mares, mules or asses each
Black Cattle, half to buyer, half to seller

The customs were let each year to the highest tenderer, with the successful person having the sole right to collect them within the town on the Market and Fair days. In the last five years of the corporations existence the tolls were collected by toll collectors appointed and paid for by the Corporation. The toll and custom receipts were paid to the Duke of Leinster, on what authority it cannot now be ascertained.

Another source of finance were payments for cranage. A public weighing scales was located in the Market Square and to it came the farmers and dealers who bought and sold their produce by weight. The schedule of cranage charges for 1817 indicate that ½d. was charged for weighing corn, malt, flour, butter, wool hides, coals, culm under 100 lbs. weight, and 1d. over that weight. Potatoes were weighed free of charge while 1d. was paid for weighing meat carcasses.

Apart from the yearly election of officers and nominating the parliamentary representatives when called up to do so, the Borough Council was of little benefit to the people of Athy. Whatever tolls and customs were collected were transferred to the Duke of Leinster, thereby reducing the Boroughs capacity to carry out improvements to the town. Presumably the Sovereign and his officials adopted some rudimentary policy in relation to the cleaning of the town. Certainly no Borough staff were so employed but householders may have been required to keep pavements and streets in front of their premises in a tidy order. The Borough did accept responsibility for public lighting in the town at some stage during the 18th century and by 1820 it had 30 public lamps which were maintained and lit by the town lamp lighter at a cost in 1824 of £22.00 per annum. Water pumps were also provided throughout the town, four being available to the public by 1800. By 1824 the town had taken to itself further Fair rights exercisable on different dates throughout the year while to the Tuesday Market operated by Charter the town now added a market on Saturdays. The Markets were particularly handicapped by the imposition of tolls at the Toll Gate at the entrance to the town on the Athy Castlecomer road. The resulting fall off in business in the town no doubt prompted the then Duke of Leinster in 1824 to propose to the town corporation the abolition of customs and tolls hitherto collected on his behalf on the two weekly market days. The taxes were still to be imposed and collected on Fair days while on market days only coal and culm were to be subject to custom. The retention and indeed the doubling of the custom on coal and culm to 1d. was justified on the grounds that being a trade carried on between the collieries and Dublin, its payment would not interfere with the town of Athy or the Duke of Leinster’s Estate. The Dukes proposal provided for the retention of the Cranage charges from which he suggested a scale of payments for the various Corporation officials, while the extra ½d. custom on coal and culm was to fund a suitable salary for the town Sovereign. The salaries adopted by agreement of the Borough in 1824 were :-

Deputy Sovereign £30.0.0.
Town Clerk £11.7.6.
Billet Master £ 2.5.6.
3 Sergeants at Mace £6.16.6.
Bellman £ 2.5.6.
Weightmaster at Crane £15.0.0.
Weightmasters helpers £ 5.0.0.
Weight master (coal and culm) £10.0.0.
Receivers on Fair Days £1.10.0.
3 Assistants on Fair Days £1.10.0.
4 Collections at other Custom Gates £ 3.0.0.
4 Assistants £1.10.0.
Collector of Market Square £1.10.0.

Park of the Dukes proposal was the setting up of a Committee comprised of townspeople to advice the Sovereign on matters relating to the cleansing and lighting of the town. Although this was agreed the records do not indicate whether the Committee was ever established.

Thursday, June 1, 2000

Athy Town Commissioners 1842-1849

The last meeting of Athy Borough Corporation was held on 29th September, 1841 when the Reverend F.S. Trench of Kilmoroney was sworn in as the Town Sovereign. Within six months the Borough Corporation which had been in existence since 1515 was replaced by elected town commissioners. The new body had 21 members all of whom were elected for three year terms unlike their predecessors who as members of the Borough Corporation held office for life on the nomination of the Duke of Leinster.

