Page 7: Action for change

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Complaints against the Vestry were rising. Demands of a rapidly rising population put a considerable strain on this voluntary system of government and its unpaid officials. Fragmentation of responsibilities compounded the problems. The Poor Law was the first to be reformed. The 1834 Act took administration out of local parish hands and vested it in Boards of Guardians, responsible for a group of parishes or ‘unions’. Kensington Guardians were also responsible for Fulham and Chelsea workhouses. This Act reduced the amount to be paid in outdoor relief and determined that workhouses were to be a place of last resort with conditions made as unpleasant as possible.

Local ratepayers frustrated by the lack of action initiated private acts of parliament to establish Improvement Commissions. These dealt with matters such as repair of footpaths and lighting and they raised rates to fund their activities. These commissions are often regarded as the forerunners of municipal authorities. The two most active in the area were the Hans Town Commissioners, covering the area from Sloane Square to Knightsbridge and the Kensington Square Improvement Commissioners.


Election of Guardians electioneering poster

Election poster for PH Benest to the Board of Guardians, 1855
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Public notice telling residents to clean pavements

Kensington Square Commissioners notice urging residents to clean the pavement or incur a fine
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Virtual Museum – The History of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
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