The origins and early history of the Melton Mowbray town estate. A study in the government of an unincorporated town.
thesisposted on 19.11.2015, 09:14 by Dorothy. Pockley
The role which the trust has played in the government of unincorporated towns has been neglected by town historians. The way in which it could help an unincorporated town to self-government is well illustrated in Melton Mowbray where the Town Estate was the chief governing authority from the middle of the sixteenth to the middle of the nineteenth century. This thesis examines the origins of the Town Estate and its development until 1600, the trust deed of that year providing; an appropriate terminal point for the main study. The town trust originated when parcels of the possessions of the parish gilds of St John and St Mary, dissolved under the Chantries Act of 1547, were conveyed in trust for the benefit of all the inhabitants of Melton Mowbray, In 1564 and 1596 the estate was enlarged by the purchase of lands which had long been rented by the townsmen for common pasture. Prom the gilds and from the organization which had evolved to administer the common pasture, the townsmen inherited a tradition of self-government, from which developed a particularly advanced form of trust-government. By 1600 the inhabitants had acquired the maximum degree of control over the regulation of their affairs, and the trust deed of that year imposed no restrictions on the uses to which the profits of the estate were to be applied. The sixteenth-century administrative and financial records show the trust involved in every aspect of the to Town's affairs, and carrying out many functions normally associated only with a corporation. In Melton Mowbray the trust provided the town with a degree of autonomy almost equivalent to that of a municipal corporation, and it is indicative of the trust-govemment's adaptability that this role was maintained until the second half of nineteenth century, when only reluctantly was its authority in the town relinquished to statutory local government bodies.