The Midland Boroughs in the 1830's - Kilbeggan
1. The Limits of the Borough of Kilbeggan are marked by well-defined boundaries, maintained to the present day. The borough is bounded on the north by the lands of Coola; on the east, by a boundary ditch, near Booth's houses; on the south, by the corporation drain, up to the New Canal Harbour; and on the west, by another drain, also called the corporation drain, on the road leading to the town of Moate, being a distance of about a quarter of a mile on every side beyond the buildings of the town; and no part of the corporation district is separated from the rest by the intervention of any other lands. These boundaries are not prescribed by charter, but have been established by usage.
Charter James I.
2. The borough appears to have been incorporated by King James I., by a Charter, bearing date the 27th day of February, in the tenth year of his reign. This charter, which is enrolled in Chancery, (Rot. Pat. 10 Jac. I. p. 4, m. 36,) prescribes the mode of election of the portreeve, free burgesses, and freemen, establishes a Court of Record for all pleas not exceeding five marks, and constitutes the portreeve clerk of the market. It also conferred upon the portreeve and burgesses the right of returning two Members to Parliament. A sum of £15,000 was paid at the Union, to Gustavus Lambart, Esq., as Compensation for the loss of the elective franchise.
The Charter of the tenth of James I. is the only one known to the corporation.
3. It gives to the corporation the title of "the Portreeve, Free Burgesses, and Commonalty of the Borough of Kilbeggan."
4. The body consists of one portreeve, twelve burgesses, an unlimited number of freemen.
5. The other charter-officers are two serjeants at mace; and there are a recorder, a town clerk, and a seneschal, who are not mentioned in the charter.
Portreeve, how appointed: The Portreeve, or provost, should, according to the charter, be elected annually, on the 24th of June, by the major part of the portreeve and burgesses, from the body of the burgesses, to serve for one year from the 29th of September following, and thence until a successor should be elected and sworn. In practice, the portreeve is named by Mr. Lambart, of Beaupark, the "patron"; and the form of election is gone through on the 24th of June after the nomination, and the nominee continues to act, sometimes, without the form of election being repeated, or his being resworn, for several years, and until another is proposed by the patron.
The present portreeve is the law-agent of Mr. Lambart, and was nominated by him, and consequently elected by the burgesses, in the year 1819, and he has acted continuously since. During this interval, he has been elected and sworn only four or five times.
Of late years the elections have been generally made by only two burgesses, and always by a number under seven, including the portreeve; the corporation acting on the supposition that there is no restriction as to the number of electors. This is plainly a misapprehension on their part, as the charter directs that the elections shall be made by the portreeve and free burgesses, "or the major part of them," and all modern elections having been made by a number less than the major part, appear to have been illegal.
a practising solicitor, the present portreeve resides in Dublin during
the greater part of the year. He has a residence near Kilbeggan, but not
within the limits of the borough. He has not appointed a deputy. It appears
by the corporation books, that there have been deputies, although such
appointment is not authorized by charter.
Functions of: The portreeve is a justice of the peace within the district.
He is also clerk of the market.
His duties, as such, are to regulate the weights and measures, and prevent
unwholesome food being exposed for sale.
He presides occasionally in the Borough Court.
Salary: The portreeve has not, and never had, a fixed Salary. He claims to be entitled to the crane and public pound. He has let them for the last four years for £50 per annum.
Burgesses, how elected: The Burgesses, by charter, were to be elected by the portreeve and burgesses, "from the better and more worthy of the inhabitants of the borough." In practice, inhabitancy having been dispensed with by the 21 Geo. II. c. 10, s. 8, is not required. Burgesses are elected for life, by the portreeve and burgesses, from the freemen, at the nomination of Mr. Lambart.
Qualification: There is no Qualification required, save that of being a freeman; and it frequently occurs, that, to qualify a person to become a burgess, he is first elected a freeman, and immediately after, a burgess.
The persons elected are always in the interest of Mr. Lambart.
When elected: Burgesses are only elected on the two stated days of the meeting, namely, the 24th of June and 29th of September; so that, if a vacancy occurred on the 30th of September, it would not be filled for nearly nine months, although the charter requires that it should be supplied within seven days. The provisions of the 2 Geo. I. c. 19, s. 9, and I Geo. II. c. 9, s. 9, are not attended to.
Two, resident: Of the twelve burgesses, only two reside within the limits. Seven were stated to live near the town.
Two of the burgesses are Roman Catholics. There is no other Dissenter a burgess.
Functions: Burgesses perform no duty, save that of electing the nominees of the patron to corporate offices.
Serjeant at Mace, how elected:
For several years, there has been but one Serjeant at Mace. He is appointed
by the portreeve, during good behaviour.
Functions of: The serjeant at mace executes the process of the Borough Court.
Fees of: He has no salary, but receives Fees arising on his duties in the Borough Court, namely, 1s. on an attachment, 1s. for executing a decree, and 6d. for serving a summons.
Recorder, &c. how appointed: The Recorder, Town Clerk, and Seneschal are nominated by Mr. Lambart, during good behaviour. They have neither duties nor emoluments, and their offices are merely honorary.
Freemen, how admitted.
6. The charter declares, that "the inhabitants of the borough, and so many and such other persons as the portreeve and burgesses shall admit, shall be free of the corporation." In practice, this provision is not now held to confer any right to freedom by virtue of residence; and none are free but those actually admitted by the portreeve and burgesses.
Fee Stamps: There is no Fee payable on admission, and none of the admissions have been on Stamps; there is, therefore, no expense whatsoever incurred on the admission of a freeman or burgess. The election is for life.
