Municipal borough

Municipal boroughs were a type of local government district which existed in England and Wales between 1835 and 1974, in Northern Ireland from 1840 to 1973 and in the Republic of Ireland from 1840 to 2002. Broadly similar structures existed in Scotland from 1833 to 1975 with the reform of royal burghs and creation of police burghs.

Municipal borough
CategoryLocal government district
LocationEngland and Wales, Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland
Found inAdministrative county
Created byMunicipal Corporations Act 1835 (England and Wales)
Municipal Corporations (Ireland) Act 1840 (Ireland)
Abolished byLocal Government Act 1972 (England and Wales)
Local Government (Boundaries) Act (Northern Ireland) 1971 (Northern Ireland)
Local Government Act 2001 (Republic of Ireland)
Abolished1974 (England and Wales)
1973 (Northern Ireland)
2002 (Republic of Ireland)
Possible typesCounty borough
Non-county borough
Possible statusCity
Royal borough
GovernmentMunicipal corporation

England and Wales

Municipal Corporations Act 1835

Boroughs had existed in England and Wales since mediæval times. By the late Middle Ages they had come under royal control, with corporations established by royal charter. These corporations were not popularly elected: characteristically they were self-selecting oligarchies, were nominated by tradesmen's guilds or were under the control of the lord of the manor. A Royal Commission was appointed in 1833 to investigate the various borough corporations in England and Wales. In all 263 towns were found to have some form of corporation created by charter or in existence by prescription. The majority had self-elected common councils, whose members served for life. Where there was an election, the incumbent members of the corporation often effectively nominated the electorate. Eleven boroughs were manorial court leets.[1] Following the report of the royal commission, legislation was introduced to reform borough corporations.

The Municipal Corporations Act 1835 provided for a reformed form of town government, designated a municipal borough. The Act introduced a uniform system of town government in municipal boroughs, with an elected town council, consisting of a mayor, aldermen and councillors to oversee many local affairs. The legislation required all municipal corporations to be elected according to a standard franchise, based on property ownership. The Act reformed 178 boroughs. At the same time, a procedure was established whereby the inhabitant householders of a town could petition the Crown via the privy council to grant a charter of incorporation, constituting the area a municipal borough.[2] The attempts to incorporate large industrial towns such as Birmingham, Bolton, Manchester and Sheffield by Whig and Radical "incorporationists" were bitterly contested by Tory "anti-incorporationists".[3] The Tory objections to the legality of the charters led to them boycotting elections to the new boroughs until the enactment of the Borough Charters Confirmation Act 1842.[4]

A number of further acts of parliament amended the 1835 legislation. All of these were repealed and replaced by the Municipal Corporations Act 1882. The 1882 Act and the consolidating Local Government Act 1933 provided the statutory basis for municipal boroughs up to their abolition. An important change in the 1933 legislation removed the right to petition for incorporation from inhabitant householders. In future, petitions could only be made by existing urban or rural district councils.[5]

The boroughs unreformed by the Act were not immediately abolished. Several of them subsequently sought new charters as municipal boroughs; those that did not were finally abolished in 1887 by the Municipal Corporations Act 1886. Only the City of London Corporation survived as a local authority in an unreformed state; the City undertook a major reform of its democratic structure in 2005.

In 1873 the Association of Municipal Corporations was formed to represent the interests of the boroughs collectively; its membership included both county and non-county boroughs. The AMC was later to be a strong advocate for expanding county boroughs and unitary local government, and it was to the annual conference of the AMC in 1965 that Richard Crossman called for a reform of all local government. This speech eventually led to the Redcliffe-Maud Report recommending large unitary councils for all England.[6]

Corporation and council

Each municipal borough possessed a corporation uniformly designated as the Mayor, Aldermen, and Burgesses of the town. The only exception was where the borough enjoyed city status; in this case "burgesses" became "citizens". In a handful of cities the chief magistrate was granted the further dignity of lord mayor.

