History of the Council
A meeting was held at the Cheese Market House (Market Hall), Gillingham, on the 4th December 1894 to elect fifteen parish councillors by a show of hands.
The first council meeting was held on the 31st December 1894 when it was decided the meetings should be held on every third Tuesday of the month. This was later amended to alternate Tuesdays. On the 19th February 1895 a committee was appointed to draft the 'Standing Orders'. Committees were set up as follows: Burial, Lighting and Finance to name but a few. The properties in the parish council ownership were The Garden of Remembrance [at the time a cemetery], the New Cemetery and Cemetery Lodge.
Town Water Supply
On the 19th February 1895 a Committee was formed to consider the water supply of the parish. Councillor Tucker reported on the 5th March that there was a spring (from a public well sunk by William Douglas, vicar in 1802), just inside the Vicarage wall at Spring Corner, and that the landowners had voiced no objections to a pump being fixed in a recess in the wall.
It was reported, on the 29th May 1896 that the water supply at Colesbrook was being used freely by inhabitants who had not contributed towards the expense of installing the pump. It was decided that a notice would be fitted to the pump to the effect that the use of the water was reserved to those who had borne the expense. At the same meeting a water supply for the use of the cottages from Tomlins Lane to Portland Cottage was discussed. The Council unanimously agreed to recommend that the consent of the Trustees of the Primitive Chapel be obtained for the use of the well on their premises and that a pump be erected at the corner of Mr Dewey's garden.
A Lighting Committee was set up on the 15th March 1895 to enquire into the needs of different areas of the parish with regards to additional lights under the Light & Watching Act. The area of lighting had been fixed in 1858 as being 1 mile from the Church on the Shaftesbury, Wincanton, Mere and Sturminster Newton roads and 100 yards on any bye road and all properties within quarter of a mile of the Church which abut a public road. This area was extended in 1863 to include Station Road and the Station premises. Lamps were lit from dusk until 11 o'clock.
At the time of the first meetings of the Burial Board the new cemetery was not in use, but the Garden of Remembrance, as we know it today, was the cemetery (established 1862). In April 1895 the Committee agreed that the piece of waste land at the lower part of the cemetery be planted with withy and that the river be cleared and plants cut down. The Caretaker and Grave digger were furnished with a copy of the cemetery regulations. These included:- the Caretaker was to check that the graves were dug in the correct plot; no tombstone was to be erected without the permission of the Clerk; and both cemeteries would be open to the public on Sundays from 2 pm to dusk.
On the 31st October 1895 the Committee approved the repair of the footpath from Church Walk to Gas Lane. The grave-digger requested that two sheets of corrugated galvanised iron and two planks be purchased. It was also agreed that cement cap stones were to be placed on the piers of the garden walls (Garden of Remembrance). At a later date the walls were raised to the stone piers.
The cemetery caretaker was residing at Cemetery Lodge in 1897 and the board room was being made available for committee meetings. Also in 1897 it was agreed that matchboard, three foot high, be placed on the walls of the Board room. It was also agreed that Cemetery Lodge together with the gates of 1 & 2 Cemeteries, the Mortuary and the Chapel be painted at a cost of £19/12/9d. The Bier which is still kept in the Chapel and used very occasionally today required constant repair to it's rubber wheels. The mowing machine also required repairs amounting to £6/35/-, therefore it was agreed to purchase new machines. The cost of new machines were as follows:- a 16" Champion Mowing Machine (Push model) £25 and 8" Champion Mowing Machine £18.
In 1898, Mr Lodder, the Caretaker of the Cemetery requested extra help for the summer months and on the 15th July he was granted an allowance of 2/6d per week for those months. On 7th April 1900 it was reported that the cost of laying a water supply to the new cemetery and erecting a pump and a tool shed there came to £14/12/10d.
The Allotment Committee on the 18th March 1895 to lease land for arable, allotment and potato ground in the area and sub-let this to parishioners. Various parcels of land were offered but in some cases the fencing of the land was erroneous and therefore declined. It was agreed that Henry Beagarie would collect the rents at a commission of 2½% plus out of pocket expenses. On the 17th September 1895, 17 acres of land at Longbury Hill and 4½ acres of land at 'The Doves', Ham were leased together with land at Crossments Cross Lane at Huntingford and land at the Malthouse Farm.
The first Annual Parish Meeting
The first Annual Parish Meeting was held on the 28th March 1895 at the Lecture Hall, Gillingham. The main business of the meeting was to receive the accounts for the following charities:- Grammar School, Read's, Dirdoe's, Phillips and Raive's. The accounts were also received regarding Burial matters.
A long debate then followed regarding the proposal that the Parish Council be asked to take the necessary steps to provide a building that could be used for the meetings of the Parish Council, as a repository for the Parish Records, and as a house for the fire engine. A proposal was also put forward that they provide a steam fire engine in place of a hand model [by now nearly 60 years old].
