Parish Council Records

First Minute Book

Carham Parish Council was established in December 1894 as a result of the Local Government Act 1894. We hold records of its meetings from 1921 to the present day, in the form of two minute books. This page gives information about, and access to the pages of, the first of those minute books, which covers the years 1921 to 1984.

The page is arranged by decade, starting with the 1920s. There is a brief sketch for each decade, to show what the Parish Council was concerned with at that time and to tell something of the history of Carham parish as it appeared in the official record. You can jump to a particular decade using these links:

The minutes themselves are organised into 13 documents. Each of these covers about five years, so there are two documents per decade (but only one for the 1980s). To access the minutes themselves:

  • go to the decade you want to see (e.g. “1940s”)
  • scroll down to the end of the text
  • click on the links (e.g. “Minutes from 1940 to 1944”)

The documents are in pdf format and are written in manuscript.


Under the Local Government Act 1894, parish councils replaced rural sanitary districts, which had been responsible for various public health matters. They also took over many of the powers, duties and liabilities of the church. Carham Parish Council meetings in the 1920s were largely occupied with these responsibilities, and some of the half dozen or so parish councillors held appointments as Overseers of the Poor and Managers of Wark School and Mindrum School.

For much of the decade, Parish Council business included setting and collecting local rates. Its assessments attracted complaints from the London and North Eastern Railway Company and from the vicar. By 1927 responsibility for local rates had passed to a new rating authority, Glendale Rural District Council, under the Rating and Valuation Act 1925.

The records show that the Parish Council was also concerned with the War Memorial; with the state of the footpaths and footbridges that were used by children on their way to and from school; with the condition of the churchyards at Carham, Mindrum, Learmouth and Wark; and with illegal camping. There was also another run-in with the vicar, involving a piece of furniture that was in the church vestry.

Regular returns were made to the Ministry of Agriculture about the number and extent of allotments in the parish. The records also refer to correspondence from the Ministry of Health (to which the Parish Council was accountable), the National Association of Parish Councils, and Edward Stanford Ltd of London. The latter offered recently-published maps of the parish on a scale of 25 inches to the mile – “22 sheets of the Ordnance Survey for £7.1.4, or mounted on rollers for £10.7.4.” The Parish Council did not put in an order.

At the end of the decade the Parish Clerk, T Amos Robson, announced his intention to retire, after 20 years’ service. He was also retiring from the Glendale Board of Guardians. Boards of Guardians, and the workhouses that they administered, had been abolished by the Local Government Act 1929, and responsibility for poor relief passed to county and borough councils.

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John E Steel was appointed Parish Clerk at £5 per annum in 1930; about £320 in today’s money. This stipend remained unchanged until 1974, by which time the £5 was worth a mere £61.

The 1930s was a time of profound economic depression in the UK, with 3.5 million registered as unemployed in 1932. Councils were asked what work could be done with a view to providing employment, and Carham Parish Council decided to write to the County Road Surveyor to draw his attention to the condition of the road between Wark and Cornhill. The records do not say whether anything was done about this.

At the beginning of the decade, the Parish Council dealt with a petition from the people of Wark, who wanted “ashes, rubbish and other waste matter” to be removed from the village. The matter was referred to Glendale Rural District Council, which ruled that the people of Wark should deal with the refuse themselves. Something appears to have been done, however, as four years later the residents were said to be satisfied with the new arrangements. It is to be hoped that there was no connection between this and a letter sent to the Parish Council from the River Tweed Commission, complaining about rubbish being dumped in the river at Wark.

The Parish Council continued to be concerned with footpath conditions, notably the Pressen to Sunilaws footpath which was so bad that children were sometimes unable to get to school; with illegal camping at Wark Common; with proposed changes to the corner of land on which the War Memorial stood; and with the condition of the churchyards at Carham and Mindrum.

During the decade, the Parish Council responded to the Rights of Way Act 1932, providing a statement of all the rights of way that were claimed within the parish. It also took note of the 1933 Local Government Act, which required all contracts to be made in accordance with the Parish Council’s standing orders. Appropriate standing orders were adopted.

The Parish Council was consulted by the Head Postmaster at Kelso with regard to granting the postmen at Coldstream sub-office a half-holiday on Saturdays, which would necessitate a change to collection times in the parish. Other correspondence came from the County Council, the British Empire Cancer Campaign, the Ministry of Health, and Messrs Shaw & Sons, who had sent a prospectus for the 5th edition of the “Parish Councillors Guide.” The Parish Council agreed to buy a copy. It appears not to have made any arrangements to mark the Silver Jubilee of George V in 1935 and, asked for particulars of any tree planting or amenity schemes by the Coronation Planting Committee, it noted: “as no schemes had been undertaken there was nothing to report.”

Towards the end of the decade the Parish Council began to turn its attention to the shortage of housing in the parish, describing overcrowding as the worst in any part of Glendale. Its appeal to Glendale Rural District Council to build houses in Carham parish appears to have gone unheeded.

