Whitstable Council’s Early Years – and Tankerton Byelaws.

Whitstable Council’s Early Years – and Tankerton Byelaws.

An old sheet of notepaper, faded and worn, and written on it a list of names. The names are those of the 29 candidates who contested the first Whitstable Urban District Council election in the month of December, 1894, together with the number of votes each of the received.

Topping the poll was Mr. A. Tilley, with 484 votes, Mr. John Collar being close with 473 votes. Coming third was Mr. Wallace Camburn, with 461, and Mr. William Clifford was fourth with 432 votes to his credit. At the bottom of the vote was Dr. Salt, who was given 16 votes.

This election gave rise to much excitement and heated controversy in the town, as well it might, marking locally as it did the beginning of the Local Government administration that came with the passing, in that same year, 1894, of the Parish Councils’ Act.

Some months earlier, in May to be precise, a public meeting had been held in Whitstable to give effect to the provisions of this Act, either by the creation of a parish council, or by obtaining powers to form an urban district council. It was agreed that a petition should be submitted to the Kent County Council calling for the setting up of an urban district council. Such a form of self-government, it was argued, as the proper one for Whitstable, with an area population of more than 5,000 inhabitants, and possessing a port in which over 1,000 vessels annually discharged their cargo.

An order for the establishment of the Council, made by the K.C.C., was confirmed by the Local Government Board of December 3rd 1894, and on the last day of the same year, the Council elected for administering the affairs of the new parish of Whitstable-cum-Seasalter by seven members, held its first meeting. There was no division of the parish into different wards in those days.

And when the time for a new election came around, the interest taken in it by the public rose to fever heat.

In 1901, when Messrs. W. Camburn, J. Collar, H. L. Daly, and A. Tilley. J.P., were seeking election, the committee formed to work on their behalf consisted of 123 members, the chairman being Mr. J. R. Daniels, C.C.

The election addresses put out by candidates make interesting reading. Let us glance at one of them. It was the appeal for support made by Mr. Wallace Wetherly, when seeking re-election to the Council in 1905.

“I trust my efforts during the past three years,” he said, “have not been misdirected and have your approval. I have closely watched the progress of events and have jealously guarded your interests in the discretion I have used in voting for or against the various matters introduced. Several important matters have been successfully dealt with, as for instance: Large bank Overdraft: Smallpox Hospital and Field; Improvement Bill; Bill of Costs (grim relics of the past). Also a large sum paid for Sea Defence. The financial position is more encouraging than when you did me the honour to return me three years since. Rally round and return me by a substantial majority similar to that secured in the Ballot re Main Drainage (Septic system).

Putting aside the election address of Mr. Wallace Wetherly, we will look through the list of byelaws made by the Council by virtue of the powers conferred upon it by section 82 of the Public Health Acts Admendment, 1907. The byelaws set forth in the list under review, expressly relate to the Tankerton area. Some of them must have come as a real shock to many people whose complete freedom of action in a place open to the public had never before been restricted in any way.

Number one bye-law made it a punishable offence to place such things as booths, sheds, tents, swings, roundabouts and photographic carts on any part of the slopes or seashore not specified by the council for such purposes. Similar restrictions were placed upon the playing of games, the delivery of sermons, speeches, musical performances, and the hawking of goods.

Beggars soliciting alms were warned off, as were persons selling or advertising any article, touting and importuning, either verbally or by distribution of handbills to the annoyance of those using the slopes and the seashore.

A bye-law, drawn up under the heading of “Noisy Instruments,” gave warning that: “No person shall ring any bell or sound any gong or blow any horn or trumpet to the annoyance of any person.” That must have stirred up the wrath and amazement of all of the juveniles of both sexes, and of a good many adults, whose chief delight was to parade up and down those same slopes beating toy drums and blowing tin trumpets.

A bye-law with regard to dogs stated: “No person shall on the seashore or slopes at Tankerton after being required by any officer of the Council to desist, incite any dog to bark to the annoyance of any person using the seashore.”

By-law II reads, “No person shall, to the annoyance of any person, beat, shake, sweep, brush, or cleanse any carpet, drugget, rug or mat, or any other fabric retaining dust or dirt.” Spies and nosy parkers must have been in their element watching out for culprits who, whether inadvertently or defiantly, broke these bye-laws. Offenders were liable to a penalty not exceeding five pounds. It must at first have been a very harassing time for the officers of the Council responsible for the enforcement of the new regulations.

Early Regatta at Tankerton Slopes.

Written by Ernest Brindle, 1948.

Transcribed by Brian Baker,  January 2019.