Parish minute book contains 117 years of history

AT a little under 300 pages – many of them yellowing – it looks like the type of a long-forgotten ledger found in the bottom drawer of many an accountant’s office.

But don’t be fooled by the humble cover of the leather-bound Kentmere Parish Minute Book, as this single volume contains 117 years of history.

It is a record of the decisions and discussions of every Kentmere Parish Meeting since its inaugural one in December 1894.

Quite rightly, its first entry refers to the newly-introduced ‘Parish Councils Act,’ when communities were given the right to set up parish councils.

The book records every meet ing since, more than 100 in this case, until it finally ran out of pages in May 2011.

Now it has been handed over to archive experts at Kendal Records Office in County Hall, where it will go in the strong room where the temperature and humidity is carefully monitored to preserve it.

As Pete Eyre, assistant county archivist, explains: “It’s very rare to have so much in one single volume. That’s not to say there aren’t others out there, but I’m not aware of any.”

There are references to perennial parish problems like potholes, plus major events like preparation for the Second World War and how they affected the community, whose population is estimated at just 80.

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In 1940, with fears of air raids by German bombers, an entry under the heading ‘Landing Of Enemy Aircraft,’ refers to a letter from the then South Westmorland Rural District Council.

It sought to establish the number of ‘fields in the parish fit for aircraft landing,’ and outlined how farmers and landowners could foil invasion by interrupting natural landing sites through the strategic deployment of ditches or moving trees and wooden stakes.

Other historic matters include plans for a proposed electricity line to the valley, concerns about smoke pollution and the growing impact of cars on Kentmere’s narrow roads in the early 1980s.

Dr Jackie Bettess, of Brow Head, Kentmere, is a member of the annual meeting. She said: “The fact it has been in existence since the Local Government Act right up until 2011 is impressive and we don’t know of any other record being in use for so long.”

When the book finally ran out, its last entry unspectacularly reports: ‘The meeting closed at 8.30pm,’ although a special presentation was held with then retiring chairman Nicholas Pighills handing it over to archivist Mr Eyre for safekeeping.

It is available for public viewing at Kendal Record Office from 9am to 5pm from Monday to Friday with those who have never used the archive before asked to take identification.

Digital copies of the entries can be viewed online at www. kentmere.org.

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