The development of the Urban District Council of Hoole
In the early 19th century Hoole was still part of a world where the ancient parish boundary shaped people’s identity and an appreciation of what was lawful. Social hierarchy was based on a landowning aristocracy and ownership of land, with shared certainties in religion and politics and matters of taste.
Counties, with subdivisions into hundreds, were the two ancient tiers of government, and Cheshire later became the administrative boundary for Cheshire County Council. Hundreds were the administrative sub-divisions of Cheshire in the 19th century, for taxation and for census reporting until 1881, but the Hundreds had very few government functions.
Cheshire County Council Pack 106, produced by Cheshire Archives and Local Studies, gives the population of Hoole in 1841, the year of the first national census of population, as 294.
Bagshaw’s Directory, nine years later in 1850, describes Hoole, and its “gentile houses”, as “47 Houses and 294 inhabitants” within a boundary which “contains 743 acres of sandy soil”.
However, between 1841 and 1861, on the same acreage, the population rose from 294 to 1,596, and, by 1881 there were just over 3000 people living in Hoole.
Hoole developed rapidly from the small nucleus around Faulkner Street in 1841. Census information helped Hoole History and Heritage Society to begin to plot the development of the street plan of Hoole as it emerged in each decade.
The arrival of the railways and the building of Chester General Station resulted in an influx of population, leading to the building of terraced houses in nearby Hoole.
The railway also made the manufacture and transporting of new building materials possible, allowing for development. By 1899, many residents of Hoole travelled to Liverpool and to Manchester each day for work and for business. In the same year, the Sanitary (Public Health) Report for Hoole records the fact that houses were being built at the rate of 300 per year, by which time Hoole had become an Urban District Council.
Towns had made little impact on Cheshire’s administrative boundaries before 1850, but there was a proliferation of local government institutions in, and for, townships like Hoole which eventually paved the way for the emergence of the Urban District Council in 1894.
Following the 1848 Public Health Act, local boards of health could be elected with the aim of making improvements in social conditions in civil parishes. An elected Local Board of Health for the Civil Parish of Hoole came into being in May 1864.
Members of the Local Board served on other local bodies like the vestry committee, the school board, and the turnpike, railway and the workhouse trusts.
The local board came into being to provide for the health of the local population, but its activities had to expand over time as civil administration increased in order to bring about improvements in conditions. The Hoole Local Board meetings were reported in the Cheshire Observer.
As the street plan was extended, there were constant requests for road improvements due to the rate of development.
Increased demands on the ratepayers were recorded regularly in the minutes of the meetings of the Board. Letters from individual ratepayers were published in the newspapers. The need to plan for infrastructure and services for the growing number of households in Hoole increased the pressure.
Hoole, in its capacity as the Local Board of Health, was an Urban Sanitary Authority. Urban Sanitary Authorities became the Urban District Councils created in 1894.
Even in its early years the Local Board was concerned that Chester, with its own Town Council, harboured the ambition to incorporate Hoole within its boundaries. Although Hoole valued its own independence as a township, it did not prevent the Board from looking across the boundary of Hoole Road at another independent township, Newton, however, to improve its financial viability in 1894.
Two boundary changes were to be a consequence of Hoole Local Board being replaced by an Urban District Council. The first was that Hoole Village (including Hoole Bank), population 218 in the later 1901 census, became a separate civil parish within Chester Rural District Council.
The second was because Hoole Local Board petitioned the County of Chester, requesting two areas of land be included in an expanded boundary of the Urban District Council.
One, “a further small portion of Hoole” was not contentious. However the request to include “that part of the Township of Newton-by-Chester which lies between the Hoole Road and the Cheshire Lines Railway” was very contentious, taking the proposed boundary into a neighbouring township, to include over 77 acres of land and buildings with an estimated population of 575 within the expanded boundary.
The names on the notice urging the owners and occupiers of all houses and land in the part of Newton-by-Chester affected by the Hoole Local Board petition to attend a meeting at the Ermine Hotel on 1st February 1894, show the importance of the development locally, but also that there was likely to be resistance, too.
The Hoole Local Board maded a Petition (Hoole Local Board Petition 1894), called a ‘Memorial’ in 1894.
The Hoole Local Board also recommended that its size should be increased to reflect the proposed expansion. It recommended adding three members to represent the area of Newton. In forthcoming elections, Hoole Ward would have 12 councillors to represent it, and three councillors being elected to represent the new Ward of Newton.
In 1894 the government created District Councils with powers for plan development. These Councils could, subject to Whitehall’s approval, raise mortgages to pay for schemes to improve the living conditions and environment in the local government area. The Local Government Board organised special public meetings between inspectors and Hoole ratepayers to discuss council proposals and their financing in order to obtain consent to funding them through mortgages which would then be paid with funds raised through the local rates.
Alexandra Park and Walker Street Playground were both created by Hoole Urban District under powers granted to it in the 1875 Public Health Act. Section 64 of the Act granted it powers to purchase and hold land in order to create parks and leisure grounds for the pleasure and enjoyment of the people of Hoole. Both were paid for from the rates.
In 1909 the Government passed the first Town Planning Act granting Councils further planning powers. In the years before the First World War private builders supplied virtually all new housing.
The war changed this and building activity came to a virtual standstill whilst the country fought.
By the time of the General Election in 1918 it was clear that the country faced an acute shortage of housing. Building costs were inflated and this, combined with a scarcity of materials and labour, made it impossible for the private developers to provide houses with rents within reach of the average working-class family.
In December 1919, Hoole Urban District Council’s Town Planning powers were extended to include Housing. The District was included in the Housing and Town Planning Act.
As the troops returned from war, like the rest of the country, Hoole faced the challenge of building ‘homes fit for heroes.’
A new social attitude focused attention on a national responsibility to provide homes, giving rise to Lloyd George's famous promise. By 1925, the Government had passed the ‘Housing for the Working Classes” Act, empowering councils to purchase land for the purpose of building homes for rent.
- Article researched and written by Linda Webb, August 2019, Hoole History & Heritage Society