Short EV Account: A Case of Mistaken Identity

Today’s Short EV Account looks at an attack on a constituency’s Conservative committee rooms, with the mob targeting someone in an unfortunate case of mistaken identity:

In Buckley, North Wales, the 1885 election was a heated one – having been elected unopposed in 1880, the Conservative Lord Richard Grosvenor, MP for Flintshire, was locked in a battle against a Liberal challenger, Henry Lloyd-Mostin. After the contest, serious rioting broke out as soon as darkness set in, and continued until about 9pm. The conservative committee rooms were savagely attacked, with ‘every window being broken’.

A large group also forced their way inside the building itself, but were unsuccessful in reaching the committee room itself on the first floor, ‘the members keeping them at bay with sticks at the top of the stairs’.  Alongside this running battle and siege, an innocent bystander was spotted by the mob outside.

This individual, unfortunately, bore a striking resemblance to a Mr Watkinson, local Conservative and generally disliked owner of a colliery. The Watkinson-lookalike was promptly attacked, and would have been dangerously hurt if it were not for the timely intervention of the police.

The policemen themselves were also all ‘more or less knocked about’ as the newspaper put it, and a telegraph message was sent to nearby Mold asking for reinforcements. At the request of Inspector Lindsay, the victorious Lord Grosvenor personally addressed the mob – though it was reported that his words had some pacifying effect, ‘the rioting continued for some time afterwards’.

The Watkinson-lookalike did, however, perform an unintentional (and likely very unwilling) service to the Conservative party. While the mob were occupied with attacking him, the occupants of the committee room, the real Watkinson included, took the opportunity to escape the room. When  the mob returned and searched the committee rooms again, they found them empty.


(Source: Lancaster Gazette, 5 December 1885Retrieved 2019, via British Newspaper Archive. Newspaper Images © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED)

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