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Sanitary Business and Water Lane

The Council has always been aware of the need for cleanliness in the village and right from the inception of the Council such matters have appeared in the minutes.

In May 1895 a Sanitary Committee of H Gardner, D Harding and W J Hickson was appointed to inquire into sanitary business. It would seem that the Council were not content with the role of the Rural District Council for in September of that year they asked Mr Wellesley Taylor, also District Councillor for the parish as well as a Parish Councillor, to enquire of the RDC what the special sanitary rate of 16 had been spent on. No answer is recorded but in April 1896 the Council voted 3:1 "to ask the District Councillor to bring before the RDC that the Council wished to have sanitary powers". The RDC did not consider the matter until June 1896 and then, evidently, did not agree to them. In July 1900 the Council tried again with the minute "that this Council applies to the RDC for sanitary powers, sine die".

The ditch which runs along the High Street from the junction of Church Rd towards Olney was the subject of a complaint to the County Surveyor in July 1900 when it was decided that it badly needed cleaning out.

The longest running saga in the history of the village however must be that of Water Lane and its ditch.

In September 1898 the first minutes regarding this are recorded. This reads 'Mr Branson, Sanitary Inspector, attended and submitted his report respecting the Water Lane ditch nuisance. Mr Wellesley Taylor, also spoke. After a long discussion it was proposed that the ditch be thoroughly cleansed out and the water closet emptying pipes cut off (as suggested by Mr Branson). This would in a great measure relieve the nuisance complained of."

Mr Wellesley Taylor was a member of the Newport Pagnell Rural District Council and an ex-member of the Parish Council. Mr Branson was from the RDC.

Evidently nothing happened for in July 1899 an angry sounding letter was written to the RDC as follows "This Council protests against the ratepayers money being spent for the benefit of private individuals and call the attention of the RDC to the fact that the ditch in question is a public watercourse and not private property and if the parish is to supply water for one they must do it for all the inhabitants of Water Lane. They also wish to state that the closets running into the ditch have not been cut off as recommended by you last year, two other water closets have also been recently connected to the ditch - one at Mr Allfrey's and one at Mrs Gardner's which cause a great nuisance to the village. If the execution of a pump and trough for Mrs Gardner is proceeded with a Parish Meeting will be called at once."

The problem was that Mrs Gardner lived at the end of Water Lane and took her water from the ditch. Waste pipes from water closets were then emptied into the ditch, rather than into cess-pits or elsewhere and therefore her water was contaminated. It seems ironic that the idea was to provide a pump and trough for Mrs Gardner when her w.c. was then also emptying into the ditch!

Events took their time for it was not until six months later, on 2nd April 1900, that a Parish Meeting was called to discuss a letter sent by Mrs Gardner to the RDC.

Unfortunately however there is nothing in the minutes about the letter or the events of the Meeting. However the minutes of the next Council meeting held a week later certainly gives a flavour of the passion that the matter had aroused, and the arguments and recriminations that were to go on for some years.

"9th April 1900. This Parish Council resents the language used by Mr Wellesley Taylor at the Rural District Council meeting on 4th inst. stating that Mrs Gardner was suffering great hardship in connection with the water supply and contends that Mrs Gardner is suffering no hardship as the water has run down the same ditch from time immemorial and further Mrs Gardner's cattle are now drinking from the same ditch which runs through the next field and the water is there stated to be good.

This Council respectfully asks the Rural District Council to appoint a committee of agricultural gentlemen from their Board to inspect the ditch and water and report thereon to the Council before anything definite is settled.

This meeting also contends that the last Committee of Inquiry held in November last should not have included Wellesley Taylor and J Adkins as these gentlemen were directly in the matter from Mrs Gardner's point of view.

This meeting further strongly disapproves of the language of Councillor Wyllie who is reported to have said at the last meeting of the Council that when the Parish Council of Sherington sent a deputation it promised to find a remedy and had not done so. This statement we declare to be untrue and ask the Council to request Councillor Wyllie to withdraw the same."

When the motion was put to the Council that the above minute be the basis of a letter to the Rural District Council Mr Hickson moved that Mr Wellesley Taylor's name not be mentioned but no seconder to this proposition could be found. At the vote Messrs Harding, Slayter, Line, Petts and Watts were in favour with Mr Hickson against. Mr Oldham was not present.

