The Poor Law consisting of a series of Parliamentary Acts came into effect in 1601. It defined how a parish would care for the poorer members of society who were in need of financial or other assistance. The law was administered at Vestry meetings that were attended by the parish ratepayers. The Vestry was the decision making body that was named after the room where meetings were held.

The Poor Law was replaced by Poor Law Unions in 1834 (Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834) and Darlaston became part of the Poor Law Union of Walsall. The Walsall Union Workhouse was erected on Pleck Road and Darlaston's poor were sent there.

The Poor Laws were part of an early system of local government where decisions about local matters were taken by the parish ratepayers. Local officers serving the community were also elected at these meetings. In 1838 a Vestry meeting to elect a parish Constable and his assistant the Headborough was so well attended that everyone present had to move from the vestry into the churchyard where the meeting took place. During the proceedings John Howl was elected Constable and John Hughes elected Headborough.

The White Lion as it is today. Meetings of the Local Board were held in the old malthouse at the rear.
In 1846 the old system of Vestry Government was finally abandoned and a Board of Surveyors constituted. The traditional supremacy of the church was not completely ignored, as members of the Board were elected by a show of hands at a Vestry meeting and the town's accounts were also presented there. The members of the Board were as follows:
George Jones - Chairman
David Bowen John Riley
William Carter Samuel Rubery
Charles Green Samuel Smith
Samuel Mills  

Samuel Rubery.


Samuel Mills.

George Jones was succeeded as Chairman by Samuel Rubery who in turn was succeeded by Samuel Mills. In 1858 John Harper became the elected Collector of Highway Rates & Secretary of the Board at a salary of five percent of the rates collected, and Joseph Horton became Assistant Surveyor & Inspector of Nuisances & Lodging Houses at a salary of £50. The Board's powers were limited and meetings both infrequent and irregular, the main business usually concerned the condition of roads and buildings. From 1858 to 1869 a Board of Lighting Inspectors was elected to improve the gas street lighting.

In 1869 the Local Government Act of 1858 was adopted and a Local Board formed in preference to the unsatisfactory Board of Surveyors. Twenty members were elected by the ratepayers and the candidates included almost everyone of note in the town. The results of the December 1869 election were as follows:

George Addenbrooke William Marshall
G. P. Butler Richard Mills
A. Carter C. Moore
William Corbett G. Perry
C. Green M. Read
G. Green Samuel Rubery
Job Green James Slater
William Harper Samuel Slater
Enoch Horton E. Wilkes
George Humpage William Winn

The first meeting was held on 15th February, 1870 in the upper room of the old malthouse behind the White Lion in King Street. The following people were elected as officers:

Chairman - Mr. Samuel Rubery; Clerk - Mr. Thomas Brevitt; Medical Officer of Health - Mr. Samuel Partridge.
Public Toilets

The Victorians gave us many public amenities, including public toilets and public parks, which were once taken for granted. In the latter part of 1875 the Local Board decided that the town should have its first public toilets in the form of two cast-iron urinals. An Order was placed with Walter Macfarlane & Company of Glasgow for a double circular urinal with a lamp, to be erected at the Bull Stake, and a singular circular urinal to be erected at Blockall.

As soon as the local ratepayers discovered the plans for the Bull Stake, the following petition was raised:

We, the undersigned ratepayers of Darlaston and residents of Pinfold Street, most earnestly and respectfully beg of you not to erect a urinal on the Bull Stake as we think it not at all required, would be a glaringly offensive nuisance and would spoil the largest and most useful open space in the town.

Your most obedient servants

There were 65 signatures and so the petition was considered at a special meeting of the Local Board on the 25th January, 1876. It was decided that the urinal would not be erected at the Bull Stake, but in April it was built on the corner of King Street and Victoria Road (then Pardoe's Lane).

There was an immediate outcry, but the urinal stayed there until 1902 when it was moved to Victoria Park and discretely hidden behind a clump of trees. The urinal at Blockall was erected as planned.

The urinal in Victoria Park and the one at Blockall, remained in position until they were badly affected by rust and had to be demolished.

Public toilets were later built on the corner of Crescent Road and Walsall Road, next to the railway embankment.

They were eventually replaced by the ones below, which survived until the town centre was redeveloped to make way for the current ASDA store.

An example of a Macfarlane urinal.

The last council public toilets in Darlaston, off King Street.

From the collection of the late Howard Madeley.

Mr. Samuel Partridge, Medical Officer of Health.

From Hackwood's "A History of Darlaston", 1887.

By 1870 the population had increased to 14,724 and the high death rate in the area (25.6 per 1,000) gradually reduced over the next few years, falling to 20.84 per 1,000 in 1886. During the smallpox epidemic of 1882 the Local Board rented a large house for use as an isolation hospital.