On the 6th April 1895 it was proposed to consider the question of providing the Parish with a fire engine together with a site to construct a fire station. Architects were invited to submit plans. At the 12th August 1895 meeting it was proposed that the revised plans of 'economy' were submitted to the Parish Council. This motion was carried with acclamation. However, on the 25th March 1896, after a new Parish Council had been elected, the building part of this proposal was abandoned, but, the provision of a new steam fire engine was still being debated.
It was unanimously agreed on the 5th August 1896 to recommend the building of a corrugated iron house lined with wood of sufficient dimensions, say 30 feet by 20 feet, to admit the housing of the existing manual engine together with a new 'steam' fire engine. The provision of a new steam fire engine was not to be debated until a later date. The site suggested for the new fire station was on the Grammar School land in School Lane. A quotation of £132/5/- from Messrs Flower & Barnes for building the fire station was accepted on the 1st September 1897. The work was to be completed by the 30th November that year.
On a number of occasions the sewers were causing problems in the Town. The Sanitary Inspector was requested to arrange the flushing of the sewers on the 11th June 1895 and on the 8th September 1902 there were reports concerning the insanitary condition of the drain and catchpit at the corner of Hardings Lane.
In March 1897 it was agreed to put steel name plates at The Square, Bay, Lodbourne, Colesbrook, Common Mead Lane, Tomlins Lane, Turners Lane and to the Grammar School with Hardings Lane.
At the 15th October 1898 meeting, the following was agreed: alteration to the shafts of the 1836 hand pump fire engine, and the back irons of the seat, lamp irons shifted upwards and a small lifting jack to be made by Sticklands. A [horse] belly band to be ordered from Eli Ford together with a pair of Thames and Chain traces. The engineers salary was agreed on the 19th June 1899. The rate was to be £2/10/- per year with a payment of 5/- at every wet drill with an additional 5/- inclusive for any helpers.
On the 18th June 1898 it was agreed to request two filter gas lamps in Common Mead Lane, one at Lodden Bridge and five between Knapp Cottage and the corner of Pound Lane.
An application was made to the Chairman of the Shaftesbury Rural District Council on the 13th July 1896 to adopt part three of the Housing for Working Class Act 1890 with a view to acquiring land within the parish for the erection of ten much needed cottages.
The 'Lock-Up' in South Street, having been replaced by the new Police Station in 1880, was offered to Mr G B Matthews at a sum of £20, in the July 1896. It still now belongs to the Hall & Woodhouse, the successors to Matthews brewery.
It was decided at a meeting on the 27th April 1897 to discuss practical schemes to commemorate the 60th year of the reign of Her Majesty the Queen Victoria. After discussion, on the 6th May 1897 it was decided to provide a free tea party for the children of the parish and also to invite inhabitants aged 60 years or over.
On the 17th January 1899 a copy of an estimate for laying a new sewer in Wyke was obtained; this amounted to £27/10/10d. The owners of the new villas would be asked to pay a quarter of the cost, whilst the District Council would pay the remainder. On the same day a complaint was received that sewerage from Lodbourne Farm had leaked into Mr Morgan's pond and the matter was referred to Shaftesbury Rural District Council. However, on the 17th April 1900 the committee decided that as there was an old stone drain used by the existing cottages which could be utilized no further action need be taken for the provision of a public sewer.
A scheme of road widening at St Martins in Queen Street was discussed on the 1st November 1899
The matter of some form of lighting for dark nights at Newbury Post Office was raised on the 28th January 1901. It was unanimously agreed that the absence of a lamp was absolutely dangerous to the public.
The committee agreed on the 12th December 1901 to the provision of four turnstiles with ironwork painted white at a cost of £7/8/0d. These were well made as several are still in place. The one at the top of Bay Lane is stamped with the name B P Edwards (who moved from Gillingham in 1906), who was a blacksmith in the building now occupied by Maxim's Chinese Restaurant. On the 13th December 1901 the Finance Committee agreed to the provision of a cinder path from Hardings Lane to Bay at a cost of £21/7/3d.
On the 14th April 1902 the hire of the Police Court and the Vicarage Schoolroom was five shillings a session.
When Mr Lodder retired as cemetery Caretaker on the 3rd October 1903 the post was advertised in the Western Gazette. His successor, Mr S Chard, was appointed on the 27 March the following year.
In February 1904 a letter was received quoting for the following equipment: leather helmet, tunic, leather waist belt, trousers, boots, cap and life line at a cost of £5/10/6d per man. At a committee meeting on 15th June 1904, tenders for a steam pump engine were received from Shand, Mason & Co, London and Messrs Merryweather & Sons. The Shand, Mason tender at £250 was £15/5/- cheaper than Merryweather's tender so it was proposed that subject to a guarantee that their engine shall be capable of delivering 250 gallons per minute, their tender be accepted.
The cost of lighting the town in 1900 was £114/10/10d. The tender, for provision of gas lighting was placed with the Gillingham Gas Company on 15th August 1904. On the 26th July 1912 due to a coal strike The Gas Company made an allowance of £10 for the time the lights were out.
