Shock result: tactical voting 1870s style

Ratepayers in Wrenthorpe – men and women – could vote and stand to be elected as members of the Stanley School Board for three-year terms. The School Board’s area covered almost all of the ancient Stanley-cum-Wrenthorpe Township boundary (from Balne Beck/Forster Ford Beck at Wrenthorpe in the west to Bottom Boat in the east).

Elections were contests between Liberal/nonconformist versus Conservative/Church of England candidates vying for control of the seven-seat Board. As expected, the Liberal/nonconformist candidates won four of the seven seats at the first election on 24 July 1875:

elected
Mr J H Cookman, colliery manager, Stanley (L) 1,096
Mr W R Hall, farmer, Outwood (L) 978
Mr T Boston, woollen draper and farmer, Wrenthorpe (L) 962
Mr C E Charlesworth, colliery proprietor, Moor House, Stanley (C) 957
Mr I G Wallis, hosier, Outwood (L) 911
Rev R Burrell, Vicar of Stanley, (C) 766
Rev J S Gammell, Vicar of Outwood (C) 758

not elected
Mr Joseph Thomas, shoemaker, Wrenthorpe (C) 560
Mr George Jaques, market gardener, Wrenthorpe (Ind) 366
Mr Mark Pape, farmer, Lake Lock (Ind) 237

The Herald reports on the victors’ celebrations.

Wakefield and West Riding Herald
Saturday 31 July 1875

THE STANLEY SCHOOL BOARD ELECTION

… About eight o’clock in the evening there was a meeting of the successful Liberals in the open air, by the highway near Newton-lane-end, over which the Rev. C. Bonham, Independent minister, presided. Mr. Cookson was the first to address the assemblage, returning thanks for the general support he had received; Mr. Hall, the next to come forward, reading a couple of pages of an address which he had previously written; and Mr. Wallis followed him, dwelling upon the advantages of securing full religious equality, and saying that he looked upon that battle as having far more important issues than those which might seem more immediately involved. Mr. Boston very briefly returned thanks, and they were succeeded by Mr. J. Warburton, Mr. J. Robinson, a working man of “poetical” aspirations, reading a ditty he had composed for the occasion, the refrain of which was –

Hurrah for the Liberal cause, my boys,
Hurrah for the Liberal cause.

Voting for the Board took place across the entire Stanley/Wrenthorpe area – there were no separate wards. Each voter had seven votes. This made it difficult for political parties to judge how many candidates to field. As hinted at in the Herald, if the Liberals had fielded five candidates, they may have been successful, but if they’d put up six or seven, their vote might have been too thinly spread, which would have handed the Tories a majority instead.

The composition of the Board remained unchanged until Boston’s sudden death in 1877, following which the Liberal/nonconformists coopted the Rev. Charles Bonham of Zion Chapel, Aberford Road, Stanley to serve until the election the following year. By-elections were not required to fill vacancies.

As Wrenthorpe was the smallest and poorest part of the district, its voters felt left out. Boston had owned property in Wrenthorpe (a small farm at Robin Hood Hill) but had never lived there. His unelected replacement was from Stanley. It had been argued that the next candidate on the 1875 ballot paper – Joseph Thomas – should have been cooped but that would have handed control of the Board to its Conservative/Church of England members.

Resentment at Wrenthorpe’s non-representation grew and, by the 1878 election enough local voters had decided to vote tactically to ensure their minority candidate got elected. Under the school board voting rules, a voter could use their seven votes in any way they wished. They could even cast all seven votes for a single candidate – a process known as ‘plumping’.

Through the Newspaper Archive, it’s possible to contrast the news coverage in two local papers which had no love lost between them: the Herald (a diehard Conservative-supporting newspaper) and the Free Press (passionately Liberal). Reading both takes on the School Board election, the Free Press’s anger, frustration and disbelief is pitched against the Herald’s surprise and glee.

