The Poor Law consisting of a series of Parliamentary Acts came into effect in 1601. It defined how a parish would care for the poorer members of society who were in need of financial or other assistance. The law was administered at Vestry meetings that were attended by the parish ratepayers. The Vestry was the decision making body that was named after the room where meetings were held.

The Poor Law was replaced by Poor Law Unions in 1834 (Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834) and Darlaston became part of the Poor Law Union of Walsall. The Walsall Union Workhouse was erected on Pleck Road and Darlaston's poor were sent there.

The Poor Laws were part of an early system of local government where decisions about local matters were taken by the parish ratepayers. Local officers serving the community were also elected at these meetings. In 1838 a Vestry meeting to elect a parish Constable and his assistant the Headborough was so well attended that everyone present had to move from the vestry into the churchyard where the meeting took place. During the proceedings John Howl was elected Constable and John Hughes elected Headborough.

The White Lion as it is today. Meetings of the Local Board were held in the old malthouse at the rear.
In 1846 the old system of Vestry Government was finally abandoned and a Board of Surveyors constituted. The traditional supremacy of the church was not completely ignored, as members of the Board were elected by a show of hands at a Vestry meeting and the town's accounts were also presented there. The members of the Board were as follows:
George Jones - Chairman
David Bowen John Riley
William Carter Samuel Rubery
Charles Green Samuel Smith
Samuel Mills  
George Jones was succeeded as Chairman by Samuel Rubery who in turn was succeeded by Samuel Mills. In 1858 John Harper became the elected Collector of Highway Rates & Secretary of the Board at a salary of five percent of the rates collected, and Joseph Horton became Assistant Surveyor & Inspector of Nuisances & Lodging Houses at a salary of £50. The Board's powers were limited and meetings both infrequent and irregular, the main business usually concerned the condition of roads and buildings. From 1858 to 1869 a Board of Lighting Inspectors was elected to improve the gas street lighting.

In 1869 the Local Government Act of 1858 was adopted and a Local Board formed in preference to the unsatisfactory Board of Surveyors. Twenty members were elected by the ratepayers and the candidates included almost everyone of note in the town. The results of the December 1869 election were as follows:

George Addenbrooke William Marshall
G.B. Butler Richard Mills
A. Carter C. Moore
William Corbett G. Perry
C. Green M. Read
G. Green Samuel Rubery
Job Green James Slater
William Harper Samuel Slater
Enoch Horton E. Wilkes
George Humpage William Winn

The first meeting was held on 15th February, 1870 in the upper room of the old malthouse behind the White Lion in King Street. The following people were elected as officers:

Chairman - Mr. Samuel Rubery; Clerk - Mr. Thomas Brevitt; Medical Officer of Health - Mr. Samuel Partridge.

Mr. Samuel Partridge, Medical Officer of Health.
From Hackwood's "A History of Darlaston", 1887.

By 1870 the population had increased to 14,724 and the high death rate in the area (25.6 per 1,000) gradually reduced over the next few years, falling to 20.84 per 1,000 in 1886. During the smallpox epidemic of 1882 the Local Board rented a large house for use as an isolation hospital.

The members of the Board in 1880 were as follows:

James Slater. Chairman. A solicitor with offices in Walsall Road.
James Belcher. Auctioneer, valuer, surveyor in Pinfold Street
Charles Bishop. Ran a clothes shop in Church Street.
George Blackham. Grocer in Church Street.
William Corbett. Publican - Union Inn, Pinfold Street.
Joseph Cotterel. Developed coal pits, lived in Bell Street.
David Etchells. Factory owner - Bull Piece Works.
Charles Green. Maltster, Church Street.
James Harper.  
Enoch Horton. Ran Horton & Sons, Alma Works. Nuts & Bolts.
George Humpage. Shopkeeper, Catherine's Cross.
Moses Huskins. Builder, lived in Bull Street.
James Rose. J. & R. Rose, Willenhall Street. Made coach bolts.
John Shingleton. Publican, The Green.
William Simkin. Clerk to Slater & Co. solicitors.
John Simpson.  
William Winn. Grocer, wine & spirit merchant. Pinfold Street & Church Street.

The Local Board remained in charge of local affairs until the Local Government Act was Passed in 1894 and as a result Darlaston became an Urban District on 1st January 1895 with an Urban District Council. Councillor Joseph Yardley, J.P. was elected Chairman after serving on the Local Board for 12 years. He was born in Darlaston in 1848 and worked as a brewer.

Councillors and Council Officers in 1901:

Joseph Yardley - Chairman
Vincent J. Magrane - Vice Chairman
David Etchells Richard Reynolds
Charles Foster Samuel P. Robinson
Richard Garrington John Shingleton
James Harper James Slater
William Harrison Nathaniel Thomas
Enoch Horton Samuel Vosper Thomas
Thomas Orton Daniel Tyler
A.H. Partridge George Wiley
James Pritchard William Winn
Joseph Corbett - Clerk
Samuel Partridge - Medical Officer of Health
John Cash Joynson - Surveyor
Joseph Hingley - Sanitary Inspector
Daniel Kimberley - Collector

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