The Rudston Constable’s Book

A house in Rudston was to be cleared and some old books would be burned. Almost by chance one such book was shown to Bro John Walker and he recognised it as a valuable historic document.  It was the Rudston Constable’s Account Book starting in 1829 and gave a remarkable glimpse into village life and how the village worked.

The constable was chosen annually for what was a time consuming but unpaid position, although expenses were paid. The constable had to be a man of means, and able to write and keep accounts. If you refused this onerous position there was a substantial fine to pay.

One duty of the constable was to collect the poor rate which was based on the value of property and paid by the tenant. Poor houses are mentioned as are trips to Bridlington where the poor rate money was deposited at the Burlington Bank in Market Place.

He also collected child maintenance payments from errant fathers. Fathers were encouraged to marry the mothers and sometimes money was paid to a man in another parish to marry an unwed mother and so shift any burden on the poor rate.

There are frequent references to “removing campers” who might otherwise become a charge on the poor rate. There is reference to sustenance given to shipwrecked sailors, apparently a parish duty at that time. The accounts also refer to a bogus claim attempted.

The Rudston enclosure awards of 1777 placed a duty on the parish to keep the Gypsey Race cleaned out in the village. The constable paid people to do this, and also in 1855 he paid an ale allowance for men in the wash dyke. Presumably this was when washing sheep.

In 1855 the constable bought a new lock for the pinfold were stray sheep were corralled at a corner of the church yard.  He bought a pair of handcuffs in 1831. Bricks were bought to repair a bridge.

One regular and quite large payment was for “sparrows”. These birds damaged the crops and had a price on their heads, and no doubt went into sparrow pies.

The constable’s duties often took him to nearby villages and towns. For example he attended the Brewster Sessions at Hunmanby, where the area’s licences for selling alcohol were determined, and to the courts in Bridlington for swearing in and for trials.

Throughout, Bro John’s talk was illustrated with relevant photographs of the village and extracts from the Constable’s Book which is now at the Treasure House in Beverley.

The vote of thanks was given by Judy Wilson.  She was sure everyone enjoyed the talk which was like peeling an onion as layer after layer revealed more and more about village life.