In 1894, a century ago, the Barwick-in-Elmet Parish Council met
for the first time. The elected council was responsible for
providing some of the services in the newly-created civil parish.
This comprised the present civil parish of Barwick-in-Elmet and
Scholes and also a large area to the west including Wellington
Hill, Cross Gates and part of Manston. Voting in the parish was organised in three wards, Barwick,
Scholes and Cross Gates. Along with 40 or so similar parishes,
Barwick was a part of the Tadcaster Rural District, with its own
elected council. More important services were provided by a third
tier of local government, the West Riding County Council.
The history of the area and of its council are interconnected
and we thank the council for allowing us to draw on its records
for some of the articles in past editions of 'The Barwicker' and
our other publications. The history of local government however
dated from long before 1894. The civil parish was not a new
geographical entity as it had existed as Barwick-in-Elmet Township
for centuries. The democratic processes of the township, which
were well regulated by acts of parliament, involved holding vestry
meetings, where ratepayers met to elect the township officials,
monitor their expenditure and set the annual rates. The Barwick
Township account books from the late eighteenth century onwards
exist in the Leeds District Archives.
The newly-formed council met in either the parish church or
the Barwick schoolroom but during the first decade of this century
it was decided that it needed its own meeting place. It was
planned to build council offices, together with a house for the
parish clerk, in Scholes which was then the central part of the
The new offices were opened on 2 July 1909 in the presence of
a large gathering of councillors from Barwick and neighbouring
parishes, local officers and other dignatories. Presiding over the
opening ceremony was the chairman of the parish council, the
Rector, Rev. F S Colman. He drew attention to the importance of
Barwick parish within the Tadcaster Rural District, being the
largest in area and rateable value, but fourth in population. He
explained that the money to build the new offices had been raised
by the trustees of the poors' estate and that the council would pay
rent to the charity to repay the loan and interest.
The offices were opened by Mr E C Brooksbank, the chairman of
the Tadcaster Rural District Council, who congratulated the council and the inhabitants of the parish on the acquisition of the building. He stressed the good relationship enjoyed by Barwick and the district council and praised the efforts of the Barwick
representatives on that body. He hoped that this situation would
not be altered by any future boundary changes. Mr Brooksbank
presented a silver key to Mr Henry Chippindale, the architect, and
the building was officially opened. A vote of thanks was proposed
by Mr Alvara Chadwick, the vice-chairman of the council, and
seconded by Mr I J Dewhurst, a councillor from Cross Gates who
used the occasion to complain that his ward was bearing too heavy
a share of the rate burden. Mr Brooksbank in reply noted the work
being planned by both councils to improve the water supply to the
During this decade the parish council pressed the responsible
authority, the Tadcaster Rural District Council, to provide a piped
water supply for those parts of the parish which still relied on
wells and for a more efficient supply for the Cross Gates area
which received its water by pipes from Leeds, (see 'The Barwicker'
No. 3). A scheme to pump water from a deep well at Kiddal quarry
was well advanced but was abandoned because of boundary changes
that took place at that time. This delayed the supply of piped
water to Barwick and Scholes for a decade.
Mr Brooksbank had warned that "Leeds with its large grasping
hands was ever ready to snap up any district which might
conveniently fall within its rateable area". The boundary changes
which took place in 1911 were part of such an expansion of Leeds,
the boundary of which was extended to take in a substantial part
of the Cross Gates Ward, the most populous part of the parish at
that time. The remainder was renamed the 'Wellington Hill Ward'.
The outbreak of the Great War (World War I) in 1914 must have
occupied the minds of the parish councillors but this is not
revealed in the minutes of their meetings. No mention of the war
occurs until 1915 when several requests for the use of the council
room were made, first by the recruiting service, then by the
Belgian refugees organisation, the Scholes and Barwick Platoon of
the Aberford Volunteer Reserves for drilling purposes and from a
sewing party for soldiers and sailors.
Decisions concerning the war were taken at a higher level and
the council received notices from such bodies as the West Riding
War Agricultural Committee, the Food Production Committee and the
rationing authorities. These were usually for information only but
some required implementation locally. Perhaps the most immediate
concern of the council was the call-up of its clerk in 1917 but it
had already taken steps to recruit his wife to take his place.
By contrast the parish council took a much more active part in
World War 11 and this is well described in the Historical Society's
publication 'The Maypole Stayed Up'. The council was involved in
such areas as ARP (Air Raid Precautions), black-out regulations, air
raid shelters, fire fighting, fundraising to help the war effort,
extra food production, collection of scrap and many other
An important structural change in the government of the
locality occurred at this time when, in 1941, Wellington Hill and
the western part of the parish were taken into Leeds. To take
account of the loss of the third ward and the increasing size and
importance of Scholes, the name was changed to 'Barwick-in-Elmet
and Scholes Parish Council'.
The list of council chairmen on the back cover reveals names
of many who have played an important part in the history of the
parish. The longest serving of these was Rector Colman, who
occupied the post for seven years, as well as finding time to write
his monumental history of the parish. We might also draw
attention to the first lady chairman, Mrs Braham, and to Raymond
and Betty Ives, the only husband and wife to have each individually
occupied the post.
In 1974, at the re-organisation of local government, the parish
of Barwick-in-Elmet and Scholes was put into the newly-formed
Leeds Metropolitan District in the county of West Yorkshire. The
Tadcaster Rural District Council and the West Riding County Council
Every four years the parishioners elect a total of 12 parish
councillors, six to represent the Barwick ward and six the Scholes
ward. :Monthly meetings are held in the council offices on the
first Monday of each month, except August, and commence at 7.30 pm.
Any member of the public may attend and, by giving prior notice to
the clerk, may address the council on any relevant topic. An
annual general meeting is held, usually in May, on which occasion
one of the councillors is elected chairman. In practice, and
traditionally, the post rotates between a councillor representing
Barwick and one representing Scholes.
Each year the council prepares a Precept which shows the
estimated expenditure for the specific additional needs of the
parish. Leeds City Council makes this money available to the
parish council and includes an additional appropriate charge in the
annual council tax bill. The current Precept totalling ct31,373
includes funds to equip new play areas in the villages and it is
the intention of the council to complete these in this 'The
The council becomes involved with a wide variety of topics and
Consideration of planning applications.
Attendance at road inquiries.
Maintaining playing fields and play areas.
The collection of litter and the dumping of rubbish.
The creation, maintenance and diversion of public rights of way.
The repair of public highways.
Provision of road signs.
Liaison with the police.
Keeping a watchful eye on proposed development, e.g. the Unitary Development Plan.
Neighbourhood watch schemes, etc., etc.
Plans for restructuring local government have, in the past,
included proposals for the abolition of parish councils but so far
they have always managed to survive. It is hoped that they will
continue to serve the needs of local people and so provide the 'grass roots' of the democracy in which we all live.