Repository
  • B&NES Record Office
Reference number
  • BC/22
Description
  • During the eighteenth century, Bath grew from a small market and spa town into a fashionable resort for the aristocracy and gentry - the tenth largest city in England. As a result, the provision of amenities such as paved streets, street lighting, rubbish removal and watching (policing) became an important issue, both for the convenience of the inhabitants and to serve their high class visitors. However, the Corporation did not have powers to do this work or to raise money to fund it. In the first half of the century it obtained private Acts of Parliament to give it such powers, and also tried to devolve the duties onto parish authorities. Both approaches met with limited success, and the Corporation turned to the solution adopted by other cities: the setting up of Commissions for specific purposes and covering specific, small areas. Commissions were set up by Acts of Parliament as follows: Court of Requests Act 1766 (6 Geo. III c.16) This Act created a court to simplify the recovery of debts under £2. The Commissioners responsible for the court included the mayor, aldermen and corporation, plus local men of property. In 1805, the jurisdiction of the court was extended to include debts under £10, and the area it covered extended to 35 parishes adjacent to Bath. 'Bath Act' 1766 (6 Geo. III c.70) This Act, which created the 'Bath Commissioners', was sponsored by the Corporation as a means to perform duties it felt were needed but which it otherwise did not have the legal power to undertake. It provided for 20 Commissioners appointed jointly by the parishes of the City (St. Peter and St. Paul (Bath Abbey), St. James, St. Michael, and the inner part of Walcot St. Swithins) and the Corporation, four from each parish and four from the Corporation, plus the Mayor and Justices of the Peace ex-officio. They were to be responsible for street cleaning, lighting, policing, widening streets and abolition of hanging shop signs. The work of the Bath Commissioners was funded by a rate paid by all householders in the city. Some duties such as street cleaning and lighting were contracted out to local enterprises. However, for street widening works and the abolition of hanging signs the Commissioners had the power to issue notices to local property owners ordering the works to be done with financial compensation available from the Commissioners. The Commissioners were also responsible for the organisation of a Night Watch to help ensure the safety of the City and its residents; they were responsible for this until 1836 when the Bath City Police Force was created under the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835. By 1814 the original Bath Act 1766 was considered deficient in many aspects and was repealed and replaced by the new and expanded Bath Act 1814 (54 Geo. III, c.105). The 1766 and 1814 acts were sometimes referred to as the Bath Police Acts. After 1836 and the creation of the Bath City Police Force the Commissioners took up responsibility for pitching, paving, lighting, etc. in the Parish of Lyncombe and Widcombe, which had not previously been the responsibility of any of the local Commissions. Street lighting was needed in the parish to support effective policing. The duties of the Commissioners passed to the Corporation in 1851 under the Bath Act of that year which gave the Corporation powers to undertake these duties directly. Bath Improvement Act 1789 (29 Geo. III c.73) This Act (29 Geo. III, c.73), commonly called the Bath Improvement Act, was created to protect and secure the Hot Baths and Springs within the City: from injury by encroachment; by rebuilding the Pump Rooms; by widening streets and passages; and by building new streets and passages on the approaches to the Hot Baths, Springs and Pump Rooms. It empowered the Commissioners of the Act to take up or purchase certain premises within the city for the purposes of removing or altering them for the creation of new streets or widening of existing ones. The Act was promoted by the Corporation as a means to undertake works that they otherwise would not have had the power to do. The work of the Commissioners was funded partly by the Corporation and partly by the issuing of mortgage bonds secured on the taking of additional tolls at the Turnpike Roads into Bath. 'Walcot Act' 1793 (33 Geo. III c. 89) This Act (33 Geo. III, c.89), which created the 'Walcot Commissioners', was sponsored by the residents of Outer Walcot. 'Outer Walcot' covered the area within the Parish of Walcot but which was outside the boundaries of the City of Bath, the City's limit being marked by Marlborough Lane, Julian Road, Guinea Lane and Walcot St. Swithin's Church. The Commissioners were to be responsible for street paving, cleansing, refuse removal, lighting, policing, regulation of porters and sedan chairs and numbering houses. The Commissioners were empowered to serve as justices and were self-perpetuating. The Commissioners were responsible for the organisation of a Watch to help ensure the safety of the outer part of Walcot and its residents; they were responsible for this until 1836 when the Bath City Police Force was created under the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835. The 1793 Act was amended by a further Act of 1825 (6 Geo. IV, c.74) and these acts were sometimes referred to as the Walcot Police Acts. The duties of the Commissioners passed to the Corporation in 1851 under the Bath Act of that year which gave the Corporation powers to undertake these duties directly. 'Bathwick Act', 1801 (41 Geo. III c.126) This Act (41 Geo. III, c126) created the 'Bathwick Commissioners', who were to be responsible for street paving, cleansing, refuse removal, lighting, and policing. The act was often referred to as the Bathwick Police Act. The work of the Commissioners was funded by a rate payable by the residents of the Bathwick area. The Commissioners were responsible for the organisation of a Night Watch to help ensure the safety of the parish of Bathwick and its residents; they were responsible for this until 1836 when the Bath City Police Force was created under the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835. The duties of the Commissioners passed to the Corporation in 1851 under the Bath Act of that year which gave the Corporation powers to undertake these duties directly. Responsibility for the City, Walcot, and Bathwick Watchmen was taken over by the Council in 1836 under the auspices of the Municipal Corporations Act 1835; this created the Bath City Police Force which was overseen by the Watch Committee. All other functions of the Commissioners were taken over by the Council under the Bath Act of 1851, under which the Council adopted the provisions of the Public Health Act of 1848 and became the Local Board of Health for the city. The 1851 Act repealed all the Acts relating to Commissions, and provided that all the assets of the Commissioners, including their records, were to be passed to the Council. The Council appointed a committee (the '1851 Bath Act Committee') for executing the Act. Rich source for public health and for architectural history, for example details of changes to the streetscape (see BC/22/2/1) This description has been compiled with reference to: Trevor Fawcett, 'Bath Administer'd', Bath, 2001 The records are arranged as follows: BC/22/1 - Records of the Bath Court of Requests BC/22/2 - Records of the Bath Act 1766 and the Bath Act 1814 BC/22/3 - Records of the Bath Improvement Act 1789 BC/22/4 - Records of the Walcot Act 1793 BC/22/5 - Records of the Bathwick Act 1801
Date
  • c.1766-c.1851
Extent
  • c. 29 linear metres (4 bays)
Access status
  • Open
Level
  • Sub-fonds