The corporation was a body corporate with perpetual succession, and included all registered electors or "burgesses" of the borough. However, the actual administration was carried out by a town council, which was in effect a committee representative of the community at large. All those eligible to vote were entered in the "burgess roll", which was compiled by the town clerk annually.[7]

Town councils

The town council of each municipal borough consisted of a mayor, aldermen and councillors. The councillors were directly elected by the burgesses for a three-year term, with one third of their membership retiring each year. Boroughs with a population of more than 6,000 were divided into wards with separate elections held in each ward annually.[8] One quarter of the council were aldermen, who were elected by the council for a six-year term. Half of the aldermen were elected every third year at the council's annual meeting. It was originally envisaged that the council would choose persons from outside of the municipal body. In practice, however, the aldermanic benches were almost exclusively filled by the promotion of long-serving councillors.[7] The mayor of the borough was elected for a one-year term, although he was eligible for re-election indefinitely. Under the original legislation the mayor was required to be a councillor or alderman. The Municipal Corporations Act 1882 empowered the council to elect any suitably qualified inhabitant of the borough as mayor. However, the mayoralty continued to be almost universally conferred on a senior alderman or councillor.[7]

Municipal elections were originally held on 1 November, with the mayoral election and filling of aldermanic vacancies on 9 November . Elections were cancelled during the First and Second World Wars, and the November 1948 elections were postponed until May 1949. From that date municipal elections were held on the second Thursday of May.[9] In view of the forthcoming local government reorganisation, the 1972 elections were rescheduled to 4 May, with no elections in 1973 and all sitting councillors and aldermen holding their seats until midnight on 31 March 1974.[10]

County and non-county boroughs

In 1889, the Local Government Act 1888 created county councils across England and Wales. Boroughs were divided into two sorts, with some becoming county boroughs which were entirely self-governing and independent from county council administration.

The non-county boroughs had more limited powers of self-government, and shared power with county councils. In 1894, towns which had not been incorporated as boroughs became urban districts with similar powers to municipal boroughs.

The title of 'borough' was considered to be more dignified than 'urban district', and so many larger urban districts petitioned to be granted the status of a municipal borough, and many were granted this right. Borough status did not substantially increase local government powers, although municipal boroughs above a certain size had the right to run primary education.


Under the Local Government Act 1958, small municipal boroughs could be absorbed by surrounding rural districts to become rural boroughs, with the powers of a parish council. Seven small boroughs in Cornwall, Devon and Shropshire underwent this process.

The remaining municipal boroughs, of which there were over 200, were abolished on 1 April 1974 by the Local Government Act 1972. In England, they were replaced by metropolitan or non-metropolitan districts and in Wales by districts.

In most cases the civic privileges and coat of arms of the abolished boroughs were inherited by one of the new local authorities. District councils were permitted to apply for a charter to receive borough status, while small municipal boroughs became successor parishes with town councils headed by a town mayor. In a few cases charter trustees, a special committee of district councillors, were formed to perpetuate the mayoralty of a town or city.

Ireland 1840–1922

The Municipal Corporations (Ireland) Act 1840 followed the example of the legislation in England and Wales. Unlike the 1835 Act, the Irish Act abolished nearly all of the country's boroughs, reforming just 10. Inhabitants of the larger of the abolished boroughs or of any town with a population of 3,000 could petition the crown for incorporation under the Act. In the event, only one additional borough was created when Wexford received a charter of incorporation in 1846.[11] The corporation and town council was identical in constitution to the English boroughs, and each borough was divided into wards with three, six or nine councillors per ward and one alderman for every three councillors.[12]

The Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898 designated the six largest municipalities (Belfast, Cork, Dublin, Limerick, Derry and Waterford) as county boroughs. The Local Government (Ireland) Act 1919 introduced a system of proportional representation into municipal elections. Wards were replaced by electoral areas, and the entire council was to be elected triennially. Separate elections of aldermen and councillors were ended, with all members of the council elected by popular vote. One quarter of the elected members were entitled to the title of "alderman", which was used to designate the first candidates elected in each area. The remaining successful candidates being "councillors".[13]

On partition in 1922, two boroughs were included in Northern Ireland, and nine in the Irish Free State.

Northern Ireland

On establishment, Northern Ireland contained only the county boroughs of Belfast and Londonderry. The Parliament of Northern Ireland abolished proportional representation in local government elections in 1922, and amended the 1840 Act in 1926, allowing urban districts to petition the Governor for a charter of incorporation.[14][15] Accordingly, by 1972 the number of boroughs had increased to 12 in number.