The members of the Board in 1880 were as follows:

James Slater. Chairman. A solicitor with offices in Walsall Road.
James Belcher. Auctioneer, valuer, surveyor in Pinfold Street
Charles Bishop. Ran a clothes shop in Church Street.
George Blackham. Grocer in Church Street.
William Corbett. Publican - Union Inn, Pinfold Street.
Joseph Cotterel. Developed coal pits, lived in Bell Street.
David Etchells. Factory owner - Bull Piece Works.
Charles Green. Maltster, Church Street.
James Harper.  
Enoch Horton. Ran Horton & Sons, Alma Works. Nuts & Bolts.
George Humpage. Shopkeeper, Catherine's Cross.
Moses Huskison. Builder, lived in Bull Street.
James Rose. J. & R. Rose, Willenhall Street. Made coach bolts.
John Shingleton. Publican, The Green.
William Simkin. Clerk to Slater & Co. solicitors.
John Simpson.  
William Winn. Grocer, wine & spirit merchant. Pinfold Street & Church Street.

James Slater.


James Belcher.

George Blackham.


William Corbett.

David Etchells.


Enoch Horton.

George Humpage.


Moses Huskison.

John Simpson.


William Winn.

The Local Board remained in charge of local affairs until the Local Government Act was Passed in 1894 and as a result Darlaston became an Urban District on 1st January 1895 with an Urban District Council. Councillor Joseph Yardley, J.P. was elected Chairman after serving on the Local Board for 12 years. He was born in Darlaston in 1848 and worked as a brewer.

Councillors and Council Officers in 1901:

Joseph Yardley - Chairman
Vincent J. Magrane - Vice Chairman
David Etchells Richard Reynolds
Charles Foster Samuel P. Robinson
Richard Garrington John Shingleton
James Harper James Slater
William Harrison Nathaniel Thomas
Enoch Horton Samuel Vosper Thomas
Thomas Orton Daniel Tyler
A.H. Partridge George Wiley
James Pritchard William Winn
Joseph Corbett - Clerk
Samuel Partridge - Medical Officer of Health
John Cash Joynson - Surveyor
Joseph Hingley - Sanitary Inspector
Daniel Kimberley - Collector

Joseph Corbett.


Dr. Vincent J. Magrane.

G. P. Butler.


Joseph Yardley.

In 1909 the Councillors and Council Officers were as follows:

Chairman - Councillor Joseph Yardley, J.P.,C.C.
Vice Chairman - Councillor Dr. V. J. Magrane
A. Baggott, J. Bass, C. Foster, Geo. Griffiths, H. Hemmings, Albert E. Horton, J.P.,
T. Mayer, G. Mentz, Tolley, R. J. Oliver, A. H. Partridge, J.P., S. P. Robinson,
J. G. Rose, J. T. Rubery, J. P., Dr. W. H. Smith, George Wiley, W. Winn.
Council Officers:
Clerk  Mr. Joseph Corbett, Solicitor
Assistant Mr. W. J. Carter
Treasurer Mr. J. A. Robinson, Lloyds Bank, Church Street
Medical Officer of Health Dr. Sydney Partridge, Croft House, Darlaston
Surveyor Mr. John Cash Joynson
Inspector of Nuisances Mr. Robert Austin
Collector Mr. Daniel Kimberley
Board of Guardians J. Yardley, C. Foster, W. Winn, Mrs. James Slater
Overseers  D. Etchells, J. G. Rose
Relieving Officer Mr. Enoch Bruerton, Office, Pinfold Street
Poor Rate Collector Mr. Arthur D. Belcher, Office, Pinfold Street
Registrar of Births and Deaths Miss A. Wilkes, Church Street

Meetings were held on the first Tuesday in each month at 6 p.m.

In 1916 the Members of Darlaston Urban District Council were as follows:

Catherines Cross Ward, No. 1. Number of Electors 982
Lockhart Lowe
Ezra Genders
Archibald Slater
Job Wilkes Yardley
Nathan Horton
Central Ward, No. 2. Number of Electors 698
Green Job
Henry Hemming
George Griffiths
Alfred Henry Partridge
Joseph Yardley.  (Chairman)
The Green Ward No. 3. Number of Electors 914
Charles Foster
John Pritchard
George Lucas
John Tunner Rubery
John Whitehouse, jun.
All Saints Ward, No. 4. Number of Electors 961
Richard Bayley
James Paul Price
William Henry Bostock
John George Rose
Richard Astley Tench  (Vice Chairman)
Council Officials
Clerk Joseph Corbett
Surveyor J. Cash Joynson
General District Rate
Collector & Accounts Clerk
W. J. Carter
Medical Officer of Health Dr. V. J. Magrane
Sanitary Inspector Joseph S. Barker
Treasurer J. A. Robinson
Librarian M. Whitehouse
Hall Keeper T. W. Simpson
Engineer, Outfall Works T. Morrell
Cemetery Keeper C. Cotterell
Relieving Officer Mr. Enoch Bruerton, Pinfold Street
Overseers of the Poor Mr. David Etchells, and Councillor J. G. Rose
Assistant Overseer and Collector
of the Poor Rate
Mr. A. D. Belcher
Registrar of Births and Deaths Miss A. Wilkes, Church Street

:Meetings were held on the first Tuesday in the month.

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