Poor Law Act and Local Administration.
In the Middle Ages community life was organised by and centred round the function of the manor, but as the population grew this method of national control was rather restrictive. The Tudor monarchs in wishing to assert more central power, chose a uniform feature that was present throughout the country; that of the parish.
In this, the Annual Vestry would elect Churchwardens each year, who with Overseers of the Poor, Highway surveyors, and a constable to keep the peace, was to be the basic unit of local government for the next 300 years.
The immediate local crown law enforcer was the Justice of the Peace. He could monitor the functions of the Churchwardens and Overseers, but he was more directly concerned with Law and Order and the operation of the local constable, together with the Highways Surveyor who dealt with the condition of roads that through traffic and trade relied upon.
An Act of Parliament in 1572 established rates as a means of raising money for the relief of the poor. From that date, and with other various Acts being pronounced, these elected officers had various tasks to perform that included:-