The Free Press’s piece paints a farcical picture of the Rev James Stewart Gammell, Vicar of Outwood’s carriage displaying his opponents’ posters out of courtesy – the point at which magnanimity gives way to stupidity. The nonconformists detested the outspoken Tory Vicar and repeatedly criticised him in their newspaper, mocking him as a ‘kind of archbishop in the neighbourhood’.

Wakefield Free Press
Saturday 20 July 1878

STANLEY SCHOOL BOARD ELECTION

It was no doubt the success of the Liberal party at the last election that induced the Conservatives to put forth every effort to secure the victory on this occasion – to secure it, honestly, if possible, but still to secure it. The manoeuvres resorted to in order to gain voters, however creditable they might be to crafty politicians of the Beaconsfield [Tory Prime Minister, Disraeli] school, could scarcely be said to be equally so to the cloth worn by the clerical members of the Board. Neither intimidation nor corruption was scorned, as we shall have occasion to show further on. All the retiring members were renominated along with Mr Joseph Thomas, shoemaker, of Wrenthorpe, and Mr Matthew Hall, colliery manager, of Rook Nest. The latter, however, withdrew from the contest, but used all his powerful influence on behalf of the four denominational candidates (whether rightly or wrongly some of the voters could better say than ourselves).

On the opening of the poll the respective partisans began busily to bring up the voters, and great excitement prevailed throughout the day on both sides. It was manifest that a determined struggle was to take place between the two parties for supremacy on the new Board. Conveyances of all descriptions were plying to and fro, though, as usual, the denominationalists had taken time by the forelock in engaging the greater number.

The arrangements in the Outwood and Stanley districts on the Liberal side were admirably planned and carried out, the only hitch being at Wrenthorpe, where the ratepayers seemed to have “Thomas on the brain” and disregarded political considerations in favour of a local man who professed independence of both parties. This profession there is no doubt contributed very materially to his success, and secured him a large preponderance of Liberal votes in that district. Time will show how for his professions will be verified and the confidence of the ratepayers justified. Many of them are determined to exercise a close scrutiny as to his future conduct. Another weakness at Wrenthorpe was the insufficiency of good workers and the refusal of many of the ratepayers to enter the Liberal Committee room, for what reason it is difficult to say, though several have been alleged. On account of this refusal no idea could be formed as to the progress of the election. […] A rather amusing incident occurred at Outwood during the morning. Two Liberal canvassers were despatched to Newton to await the arrival of one of the waggonettes engaged by the Liberal party, but by mistake they got hold of a conveyance engaged by Mr Gammell. No wonder they made this mistake, for Mr Gammell’s conveyances, with that consideration that he always manifests for the opposite party, displayed yellow placards, and this incident may be a lesson to him to retain his own colour in any future election; for out of the fifteen occupants of the waggonette thirteen were said to have voted against the reverend gentleman. There appeared to be no lull in the voting during the day, each party working vigorously and bringing up the voters by ones, twos, and threes, and larger bands, the men employed at the Leeds and Yorkshire Coal Company’s Works being brought down in waggon loads, like sheep to the slaughter, from the Robin Hood and other pits. All the candidates were present in the district and exhibited due interest in the proceedings. At five o’clock the polling closed, and the counting up of the votes was commenced at the Lake Lock National School, the next morning at ten o’clock.

Wakefield and West Riding Herald
Saturday 31 July 1878

WRENTHORPE

The polling station for the district of Wrenthorpe was provided at the Board School, Mr. George Roberts of Wakefield, who was assisted by Mr. Mason, of Wrenthorpe and Mr. Robert Wilson, of Alverthorpe, bring the presiding officer. The only agent appointed by either party attended at this polling station, namely, Mr. J. W. R. Mellor, of Albion Street, who represented the interests of Mr. Thomas, one of the Conservative candidates. The number of persons who had to record their votes at this station is much smaller than at the two other polling stations, and consequently the proceedings were not so brisk as at Lake Lock and Outwood. During the day a number of conveyances were engaged in bringing up the voters, and the votes were recorded in a steady, though comparatively slow manner. Of the 371 votes upon the register 268 exercised the right of voting, and we understand that a number of voters “plumped” for Thomas, by giving him the seven votes to which they were entitled.

