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The Parish Chest
Generally before the nineteenth century the parish was the main level of administration encountered by most people.
The parish looked after everyone “from cradle to grave”
All matters concerning the parish from highways, health, housing were discussed at regular vestry meetings presided over by elected Church Wardens. All parishes also appointed Overseers of the Poor. Individual parishes also elected other officers as they saw fit.
The parish kept minutes of the vestry meetings. Church Wardens kept account books of parish expenditure and Overseers had account books for their expenditure on the poor. Overseers also kept records of apprenticeships arranged for poor children.
Collectively these records were kept in a parish chest and where the contents have been lodged at county record offices they provide an interesting and informative insight into life before the lure of industrial employment took people away from the ancestral roots.