In England, a civil parish is a territorial designation which is the
lowest tier of local government below districts and counties, or their
combined form, the unitary authority. It is an administrative parish,
in contrast to an ecclesiastical parish.
A civil parish can range in size from a large town with a population
of about 80,000 to a single village with fewer than a hundred
inhabitants. In a limited number of cases a parish might include a
whole city where city status has been granted by the Monarch.
Reflecting this diverse nature, a civil parish may be known as a town,
village, neighbourhood or community by resolution of its parish
council. Approximately 35% of the English population live in a civil
parish. As of 31 December 2015 there were 10,449 parishes in
On 1 April 2014, Queen's Park became the first civil parish in Greater
London. Before 2008 their creation was not permitted within a
1.1 Ancient origins
1.2 Civil and ecclesiastical split
2.1 Powers and functions
2.2 Councillors and elections
2.3 Status and styles
2.4 Charter trustees
3.2 Deserted parishes
3.3 Exclaves and divided parishes
4 See also
6 External links
The division of land into ancient parishes was linked to the manorial
system: parishes and manors often covered the same area and had the
same boundaries. The manor was the principal unit of local
administration and justice in the early rural economy. Later the
church replaced the manor court as the rural administrative centre,
and levied a local tax on produce known as a tithe. In the medieval
period, responsibilities such as relief of the poor passed
increasingly from the Lord of the
Manor to the parish's rector, who in
practice would delegate tasks among his vestry or the (often
well-endowed) monasteries. After the dissolution of the monasteries,
the power to levy a rate to fund relief of the poor was conferred on
the parish authorities by the Act for the Relief of the Poor 1601.
Both before and after this optional social change, local
(vestry-administered) charities are well-documented.
The parish authorities were known as vestries and consisted of all the
ratepayers of the parish. As the number of ratepayers of some parishes
grew, it became increasingly difficult to convene meetings as an open
vestry. In some, mostly built up, areas the select vestry took over
responsibility from the entire body of ratepayers. This innovation
improved efficiency, but allowed governance by a self-perpetuating
elite. The administration of the parish system relied on the
monopoly of the established English Church, which for a few years
after Henry VIII alternated between the Roman Catholic Church and the
Church of England, before settling on the latter on the accession of
Elizabeth I in 1558. By the 18th century, religious membership was
becoming more fractured in some places, due for instance to the
progress of Methodism. The legitimacy of the parish vestry came into
question and the perceived inefficiency and corruption inherent in the
system became a source for concern in some places. For this reason,
during the early 19th century the parish progressively lost its powers
to ad hoc boards and other organisations, for example the loss of
responsibility for poor relief through the Poor Law Amendment Act
1834. Sanitary districts covered
England in 1875 and Ireland three
years later. The replacement boards were each entitled to levy their
own rate in the parish. The church rate ceased to be levied in many
parishes and became voluntary from 1868.
Civil and ecclesiastical split
The ancient parishes diverged into two distinct systems of parishes
during the 19th century. The Poor Law Amendment Act 1866 declared all
areas that levied a separate rate, including extra-parochial areas,
townships, and chapelries, to be "civil parishes". The Church of
England parishes, which together covered the whole of England, became
officially termed "ecclesiastical parishes", and after 1921 each was
the responsibility of a local parochial church council.
In the late 19th century, most of the ancient irregularities inherited
by the civil parish system were cleaned up, and the majority of
exclaves were abolished. The United Kingdom Census 1911 noted that
8,322 (58%) of parishes in
England and Wales were not identical for
civil and ecclesiastical purposes.
In 1894 civil parishes were reformed by the Local Government Act 1894
to become the smallest geographical area for local government in rural
areas. The Act abolished the civil duties of vestries, set up urban
districts and rural districts, established elected civil parish
councils in all rural parishes with more than 300 electors, and
established annual parish meetings in all rural parishes, whatever
their population. Civil parishes were grouped into rural districts.
Boundaries were altered to avoid parishes being split between
Urban civil parishes continued to exist; however they were generally
coterminous (geographically identical) with the urban district or
municipal borough in which they lay, which took over almost all of
their functions. Large towns which had previously been split between
civil parishes were, for the most part, eventually consolidated into
one parish. No parish councils were formed for urban parishes, and
their only function was electing guardians to the poor law unions.
Many of these would include areas in more than one district. With the
abolition of the Poor Law system in 1930, such urban parishes had
virtually no function.
In 1965 civil parishes in
London were formally abolished when Greater
London was created, as the legislative framework for Greater London
did not make provision for any local government body below a London
borough. (Since all of
London was previously part of a metropolitan
borough, municipal borough or urban district, no actual parish
councils were abolished.)