Like today’s elections in the United States, during the count, regular updates of how the votes were stacking up, are reported. The Free Press even included a table of how the count progressed. It became clear there was a close fight for seventh place between Charlesworth and the Board’s chairman Wallis. The Herald continues.

THE COUNT

…it was now evident that one of these gentlemen would have to suffer defeat, and upon the election of either of them depended the settlement of the question whether the Conservatives or the Radicals would have a majority on the newly constituted Board. About quarter to seven o’clock all doubt upon this point was set to rest, when the unofficial statement showing the result of the poll to be a grand victory for the Conservatives… Mr Gammell remarked that so close was the struggle between Mr Charlesworth and Mr Wallis that there was a tie between them until the [last] voting paper came to be turned up, which showed a plumper for Mr Charlesworth, and he had thus beaten his opponent by seven votes.

elected
Rev J S Gammell, Vicar of Outwood (C) 1,634
Mr Joseph Thomas, shoemaker, Wrenthorpe (C) 1,434
Mr W R Hall farmer, Outwood (L) 1,352
Rev R Burrell, Vicar of Stanley, (C) 1,257
Mr J H Cookson, colliery manager, Stanley (L) 1,130
Rev C Bonham, independent, Stanley (L) 1,096
Mr C E Charlesworth, colliery proprietor, Moor House, Stanley (C) 1,060

not elected
Mr I G Wallis, hosier, Outwood (L) 1,053

Thanks to ‘plumping’, Thomas came a ridiculously high second place in the poll (although as few as 205 voters could have voted to give him 1,434 votes); and to everyone’s surprise – especially the Tory-supporting Herald, which had regarded the area as a dead loss for them politically – the Liberal/nonconformists lost control of the Board.

The advent of mass political parties

Now that three of the Wakefield newspaper titles in the Archive have been digitalised, it’s possible to revisit some of the previous blog post newspaper articles covered in the regional press to get a clearer picture of what was going on.

Looking again at Knitting Fog, or the 80-year wait, what was the Mines’ Regulation Bill which local ‘Lib-Lab’ MP Ben Pickard had come to Wrenthorpe to speak about? Had the Tories set up their local Association in response to this inaugural Liberals’ meeting? What was it about the proposed legislation which was causing such uproar?

The franchise had been extended in 1885, giving a large proportion of working class men the vote, and creating the Normanton constituency, which was a Liberal (or ‘Lib-Lab’) stronghold. That general election had resulted in a Liberal government which only lasted six months before another election was called, this time won by the Conservatives. Both the main political parties were starting to realise the importance of local branches for ‘boots on the ground’, hence the formation of Tory and Liberal branches in Wrenthorpe. It’s actually the local Tories, with the most ground to make up, who made the first move, holding a meeting at the Royal Oak in April 1886.*

The proposed mining legislation was Tory ‘divide and rule’ politics on the appointment of colliery check weighers, aimed at deliberately causing divisions among the miners. This, despite there already being acceptable weight-checking system in place which had, ironically, been introduced by former Conservative Home Secretary, Sir Richard Cross.

Lengthy coverage of the Liberals’ meeting is given in the Wakefield Free Press. Although the introductory paragraph is of some interest, it suggests the newspaper so rarely covered any Potovens or Wrenthorpe-related news that it has to introduce the article by setting the scene about Wrenthorpe itself. The article’s rather patronising in its attitude towards working men. Why shouldn’t they be just as clued up about the ‘events of the times’? Who does the journalist think was in the vanguard of the major working class movements? And, if anyone was to understand the implications of the new legislation, it’s the men who encounter these issues everyday of their working lives. Pickard, in contrast, is respectful of his audience – his constituents, and values their opinion.

* Wakefield and West Riding Herald, 3 April 1886, p.8.

