Saturday, 13 August 2016

Off to the pub to vote in the Parliamentary election of 1844

“Voters in respect of property in the several townships or places of Chorlton-with-Hardy, Heaton Norris, Moss Side, Reddish, Withington, Urmston are to vote at Booth No 11, at the rooms adjoining the Bush Inn, in Deansgate, Manchester.”*

The Bush Inn, Deansgte
Well that pretty much would have added to the fun of voting in 1844.

Of course first you had to get into Manchester which was a 4 mile hike.

But these electors were men of property and if they didn’t own a coach or could share one then there were always the twice daily package boats from Stretford along the canal which transported passengers in comfort and speed.

A ticket for the front room cost 6d [2½p] and the back room 4d [1½p].

And once landed at Castlefield it was but a short walk up to number 106 Deansgate where the Bush Inn stood.

It’s gone now but it was on eastern side of Deansgate between Lower King Street and St Mary’s Street in the middle of a block of eight properties of which four were pubs.**

Now not everyone got to vote in a pub, but many did.  The unfortunate depending on your inclination might have gone to the Town Hall but plenty more voted in or next to a pub or hotel.

Elections were carnivals where treating electors was common, shady practices embraced and violence and alcohol went hand in hand and in 1835 Mr Pickwick became part of one.

It was late in the evening when he and his companions, dismounted from the roof of the Eatanswill coach.*** they had come to this small country town with the express purpose of observing a Parliamentary election and they were not disappointed.

The town was decked out with the colours of the opposing parties; a crowd was listening to an impassioned speech on behalf of one of the candidates, while the rival party had employed men with drums to drown out his speech.   Meanwhile a group of voters were locked up in the coach house of the White Hart and constantly plied with drink to ensure they remained drunk and unavailable to the opposing party’s agent.

Jeremiah Brundrit one of our 27 electors
Not that this agent was over concerned for as he confided to Mr Pickwick,

“We are pretty confident, though, we had a little tea-party here, last night -- five-and-forty women, my dear sir -- and gave every one of 'em a green parasol when she went away.' 
    'A parasol!' said Mr. Pickwick.
 
'Fact, my dear Sir, fact. Five-and-forty green parasols, at seven and sixpence a-piece. All women like finery -- extraordinary the effect of those parasols. Secured all their husbands, and half their brothers -- beats stockings, and flannel, and all that sort of thing hollow. 

My idea, my dear Sir, entirely. Hail, rain, or sunshine, you can't walk half a dozen yards up the street, without encountering half a dozen green parasols.'

Moreover they had already secured all the public houses leaving their opponents nothing but the beer shops.
All of which chimes in with press reports of the 1844 by election which was a contest between the Liberal William Brown and the Tory William Entwhistle.

“Several of the election booths were much crowded; and there was considerable bustle and animation in the various districts from the coaches and cabs driving about, .....The vehicles hired by Mr Entwhistle’s friends were distinguished by small blue banners and by large blue placards, containing exaggerated statements."

Not that the Tories were any better.  In the Ashton district of the constituency they spread the story that the leading free trader Richard Cobden was not endorsing the Liberal candidate which forced Cobden to publically declare that “Mr Entwhisle’s friends have put forth a placard at Ashton-Under-Lyne that I have deserted the cause of our excellent candidate Mr Brown.  It is false.”

So nothing new there then.  And equally both election teams were adept at talking up their side and issuing regular updates on how each candidate was favouring.

All of which was possible as elections were still held in the open in full view of all who wanted to record who a voter supported.

And in an effort to reduce the liberal lead the Tories, brought “up large bodies farming tenantry polling in this district, and they managed to reduce it to 35; but were never able to turn the scale or even bring it lower.”

But this was Manchester where Liberal support might be reckoned to be strongest, across the large South Lancashire constituency the Tories held on to the seat with a majority of 598.

As for Jerremiah Brundrit I rather think he may have given the drink a miss.

Tomorrow; more about our electors, including who they were and how they voted.

Pictures; detail of Deansgate from the OS map of Manchester, 1842-44, courtesy od Digital Archives http://www.digitalarchives.co.uk/ and Jeremiah Brundrit

* Manchester Guardian, May 29 1844
** These were from Lower King Street The Star Hotel, followed by the Bush Inn and the Golden Lion and lastly by St Mary's Street, the Three Arrows
*** Dickens, Charles Pickwick Papers Chapter 12 1836-37

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