There are, at present, about 35 freemen; of these, 12 are Roman Catholics, and one a Protestant Dissenter. All the Roman Catholics freemen, except one, were admitted before 1829.
Resident: Of the freemen, 21 are resident within the limits of the borough.
Privileges of: Freemen have no Duties to perform. Burgesses and freemen are free of cranage and pound fees, and enjoy the Privilege of being brought before the Borough Court by summons instead of by attachment.
7. The corporation have not exclusive Jurisdiction.
Borough Court: There is a civil Court of Record held here under the charter, which limits its jurisdiction to five marks. It is called "the Borough Court of Kilbeggan."
The Proceeding is by summons, when a member of the corporation is the defendant; and by attachment, in the case of any other person.
The attachment issues on a statement of debt, without oath, notwithstanding the 36 Geo. III. c. 39, and is against the goods, never against the person.
When goods are seized, the defendant either gives as bail some person resident within the limits, or the goods are impounded.
Jury: In practice, the attachment generally procures payment of the debt. When it does not, the trial is held before the portreeve and a Jury composed of the inhabitants generally; formerly the juries consisted exclusively of freemen.
Cases, no. of: About 200 Cases have been instituted, and 100 tried in this court within the last five years. There has been but one certiorari since 1819, and no writ of error; the decree is against the goods only, and is rarely executed upon the defendant's property.
Fees: The Fees are, for the attachments, 3s. to the portreeve; and 1s. to the serjeant at mace, for executing it. There is no other expense before the trial. At the trial each party pays 1s. to the portreeve, and 3s. 4d. is paid to him for the judgement, and 1s. to the town clerk on executions. The portreeve frequently remits his fees, if the defendant will pay the amount of the judgement within a certain time.
Sittings: By charter, this court was to be held on Saturday in every week, but in practice it has no stated day for sitting. It was held but once in 1833, up to the latter end of September, and twice in 1832. It generally sits once a year, and its Sittings never exceed a day at a time.
Petty Sessions: There is no other court here, except the Court of Petty Sessions, which is holden every Saturday, and at which county magistrates preside, sometimes with the portreeve, but much oftener without him.
Quarter Sessions: For Quarter Sessions, Kilbeggan is in the district of Moate, where sessions are held four times a-year.
8. The corporation formerly exercised the power of making Bye-laws in Court Leet, through the intervention of a jury of 23; the jury having presented the law, it was entered on the books, and received as binding, without the sanction of the body at large. No bye-laws have been recently made, as no jury has been empanelled of late years.
Prison and Police.
9. There is no corporate Prison, nor, except the serjeant at mace, any corporate Police. The county constabulary act here under the direction of the portreeve, as a magistrate; there are one chief constable and seven constables stationed in the town.
Schools and Charities.
10. There is no charitable
foundation under the superintendence of the corporation;
11. The corporation have not, since 1819, imposed any Fines on their own members. The portreeve, as a justice of the peace, has inflicted some, and the amount has been distributed in charity.
12. The corporation have no income at present. Several old witnesses were examined, whose recollection extended back to upwards of 60 years, and within that period there has not been any landed Property in the possession of the corporation. They stated there was, as there still is, a general impression, that extensive commons formerly belonged to the body.
The reputation is, that the commons passed several years ago into the possession of Sir Lambert Crombie and Mr. Lambart, but no evidence was produced to justify the supposition.
Tolls and Customs.
13. It may be stated that the Tolls and Customs have not been received here. Two or Three attempts were made, prior to 1819, to collect them, but not being successful, they were not persisted in.
Cranage Weights: There is a Craner appointed by the portreeve; for the last four years he has paid that officer a rent of £50 per annum for the crane and pound. Complaints, apparently well founded, were made of the incorrectness of the Weights and Measures. The weights were very old, and had not been regulated for several years. I have reason to believe that since the Inquiry at Kilbeggan, new weights have been supplied, and are now in use.
The craner's Charges are,
for a bag containing from one to 10 stone, 1d. ; from 10 to 12 stone,
1 ½d.; from 14 to 24 stone, 2d.; and for any weight beyond 24 stone,
2 ½d. These charges much exceed the legal rates established by
the 4 Anne, c. 14, and 25 Geo. II. c. 15.
Date of Grant.
1st July 1601. P. 4 Jac. I. p. 1. M. 7. Sir Oliver Lambart, Market, Saturday. Knight Fair 29th September, and two days after.
16th February 1620. P. 19. Jac. I. p. 2. m. Charles Lord Lambart. Regrant of the market. Grant of two additional fairs, on 6th of June and 18th October.
Markets and The Market is held on every Saturday; and there are four Fairs in the year, namely, on Fairs. the 25th of March, 16th of June, 18th of August, and 28th of October.
The market house or tholsel was built at the private expense of Mr. Lambart, for the use of the corporation.
16. There is no Local Act of Parliament, relating to the corporation or borough.
17. The following table shows the numbers and occupations of the population of the town in the year 1831:
State and Prospects.
18. The principal street is kept in repair by the trustees of the turnpike road, the others by county presentments; they are neither lighted nor watched, and no attempt has been made to introduce the provisions of the 9 Geo. IV., c. 82, for those purposes.
The town is improving; and a branch of the grand canal, recently cut to it, holds out prospects of further commercial advantages.
The corporation is wholly destitute of funds, and, as at present constituted, utterly useless for any public purpose.
Inquiry held 5th September 1833, before John Colhoun and Henry Baldwin.
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