History of Yapton Parish Council

It seems that a myriad of organisations and clubs are celebrating their centenaries at present, including such household names as Tesco’s, Bentley and Citroën car manufacturers. So why should Yapton miss out. So, for this 100th edition of Yapton News I thought it would be an opportune moment to write about our Parish Council which sat for the very first time on 31st December, 1894 and celebrated its 125th anniversary in December 2019.

Before the Norman Conquest, communications across England were very difficult and control from central government was weak at the best of times. Around the year 1000 most of the countryside had been divided up into areas called 'parishes' which usually coincided with the boundaries of existing Manors, and the majority of these had a church at its heart. By the beginning of the 13th century the whole of the country had been partitioned into these administrative areas and controlled by the Lord of the Manor. In the years that followed, the Parish Priests, and School Teachers took a more active role in Parish matters. They were probably singled-out for the task because of their education as very few, if any, of the parishioners would have been educated.

In the centuries that followed the Church took greater control of Parish business. Church Vestry Meetings were introduced to which every parishioner could attend. Churchwardens were appointed to raise funds from the Parish in the form of Tithes to maintain the church and for the upkeep of the clergy. They were also responsible for levying the Poor Rate which was used to support the poor of the village.

Following the turbulent times of the Reformation which took place during the 16th century, the Manor’s influence declined and more and more powers were given to the parishes by the reigning Tudor Governments. To manage their new found responsibilities the Parishes were allowed to appoint civil officials which included village constables, and overseers of the poor. With the introduction of the poor law during Elizabeth I’s reign, it was the Parish that administered it and not the Manor. This responsibility for implementing the Poor Law was eventually taken away from the Parish with the introduction of the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 and given to the Poor Law Unions (the forerunner of District Councils) - in Yapton’s case, Westhampnett.

In 1894, the Prime Minister of the time, Gladstone, introduced the Local Government Act which brought into existence Parish Councils. These councils were responsible for civil matters while church affairs were the responsibility of the Parochial Church Council. One of these new administration councils was Yapton. It is interesting to note that Ford was deemed too small to have its own council until many years later. This is perhaps why Yapton and Ford enjoy such close ties with each other.

There was a strict procedure laid down for convening meetings and electing Parish Councillors. The first meeting had to be convened by the Overseers and held on Tuesday 4th December 1894. A Chairman had to be elected for the meeting but was not allowed to be a candidate for election to the council. Nomination forms had to be filled in and passed to the Chairman. If there were more candidates than seats available on the council a show of hands for each nominee would take place, counted and the winning candidates elected. Any parochial elector could demand a poll. In the case of Yapton a poll was demanded.

Front Page of the Parish Council Minute Book

According to the procedures laid down, following a poll the council must convene its first meeting on 31st December 1894. Annual meetings of the council must take place within seven days of April 15th every year with another three meetings being held within the same year. The first council would continue in office until April 15th 1896. These meetings must take place in "the vestry room of the parish church or in the church itself where there is no vestry room". If there was no suitable room available then "the council may meet free of charge - in any suitable room in the schoolhouse of any public elementary school receiving a parliamentary grant". Where it couldn’t sit was in a private house or "premises licensed for the sale of intoxicating liquor, except in cases where no other suitable room is available".

I have read through the minute book for the first twelve years of the Parish Council’s existence. I was surprised to find no mention of The Great War except for a request to collect donations for the 'Prince of Wales National Relief Fund and County Distress Committee'. A committee was formed which included the Parish Council and the wives of some councillors to organise the appeal in Yapton. A staggering amount of £60-12s-5d was collected.