There is no reference to the outbreak of war in September 1939.

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The country was at war for the first half of the decade, but there are only a few, indirect, references to this in the records. Parish Council business continued, but elections were postponed under the Local Elections and Register of Electors (Temporary Provisions) Act 1939. An acting Parish Clerk, N Hogg, was appointed in 1943 to cover John E Steel’s absence on military service.

Thomas Chartres Rand announced his retirement after serving as chairman for 50 years, since the Parish Council was established in 1894. He was replaced by John Barclay Barr.

Much of the Parish Council’s business entailed dealing with Glendale Rural District Council, including efforts to obtain an improved water supply for Wark village when plans for a large pig farm came to light. After nine years, the new water supply had still not materialised, although an engineer from the Ministry of Health was due to visit Glendale “very soon.” The Parish Council complained to the District Council about arrangements for the registration of births and deaths, and about the fact that there were no plans to build new houses in the parish.

During the war, there was correspondence about the formation of Fire Parties and, later, about how victory in the war could be commemorated. After 1945, there was correspondence from the Northumberland Parish Councils Association, which the Parish Council decided to join, and with the Scottish Southern Electric Supply Co about the provision of electricity to Wark village. Rather like the water supply, the minutes record that this “will not be available at an early date.” The footpath between Pressen and Sunilaws and the churchyard at Learmouth continued to appear in the records.

In 1946 a woman briefly appeared in the proceedings of the Parish Council. Elizabeth Watson, the Headteacher of Mindrum School, was asked to act as chairman of the Annual Assembly during the election of parish councillors. Her chairmanship was likely to have lasted just a few minutes.

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At the beginning of the decade, the vicar of Cornhill on Tweed wrote to the Parish Council to draw attention to the condition of the churchyard at Learmouth. The Parish Council responded by sending the vicar an extract from the minutes from 1923, in which it was stated that the churchyard had not been closed. This meant that it was not the Parish Council’s responsibility.

In 1951, the Parish Council was asked for information about public rights of way in the parish. The request came from Northumberland County Council and was in response to the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. Four years later the Parish Council again received, and responded to, a request from the County Council, this time about common land in the parish.

Supplies of water and electricity to Wark village continued to involve the Parish Council in correspondence with Glendale Rural District Council, until in 1954 it was reported that work on the water supply had been completed. It appears that the Parish Council’s requests for new housing had also been heard, as it was recorded that work on new council houses was making progress. Two years later electricity had been installed throughout the village. Towards the end of the decade the Parish Council was offered the opportunity to install litter baskets in Carham and Wark, but it decided they were not necessary.

The Queen’s coronation took place in 1953, and the Parish Council received a circular from the Minister of Housing and Local Government that stated he would sanction any reasonable expenses in connection with the celebration of the coronation. The Parish Council decided to leave this matter in the hands of local committees, so there is no record of how the coronation was marked.

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The Parish Council appears to have been untouched by the Swinging Sixties. Throughout the decade, it was largely occupied with matters in Wark village. It was involved in the installation of street lighting, in obtaining handrails for flights of steps, and in reporting the condition of roads in the village. It attempted to obtain a 30 mph speed limit for the village and it was instrumental in obtaining an official bus stop, as well as a light for the hitherto unlit telephone kiosk. It also appears to have been involved, with Glendale Rural District Council, in the matter of a derelict property in Wark, although there is little detail about this.

The street lighting project was initiated in 1964 by Glendale Rural District Council, whose surveyor suggested that the village needed five lights as a minimum. Lights had been installed by the following year, but a further three were found to be needed.

Outside the village of Wark, the Parish Council recorded flooding on the road between Wark and Cornhill on Tweed that needed to be dealt with, and a dangerous ditch opposite the turning to The Hagg. The ditch was dealt with, but the record does not say whether anything was done about the road.

The Parish Council was asked for its comments on a proposal to improve the cottages at Wark Common Farm, and on local bus services. It commented that there was a long wait at Cornhill on Tweed for passengers wanting to travel to Newcastle or Edinburgh if they had arrived on the service from Kelso to Cornhill via Wark. It received correspondence from the Charity Commission and from Glendale Old People’s Welfare Committee, the latter inviting the Parish Council to nominate two representatives. This was delegated to the Women’s Institutes in Mindrum and Wark.

Consultation on the rights of way in the parish appears to have been concluded for the time being, but later in the decade the Parish Council responded to Northumberland County Council’s invitation to register the parish’s common land, as provided for by the Commons Registration Act 1965. The County Council was the registration authority for the purposes of the act, and local authorities could apply to register commons whether or not they owned or had any direct legal interest in the land. In due course, Wark Common, the Grazing Verges and Goat Common were registered.

