Countdown to the Charter
Wrexham’s response to the Board of Health report was quick.
There were broadly three groups:
- The reactionaries - opponents of any change
- The Improvement Committee – they were keen to improve the town, but felt a Local Board of Health would cost too much and be an arm of central government in London.
- The Sanitary Committee – they supported the creation of a Local Board of Health to solve the town’s social problems.
A public meeting at the Town Hall on 31st May 1850 backed the status quo. The meeting called on the Surveyors of Highways to levy an annual rate to improve sanitation in the town. The Surveyors levied the rate, only to discover they had no power to spend the money on sewerage and water supplies.
The Improvement Committee then took the initiative. In 1851 they presented a bill in parliament to establish the Wrexham Improvement Commission. This bill was opposed by both the Sanitary Committee and the reactionaries. Petitions were sent to Parliament appealing to MPs and peers to vote down the bill. The bill was defeated. Meanwhile Wrexham’s problems worsened.
In 1856, the Improvement Committee and the Sanitary Committee, by now reconciled, decided to petition the Privy Council for a Charter of Incorporation for Wrexham.
At the Inquiry in the Town Hall in early 1857, Thomas Edgworth, local solicitor and leading reformer, listed the many reasons Wrexham needed its own government: to improve the low moral and sanitary conditions in the town, to improve the roads, and maintain law and order. The local gentry sent their lawyers to ensure that their estates would remain outside the boundaries of the new borough.
In May 1857 news reached the town that Wrexham would have its own borough council with 12 councillors and 4 aldermen. There was huge excitement surrounding the first elections in November 1857. A list was drawn up, and posted outside the Town Hall, of all those entitled to vote. Thomas Edgworth topped the poll and was chosen to be Wrexham’s first mayor.
The Councillors appointed John James as Town Clerk, John Jones as Town Crier, and David Higgins as Sergeant at Mace and as Inspector of Nuisances & Common Lodging Houses. There was much work for them to do.
We urged the Ratepayers to be awake, to be vigilant and on their guard. Let them be aware of certain 'hole and corner' meetings held for the purpose of hatching some notable project – nothing less than the Incorporation of this Town… We have now the pleasure of congratulating our fellow townsmen the said project has been strangled at birth, never again we hope to be conceived.
We fear that for sometime to come the town of Wrexham is condemned to remain in that filthy and unhealthy state in which it cannot be denied to be in, and a disgrace to its inhabitants.
The principal benefit to be derived from a Charter will be that the town will have a recognised head to direct its affairs and in this will be an advantage of no ordinary magnitude.