Garrat Elections

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The Garrat Elections were a carnival of mock elections in 18th century Surrey, England. The events were organized around May 20,[1] when a crowd of tens of thousands would travel from London, centred just 5 miles (8.0 km) away to take part.

History[edit]

People of the hamlet, not even a small neighbourhood at the time, Garrat in the parish of Wandsworth had met in a conclave and elected a (commons) president to exert authority over a small common. They felt that the president should hold the office of 'mayor' during the parliamentary period between general elections and be re-elected with the new one. The minor political spectacle aroused some amusement and locals ended up parodying the affair in their mock election.[2]

These Garrat "elections" were popular, with up to 80,000 attendees. Local innkeepers and pub keepers profited and sponsored the event. People put forth rather unusual candidates to parody the features of the real election.[1]

There is no record of the identity of the candidates before 1747. At that particular year, the "clerk and recorder" from a nonexistent town hall issued notification of election between Squire Blowmedown and Squire Gubbins (waterman and pubkeeper, respectively, in their day-to-day jobs). Both candidates gave out handbills where they praised their own merits and mocked those of their opponent, imitating political leaflets of the day. Same two candidates attended the next election in 1754, again abusing each other and their supporters in their handbills.[1]

Year 1761 saw the number of candidates rise to nine; in addition to previous two there were Sir John Crambo, Kit Noisy (waterman), Lord Lapstone (shoemaker), Lord Paxford, Lord Twankum (cobbler), Lord Wedge and Beau Silvester. The candidates elicited flowering elocutions praising their own efforts, promising prosperity if they were to be elected and threatening impending disaster if their opponents should be elected instead. Beau Silvester merited himself with resisting the extra tax on ale and giving orders to increase the number of local pubs.[1]

In 1763 candidates Lord Twankum, Kit Noisy and Sir John Crambo mocked each other in electoral contest. In 1768 there were seven candidates; Lord Twankum, Sir Christopher Dashem, Sir George Comefirst, Sir William Airey, Sir William Bellows, one "Batt from the Workhouse", and Sir John Harper who ended up being the most popular in the following elections. Lady Twankum promised an opulent party for the entertainment of the populace. 1775 election introduced Sir William Blaize, "Nephew to the late Lord Twankum" and Sir Christopher Dashem.[1]

The fame of the Garratt elections was spread by Samuel Foote's farce, The Mayor of Garret (1764),[2] and from 1768 candidates often came from London and its surroundings rather than just the Wandsworth area.[1]

The 1781 election again had nine candidates; old hands Sir John Harper, Sir Christopher Dashwood, and Sir William Blaize and the new ones Sir Buggy Bates (chimney-sweep), Sir John Gnawpost, Sir Thomas Nameless, Sir William Swallowtail (basketmaker), Sir Thomas Tubbs (waterman) and Sir Jeffrey Dunstan (wigseller). The latter proved to be the most popular even in the following elections due to his wit, small size and grotesque and unkempt appearance. Swallowtail had come to the poll in a wicker-chariot of his own design and preceded by hand-bell players. Dashwood was pulled around in a boat. Swallowtail and Buggy Bates were blamed of having government contracts, of baskets and soot, respectively. Sir John Harper and Sir Jeffrey Dunstan were "returned to parliament".[1]

In 1785 elections Sir Jeffrey Dunstan was left without opposition when Sir John Harper died. In 1796 the new candidate Sir Harry Dimsdale won but he died before the next election.[1]

After that, the festival begun to lose its drive and innkeepers no longer agreed to pay the expenses. An 1826 attempt to revive the event failed.[1]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Chambers 1869.
  2. ^ a b Barker 1888, p. 231.

References[edit]

Attribution

Further reading[edit]

  • Timbs, John (1862). "Appendix: Sir Richard Phillips, in his Morning's Walk from London to Kew, 1817, gives the following interesting details of the Garrett Elections". Lives of wits and humourists 1. R. Bentley. pp. 124–126, 385, 386. 
  • Irving, William (2008). The Mayor of Garratt.  An historical novel based on the life of Sir Jeffrey Dunstan