In 1974 the
Local Government Act 1972
Local Government Act 1972 retained civil parishes in rural
areas and low-population urban districts, but abolished them in larger
urban districts, especially boroughs. In non-metropolitan counties,
smaller urban districts and municipal boroughs were abolished and
succeeded by establishment of new successor parishes, with a boundary
coterminous with an existing urban district or borough, or if divided
by a district boundary as much as was comprised in a single district.
In urban areas that were considered too large to be single parishes,
the parishes were simply abolished, and they became unparished areas.
The Act, however, permitted sub-division of all districts (apart from
London boroughs, reformed in 1965) into civil parishes. For example,
Oxford, whilst entirely unparished in 1974, now has four civil
parishes, which together cover part of its area.
Nowadays the creation of town and parish councils is encouraged in
unparished areas. The
Local Government and Rating Act 1997 created a
procedure which gave residents in unparished areas the right to demand
that a new parish and parish council be created. This right was
London boroughs by the Local Government and Public
Involvement in Health Act 2007 – with this, the City of
at present the only part of
England where civil parishes cannot be
If enough electors in the area of a proposed new parish (ranging from
50% in an area with less than 500 electors to 10% in one with more
than 2,500) sign a petition demanding its creation, then the local
district council or unitary authority must consider the proposal.
Recently established parish councils include
Folkestone (2004), and
Brixham (2007). In 2003 seven new parish
councils were set up for Burton upon Trent, and in 2001 the Milton
Keynes urban area became entirely parished, with ten new parishes
being created. In 2003, the village of
Great Coates (Grimsby) regained
parish status. Parishes can also be abolished where there is evidence
that this in response to "justified, clear and sustained local
support" from the area's inhabitants. Examples are Birtley, which
was abolished in 2006, and Southsea, abolished in 2010.
Parish councils in England
Every civil parish has a parish meeting, which all the electors of the
parish are entitled to attend. Generally a meeting is held once a
year. A civil parish may have a parish council which exercises various
local responsibilities prescribed by statute. Parishes with fewer than
200 electors are usually deemed too small to have a parish council,
and instead will only have a parish meeting: an example of direct
democracy. Alternatively several small parishes can be grouped
together and share a common parish council, or even a common parish
meeting. In places where there is no civil parish (unparished areas),
the administration of the activities normally undertaken by the parish
becomes the responsibility of the district or borough council.
According to the Department for Communities and Local Government, in
England in 2011 there were 9,946 parishes. Since 1997 around 100
new civil parishes have been created, in some cases by splitting
existing civil parishes, but mostly by creating new ones from
Powers and functions
Typical activities undertaken by parish or town councils include:
The provision and upkeep of certain local facilities such as
allotments, bus shelters, parks, playgrounds, public seats, public
toilets, public clocks, street lights, village or town halls, and
various leisure and recreation facilities.
Maintenance of footpaths, cemeteries, village greens and war
Since 1997 parish councils have had new powers to provide community
transport (such as a minibus) and crime prevention measures (such as
CCTV) and to contribute money towards traffic calming schemes.
Parish councils are supposed to act as a channel of local opinion to
larger local government bodies, and as such have the right to be
consulted on any planning decisions affecting the parish.
Giving of grants to local voluntary organisations, and sponsoring
public events, including entering Britain in Bloom.
The role played by parish councils varies. Smaller parish councils
have only limited resources and generally play only a minor role,
while some larger parish councils have a role similar to that of a
small district council.
Parish councils receive funding by levying a
"precept" on the council tax paid by the residents of the parish.
Councillors and elections
Parish councils comprise volunteer councillors who are elected to
serve for four years. Decisions of the council are carried out by a
paid officer, typically known as a parish clerk. Councils may employ
additional people (including bodies corporate, provided where
necessary, by tender) to carry out specific tasks dictated by the
council. Some councils have chosen to pay their elected members an
allowance, as permitted under part 5 of the Local Authorities
(Members' Allowances) (England) Regulations 2003.
The number of councillors varies roughly in proportion to the
population of the parish. Most rural parish
councillors are elected to represent the entire parish, though in
parishes with larger populations or those that cover larger areas, the
parish can be divided into wards. Each of these wards then returns
councillors to the parish council (the numbers depending on their
population). Only if there are more candidates standing for election
than there are seats on the council will an election be held. However,
sometimes there are fewer candidates than seats. When this happens,
the vacant seats have to be filled by co-option by the council. If a
vacancy arises for a seat mid-term, an election is only held if a
certain number (usually ten) of parish residents request an election.
