A tale of two elections

Dry, dusty, dull and just not at all interesting.

If that is what you think about elections take a look at the Parliamentary election and by- elections in 1847 and 1848 for the Cheltenham constituency. There was no shortage of excitement leading up to and at, both events.

First of all in July 1847 Sir Willoughby Jones (Conservative) beat the sitting member Craven Berkeley (Liberal) by 108 votes only to be unseated as the result of a petition to Parliament. He was accused of ‘bribing and treating’.

Photograph of notice of corrupt practices.

Notice of the corrupt practices of Craven Berkeley, 1848.

At the ensuing by- election in June 1848 Craven Berkeley regained the seat by beating James Agg-Gardner by 176 votes only to be unseated for the same misdemeanours. Yet another by- election was held in September 1848 and the victor was Grenville Berkeley, cousin of Craven who beat B[ickham] Escott (Conservative) by 133 votes.

The treating was mainly a supply of free beer and breakfasts at local pubs. One of the documents gives a list of 52 such pubs and there are several breakfast tickets in one bundle. One unfortunate man was told he would lose the tenancy of his house if he did not vote as directed. Another witness, John Poole, reported that he ‘saw £25 given to a man who voted for Berkeley for a horse and cart worth no more than £2. 10. 0. The horse when purchased was sent directly to the Dog Kennels to be killed.’ Just two examples of bribery at the elections.

Another, unusual find was a small bound book containing the names of voters in the 1841 election. Each party’s voters were printed on coloured paper to represent the party. The Hon C. F. Berkeley, Liberal (763 votes) was yellow, James Agg Gardner, Conservative (653) was blue and Colonel Thompson, Radical (4) was pink.

Free breakfast for your vote anyone?

Russ Self
Volunteer for the Gloucestershire Victoria County History

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