Skip to main navigation
Skip to main content
Weaver to web

Source material: Constables' accounts

From medieval times until the mid 19th century the appointment of local constables was technically a manorial responsibility, though constables were sometimes chosen by the parish and sworn in by the county justices of the peace. An act of 1603 authorised constables to levy a rate of their own and, as a result of this legislation, in the years leading up to the Civil War, some parish constables began to keep accounts of their expenditure for the annual scrutiny of the manor court or county justices.


Many of the early account books have not survived, and so Halifax is fortunate in that one of its out-townships, Sowerby, has a continuous run of constables' accounts from 1629 down to 1867, which must be amongst the most complete in the whole region of West Yorkshire. selected extracts from the original documents are available in print for the whole of this period.


The primary duty of the constable was to keep watch and ward in the township. He also had to provide and maintain the parish butts (for archery), and take charge of the parish armour. The parish stocks, whipping post and pillory were also under his supervision, and he also had to arrest vagrants, pursue criminals and raise the militia. His accounts present an incredibly detailed picture of township affairs in the Halifax area for a significant period of time, and the entries reveal the diverse and onerous responsibilities of one of the community's more lowly officials.

back to source materials