Wakefield Free Press
Saturday 23 April 1887

LIBERALISM AT POTOVENS
Interesting Proceedings
Mr B. Pickard M.P., and the New Mines’ Bill

We prefer the more popular name of Potovens to the strictly legal designation of Wrenthorpe. For one thing, it carries us back to the time when this pleasantly-situated village was a busy industrial centre. The familiar name indicates the trade carried on, and it appears to have been more extensive than most people imagine. Indeed, so important was it considered by the natives themselves, that they called their hamlet Little London! Thoresby, writing in his diary about the beginning of last century, stated that he walked to Pott-ovens, where he stayed a little to observe the manner in which the work was carried on. But the ovens have long since ceased to burn, and the people now find employment, some in coal-mining, some is band-spinning, and others in the market gardens of the neighbourhood. The name Wrenthorpe is supposed to be derived from the Warrens and thorpe, the latter an old term indicative of Danish occupation, and applied to a collection of houses, especially of the poorer class.

It was, then, to this old-fashioned village that we made our way last Saturday evening to “assist” at the annual social meeting in connection with the Liberal Association of the district. Excellent preparations had been made for the event by the committee, consisting of Messrs T. Asquith, G. Brooke, W. Calvert, J. Wilkes, C. Howden, J. Nichols, J. Ramsden, G. Boyce, J. Ainley, and J. Roberts, with the energetic secretary, Mr J. Parkin. General interest appeared to be excited amongst the people, as will be seen from the fact that nearly 300 persons sat down to the sumptuous tea provided in the Board School. This was supplied by Mrs Senior, of Kent House, Wakefield, whose catering was, as usual, most satisfactory. The comfort of the guests was carefully attended to by the following who presided at the tables:- Mrs Hustler, Mrs Howden, Mrs Wilkes, Mrs Calvert, Mrs Kershaw, Misses Calvert (two), and Miss Terry. The scene presented to the eye was a most pleasing one, nearly every person present being decorated with yellow flowers, and the neatly set out tables having a most tempting appearance. Later on in the evening a most public meeting was held. We confess to our surprise at seeing such a large and encouraging gathering. There need be no fear of the decided Liberalism of Potovens, and we almost feel inclined to believe the remark of an enthusiast who, subsequently, on a resolution being put to the meeting, shouted out that “all the Conservatives had left the place except Joseph Thomas.”*

The speeches were listened to with an intelligent interest that proved how carefully the working men followed the events of the times, and how complete is their knowledge of the political position. It was, too, a happy thought to have the meeting in a Board School, for the elementary tuition there given to the young people could not be better supplemented than by their fathers and mothers listening to the excellent addresses delivered last Saturday night. Important historical facts were mingled with caustic criticisms of the actions and speeches of the Tories and their new allies. The chair was occupied by Mr J. H. Cookson, of Stanley, a staunch and consistent Liberal, who gave an excellent tone to the proceedings by his opening speech. He was in Ireland, he said, when the Earl of Aberdeen, the late Lord Lieutenant, left Dublin, and the demonstration he then saw showed the esteem in which that nobleman was held. He considered that the claims of the Irish to Local Self-Government were reasonable in deed. He believed that when the next election took place they would again see the Grand Old Man [Gladstone] in a majority, and that he would live to see this scheme carried out as he had seen many other great measure, which had been opposed quite as much as this (applause).

The Rev C. Bonham, of Stanley, proposed the following resolution: “That this meeting expresses its strong indignation at the proposals of the Government to suppress the liberties of the Irish people by a new Coercion Bill when the necessity for remedial measures has been acknowledged by them, and also declares its confidence in the Right Hon. W. E. Gladstone and the policy adopted by the Gladstonian Liberals.” He congratulated those present on the success of the first meeting of the Liberal Association for Wrenthorpe, and was pleased to see such a fine representation of the ladies (applause). Now that they had Primrose Dames [Primrose League] on the one hand, they wanted some Liberal Dames on the other (hear, hear). The Tories made a strong point of boycotting in Ireland, but they did not need to go to Ireland for boycotting, He knew where some took place not 100 miles from where they stood (applause) – most systematically took place, and where shopkeepers dare not declare themselves Liberal for fear of losing their custom (cries of “Shame”). Alter congratulating them upon the presence of Mr. Pickard, he asked where had the Conservatives brought forward a working man’s candidate with any intention of returning him. The fact was that the Tories simply used the working men as tools, and flung them aside when it suited their purpose (applause).

