Rural District Councils

Rural District Councils

The archives of the Doncaster and Thorne Rural District Councils

Rural District Councils originated in 1872, when the Public Health Act divided the country up into unglamorously-named Urban and Rural Sanitary Authorities (USAs and RSAs). In its area, an RSA was essentially the same as a poor law union, excluding any part of it which was the responsibility of an Urban Authority.

The board of guardians (excluding any members from districts within an Urban Sanitary Authority) acted as the governing body of the Rural Sanitary Authority. They were elected by the same voting-system as poor law unions, where ratepayers (those who paid local taxes on property) were given one vote for every £50-worth of property they owned (up to a maximun of £250). This naturally gave the wealthier ratepayers a preponderant voice in the election of members. In this area, Doncaster and Thorne were the two poor law unions, and they became the two Rural Sanitary Authorities.

In 1894, Rural District Councils were created. They had the same areas as the poor law unions, but were now to be entirely separate bodies with their own councils. The voting system introduced in 1872 was abolished and every elector had only one vote. As the character of the area changed and mining communities were established in hitherto rural areas, mineworkers came to play an increasingly siginificant role in local councils. In the early twentieth century, many Labour politicians learnt their political skills by serving on local councils. The Rural District Councils ceased to exist on 31 March 1974, when the Doncaster Metropolitan Borough was established.

The archives of the Rural District Councils of Doncaster and Thorne are available at Doncaster Archives. Details can be found in the published Guide to Doncaster Archives, available from Doncaster Archives price £10.00 plus £2.00 postage and packing (UK sales only).


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