Eight days later the Parish Council heard that Mr Wellesley Taylor had resigned as District Councillor for Sherington and as a Guardian of the Parish as he considered the letter sent to the RDC as a letter of censure. Mr Hickson who had opposed the mention of his name, and Mr Oldham, then resigned from the Council.

It is evident that claims and counter claims were rife for on 4th May 1900 the Clerk was instructed to write to Mr Wellesley Taylor, the Rural District Council and the local papers correcting certain mistatements. The only problem with this was that the Council's perception of events would have been paramount. The Council also went in another direction of attack and wrote to the Sanitary Authority drawing their attention to "an exceedingly foul smell which is considered prejudicial to health of which several complaints have been made to this Council arising from sewer gas discharged by the side of the road through a cess-pit on the premises of Mrs Gardner of Sherington". (Who at that time, it has been noted, had a w.c. discharge pipe into the ditch)

The RDC took note of this complaint but evidently failed to alleviate the nuisance for it was back on the agenda a year later when the Council discussed a proposed "Drainage and Sewerage Scheme" proposed by the RDC. The idea of such a scheme being imposed on Sherington by the RDC was an anathema to the Council for it minuted at the same meeting to:

"send a letter to the press and RDC concerning the statement made by Mr Wellesley Taylor viz "that the Parish Council had brought the sewerage and drainage scheme on their own shoulders" and asked the RDC to request Mr Taylor to withdraw the same"

"call a Parish Meeting to consider the false statement of Mr Wellesley Taylor and to consider the scheme proposed to be thrust upon the parish"

"have two hundred hand bills printed in order to advertise the Parish Meeting and that one be deposited at every house and that cottagers be well informed of the extra rent they will have to pay if the schemes are adopted"

Unfortunately accusation creates counter accusation and so it went on. At the end of July 1900 the Council "protest most emphatically" against what they saw as unfair treatment at the hands of the RDC and "takes grave exception to Mr Wellesley Taylor being allowed to hurl contemptuous remarks at this Council". The Council evidently had not learnt when to stay quiet for it decided to write to the local press "criticising the remarks made at the last RDC meeting against this Council".

October 1900 came and the Chairman drew the attention of the Council to the fact that the RDC had requested a loan from the Local Government Board so as to supply Mrs Gardner with water, at the parish expense It is surprising, after all the bluster of the past, that the tone of the next minute is so muted for it said "that this Parish cause a letter to be written to the Local Government Board commenting fully on the application of the RDC etc".

The letter to the Board must have had some effect for in February 1901 the Council was organising a Parish Meeting in advance of a Public Enquiry into the whole matter of the ditch. They tried, unsuccessfully, to have the enquiry held in the evening and at the school. What happened at the Public Enquiry is sadly not noted but it would appear that the scheme was set to go ahead for in August 1901 the Council tried once again to halt it by minuting "that as Mrs Bonser refuses to sell the land required by the RDC this Parish Council recommends the present is a suitable time for the Local Government Board to be approached by the RDC with a view to the dropping of the expensive and un-necessary scheme about to be carried out in the parish and substitute the culverting in of Water Lane ditch and the cutting off of all closets from the same. The parish feels most strongly that this would amply meet the case.
That the Council further recommends that the new Sanitary Committee come over to Sherington and inspect the ditch for the satisfaction of the District Council. If the Sanitary Committee would do this the Parish Council would be deeply obliged to them"

By this action the Parish Council were effectively saying that there was no need for a sewage works at the end of Water Lane and that all the properties therein should rely on individual cesspits for sewage disposal making the watercourse along the ditch just for spring and surface water.

In fact the sewage works were not built but the RDC laid a pipe to take the waste away, unfortunately so that it emptied just at the point where Mrs Gardner's cattle drank! This, of course, was meat and drink to the Parish Council who minuted criticism of the RDC at their meeting in January 1902. They also said that the RDC should have fenced in the ditch earlier and that, as the Sanitary Authority (which the Council had asked to be), it should have used their expert legal advice. It hoped that as Water Lane was a sort of test case that the whole area should bear the cost of the enquiry etc rather than Sherington alone.

The Council also then went on to say that if the previous District Councillor had been more vigorous in his policy then things might have been different and that Mr Harding (the then District Councillor) was adopting a policy of blaming the RDC for laying of the pipes but also finding fault with the Chairman of the Council for criticising his actions at the last Parish Meeting. (Mr Harding resigned as a Parish Councillor in August 1901)

The problem of sewerage being discharged at the cattle drinking point seems to have been resolved for it was nearly two years later, in November 1903, that the problem is mentioned again. It was then that the Council began to get worried about the sewerage scheme and sewage works. It now seems short-sighted for the Council to have opposed something that would benefit the village as a whole, but in 1903 there must have been a different perception of the problem.