Mr George Thornton, of Horbury, in seconding the resolution, delivered a telling speech, in which he showed the reasonableness of the Home Rule principle, and especially how successful it had been in Canada. When it was proposed for Canada, the cry was raised, as it was in the present case, that it meant separation, but the fact was that to-day Canada was more loyal than ever.

Mr B Pickard, M.P., on rising to support the resolution, was loudly applauded. He said he was glad to be amongst them once more at Wrenthorpe because he was certain of a hearty reception there. Interested as many of them were in mining legislation there was one matter to which he wished to direct their attention. In the late Government of Mr Gladstone a bill had been brought in by Mr Childers upon which there never had been an opportunity of taking a second reading. We had heard a great deal within the last two months about what the Tory Party is to do for the mining population in the bill that they have introduced in the House of Commons. By a little trickery they had got it read a second time, and that without discussion. Before he left London it had been stated in the House that there was an objection to the bill being passed without discussion on the second reading; but some two days after he left town it was stated by the Home Secretary that he fix a day when it would be possible that a fair discussion could be taken on the bill (a voice: “That is the way they do it”). On Thursday morning, however, he was surprised to find that the Home Secretary had persisted in taking the second reading on Wednesday afternoon, when it was impossible that a discussion could have taken place, and in the absence of all the mining representatives, who were away on other business, in the firm belief that the second reading would not be taken before the Easter holidays. They would all agree that an important measure affecting some 500,000 people employed in the mines should be passed without some discussion (applause). He had been told that some of the underviewers were a little alarmed about this bill. He would say that they need not be alarmed because second class certificates would be given to the holders of certificates under the Act of 1882, and they would find that no harm can come to them under this bill. Therefore if any of the underviewers felt alarm, he hoped this statement would appease them. There were, however, certain clauses in the bill which affected check weighmen, and he hoped the latter would read the clauses for themselves. If Causes 13 and 14 became law it was his opinion that check weighmen would have no freedom whatever. In fact we were told by some colliery owners that the check weighmen in the past had had too much to do with politics and matters that did not belong to their ordinary work, and that their toe nails should he cut; and as far as he could judge the toe nails had pared down considerably. That afternoon, at Barnsley, there had been a meeting of 86 check weighmen, representing nearly every portion of Yorkshire, and these men had condemned the changes referred to, asserting that they would sooner be without any clause whatever regulating their conduct, and rely upon the consideration of the men who appointed them and paid their wages (load cheers). As they all knew, there had been a great deal of eulogy passed upon Sir R. Cross’s bill, which was now the law. Under that bill they had power to select a check weigher from any class of workmen they thought fit, and were not confined to the pit bank or bottom. This portion of the clause was still admitted, but a change was made with regard to another portion, according to which, if a majority of the workmen at any colliery agreed to appoint a check weigher, every man would have to pay his proportion for the payment of this check weigher. In the new bill, however, the clause was that only those men who were in favour of a check weigher being appointed should be called upon to assist in paying his wages. That would introduce anarchy at collieries, and they would have nothing but disturbances. For instance, if there were 200 men at a colliery and if 101 agreed upon a man, the remaining 99 would, under this bill, be at liberty, in his opinion, to refuse to pay towards the man’s wages; or, if they selected a man of their own, there would be two check weighers, and if that was net a fine thing he did not know what was. He trusted miners would read the bill carefully, and communicate with him if they had any amendments to suggest. By thus doing they would materially help him to fight this bill so as to make it the best that could be got, for no doubt it would be a bill for this generation and the next (applause). Mr Pickard proceeded to speak at some length on current political questions, and in doing so, was warmly applauded.