The system of local government was reorganised in 1973, with 26 local government districts replacing all county and municipal boroughs as well as urban and rural districts. The city or borough status conferred by the municipal charters passed to the new district councils.[16]

Irish Free State and the Republic of Ireland

Nine boroughs (four county boroughs and five municipal boroughs) were included in the territory of the Irish Free State in 1922. Two new boroughs were created by statute. In 1930, the borough of Dún Laoghaire was created by the amalgamation of the four urban districts of Blackrock, Dalkey, Dún Laoghaire, and Killiney and Ballybrack in County Dublin.[17] This borough was later abolished under the Local Government (Dublin) Act, 1993.[18] In 1937 the town of Galway was reconstituted as a municipal borough.[19]

The Local Government Act 2001 abolished municipal boroughs. County boroughs were replaced by statutory "cities", while the title of "borough" was retained for the other towns holding the status.[20]

See also


  1. ^ Joseph Fletcher, Statistics of the Municipal Institutions of the English Towns in Journal of the Statistical Society of London, Vol. 5, No. 2, (Jul., 1842), pp. 97-168
  2. ^ Municipal Corporations Act 1835 (C.76) S.141
  3. ^ Nicholas C Edsall, Varieties of Radicalism: Attwood, Cobden and the Local Politics of Municipal Incorporation, in The Historical Journal, Vol. 16, No. 1, (March 1973), pp. 93-107
  4. ^ 1842 C.111
  5. ^ Local Government Act 1933 (C.51), S.129
  6. ^ Bruce Wood, "The Process of Local Government Reform 1966-74", George Allen & Unwin, 1976, p. 19.
  7. ^ a b c Albert Shaw, Municipal Government in Great Britain, in Political Science Quarterly, Vol4, No.2, June 1889, pp. 197-229
  8. ^ G B A M Finlayson, The Politics of Municipal Reform, 1835, in The English Historical Review, Vol.81, No.321, (October 1966), pp.673-692
  9. ^ The Municipal Elections, The Times, 13 May 1949 p.3
  10. ^ The Times, 5 May 1972
  11. ^ "History of Borough Council". Wexford Borough Council. Archived from the original on 19 November 2007. Retrieved 14 July 2008.
  12. ^ Municipal Corporations (Ireland) Act 1840 C.108
  13. ^ Local Government (Ireland) Act 1919 C.19
  14. ^ Review of Legislation 1922, Journal of Comparative Legislation and International Law, Third Series, Vol. 6, No. 3 (1924)
  15. ^ Municipal Corporations Act (Northern Ireland) 1926
  16. ^ Local Government (Northern Ireland) Act 1972 (N.I. 1972 c.9)
  17. ^ "Local Government (Dublin) Act, 1930". Irish Statute Book. Office of the Attorney General. Retrieved 14 July 2008.
  18. ^ "Local Government (Dublin) Act, 1993". Irish Statute Book. Office of the Attorney General. Retrieved 5 August 2016.
  19. ^ "Local Government (Galway) Act, 1937". Irish Statute Book. Office of the Attorney General. Retrieved 14 July 2008.
  20. ^ "Local Government Act, 2001". Irish Statute Book. Office of the Attorney General. Retrieved 14 July 2008.
1945 Preston Municipal Borough Council election

Elections to Preston Municipal Borough council were held in November 1945.

1946 Preston Municipal Borough Council election

Elections to Preston Municipal Borough council were held in late 1946.

1947 Preston Municipal Borough Council election

Elections to Preston Municipal Borough council were held in late 1947.

1949 Preston Municipal Borough Council election

Elections to the Preston Municipal Borough Council were held in late 1949.

1950 Preston Municipal Borough Council election

Elections to the Preston Municipal Borough Council were held in late 1950.


Appleby-in-Westmorland is a market village and civil parish in the Eden district, in the administrative county of Cumbria, in North West England. It is situated within a loop of the River Eden. In 2011 the parish had a population of 3,048. It is in the historic county of Westmorland, of which it is the traditional county town.

The town's name was simply Appleby, until the local government changes of 1974. When a successor parish was formed for the former borough of Appleby, the council effected a change in the town's name, to preserve the historic county's name.

Borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme

The Borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme is a local government district with borough status in Staffordshire, England.

It is named after its main settlement, Newcastle-under-Lyme, where the council is based, but includes the town of Kidsgrove, the villages of Silverdale and Keele, and the rural area surrounding Audley. Most of the borough is part of The Potteries Urban Area.

Civil parishes in Cornwall

A civil parish is a country subdivision, forming the lowest unit of local government in England. There are 218 civil parishes in the ceremonial county of Cornwall (Cornish: Kernow), which includes the Isles of Scilly. The county is effectively parished in its entirety; only the unpopulated Wolf Rock is unparished. At the 2001 census, there were 501,267 people living in the current parishes, accounting for the whole of the county's population. The final unparished areas of mainland Cornwall, around St Austell, were parished on 1 April 2009 to coincide with the structural changes to local government in England.

