Reference numberCB/2/CL
TitleTown Clerks' records
DescriptionThe records of the Clerks department reflect the duties of the clerk as Chief Administrative Officer for Cambridge Corporation.

One of the provisions of the Municipal Corporations Act, 1835 was that each Borough should have a paid Town Clerk who was not a member of the Council. A committee was set up to look at the salary and duties of the Town Clerk, looking at existing duties under the un-reformed corporation and additional duties imposed under the Municipal Corporation Act. It reported on 4 Aug 1836 recommending the following duties:

Attendance at Grand and adjourned Common Days
Entering the minutes of all proceedings and for copying up upon the record all letters, communications and attendances ordered to be made or written at such meetings
Attendances proclaiming the fairs, audits and other business
To draw summons for quarterly and special meetings and arrange printing or the same
To attend at Mayor and Alderman to prepare elections of Councillors, to prepare notices of same and make preparations for polling etc
To attend to examine voting papers, draw declaration of Councillors and attend to publication
To draw oaths and declarations for qualification of Councillors
To attend Mayor and Aldermen preparing for election of assessors and auditors
To prepare warrant to collect the Borough rate
Notice and service of Borough rate on Overseers of 14 Parishes
To prepare regulators letter of Attorney

In addition to the above a fee of £50 was allocated to cover professional work, usually legal work, and for completing the list of Burgesses entitled to vote at elections of Councillors.

The above can be simplified into duties focused on Council and Committee work such as preparing agendas, recording minutes and decisions of meetings; chief officer responsible for elections and acting as the chief legal officer for the Corporation, for standard legal work such as mortgages, contracts and agreements to drawing up the legal case (or commission the legal work) for the Corporation in legal suits brought against them and when promoting or opposing new or amended legislation. He also had responsibility for maintaining the Corporations records including those for certain activities which would more often be associated with the Treasurer, Surveyor, and Medical Officer of Health among other professionals as they were seen as Committee activities as apposed to activities of a professional department.

As the work of the Corporation became more complex and new departments were formed, reviews of the administrative functions of the Corporation recognised the idiosyncrasy which governed activities based on Committee decisions over department activities. This had a considerable effect on the work of the Town Clerks Department and helped to rationalise activities to ensure that all activities relating to a single activity were carried out by the most appropriate department. For example until 1959 building byelaw approval notices were prepared and dispatched by the Town Clerks Department as it was seen as an activity governed by the Plans Committee and not the Surveyor so the administrative functions related to this task were undertaken by the Clerk even though the Surveyor produced the plans and technical specifications.

To avoid splitting series of records the series had been arranged to reflect ongoing responsibilities of the Clerk including all Council and Committee work, Legal and Property work, records relating to Elections, financial records followed by the departments minor responsibilities. Records originally created and kept by the clerk but subsequently inherited by other departments have been arranged under the more recent department.

A summary of the functions of the Town Clerks department in a 1959 can be found in a report on the administration of the Corporation of that year. In it the departments function are classified under the following broad catagories:

Council and Committee Work: agendas, taking and drafting minutes, reports, and subsequent administrative actions, Committee decisions, and general administrative matters affecting the Corporation as a whole. The majority of this work is undertaken by the Chief Clerk and the Chief Committee Clerk. Particular duties on housing include the maintenance of statutory registers in respect of new dwellings, displacements and improvement grants with Housing Applications, Improvement Grants applications.

Legal Work conducted by the Town Clerk, Deputy Town Clerk and with the assistance of an Assistant Solicitor. Routine legal work including mortgages, contracts, leases, conveyances is undertaken by the Committee and Legal Assistant, this also includes the control of documents, storage and indexing and maintenance of the Register of Sealing Documents. Statutory Registers are also maintained in respect of Furnished Houses (Rent Control) Act, 1946 and Landlord and Tenant (Rent Control) Act, 1949.

Byelaws and Planning Approval notices: All byelaws and planning approvals and refusal notices were originally prepared in and dispatched by the Town Clerks Department from 1887-1959. As this was a task inherited by the Surveyors Department to keep it in line with the duties of other authorities you will find all byelaws and planning approvals under the records of the Surveyors Department.

Registration of Electors and Elections

Local Land Charges: the Chief Committee Clerk is responsible for the general supervision and oversight of the Local Land Charges records and procedure including the maintenance of all entries in the Local Land Charges registers, indexing the registers and dealing with Local Land searches namely, the receipt of enquiry forms, the circulation of the forms for information to the Medical Officer of Health and the City Surveyor, collating replies and their return to the applicant.

Ancillary Services: maintenance of the Guildhall by Hallkeeper, Assistant Hallkeeper, and Sergeant at Mace, and provision of Civic restaurant.

There are also duties as the Clerk of the Peace undertaken by the Deputy Town Clerk and assisted by the Committee and Legal Assistant for Quarter Sessions. Duties include dealing with general notices, fees, costs, subpoenas, certificate of convictions and is in attendance during sessions. Quarter sessions records have been catalogued here as a separate sub-collection, ref CB/Q.

Functions which passed to other departments

Petroleum and Explosive Acts - licences. Up to 1959 the Chief Clerk was responsible for the issue of petroleum and carbide storage licences, the collection of appropriate fees and issue of registration certificates. These duties passed to the Weights and Measures Department, in the interests of keeping collections together all petroleum and explosive act licence records have been catalogued under Weights and Measures.

Public Health licences and registration dealt with by the Town Clerk department until 1959 include milk and dairies regulations, registration of common lodging houses, offensive trades approvals, caravans approvals, slaughterhouse and slaughtermans licences, rag and flock and other filling materials act.

Notices issued under the Public Health Acts and certificates of disrepair originally signed by the Town Clerk became the responsibility of the Medical Officer of Health.

Responsibility for the administrative function of producing handwritten remittances and cash receipts for duties of the Clerks Department such as local land charges and fees, such as storage of petroleum licence fees, passed to the machine receipting system of the City Treasurer or the relevant department inheriting the function.

Town Clerks and dates served:

1830-1835 Charles Pestell Harris
1835-1840 Francis John Gunning
1840-1849 Charles Pestell Harris
1849-1850 Orlando Hyde (temp)
1850-1865 Charles Henry Cooper
1866-1886 Edmond Foster
1887-1922/23 John Edleston Ledsam Whitehead
1923-1952 Cecil Herbert Kemp
1952- Alan HI Swift
CreatorNameMunicipal Corporation of Cambridge
RepositoryCambridgeshire Archives
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