Vestry Meetings

As parishes acquired civil responsibilities, the parish 'vestry' meeting assumed overall supervision, especially of poor relief and road maintenance. The minutes generally record ecclesiastical and secular activities of the meeting such as the appointment of parish officers, settling rates and auditing accounts. For the records of the various vestry officials please see: Overseers of the PoorHighway Surveyors and Parish Constables. For the ecclesiastical functions of the Vestry meetings and Churchwardens see Parishes.

Vestry administration was reformed by the 1818 and 1819 Vestry Acts, which attempted to regulate procedures for attendance and voting at meetings, and legalised payment of officials. However, the vestry's civil responsibilities were greatly reduced in 1834 when Poor Law Unions were set up, and the establishment in 1835 of Highway Boards removed the direct responsibility for road maintenance. Compulsory church rates were abolished in 1868 and the office of parish constable disappeared in 1872. In 1894 all the surviving civil responsibilities of the vestry meeting were transferred to Parish Councils.

19th century vestry minutes survive for a number of parishes, but comparatively few earlier records survive; a few parish council minute books contain records of pre-1894 vestry meetings (catalogue reference P).