The first Town Commissioners for Athy, elected just three years before the Great Famine, were :-

John Lawler, P.P. R.W. Maxwell
Thomas Ferris Thomas B. Kynsey
Rev. Frederick F.J. Trench A.G. Judge
John Peppard Mathew Lawler
Robert Molloy Henry Hannons
Thomas O’Connor Dan Grady
Thomas Peppard John D. Waters
Mark Cross Thomas Shiell
John Lord Michael Lawler
James Irving Thomas Plewman
Patrick Commins

Ferris, Kynsey and Matthew Lawler were local doctors. Rev. Trench was the local Church of Ireland Rector, while John Lawler was the Parish Priest of Athy. While Church of Ireland Ministers had sat on the former Corporation the Catholic clergy were present on the Town Council for the first time in 1842. The involvement of the Parish Priest is indicative of the prominent role played by the clergy in civic matters in the years immediately following the granting of Catholic Emancipation. Under the Lighting of Towns Act, 1828 candidates for the position of town commissioner had to be occupiers of houses rated at £20.00 or more. Only occupiers of property rated at £5 or upwards were entitled to vote at the triennial election for town commissioners. In 1842 and again in 1844 elections were unnecessary in Athy as the candidates nominated did not exceed the number of seats available on the Town Commission.

Its first Chairman was Doctor Thomas Kynsey and immediately the new Commissioners set to work with an energy unknown to the former Borough Corporation. The town bellman was retained at a wage of 2 guineas a year while Thomas Shiell, one of the newly elected commissioners, resigned on the 7th March to take up the position of Clerk to the Commissioners and Billet Master at the yearly salary of £10. An Ouncil was purchased for the weighing of hay and straw while at their second meeting on the 4th April, 1842 the Commissioners agreed to provide a bell for the new clock donated by Lord Downes for the Town Hall and to put up under the clock a marble tablet commemorating the fact.

The Town Commissioners immediately accepted a number of presentments under which public works were to be undertaken by private individuals at the expense of the Town Commissioners. Included amongst those presentments approved on 18th April, 1842 were the following :-
£. S. P.
To John O’Neill for making a pair of Scale Boards
and adjusting the Beams 2. 2. 0.

To Michael Hylahaw for making a proper footpath from
Baileys corner to Dr. Lawlers and widening it 6 inches 5. 0. 0.

To John McManus, 40 Tons Gravel on Mt. Hawkins 1. 17. 6.

To John McManus, 40 Tons Gravel on Meeting Lane
and breaking the high stones 2. 2. 2.

To John McManus for sinking a Castledermot stone
at Mr. Judge’s small gate 0. 7. 6.

At it’s meeting on 6th June, 1842 the Town Commissioners agreed valuations which were to be placed on local properties and which were to form the basis of the rates imposed and collected within the town area to finance the work of the Town Commissioners. The list of valuations showed that there 857 houses in the town, of which 380 were slated and 477 thatched.

It is interesting to note that between 1842 and 1851 the only rates struck by the Commissioners were £30.15.6 in the first year of its operation and £50 in 1851. A large portion of the Commissioners’ revenue came from payments at the public weighing scales in the Market Square. Since the time of the former Corporation a salaried weighmaster was in office but he was pensioned off in 1848. Subsequently the public scales was let on a yearly basis until in August 1852 it was again taken in charge by a full time official of the Town Commissioners. The weighmaster generally employed clerks whose job it was to note the weight registered on an official ticket. Free lance porters, supplied with a distinctive arm band by the Commissioners were available in the Market Square to assist in lifting and loading sacks for which they were paid ½d. per sack by each farmer or merchant availing of their services.

Another source of revenue was the monthly auction of manure collected from the streets of the town. The cleaning of the streets was of a most rudimentary kind, but most important, particularly in summer, was the use of a watering cart, designed to keep down the dust.

It wasn’t until December 1848 that the Commissioners gave active consideration to the need for street sweeping. In that month a committee of three was appointed to wait on the Board of Guardians to enquire on what terms the paupers in the poor house would sweep streets from 10 o’clock each day. The time was carefully chosen so as not to interfere with the right of householders to gather up the manure in front of their own doors - an important concession at a time when artificial fertilisers were unknown.

The Board of Guardians were less than sympathetic to the Town Commissioners’ delegation and on the 6th January, 1849 the Commissioners agreed “that two men be appointed as scavengers to keep the town clean and that two wheelbarrows be provided for them”.

In this the centenary year of the Urban District Council it’s heartening to remind ourselves of the many advances made by our Town Council since the appointment of the two men with wheelbarrows 150 years ago.