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Springfield, it offers a personal account of relevance to anyone with Huguenot ancestry. The annual Black History Month each October sees a range of exhibitions and features in archive centres and museums across the region. All the oral history, sound and photographic archives in the region include contributions relating to twentieth-century immigration. One such is the Springfield map Voices project, which includes oral histories from first-generation immigrants from the Caribbean describing their heritage and being accepted into new communities. Local government records provide fascinating insights into all aspects of the lives of our ancestors. These range from how local government worked, to the way in which issues of law and order, poverty, health and social care were dealt with in local areas. The evolution of local government has been gradual, with a certain amount of overlap between organizations responsible for different aspects until the late nineteenth century.

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Until 1889 much local government administration was undertaken by unelected Justices of the Peace in the Court of the Quarter Sessions and parish officials. JPs dealt with criminal acts, disputes and the regulation of lands, commons and grazing. They also regulated markets, weights and measures, the sale of bread and ale, as well as the maintenance of roads, bridges, fences, ditches and waterways. Other responsibilities were the granting of licences to public houses, collecting taxes and poor rates and the administration of gaols, lunatic asylums, the county militia and police. Although Acts of Parliament in the 1830s and 1840s extended the role of local government and made it clearer what responsibilities each local body had, parishes were still the main basis of local government in villages. As a result, records of local poor relief, rates, road upkeep and so on can also be found among the parish records of the Anglican church. Cities and towns such as Cambridge, Ely, Chelmsford, Colchester, Bury St Edmunds, Ipswich, King’s Lynn and Norwich had their own powers to govern, enact laws and keep records, often dating back to medieval times.

Royal charters and other charters gave them, and other boroughs, the right to collect tolls and dues, thereby encouraging the rise of craft guilds. Records of these guilds, apprentices, freemen, market stallholders, mayors and corporations frequently survive (see the section on Apprentices and Freemen in the Introduction). Boroughs and corporations have also existed in some towns, especially market towns, since medieval times. The survival of borough, corporation and parish records relating to government of local affairs is variable, but the majority of those that do exist can now be found in local record offices. These include many of the records and themes referred to throughout this book, such as poor law and workhouse administration, criminal records, parish apprenticeships, lists of local property owners, local charities, maintenance of highways and the collection of rates towards the money distributed. The Great Reform Act of 1832 heralded the development of modern government in England. This abolished rotten boroughs, enfranchised the growing industrial towns as Parliamentary boroughs, increased the proportion of men eligible to vote and ended corrupt practices in Parliament.

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