The Municipal Corporation of Gloucester: its Composition, Structure and Functions During the Early Nineteenth Century

Sparkes, Alan M (2005) The Municipal Corporation of Gloucester: its Composition, Structure and Functions During the Early Nineteenth Century. Masters thesis, University of Gloucestershire.

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Gloucester’s municipal corporation evolved through a succession of medieval royal charters culminating in Richard III’s charter of 1483. Thereafter, the corporation emerged as the governing body of Gloucester and played a substantial but restricted role in the local government of the city until its abolition in 1974. Its responsibilities were distinctly limited during the first half of the nineteenth century and focused on property management, charity administration and trade regulation. These activities were administered or controlled by the common council, which represented the ruling body of Gloucester’s corporation. The structure of Gloucester’s corporation was subjected to its first significant reform by the imposition of the Municipal Corporations Act in 1835. The objectives of this Act were to address perceived failings and abuses in existing corporations in England and Wales and to allow for the creation of new ones in certain areas of growing urbanisation. The Act was based on the findings of the commissioners for municipal reform. Among other objectives the Act sought to allow greater access to municipal office, enforce financial propriety and accountability on corporation expenditure and allow for more effective provision of public amenities. It also sought to restore popular confidence in law and order by ending the role of corporation aldermen in the local magistracy and by making provision for borough police forces. Therefore, the 1835 Act forms the pivot on which this study is balanced. The reform of the corporations has been alternatively praised as a revolution in local government and dismissed as a mere postscript to the parliamentary reform Act of 1832. The unreformed corporations were greatly vilified by their contemporaries and have received comparatively little attention from historians and this neglect has extended to the newly elected councils after 1835. Local historiography pertaining to the impact of reform on Gloucester’s corporation is noticeably absent. A number of local studies do reveal that the corporation was particularly influential in the political, social and economic life of the city during the nineteenth century, but while these works have specified some of the problems that existed, such as the political inviolability of the self-electing corporation and its political partisanship, the individual focus of each study has precluded a more detailed analysis of the internal management and structure of Gloucester’s corporation or the impact municipal reform had on it. Informed by general historiography and specific local studies this thesis uses the records of Gloucester’s corporation along with other primary sources to examine its composition, structure and functions. The thesis focuses on the corporation’s internal management prior to the introduction of the Municipal Corporations Act, the extent and relevance of the changes imposed by the reforms of 1835 and the effects of the Act upon the corporation until the expansion of its powers as a board of health from 1849. In doing so this thesis emphasises the themes of continuity and change and attempts to provide the impetus for a broader examination of the numerous elements of local government in Gloucester during a period of great social, economic and political change.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Thesis Advisors:
Thesis AdvisorEmailURL
Additional Information: Master of Arts by Research
Uncontrolled Keywords: Municipal corporation: England, Gloucester; Gloucester: History, nineteenth century
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D204 Modern History
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Creative Arts
Depositing User: Alan Sparkes
Date Deposited: 24 Apr 2015 10:34
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2023 08:57

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University of Gloucestershire, The Park, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL50 2RH. Telephone +44 (0)844 8010001.