Population sizes within the county vary considerably, Falmouth is the most populous with a population of 25,223, recorded in 2001, and St Michael's Mount the least with 29 residents. The county is governed by two separate unitary authorities; Cornwall Council covers mainland Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly are administered by their own unitary authority.

Durham and Framwelgate

Durham and Framwelgate was a municipal borough with the status of city in County Durham, England.

The corporation of the ancient borough of Durham and Framwelgate was reformed by the Municipal Corporations Act 1835.The borough was abolished in 1974 by the Local Government Act 1972. Its former area was merged with Brandon and Byshottles Urban District and Durham Rural District, to become the new City of Durham non-metropolitan district.

List of civil parishes in Dorset

This is a list of civil parishes in the ceremonial county of Dorset, England.

List of civil parishes in Kent

This is a list of civil parishes in the ceremonial county of Kent, England.

Municipal Borough of Aylesbury

Aylesbury was, from 1894 to 1974, a local government district in Buckinghamshire, England. It was incorporated as a municipal borough in 1917.

The urban district took over the responsibilities of the disbanded Aylesbury Local Board District. The district contained the whole of the town and civil parish of Aylesbury. In 1917 the town was granted municipal borough status under the Municipal Corporations Act 1882.

In 1974, under the Local Government Act 1972 the municipal borough was abolished and replaced by the Aylesbury Vale district.

Municipal Borough of Barking

Barking was a local government district, and later civil parish and borough, in southwest Essex, England from 1882 to 1965. It was known as Barking Town from 1882 to 1931. The district included the town of Barking, eastern Beckton and the southwestern part of the Becontree estate. The district was within the Metropolitan Police District and experienced a steady increase in population during its existence. It now forms the western part of the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham and the eastern extremity of the London Borough of Newham in Greater London.

Municipal Borough of Bexley

Bexley was a local government district in north west Kent from 1879 to 1965 around the town of Old Bexley.

Municipal Borough of Hendon

Hendon was an ancient civil parish of around 8,250 acres (33 km2) which included Mill Hill on the border of Hertfordshire, as well as Golders Green and Childs Hill on the border of what became the County of London. In 1894 it was created an urban district of Middlesex and in 1932 it became a municipal borough. The municipal borough was abolished in 1965 and the area became part of the London Borough of Barnet.

Municipal Borough of Kingston-upon-Thames

Kingston-upon-Thames (spelt with hyphens) was a local government district in north east Surrey, England from 1835 to 1965 around the town now known as Kingston upon Thames. It was alternatively known as Kingston on Thames (spelt with or without hyphens). It was a municipal borough and also held the rarer status of Royal borough. The district was abolished in 1965 and was replaced with the larger London Borough of Kingston upon Thames in Greater London, with the Royal borough status passed to the new district.

Municipal Borough of Wallingford

The Municipal Borough of Wallingford was an administrative district based on the town of Wallingford, historically in Berkshire, now in administrative Oxfordshire, in southern in England, established in 1834 and disbanded in 1974, when it became part of South Oxfordshire. The municipal borough, administered by Wallingford Borough Council, was based on the ancient borough of Wallingford, which itself centred on Wallingford’s burh. Wallingford was established as a borough by the time of the Domesday book. Municipal records begin with burghmote rolls in 1232 and gild records in 1227, and the first mayor is recorded for 1231. The borough was given parliamentary representation as a parliamentary borough in 1295, which continued until 1885. Mayor of Wallingford remains a title associated with Wallingford Town Council.

Rowley Regis

Rowley Regis ( ROH-lee REE-jis) is a town and historic parish as well as a former municipal borough, in the Black Country region of the West Midlands, England. Considered one of the six 'towns' that comprise the modern-day Sandwell Metropolitan Borough, it encompasses the wards of Blackheath, Cradley Heath and Old Hill, and Rowley Village. At the 2011 census, the combined population of Rowley Regis was 50,257.

Successor parish

Successor parishes are civil parishes with a parish council created by the Local Government Act 1972 in England. They replaced, with the same boundaries, a selected group of urban districts and municipal boroughs that were abolished in 1974. Most successor parish councils exercised the right to call themselves towns. A total of 300 successor parishes were formed from the former area of 78 municipal boroughs and 221 urban districts. Civil parishes are not permitted to cross district or county boundaries and where the creation of a successor parish would cause this to happen, only part of the former area became a parish or two parishes were formed.

Municipal borough
Ancient borough

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