In 1770 an Act of Parliament was passed “for the better paving, repairing and cleansing of the streets and other public passages in the several parishes and wards of St Michael, St John, Holy Rood, St Lawrence, All Saints within the Bar, All Saints without the Bar and East Street and Bag Row within the town and liberties of Southampton; and for the lighting and watching of the said streets and public passages”.
Before the Act the town had a decayed and tawdry appearance. Many of the roads were in a poor state of repair and the town walls and gates were in some cases falling down. Provisions for street cleaning and for the removal of hazards and blockages were sporadic and ineffectual. The town was only partly paved and such pavements that existed were in poor repair. There was no control over the building of new houses, some of which encroached into the streets. Solving these problems was beyond the abilities of the rudimentary local government institutions and the need for the creation of new bodies was clear. In Southampton the timing of this bid for an improved system coincided with the development of the town as a spa. The commissioners were given a brief to repair and cleanse the streets, to prevent nuisances, to widen streets and passageways and for the lighting and watching of the town. They set to work immediately and within days had appointed a Scavenger and a Beadle. The latter’s task was to survey the town and report any nuisances, annoyances or obstructions in the streets. In addition they arranged for the streets to be cleaned more efficiently and for the main streets to be properly paved. By 1775 most of the town’s major streets had been paved, the money raised by a rate levied on householders. They adopted a stringent policy on the building of new houses and extensions to existing ones. Their work was a major contribution to the better appearance of the town and represented an important new development in municipal administration. The body survived until the 1840s when it was replaced by the Improvement Commissioners.

see also

Further reading:
History of Southampton, by Rev. J. S. Davies, p119-125. (HS/h)
Minute Book of the Pavement Commissioners of Southampton 1770-89, by Jan Stovold (ed). (HS/ln)
History of Southampton Vol. 1, by A. Temple Patterson, p44-52, 106-107. (HS/h)
History of Southampton Vol. 2, by A. Temple Patterson, passim. (HS/h)


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