The History of St Bees Parish Council
100 Years of St Bees – 1895 to 1995
How the booklet was born
The 1894 Local Government Act brought parish councils into existence, and just hours before the end of that year, St. Bees parish council had its first meeting to conform with the Act. But 1895 was the year in which the council really started to operate, and to mark one hundred years of activity, I initiated a debate in council, on how to celebrate this.
Parish councils have tremendous scope for positive action within the community, and in St. Bees there has been a long tradition of an active council; the 1979 election had 22 candidates for 14 seats! Often the only outward sign is the sober minutes in the parish notice board. Therefore I suggested some kind of a booklet to celebrate the council’s achievements and raise awareness of the value of parish government. A good way of doing this would be use the activities of the St. Bees parish council over the 100 years as the central thread of a history of the community of St. Bees.
Such a history was long overdue. The only community history has been Elizabeth Steele’s “St. Bees – Story of a Cumberland Village” published in the early 1960’s as part of a county-wide WI history project. Thirty years had elapsed since this pioneering booklet, and the time was ripe to add to the printed history of St. Bees.
The parish council agreed to publish the booklet “100 years of St. Bees” (ISBN 0 9526990 01) and it was formally launched in early November 1995. I don’t know if other parishes embarked on a similar project, but it was the answer to many Christmas gift problems, and sold nearly half of the 1,000 print run by Christmas. It finally went out of print in 2000. After continuing to get requests for copies, often from students on geography and history projects, I have decided to adapt it for web viewing, as a reprint would not be commercially justified. So here it is.
Doug Sim, St Bees.
Local historian John Todd kindly wrote a succinct preface, which neatly summarises the events leading up to the period of the book.
The primary sources were the council minute books and correspondence files dating back to 1895, and the “Whitehaven News”. Most of the business is routine, but occasionally there is an insight into the politics of day, such as the row over the stone on Pow beck bridge, and the acceptance by the council of the need for long range firing from Eskmeals in the build up to WW2.
The appendix, a listing of councillors over the 100 years, has proved a source of interest to relatives of those who served.
The pictures in this web version are slightly different to the printed book.
Copyright of printed and digital versions – D T Sim 1995, 2004 & 2020.
Adapted from the booklet “100 years of St. Bees”, published in 1995 by St. Bees Parish Council, to celebrate 100 years of parish councils. ISBN 0 9526990 01