Tuesday, 17 April 2012

London's last parish council

BBC article today suggested that a new parish council for Queen's Park would be the first in 50 years. It is actually more like 75 years as the last parish council was abolished in 1936, not in 1965 as implied. But where was this last parish council?

There have been around 55 parish councils in the current area of Greater London. Almost all were created in 1894 and all were gone by 1936. All were situated in what is now Outer London. No mechanism has ever existed before 2007 to create a parish council in Inner London. Parish councils were created systematically in 1894. All of the country was already divided into civil parishes and any that were outside a borough or urban district (the big towns) got a parish council.

As London was expanding the number of parish councils started to decline. This was because when civil parishes became absorbed by boroughs or urban districts they were no longer permitted to have a parish council. The Local Government Act 1929 created a new mechanism - the county review order - which sped up the process of removing parish councils. The trigger for reform was usually an increase in population. In inter-war Outer London it was not uncommon for a parish to have a tenfold increase in population within a decade as suburban housing was constructed.

The loss of a parish council did not always equal a reduction in identity and local decision making. In this period the change from parish council was often a conversion to urban governance to reflect increased population, rather than an amalgamation with an adjacent district. The efficiency consensus that bigger was better had not yet been reached. However some outcomes of the reviews under the 1929 act were that very large urban districts such as Harrow, Hornchurch and Orpington replaced a number of parishes that had each previously enjoyed a parish council.

1934 was a big year for the parish council in Greater London. By the end of the year only one remained. Interestingly it was the now still semi-rural North Ockendon that survived two more years to 1936. The conversion to urban governance was perhaps in anticipation of house building there. In the event the Second World War and the Metropolitan Green Belt kept the suburban sprawl just a few hundred yards from the parish. North Ockendon was further made an anomaly with the construction of the M25 motorway and is now the only part of Greater London outside the limit it forms. It also holds the distinction of being the last place in Greater London to have a parish council from 1894 to 1936.

View North Ockendon in a larger map

Full list of parish councils and dates abolished

Chislehurst 1900
Foots Cray 1902
Feltham 1904
Hayes (Hillingdon) 1904
Ruislip 1904
Arkley 1905
Merton 1907
Yiewsley 1911
Morden 1913
Totteridge 1914
Beddington 1915
Coulsdon 1915
Mitcham 1915
Sanderstead 1915
Wallington 1915
Crayford 1920
Addington 1925
Dagenham 1926
Hornchurch 1926
Northolt 1928
Cowley 1929
Harefield 1929
Hillingdon East 1929
Ickenham 1929
West Drayton 1929
Bedfont 1930
Cranford 1930
East Bedfont 1930
Hanworth 1930
Harlington 1930
Harmondsworth 1930
Edgware 1931
Chelsfield 1934
Cranham 1934
Cudham 1934
Downe 1934
Farnborough 1934
Great Stanmore 1934
Harrow Weald 1934
Havering-atte-Bower 1934
Hayes (Bromley) 1934
Keston 1934
Little Stanmore 1934
Mottingham 1934
Noak Hill 1934
North Cray 1934
Orpington 1934
Pinner 1934
Rainham 1934
St Mary Cray 1934
St Paul's Cray 1934
Upminster 1934
Wennington 1934
West Wickham 1934
North Ockendon 1936