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Harrogate Story 

 

HARROGATE UNDER THE COMMISSIONERS (1841-1884)

 

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Rival Authorities 

One source of difficulty for the Commissioners was the fact that, though they had been given considerable powers to order the life of the town, they were not the only authority within their own area. There still existed the township of Bilton-with-Harrogate, that collected and administered the Poor Rate in the greater part of this area. This township included also the small villages of Bilton and Starbeck,, which were not in the new town. As the affairs of the township naturally came to be directed more and more in the interests of the Harrogate part of it, the villages began to feel neglected. In 1884, Bilton went so far as to get the Local Government Board to constitute itself and the remainder of the township not included in the town as a separate Highway Parish, with control over its own roads. 

The Workhouse Committee, which had managed Harrogate affairs before the Commissioners appeared, also continued to function until the Workhouse was sold in 1858. Before this, the Knaresborough Poor Law Union had been set up in 1854; and as this administered the Poor Law in the whole township, a new outside authority entered the Commissioners' territory. The township was represented, of course, on the Knaresborough Union, through the Guardians it elected to that body, but it did not welcome this new dependence on Knaresborough. It insisted on making its own valuations of property for the Poor Rate, and strictly investigated from time to time the way in which Relief was being granted within the township. The Commissioners themselves secured the partial independence of their part of the township in 1862, by inducing the Local Government Board to make the town a separate local board of health. 

A certain suspicion of Knaresborough felt by the whole township, combined, possibly, with a lack of confidence in the Commissioners on the part of Bilton and Starbeck, led Bilton-with-Harrogate in 1858 to create an extraordinary body called the Audit Committee. This was clearly meant to replace the disbanded Workhouse Committee, and more or less to continue its work. It consisted of the township officers and some ten others, elected by the Annual Vestry Meeting. It met, according to custom, in different hotels, and tried to control township affairs. The minutes of its meetings strongly suggest that only the Surveyors paid any attention to it, for what it tried to do in the Harrogate part of the township was already being done better by the Come missioners. As a co-ordinating 'body it was obviously redundant, and when it quietly disappeared in. March, 1863 the Commissioners can have felt no regret.  

 

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