The Expenditor of Pett Level

The Expenditor of Pett Level By Paul Draper for Fairlight History Group

On 30th March, a small group of us from Fairlight History Group travelled in separate cars to Dymchurch to visit the New Hall. Despite its name, the building was first constructed in 1575 to house the Corporation of the Lords, Bailiff and Jurats of Romney Marsh. Although the Corporation has been known by many different names since its formal Royal Charter in the year 1252, it still exists and today the full title is the Romney Marsh Area Internal Drainage Board. Their area of responsibility has been greatly extended to include the Brede and Tillingham valleys, plus Pett Level and just into the Parish of Fairlight (see map).

A map showing the full extent of the modern day Romney Marsh Area Internal Drainage Board. Board members are selected from Folkestone and Hythe, Ashford and Rother District Councils, plus Denge and Southbrook, Oxney, Lydd, Walland and Pett.

A map showing the full extent of the modern day Romney Marsh Area Internal Drainage Board. Board members are selected from Folkestone and Hythe, Ashford and Rother District Councils, plus Denge and Southbrook, Oxney, Lydd, Walland and Pett.
How did we become interested in this subject? Well it all started last Autumn when we received an enquiry from Australia about a Thomas Thorpe, whose occupation was stated as “Expenditor of Pett Level”. The research specifically concerned the family of Thomas Thorpe but it alerted us to the existence of the function of an Expenditor, a totally new occupation to us. We started to investigate and found little information available online, but there were several others scattered around the country in areas known for their marshes and levels. It seems that the main responsibility was to oversee the maintenance and clearance of all the secondary waterways, the collection of any taxes or scots and the expenditure of the monies collected. (NB. Hence the expression “Getting off scot free”).

We found our man Thomas Thorpe in all the census returns from 1841 to 1881 but his occupation is only listed as Expenditor of Pett Level in 1861, whilst resident in Westfield and in 1881, whilst resident in Hastings. The surprise was that he did not actually live at Pett Level. In fact, he and his wife were stated as “Lodging House Keepers” in Hastings in the other returns, so this was not his only job.
Today, the honorary function still exists under the single title of the Expenditor of Romney Marsh, which includes all the waterways shown in the above map. The current holder of the title, is a Mr. Rod Nickerson.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.