In the minute of 6th November 1903 it was stated that "[1] the sanitary arrangements at Water Lane ditch, where the complaint originated, having greatly improved to the satisfaction of Mrs Gardner this Council is strongly of the opinion that the sewage scheme as proposed is both unnecessary and expensive; [2] that Mr Harding, District Councillor for the parish state the Council's view of the scheme at the next meeting of the RDC requesting they, if possible, prevent its being further proceeded with."

Perhaps Mr Harding's plea was accepted for just over a year later another Public Enquiry was ordered by the Local Government Board at which the Council was represented by the firm of Messrs Becke, Green & Stops, solicitors of Northampton. Their fee and that of Mr Ingram, surveyor, for these services came to 9.14.0.

Finally in May 1912 the Council was advised that "the RDC had adopted plans for the sewerage of the parish of Sherington and that the said RDC will proceed to enter into a contract for the execution of the works".

The work undertaken was not entirely to the satisfaction of the Council for on 7th March 1913 they protested about the ventilating shaft placed in the centre of the village near the lamp post. The post is still there!

The storm water course down the village still gives cause for concern. In April 1919 Messrs Field, Slayter and Moore were to act as a deputation to Col. Allfrey with a view to inspecting the storm water course in Church Road, and the pump in Crofts End. The pump in Crofts End is still in place.

The problem with flooding in Water Lane surfaced again in September 1928, and was still surfacing in 1996. In 1928 it was resolved that "Mr Field be deputed to interview Mr Smith (Highways Surveyor) with a view to culverting part of the ditch". It was reported back to the Council in February 1929 that the County considered it not practicable to culvert the ditch. This reasoning stood until the late 1970's, when the ditch was culverted. In April 1941 the Council minuted "the state of the ditch near the village hall, the drain in Church Road and the stiles on the footpath leading from Sherington to Sherington Bridge and requesting the County to repair the same". In view of the war going on at the time this request was most probably more symbolic than hopeful.

The winter of 1946 brought flooding and once again the County Divisional Surveyor was requested to visit Water Lane who replied in March 1947 that they would do something about it as soon as conditions are more favourable. One has to remember that the weather in early 1947 was very bad indeed. Nothing else is recorded until December of that year when the County were asked to clear out the ditch.

For four years nothing was recorded about Water Lane, until February 1951 when "concern was expressed at the repeated flooding of Water Lane" and then nothing else was minuted until November 1960 when the County were asked to investigate the subsidence of the lane from Water Lane Farm to Next House. The County replied that "the use of the lane was out of all proportion to its capacity, but the only permanent solution was to try and widen the lane. The cost however is considerable and work could only be carried out when money could be allocated".

It went all quiet again until September 1966 when it was reported that the ditch in the lower half was 'in a dreadful condition'. Bucks CC said it had noted requests to clean out the ditch but that they were in communication with the Ouse Catchment Board concerning an obstruction recently constructed which may come under the Board's jurisdiction. However the County Medical Officer had asked for a report. Something may have been done as nothing else is reported until December 1968 when Mr C D Smith said that his house had been flooded with rain water and sewerage waste (It should be noted that this happened again in 1998). The RDC, who seemed to deny everything, said that as the flooding was caused by surface water (forgetting the sewerage aspect) they could not help. By March 1969 this section of the ditch was described as 'a breeding ground for rats'.

At the next meeting a letter from the County Area Surveyor was read to the meeting. This said 'it was unfortunate that this lane which has always resembled a farm road was allowed to be built up alongside and that the small haulage business has grown in size and number of lorries. The damage at the lower end had been brought about by the very large lorries trying to turn into the depot... There is a proposal for the lane to be coated with tarmac......' The Council replied that the ditch still needed cleaning out! As the matter was still unresolved by January 1970 the Council felt that a higher authority than the County should be involved as the County had neglected the lane for too long. This seemed to move the County as the lane was surfaced but water still seeped through the tarmac to the surface. In October 1971 'after many meetings' it was decided to have the water running in the ditch analysed and the Public Analyst found it to be polluted by diesel oil - probably from Haynes Garage.

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Latest Revision: 31 December 2006