Otherwise the council will co-opt someone to be the replacement
Localism Act 2011
Localism Act 2011 introduced new arrangements which replaced the
'Standards Board regime' with local monitoring by district, unitary or
equivalent authorities. Under new regulations which came into effect
in 2012 all parish councils in
England are required to adopt a code of
conduct with which parish councillors must comply, and to promote and
maintain high standards. A new criminal offence of failing to comply
with statutory requirements was introduced. More than one 'model code'
has been published, and councils are free to modify an existing code
or adopt a new code. In either case the code must comply with the
Nolan Principles of Public Life.
Status and styles
A parish can gain city status but only if that is granted by the
Crown. In England, there are currently eight parishes with city
status, all places with long-established Anglican cathedrals:
Chichester, Ely, Hereford, Lichfield, Ripon, Salisbury,
The council of an ungrouped parish may unilaterally pass a resolution
giving the parish the status of a town. The parish council becomes
a "town council". Around 400 parish councils are called town
Under the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007,
a civil parish may now be given an "alternative style" meaning one of
The chairman of a town council will have the title "town mayor" and
that of a parish council which is a city will usually have the title
of mayor. As a result, a parish council can also be called a town
council, a community council, a village council or occasionally a city
council (though most cities are not parishes but principal areas, or
England specifically metropolitan boroughs or non-metropolitan
When a city or town has been abolished as a borough, and it is
considered desirable to maintain continuity of the charter, the
charter may be transferred to a parish council for its area. Where
there is no such parish council, the district council may appoint
charter trustees to whom the charter and the arms of the former
borough will belong. The charter trustees (who consist of the
councillor or councillors for the area of the former borough) maintain
traditions such as mayoralty. An example of such a city was Hereford,
whose city council was merged in 1998 to form a unitary Herefordshire.
The area of the city of
Hereford remained unparished until 2000 when a
parish council was created for the city. The charter trustees for the
City of Bath
City of Bath make up the majority of the councillors on Bath and North
East Somerset Council.
This section needs to be updated. Please update this article to
reflect recent events or newly available information. (March 2017)
Civil parishes cover 35% of England's population, with one in Greater
London and very few in the other conurbations. Civil parishes vary
greatly in size: many cover tiny hamlets with populations of less than
100, whereas some large parishes cover towns with populations of tens
of thousands. Weston-super-Mare, with a population of 71,758, is the
most populous civil parish. In many cases, several small villages are
located in a single parish. Large urban areas are mostly unparished,
as the government at the time of the Local Government Act 1972
discouraged their creation for large towns or their suburbs, but there
is generally nothing to stop their establishment. For example,
Birmingham has just one parish, New Frankley, whilst
Oxford has four,
Northampton has seven. Parishes could not however be established
London until the law was changed in 2007.
A civil parish can range in area from a small village or town ward to
a large tract of mostly uninhabited moorland in the Cheviots, Pennines
The 2001 census recorded several parishes with no inhabitants. These
Chester Castle (in the middle of
Chester city centre), Newland
with Woodhouse Moor, Beaumont Chase, Martinsthorpe, Meering,
Stanground North (subsequently abolished), Sturston, Tottington, and
Tyneham (subsequently merged). The lands of the last three were taken
over by the
British Armed Forces
British Armed Forces during
World War II
World War II and remain
Exclaves and divided parishes
Direct predecessors of the civil parishes are known as the "ancient
parishes". A minority of these had exclaves: such an exclave could be
an enclave within another parish,
surrounded by more than one other parish, or
a pene-enclave, partly surrounded by sea.
In some cases an exclave was in a different county. In other cases,
counties themselves could have an exclave made up of a parish. Both of
these anomalies would result in a different representatives on the
national level and different justices of the peace, sheriffs,
bailiffs, churchwardens, highway wardens and constables, in the
exclave from those parishes surrounding them. There were also a few
examples of parishes split between two or more counties, such as
Todmorden, split between
Lancashire and Yorkshire.
These anomalies might have arisen at the time of the feudal system,
when the land interests of a lord of the manor included more than one
parcel of land which were not geographically contiguous, and the area
of the manor (later parish) arose from such land interests. This might
have arisen originally as a deliberate attempt to diversify the lord's
(or overlord's) interests, but perhaps more often it would arise from
inheritance. It might however cause inconvenience to ordinary people,
whether needing to attend church for baptisms, marriages or funerals
or other reasons, or to obtain justice, pay rates or obtain poor
relief. This frequent nuisance began to be remedied nationally in
statute by Parliament in the early 19th century in the Poor Law
Reforms, and was more widely remedied (but not wholly eliminated) in
1844. Before civil parishes were introduced, the Counties (Detached
Parts) Act 1844 transferred many parishes which were exclaves of a
county to the county which mostly surrounded them. The remaining
exclaves of counties were transferred in the 1890s and in 1931, with
one exception. An exclave of the parish of Tetworth, surrounded by
Cambridgeshire, was finally removed in 1965 from Huntingdonshire.
