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What is the Parish of Hungerford?
The Parish of Hungerford has changed greatly over the centuries.
At the present time (2016) Hungerford is a civil parish, covering the town of Hungerford and a surrounding rural area, including Hungerford Newtown to the north, and covers an area of 27.52 sq km (10.63 sq mi).
The parish shares boundaries with the Berkshire parishes of Lambourn, East Garston, Great Shefford, Kintbury and Inkpen, and with the Wiltshire parishes of Shalbourne, Froxfield, Ramsbury and Chilton Foliat.
The parish was divided into four tithings : Hungerford or Town, Sanden Fee, Eddington with Hidden and Newtown and Charnham Street.
The Duchy of Lancaster made many surveys of the manors of Hungerford and Sanden Fee. For example, see further information on the Duchy of Lancaster Survey of 1591, which gives very sdetailed information of the boundary of the manors. This is not, however, the entire parish, which spread north across Chilton Park to include Hungerford Newtown and Denford.
- Plan of West Berkshire Parishes
The History of Civil Parishes:
Parishes arose from Church of England divisions, and were originally purely ecclesiastical divisions. Over time they acquired civil administration powers.
The Highways Act 1555 made parishes responsible for the upkeep of roads. Every adult inhabitant of the parish was obliged to work four days a year on the roads, providing their own tools, carts and horses; the work was overseen by an unpaid local appointee, the Surveyor of Highways.
The poor were looked after by the monasteries, until their dissolution. In 1572, magistrates were given power to 'survey the poor' and impose taxes for their relief. This system was made more formal by the Poor Law Act 1601, which made parishes responsible for administering the Poor Law; overseers were appointed to charge a rate to support the poor of the parish. The 19th century saw an increase in the responsibility of parishes, although the Poor Law powers were transferred to Poor Law Unions. The Public Health Act 1872 grouped parishes into Rural Sanitary Districts, based on the Poor Law Unions; these subsequently formed the basis for Rural Districts.
Parishes were run by vestries, meeting annually to appoint officials, and were generally identical to ecclesiastical parishes, although some townships in large parishes administered the Poor Law themselves; under the Divided Parishes and Poor Law Amendment Act 1882, all extra-parochial areas and townships that levied a separate rate became independent civil parishes.
Place names within the parish in 1851 also included Bagshot, Shalbourne, Eddington, Hungerford Newtown and Prosperous.
The Local Government Act, 1894:
Civil parishes in their modern sense date from the Local Government Act 1894, which abolished vestries; established elected parish councils in all rural parishes with more than 300 electors; grouped rural parishes into Rural Districts; and aligned parish boundaries with county and borough boundaries.
The boundary changes of 1895:
Major changes were made to local boundaries in 1895: North and South Standen and Charnham Street were officially detached parts of Wiltshire until transferred to Berkshire in 1895, and Leverton and Calcot were transferred to Hungerford parish from Chilton Foliat in Wiltshire in 1895.
The changes to the Registration District in 1936-37:
On 1 Apr 1936 the Hungerford Registration District lost the parishes of Aldbourne, Baydon, Buttermere, Chilton Foliat, Froxfield, Grafton, Great Bedwyn, Ham, Little Bedwyn, Ramsbury, Shalbourne, and Tidcombe & Fosbury, to Marlborough registration district.
On 1 Apr 1937 the Hungerford Registration District lost the constituent parishes of Combe, East Garston, East Shefford, Hungerford, Inkpen, Kintbury, Lambourn, West Shefford, and West Woodhay, to Newbury registration district.
Parishes continued to elect guardians to Poor Law Unions until the abolition of the Poor Law system in 1930.
The Local Government Act, 1972:
The Local Government Act 1972 retained civil parishes in rural areas, and many former Urban Districts and Municipal Boroughs that were being abolished, were replaced by new successor parishes; urban areas that were considered too large to be single parishes became unparished areas.
The current position:
Recent governments have encouraged the formation of town and parish councils in unparished areas, and the Local Government and Rating Act 1997 gave local residents the right to demand the creation of a new civil parish.
A parish council can become a town council unilaterally, simply by resolution; and a civil parish can also gain city status, but only if that is granted by the Crown. The chairman of a town or city council is called a mayor. The Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 introduced alternative names: a parish council can now choose to be called a community; village; or neighbourhood council.