In 1964, after 20 years’ service, John Barclay Barr stood down as chairman and was replaced by William Summers Davidson. At the end of the decade the Parish Clerk, too, resigned after an even more impressive 39 years’ service. The forename of the new Parish Clerk is not recorded, but we do know that for the first time this was a woman: Mrs M I Coltherd.

The appointment of managers for Wark School and Mindrum School, which was recorded faithfully in the minute book every year, was interrupted in 1969 when no manager was appointed for the latter, “until position regarding Mindrum School is known.”

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An entry in the minute book for 1970 explains that Mindrum School had been “offically closed by Northumberland Education Committee.” Wark School closed in 1977.

Throughout the decade, the Parish Council’s focus was firmly on Wark village and on handling matters raised by the residents. These included requests from those who lived in the council houses for replacement cookers, for garages, for more electric points, and for insulation. There also seems to have been a problem with the window sills, which needed to be inspected before they were painted. It was not within the Parish Council’s power to deal with these matters, which were referred to Glendale Rural District Council and, later, to Berwick Borough Council.

The street lighting in Wark continued to be unsatisfactory, as the record shows that the Parish Council dealt with it time and time again. New sodium lights were installed, but still the subject did not go away. In 1979, having been told that Northumberland County Council was unable to give assistance, the Parish Council agreed to pay for three additional lanterns itself.

Progress being made with the derelict property in Wark was reported in the minutes, and there were discussions about the playground, the car park, and the possibility of getting a bus shelter for the village. Collapsed and damaged garden walls, flooding from a drain on the road through the village, problems with the post, the prospect of a local authority hostel in the village and a plea for help with village hall repairs were all dealt with. Even the rabbits in Wark received the Parish Council’s attention.

Despite the demands on its time, the Parish Council also dealt with parish boundaries, rights of way – it remained concerned about the footpath used by children to walk to school – and the registration of Common Land. The latter was not without controversy, as there were objections to the Parish Council’s application to register the land referred to as Wark Common Close. The Parish Council contended that it had applied to register this land to safeguard the rights of those entitled to grazing. The Commons Commissioner ruled that Common Close be registered as Common Land on behalf of certain cottagers in Wark Village.

Running in the background of all this activity was another matter that involved the Parish Council. The Local Government Act 1972 brought about a major change to the organisation of local government. In north Northumberland, a new area was created consisting of Glendale, Belford and Norham Islandshire district councils and the borough council of Berwick-upon-Tweed, with offices at Berwick. The Parish Clerk’s salary was increased from £5 to £26 per annum (about £346 in today’s money) “owing to the amount of work involved under the new Local Government Re-organisation.”

Among other things, the Local Government Act 1972 recognised the role of parish councils in development planning in their parish, and gave them the right to be informed and consulted on applications for such development. For this reason, towards the end of the decade Carham Parish Council’s records begin to show summaries of planning applications made in the parish.

On the lighter side, the Queen’s Silver Jubilee was celebrated in 1977. Wark and Carham were invited to join Cornhill on Tweed and send three parish representatives to serve on the organising committee. True to form, the Parish Council decided to delegate these roles; and true to form, it was three women who agreed to be parish representatives. The Parish Council was also invited to nominate its chairman for a possible invitation to a Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in July.

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The Parish Council continued to be plagued by the question of street lighting in Wark village. The problem of domestic rubbish reappeared, and history repeated itself: on being asked for a skip to help residents clear up the village, Berwick Borough Council said that the Parish Council would have to pay for it. The Parish Council also dealt with the question of obtaining a litter bin for the layby to the west of Wark and with complaints about the Borough Council’s fortnightly rubbish collections.

Other matters, however, were resolved. The council houses were insulated, a broken-down car was removed from the car park, and Berwick Borough Council cleared vegetation around the tarmac.

The Parish Council continued to deal with rights of way and common land, and to review planning applications. Most of these were for agricultural premises, but one involved the installation of an overhead power line in Wark village, and another was for a change of use of Carham Hall from a private residence to a residential home for the elderly.

It responded to requests to display the electoral roll, for charitable donations, and for information about emergency water supplies and the War Memorial, but it did not respond to a request for comments on Northumberland’s Structure Plan, “as all places mentioned were out of our Area.” It subscribed to the Berwick Area Community Council and appointed a representative to the governing body of Cornhill school, and another to Berwick-upon-Tweed Borough Sports Council. It may also have been involved in the visit of Canon Lee School in York (now Vale of York Academy) to Wark village on a “Demographic Survey.”

At the Auditor’s request, the Parish Council opened a bank account in 1983, with the £316 previously held by Berwick Borough Council. William Summers Davidson stepped down after 19 years as chairman. He was replaced by a second John Barclay Barr, the son of the John Barclay Barr who had served as chairman from 1944 to 1964.

The very last item in the minute book is about a request from Berwick Chamber of Trade for the Parish Council to send “a piece of prose” to be included in the 1985 Official Guide Book. Sadly, the record does not state whether this was done, or what it might have said.

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