They were:

W.A. Hounsom
J. Harrison
A.B. Collins
Rev. J.W.G. Loder-Cother
F.T. Sprinks
G. Crouch
W.F. Mccoombs
J.C. Loveys
J. Forder


The first meeting of Yapton Parish Council took place on Monday, 31st December, 1894 in the National Schools, Yapton. Following a poll, two councillors, W.A. Hounsom and W.F. Mccoombs selected by a show of hands had been replaced by G. Sparks and H. Suter. During the meeting the 'Form of Declaration of Acceptance of Office' was signed by the councillors. The Rev. Loder-Cother was voted in as Chairman, Mr. E. Mitchell, the Assistant Overseer, was voted in as Clerk and Mr. G. Woodbridge of the Chichester Bank was elected as the Treasurer.

One of the first items of business to be carried out by the newly formed council was to adopt the Standing Orders recommended by the County Council as guidelines for conducting all future Parish Council meetings. The next item on the agenda was to set a date for the first Annual Assembly of the Parochial Electors. This was duly set for April 1st 1895. Other early items of business for the Council to discuss was Little Lane (the Twitten between Church Road and North End Road), Yapton Crossing at North End, and Trustees for Roe’s Charity. This Assembly took place on the pre-set date in the National Schools building where the Standing Orders adopted by the Council were approved. The only other item was the presentment of the Financial Statement for Roe’s Charity. As per the set procedures laid down, the first Annual Meeting of the council took place in the National Schools at 7.00 pm on Monday 22nd April 1895. The agenda items included the election of Overseers, Little Lane, Finance and dates for the quarterly meetings.

A meeting of the Parochial Electors of the Parish of Yapton was held on Tuesday 4th December 1894, in the National Schools, Yapton at 7.00pm. There were 33 nominations for Parish Councillors and following a show of hands, nine were selected.


Meeting Agenda

Compared with today’s Parish Council meetings, the agenda for early meetings of the newly formed council was not extensive. Obviously, finance came up at every meeting and the voting in of committees and officers occurred annually. Apart from the position of Chairman and the Overseers of the Poor, there were committees for Footpaths and Towpaths, Parish Drains, and Little Lane.

From time to time additional committees were voted in to cover special events. Items that cropped up again and again were the state of Little Lane, footpaths and roads, the condition of the village drains and sewers, the railway crossings, the village flagpole, the Post Office and the constant occurrence of flooding in the village.

Little Lane

There was a constant need to repair the surface in Little Lane. The Clerk was continually requested to write to the Rural District Council to carry out these repairs and to improve the safety barriers and stiles along its length.

Footpath and Towpaths

The condition of the footpaths and towpath was the responsibility of the Footpath & Towpath committee. Their function was to monitor these village rights-of-way and report back to the Council if they recorded anything untoward. There were instances where paths had been ploughed up by landowners and obstructions being deposited restricting access. In the case of the towpath by Tack Lea Bridge, the damage to the path, boundary fences and bridge were so bad that the Council notified the Police about the matter. The Police were also asked to investigate other damage which had occurred in the village.


Today, villagers may not be aware that there was for many years a flagpole positioned in the front garden of the Schoolmaster’s house in North End Road. This was in constant need of maintenance and painting. The rope was always being replaced. It was the duty of the Council to finance this. The flag pole was replaced in 1910 at a cost of £6–18s–0d. To mark national events, a diary was kept by the Council when the flag was to be raised.

London, Brighton & South Coast Railway (L.B.&S.C.R.)

Ever since the opening of Barnham Railway Station and the subsequent closing of Yapton Station, villagers had been asking for the station to be re-opened without success and the Parish Council fared no better. The reason given was that it wasn’t financially viable. In 1898 a request was also made by the Parish Council that a wheel to facilitate the opening of the gates should be positioned inside the signal-box. At the time, the signalman had to leave the box and manually open them.

The request fell on deaf ears, at least for some time. Another request was for there to be a night signalman to operate the gates at night. The response was also negative. It was deemed that the current signalman was on duty for 12 hours and there was no need to open the gates at night.