The resolution on being put, was unanimously agreed to amid loud cheers.

On the motion of Mr J Marshall, Horbury, seconded by Mr I Mason, of Silcoates, it was agreed to send copies of the resolution to Mr Gladstone and Mr John Morley.

Mr T P Robinson proposed and Mr David Burnley seconded a vote of thanks to the chairman, which was very warmly recorded and acknowledged by Mr Cookson and a similar compliment having been paid to the managers of the school for the use of the same, the proceedings ended.

We may that during the evening a petition against the Bill was unanimously signed.

* Thinking ‘Joseph Thomas’ was a euphemism for nobody, similar to Sweet FA; it’s something of a surprise to find there really was a man called Joseph Thomas in 19th century Wrenthorpe. He was a boot and shoe maker who lived at Bragg Lane End and was elected to the Stanley-Wrenthorpe Township School Board. [More in a future blog].

Working class men get the vote

The 1885 general election was the first in which a large proportion of working class men could vote. Wrenthorpe now formed part of a new constituency – Normanton – and leading mining trade unionist Ben Pickard successfully fought the new seat as a ‘Lib-Lab’ (Liberal) candidate, remaining its MP until his death in 1904. The seat was seen as a shoo-in for the Liberals, and Free Press believed the Potovens district was overwhelmingly supportive. Alderman Milthorp was a ‘local boy made good’ character – an industrialist who’d served as Mayor of Wakefield in 1881.

Wakefield Free Press
Saturday 21 November 1885

MR B. PICKARD AT WRENTHORPE

Continuing his successful tour of the Normanton Division, Mr B. Pickard, the Liberal candidate, visited Wrenthorpe (Potovens), on Wednesday evening, arriving from Durham shortly before the time of the meeting, which took place in the Board School [later Wrenthorpe Council School]. There was a large attendance of working men, and we believe that in this part of the Division the voting for the Liberal candidate will be three to one for his opponent. The Rev. W. Field, M.A., of Silcoates School, presided, and in opening the proceedings delivered a brief but appropriate address. He described the Tories as the Jumbo party, seeing that they would not get out of the way of the approaching express train, thus acting like the well-known elephant when it met with its death.* Mr Edward Cowey moved the usual resolution approving of Mr Pickard’s candidature and pledging the meeting to support him by all legitimate means. This was seconded by Alderman Milthorp, of Wakefield, who met with a flattering reception, he being a native of the district. He said that it gave him great pleasure to be present on that occasion in his native place, although he must say that at one time he never expected to be able to stand there and congratulate them on having a vote. For the first time in English history working men throughout the country could be called citizens of their country, and he proceeded to point out the manner in which the Liberal party had worked in order to secure the people their rights. Mr Gladstone, he said, had done more for the country than any man, living or dead, and he was prepared to work for the future. As for the Tory party they never initiated or carried a measure in favour of the people (hear, hear, and applause). Mr Pickard, on rising, was received with loud applause, and he spoke at some length in explanation of his views and the position be took. Very telling were his remarks when, on speaking of free education, he referred to the fact that he and others in a similar position in life, had not when young the chance of acquiring a good education. They had had to pick up their knowledge in after years as best they could, and he remembered with gratitude the kindness of a schoolmaster who used to come from Castleford to Kippax in the evenings to instruct another young man and him. That young man was now a Wesleyan minister, and he (Mr Pickard) was where he was. The resolution on being put to the meeting was adopted amid great enthusiasm with only one dissentient, and the proceedings closed with a vote of thanks to the chairman.

* An odd contemporary reference to a Barnum circus elephant who had been struck by a locomotive in Ontario a couple of months before.

Cyclists introduce Labour Party to Wrenthorpe

A seemingly odd piece from 1910, explaining how the Wrenthorpe branch of the Labour Party came about.