To consider what measures should be taken to commemorate the Coronation of King George VI, a meeting was held on the 5th May 1911 and it was recommended that a celebration be organized. Suggestions were received and agreed as follows:- A Dinner for the old people and tea for the children, with sports and entertainment during the afternoon, and a bonfire, with fireworks, in the evening. A procession from the Square to a field loaned by Messrs Hudson & Martin and religious services to be held in the town's places of worship.
As a permanent memorial - two further suggestions were made:-
1] A fire escape (a ladder carried on a four wheeled wagon - this was built by Mr Chubb whose premises were adjacent to the Red Lion)
2] Bathing place at Bay - this scheme was adopted but unfortunately the School Governors under the terms of reference were unable to lease or sell the land required. This seems to have had the effect of spurring the Governors into providing the pool themselves.
Therefore the fire escape was approved and the provision of seats in and around the Parish.
A landowner in Common Mead Lane successfully requested on the 17th August 1914 that approval be granted for a footpath to be diverted.
On the 14th June 1917 the Food Production Department of the Board of Agriculture urged the spraying of potatoes. The necessary equipment was purchased by the council and made available to tenants subject to a charge.
In 1920 it was proposed that a subscription be raised for the erection of a War Memorial and the Canon Abbot very kindly assisted the proposal by granting a portion of what was then the Vicarage Garden at a nominal price to the council. This was unanimously accepted. The matter was finalised in June 1921, although the memorial had already been erected and was dedicated in November 1920.
On the 10th August 1923 it was decided that an estimate be obtained for a coat and cap to be purchased for the caretakers use at funerals
The War Memorial
An application was received from the Imperial War Commission on the 22nd December 1925 to place memorial stones on the graves of the soldiers buried in the cemetery. The idea of charging the usual fee to those who had done what they could for their country was repugnant. It was unanimously agreed that permission was granted with no fee charged.
General Business Continued
On the 26th March 1920 a letter was written to the smallholding committee to see what steps could be taken to purchase allotment land for the parish. In September Councillor Chubb went to London to lay this matter before the Ministry of Health.
In 1927 there were 61 gas street lamps and in 1931 there were 73. On the 18th August 1933 a gas supply was laid to the Mortuary. Up until 1931 there was no water supply to the Mortuary, but on the 20th August that year, following a post mortem examination, the Clerk said that it seemed desirable that a basin should be fixed and water laid on for such occasions.
The fire brigade recommended to the Parish Council, on the 21st August 1933, that a motor siren be purchased. On the 19th January 1934 it was proposed that a 'dress suit' uniform be purchased. On the 13th August 1934 having regard to the poor lighting at the fire station, Wessex Electrical were asked to quote for the lighting of the station by electricity. On the 15th January 1935 gas and smoke helmets were purchased. The ambulance station was later erected alongside the fire station.
On the 7th March 1934 the Council proposed to purchase a recreation ground with the provision of the necessary sanitary conveniences by means of a loan from the County Council and the Ministry of Health. This matter was approved and application made for a loan of £1300. The Recreation Ground at Hardings Lane, was purchased for the sum of £800.00 from H J Allard of Lodden Farm on the 29th June 1935.
Her Majesty the Queen has paid two official visits to the town, the first in 1952 before her coronation. As the picture on the front cover shows, she was greeted by the Chairman of the Parish Council - Councillor E Batho.
The Town Badge
A town badge was designed in 1953 incorporating a shield of white background, with three wavy blue bands crossing horizontally to denote the three rivers. A red royal hart's head with twelve pointed antlers surmounted by a crown signified the Royal Forest. A gilt and enamel Chairman’s official badge was made of this and was presented to the Chairman of the Parish Council on 30th August 1954. The original plaster model is in the Museum and the badge is now widely us in the town at the discretion of the Council.
Mr 'Dinger' Bell, a well known Gillingham resident, presented the town with a flag of its own design, and a ceremony was held in the High Street car park when it was raised on the town flag pole for the first time. It is flown to mark notable dates and events in Gillingham.
In 1953, the Parish Council were asked to help provide a Museum building for the Freame collection which Mr Carter had inherited from the last Freame family member. The collection was housed temporarily at the Grammar School but in 1958 Mr E R Samways gifted a pair of cottages in Church Walk to the newly formed Gillingham Local History Society whose committee at the time was made up largely of Parish Councillors. The Museum was opened in that year.
In 1970 the cost of Street lighting was £1,468/19/8d.
The Sports Centre
In May 1973 the Shaftesbury Rural District Council requested permission to construct a sports centre in the recreation land to include the heating of the swimming pool and the covering of the same. The project was also to include the widening of Hardings Lane. The Parish Council moved its meeting room from Cemetery Lodge to a specially built room at the new centre.
On the 9th July 1973 it was proposed and agreed to take over the maintenance and upkeep of the Milton War Memorial.
The Council as we know it
With the Local Government re-organisation, in October 1973 a formal resolution was passed to adopt the title of Gillingham Town Council as from the 1st April 1974 and to replace the office of Chairman with a Mayor.