Railway Gates and Signal Box c.1950

Post and Telegraph Office

Although there was a post Office in Yapton, there was no Telegraph Office. The newly formed Parish Council tried to remedy this in 1896. In order for the General Post Office to grant this request they required the Council to undertake a guarantee of £26 for seven years. This required the Council to pay the short fall should the takings not reach the required level in any one year. Any annual surplus in takings would be used to off-set any losses the following year. In the event, the Council was only required once to honour the guarantee and that was for the year 1901 when they had to pay £1–3s–8d. It wasn’t until the 1899 Telegraph Act that local authorities outside of London were allowed to establish their own local telephone systems.

In 1913 the Arundel Postmaster advised that the sub post-office in Yapton would be closed on Thursday afternoons. Compare that with the Post Office in the Co-Op today.

Post Office & Telegraph Office c.1900


The very first car to appear on British roads was in 1895 so the only traffic that the village roads had to put up with were horse-drawn or steam traction engines. With this in mind, consider the complaint made by the Council to the L.B.&S.C.R. in July 1901 concerning the number of vehicles waiting at the crossing. Consider also the sight (and smell) on the Yapton to Barnham Road which caused the Council to complain to the Road Surveyor of the District, drawing his attention to "the nuisance arising from the making of a dung-mix on the north side of the main road".

Another grievance still relevant in essence today is the request made of the Superintendent of Police in 1912, asking for a copy of the Speed, Emissions of Smoke and number of Trucks to be drawn on the Highways by Steam Traction Engines. Following the reply, the Police were asked to take what steps were necessary to control the situation.

One amusing incident was recorded in the minutes of meeting held in January 1902 - "direction posts replaced but distances omitted".

Drains, Sewers and Flooding

It appears that drainage and flooding were as much a problem 125 years ago as they are today. Apart from flushing-through drains and clearing watercourses instigated by the Council, regular requests were being sent to the Rural District Council to flush-through the sewers which were continually being blocked causing overflows into ditches. Ponds also needed attention after heavy rain. Especially those at Bilsham Lane End (now called Sparks Corner), Green Pond (by the S-bend leading out of Yapton towards Barnham), and Pond by the Black Dog.


The Black Dog c.1950 - Site of the Black Dog Pond

Mains being Laid in Church Road c.1911

Another pond is mentioned, that of the "Workhouse Pond" which I think is possibly the same as the Black Dog pond. The council took over the responsibility for the Workhouse pond and a minute recorded sometime later mentioned the advisability of filling in the Black Dog pond. All these three sites still give problems at times today. Another area which always suffered from floods was Church Road.


Other minutes of interest

11th June 1900

Parish Council to establish classes for Technical Instruction in the following categories: Carpentry, Gardening, Dr. William’s Hygiene, Cookery, Women’s Ambulance and Needlework.

26th July 1907

The County Council wanted to know what smallholdings were held in parish. The answer was a portion of glebe land was given over to allotments which was sufficient for local needs.

10th January 1908

Proposed new bill from Bognor Gas Company asking for powers by Act of Parliament to extend their services to Yapton.

21st July 1911

Clerk instructed to contact Bognor Gas Company asking for info on cost of public lighting and maintenance of same. A meeting was called to discuss the essence and the advisability of adopting the Lighting and Watching Act. Proposal to obtain costs for street lamps and compare them with the Gas Company.

19th January 1912

Complaint about the condition of roads and footpaths due to gas mains being laid.

16th January 1914

The Clerk was requested to send a letter to the manager of Bognor Water Company requesting for the costs of including Fire Hydrants in the water main being laid and would there be any maintenance charges.

The Clerk was also requested to send a letter to the District Council suggesting desirability of sewers being flushed from the company’s water main. Also requested was for supervision of the filling in of trenches to ensure that they were of a better standard than the gas main trenches.


The minute books give a fascinating insight to the development of Yapton. Although the minutes lack substance, they give a historic timeline to events and to the people who oversaw them.

Allen Misselbrook
January 2020

(Originally published in Yapton News, January 2020)