A question often asked is what is the difference between a Town Council and a Parish Council - such as there are, for example, in Aldenham, Shenley and Ridge. The simple answer is that there are no real differences, except that a Town Council usually exists in a more urban area and has a Town Mayor
Under the Local Government Act 1972, this Authority took the opportunity to rename itself Elstree Town Council, instead of Elstree Parish Council, in recognition of the growth of the area - a few years later it added Borehamwood to its name in order to define more clearly the area it served.
The Council originally came into being in 1894 and held its first meeting at the National School Elstree on 31 December that year. Mr Kekwich was appointed the first Chairman, and Mr Miller accepted the position of the Clerk to the Council ‘without remuneration’.
At its second meeting on 7 January 1895, Elstree Parish Council set about tackling the issues of the day by looking to matters of street lighting, allotments, roads and Council finances, and sent a letter to Hertfordshire County Council asking for an inquiry into the boundaries of Elstree Village which were considered to be an ‘anomalous state of affairs’. A further attempt to have all of Elstree village included in the Civic Parish was made in 1896 but failed. It was finally achieved 97 years later on 1 April 1993!
As one would expect, much of the Council’s early history was fairly uneventful! In the first years the Parish consisted of little more than Elstree village, Theobald Street hamlet, some buildings and roads off Shenley Road, and a number of farms - and it remained a basically rural area until after the Second World War.
In 1910 the Council handed over four acres of allotment land for the building of Furzehill School, and the plot-holders were awarded £1 each in compensation. The Council then purchased another four acres for £300.00 for allotment land, and a further 7 acres in 1924, just off Furzehill Road, for the sum of £157.1s.4d
Nearly 50 years later part of that land was sold for £115,000 of which the Town Council donated £100,000 towards the building of the old Civic Hall entertainment centre.
By 1919 you could have rented a pigsty on the allotments for eight shillings a year, or have attended a tenants’ social evening to which you were entitled ‘to bring one lady’. By the late 1920s, while Al Capone was terrorising Chicago, Council record books show that Borehamwood was unable to escape the evil of crime. In 1929, Mr King, the fishmonger, was caught burying his fish on the allotments and was warned off. But the records show that he was still at it in 1934! However, this fishy business was to be overshadowed in February 1935, when the gentleman renting allotment plot number 156 accused the holder of plot 141 of stealing two savoy cabbages. Inspector Morris from Hendon made several visits, and a special Council committee meeting was called to discuss this very serious matter.
In 1937, Laings informed the Council that they had purchased several hundred acres in Borehamwood and intended building a ‘garden city’ estate, starting with the construction of 17 roads. Many houses were built but the scheme was abandoned with the outbreak of war. The post-war building programmes, however, altered the Parish forever. Nonetheless, Elstree Parish Council remained responsible for the Town’s street lighting until the 1960’s.
The Parish has continued to change and expand rapidly, especially since the 1960’s. Housing estates have grown up where farmland once prevailed, and new industries have taken over a town once dominated by the ‘British Hollywood’
Older residents can remember land selling for £100 an acre, and a three-bedroomed semi selling for £400. Today that same land fetches £1,000,000 an acre and the house could cost from £200,000 upwards.
Some residents may regret many of the changes, others welcome the prosperity they have brought, but as the ‘grass roots’ authority, the Town Council’s role is to keep in touch with local people’s feelings, to maintain a community feeling and, when possible, to provide services where a need is identified.
During the past 100 plus years the Town Council has often inspired periods of long service from both its employees and its elected Members, resulting in a wealth of local knowledge and experience.
The second Clerk of the Council T E Eames, served in that capacity from 1898 to 1939, and his successor until 1962. Sir Percy Everett, famous for his work with the Scout Movement, served as a Member of the Council for 40 years. His daughter, Dr Wynne Everett, besides being the local GP in Elstree from 1931 to 1980 served on the Council for a number of years in the 1940’s and 1950’s, including a period as Chairman.
A survey in 1991 revealed that there were 8159 Town and Parish Councils with 70,000 Councillors representing an estimated 14,000,000 people. Whilst most of these councils are at least 100 years old, new councils continue to be formed.
The future would appear to indicate a greater role for Parish and Town Councils as they prove to be an effective and efficient form of Local Government.