Labour Leader
Friday 8 April 1910

OUR CYCLE SCOUTS

An encouraging letter, full of fire and swing, has been sent by A E Stubbs, Secretary of the Scouts in Yorkshire. He opens thus:

I am glad to learn from the Labour Leader this week that we are to have a National Army of I.L.P. [Independent Labour Party] Cycling Scouts to convey the gospel of Socialism to our toiling brothers in the country, and I write these few lines to welcome its inception. The agricultural labourer is ignorant of Socialism and what it means to him, and the Scouts can do a great work. They have done some good work already in Yorkshire. Organised last May, we have had forty runs, held twelve meetings, established one new branch of the I.L.P., and there are two more in the making. Leaflets, Labour Leaders, and Pamphlets were distributed in the homes of the people, and some of the seed fell on good ground. The Yorkshire Scouts have commenced work already for the season, and are about to form a new branch at Wrenthorpe, near Wakefield. Several other places on the Yorkshire Coalfield are down to receive attention from the Scouts.

Stubbs concludes his letter as follows:

I am an old racer, but I never raced in such a hurry nor enjoyed any race so much as the race I am now engaged in, namely, the race to win converts to Socialism.

The idea of teams of cyclists spreading a political message has got lost in time. Before the First World War, ILP cycle scouts took socialism to English villages, distributing literature to households.* Local MP Frederick Hall (Normanton), had stood as a Labour candidate for the first time at the January 1910 general election, following the MFGB’s (miners’ union) political affiliation with the Labour Party the previous year.

* Griffiths, Clare V J, Labour and the Countryside: The Politics of Rural Britain 1918-1939, Oxford University Press, 2007, pp.110-111.

Knitting fog, or the 80-year wait

Searching for ‘Royal Oak’ and ‘Potovens’ turned up this unexpected find. No doubt a considerable amount of spin’s been put on this story, and it chimes with the then political allegiance of the Post and Intelligencer.

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer
Monday 9 May 1887

WRENTHORPE CONSERVATIVE ASSOCIATION

The inaugural dinner of this newly formed association was held on Saturday evening at the Royal Oak Inn, Potovens. About seventy persons sat down to an excellent repast. The company included Mr J Thomas, president; Messrs W Pearson, J Brooke, and T Thompson, vice-presidents; Mr B F Glover, president of the Alverthorpe Conservative Association; Mr J Shuttleworth of Wakefield, the Conservative agent for the Normanton Division; Mr Haigh, Silcoates Mills; Mr W Briggs, Red Hall; Mr Bryan H Ramsden, &c. A letter was read from Mr C E Charlesworth, Moor House, Stanley, regretting his inability to be present, and at the same time expressing his pleasure at the formation of the association. A resolution of confidence in Her Majesty’s Government was proposed by Mr Haigh, seconded by Mr B F Glover, and supported by Mr Shuttleworth, the latter of whom replied at length to the speech recently delivered at Wrenthorpe by Mr B Pickard, MP [founder and President of the Miners’ Association of Great Britain and the local MP], with regard to the Mines’ Regulation Bill. Other toasts followed, after which the meeting assumed a convivial character, and a very pleasant evening was spent.

It wasn’t until 80 years later, in May 1967, that the Tories actually won an election in Wrenthorpe.

 

UPDATE

Now that the Wakefield newspapers have been added to the Newspaper Archive, it’s possible to delve more deeply the quirks of local politics. It seems that the Potovens of the second half of the 19th century wasn’t quite the Liberal/nonconformist bastion it should have been. The strength of the Anglicans, tactical voting and a particularly tenacious local politician meant that, surprisingly, the Liberals didn’t get a clear run.

Vicar dabbles in politics

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer
Monday 7 August 1905

WRENTHORPE BY-ELECTION

A by-election for the Wrenthorpe Ward of Stanley Urban District Council took place Saturday. Tom Lumb was returned by 205 votes. His unsuccessful opponent, Rev Philip S Brown, Vicar of Wrenthorpe, polling 150 votes.