Other legislation, including the Divided Parishes and Poor Law
Amendment Act 1882, eliminated instances of civil parishes being split
between multiple counties, and by 1901 Stanground (in Huntingdonshire
and the Isle of Ely) was the sole remaining example. Stanground
was split into two parishes, one in each county, in 1905.
The Church of
England has adopted similar reforms to ecclesiastical
parishes on a locally controlled (subsidiarity), ad hoc basis, and
still has a few with exclaves.
Exclaves of Cowley.
Exclaves of Enfield.
A parish exclave within Westminster.
List of civil parishes in England
Wright, R S; Hobhouse, Henry (1884). An Outline of Local Government
and Local Taxation in
England and Wales (Excluding the Metropolis).
London: W Maxwell & Son.
^ a b email@example.com, ONS Geography,. "Parishes and
^ "Queen's Park parish gets go-ahead". 29 May 2012 – via
^ a b c Guidance on
Community Governance Reviews (PDF). London:
Department for Communities and Local Government. 2010.
^ a b c d e Arnold-Baker, Charles (1989). Local Council Administration
in English Parishes and Welsh Communities. Longcross Press.
Victoria County Histories
Victoria County Histories provides, for most parishes but not all,
evidence of local private charities with details.
^ What is a parish or town council, National Association of Local
Councils website, accessed 14 August 2010 Archived 3 September 2010 at
the Wayback Machine.
^ Sections 58-77 of the Act, which received
Royal Assent on 30 October
Town Council – Annual Return 2005/2006". Gateshead
Council. 29 September 2006. Missing or empty url= (help);
access-date= requires url= (help)
^ "The Portsmouth City Council (Reorganisation of Community
Governance) Order 2010" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 1
November 2011. Retrieved 11 September 2010.
^ Parishes and Charter Trustees in
^ Full list of powers of parish councils Archived 15 July 2007 at the
Wayback Machine. - Downloadable Microsoft Word Document
Local Government Act 2000
Local Government Act 2000 The Local Authorities (Members'
Allowances) (England) Regulations 2003 Reg 30".
^ Local government: the standards regime in
England - Commons Library
Standard Note, Accessed 1 May 2015
^ "The council of a parish which is not grouped with any other parish
may resolve that the parish shall have the status of a town""Local
Government Act 1972 (c.70), Part XIII". Revised Statutes. Office of
Public Sector Information. 1972. Retrieved 11 September 2010.
^ Local government in
England and Wales: A Guide to the New System.
London: HMSO. 1974. p. 158. ISBN 0-11-750847-0.
^ NALC -
National Association of Local Councils Archived 26 September
2011 at the
UK Government Web Archive Retrieved 26 December 2009
^ Guidance on
Community Governance Reviews Archived 17 May 2009 at the
Wayback Machine. (April 2008), London: Department for Communities and
Local Government. ISBN 978-1-8511-2917-1. Retrieved 26 December
Parish Council and
Community website. Retrieved 27
^ "Vision of Britain - 1901 Census: General - Areas".
^ Local Government Board Order No. 56410, made under the Local
Government Act 1894 (56 & 57 Vict. c.73) s.36
Ecclesiastical parish still with detached part (example): Hascombe
The Church of England. Retrieved 27 November 2014
In praise of ... civil parishes Editorial in The Guardian, 16 May
Civil parishes in England
National Association of Local Councils
Society of Local Council Clerks
Local Government Act 1894
Local Government Act 1929
Local Government Act 1933
Local Government Act 1972
Local Government Act 1992
Local Government and Rating Act 1997
Local Government Act 2000
Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007
Localism Act 2011
Lists by county
East Riding of Yorkshire
Isle of Wight
Tyne and Wear
Administrative geography of the United Kingdom
United Kingdom local government
England local government
Metropolitan and Non-metropolitan counties
Unitary authorities (list)
Civil parishes (list)
Northern Ireland local government
Scotland local government
Community council areas
Wales local government
Subdivisions: Preserved counties
Subdivisions of England
NUTS 1 statistical regions of England
City of London
Isles of Scilly