The election of 1868 was particularly violent, as set out in our tweets of last year. Following on from a previous blog exploring the 1868 election violence in Blackburn, David Hughes delves deeper into earlier events, identifying sectarianism as a major cause of subsequent events:
When William Murphy proposed giving a series of anti-Catholic lectures in Blackburn in October and November 1867, the mayor and magistrates tried to stop him. Murphy ended his visit to Blackburn with a ‘Great Protestant and Orange Demonstration’ which received no support from local political parties and was described sneeringly by the Conservative-supporting Blackburn Standard. Continue reading “Religion and Electoral Violence: Blackburn, 1868”
One of our previous blogs described an 1865 election murder, the result of a prank gone wrong; a person in Cheltenham had party colours pinned to them without their knowledge, which led to their assault and death. As we move into analysing later elections, we’ve found that such pranks were not isolated, and could lead to other:
During the election of 1880, the county constituency of West Gloucestershire featured at least one violent event. Rather than the mass election riots and extensive property damage which regularly occurred in nearby Bristol, this incident, was more individual in nature – but no less tragic. A Mr Charles Butt, native of Kingswood near Bristol, went to Bridgeyate, where the polling was taking place to elect the two MPs for West Gloucestershire. Unknown to him, some person had attached a piece of blue ribbon to his clothes – a party colour sure to infuriate local partisans. When he approached the polling booth, a ‘Radical’ mob began to pelt him with very large stones. Quite a few of these struck Mr Butt, and he was soon ‘literally covered with blood’. Continue reading “Short EV Account: History Repeats Itself”
The Peterloo Massacre, in which 15 people were killed and many injured, lives on in public memory. Yet, it was not an isolated event – the intervention of the military was not an uncommon response to nineteenth-century mass gatherings, especially during elections. As the following instance illustrates, this could lead to tragedy and death for bystanders:
During the 1868 election, the contest for Newport proved to be quite disorderly. Newport in fact had something of a reputation as a centre of unrest, being the location of the famous Newport Rising of 1839, in which nearly 10,000 Chartist supporters had marched on the town, leading to military intervention and twenty-two deaths. Continue reading “Short EV Account: ‘wantonly bayoneted while she lay on the ground’”
Alcohol and Victorian elections often went hand-in-hand – this could promote a festive and exuberant atmosphere, but also create or exacerbate election violence if the mood turned sour; in this blog, Research Assistant Ilia Hionidou explores one such instance:
In 1847, the Nottingham Review reported some bemusing events that took place the Wednesday prior in Chepstow, a small town in south Wales. The report recalls incidents that took place during an 1842 election, a year that featured prominent Chartist uproar in Wales and around the UK. Chartism aimed to bring about far-reaching political reforms, which included universal male suffrage and the introduction of the secret ballot. Continue reading “Drunken Disturbances: Electoral Violence in Chepstow, 1847”
Election violence was seldom simple or isolated; it could be the result of a complex and interlinked chain of events, across multiple elections and involving themes which included class, religion, and nationality. In this post, David Hughes explores one such richly complex event:
In November 1868, the Lancashire town of Blackburn was the site of intense electoral activity. The municipal elections, in which all six wards were contested, were held on Monday 2nd November. The borough parliamentary election followed on 16th November then, on the following day, the nominations for the newly created county seat of North East Lancashire. All three of these elections were accompanied by violence, with the most serious occurring, somewhat unusually, during the municipal elections – indeed, a man died two days after the municipal elections from injuries sustained at that contest. Soon, this death was politicised by both parties when alleged death threats were made against the Tory candidates. Continue reading “Electoral Violence in Blackburn, 1868: The Politicisation of a Death”
The carnival atmosphere of Victorian elections was often characterised by visible party colours and the presence of music. This atmosphere was thought by many to contribute to the ‘excitement’ of participants and bystanders – with occasionally terrible consequences. In this blog post, Paul Reynolds, one of our Project’s Research Assistants, shares his summary and analysis of a particularly tragic case of election violence involving both colour and music:
On the evening of the 12th of July 1865, in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, William Lynes, a ‘labouring man’ who worked as a messenger for the Liberal candidate Colonel Francis Berkeley, was wandering down the High-Street with another messenger called Fitts. Passing them along the street came a band, playing the Scottish ‘The Bonnets of Blue’, and Lynes piped up with a hearty ‘Hurrah for the Bonnets of Yellow’, as yellow was the Liberal colour.
Hogarth’s Enraged Musician (1741) Continue reading “Tragic Election Death at Cheltenham”
In this post, Research Assistant Sam Holden explores an election fatality, and touches on the role played by party colours and other visible partisan symbols in election violence more generally:
Votes weren’t necessarily the only things being counted at Victorian elections. Unfortunately, occasionally there was also a body count.
Much like today, election periods provoked much excitement in the Victorian period. Allegiances were often ironclad, and rivalries fierce. In some instances, simply displaying party colours was an invitation to violence. This was one visible manifestation of what some have termed a ‘carnival’ atmosphere; some historians posit that this atmosphere was one of the main catalysts for elections which spilled over into lawlessness, rioting, and even killing. It’s often difficult to uncover the motivations behind different incidents, be they elite strategic manoeuvring or popular partisanship on the one hand, or adrenalin-fuelled excitement on the other.
Continue reading “Across The Spectrum: Party Colours, Election Violence, and the Tragic Case of William Mellor”