Election to the Board of Guardians, 1886

Contested elections for Winslow's two seats on the Board of Guardians were unusual (see a previous one in 1872 and another in 1893). The sitting Guardians were Henry Monk of Tuckey Farm and James King, auctioneer and surveyor. Mr King's latest "calamity" hasn't yet been identified but he had twice been declared bankrupt (1867 and 1874). The challenger was Jonas Hillyer, landlord of The George. Many people seem to have been more worried about the expense of an election than about their right to vote.

Buckingham Advertiser, 10 April

GUARDIANSHIP CONTEST. – A meeting to consider the contest for guardians was held at the George Assembly Room on Monday last, when there was a fair attendance.   On the motion of Mr. Stonill, Mr. Thomas Saving was placed in the chair.  In his opening remarks the Chairman said he had no doubt that if they had been allowed the use of the Boys School people would have been better pleased and they would have had a large meeting.  Their object was to promote the candidature of Mr. Hillyer, the gentleman whom he nominated at the last vestry meeting, believing him to be a fit and proper person to represent the ratepayers at the Board of Guardians.  Of course his right to do so had been called in question, but he was only exercising his legitimate right in nominating Mr. Hillyer, and that every ratepayer and householder in Winslow had a similar right to do.  He had done no more than others.  Mr. Stevens nominated Mr. King, and Mr. Colegrove nominated Mr. Monk, as they had a perfect right to do.  He had been charged with wishing to put the parish to an expense, but if one of the other guardians would retire they would avoid that expense, and allow a little fresh blood to be infused.  If Mr. King had retired and allowed Mr. Hillyer to come in, that would have saved all the expense and confusion.  It had been said “why not get a better man to nominate him,” well they might have got a better one, but he thought it would have been hard to get a bigger – (laughter) – in fact if put in the scale he did not know whether he should not weigh more than both the others.  (A voice “all three of them,” and laughter) …

… The speaker then went on to speak of the recent vestry meeting, saying that he complained that no meeting of the Lighting Inspectors had been held since last November, and some gentlemen who had been elected then had not been even advised that they were elected.  Did he do wrong in calling attention to that?  He had also spoken about the charities, and the inferior coals that were given.  Next he had asked what the surveyors were paying for Hartshill stone and found there was a margin of 2/6 between the price they were paying for it broken, and what they could get it for unbroken.  Why in the name of goodness was there this margin of 2/6, when they could get it broken for 1/8, which other towns were doing.  Yet he was considered wrong because he brought these matters before the vestry…

…Mr. Saving next referred in terms of sorrow to the calamity which, we understand had befallen Mr. James King, and then spoke of the way in which the nomination was conducted, saying that only two nomination papers were provided, one of which was given to Mr. Stevens, and the other to Mr. Colegrove, and that he had to go to Mr. Willis’s to get another.  He then went on to speak of the Poor Laws, which he said were bad enough, but there was a great deal of discretionary power allowed, and bad as they were, the guardians made them infinitely worse.  He then referred to several cases of distress, that he said had come under his own notice – a widow woman with children, who could get nothing but the House [i.e. Workhouse].  The House ! and was that woman to have her liberty taken away and shut up at 8 o’clock at night, and be deprived of her children? No, she would not submit to it, but went back to Tinker’s End, and now two of her children are dead, and at whose door did death lie?  He referred to another case at Little Horwood, where a man was fined 5/- for not sending his children to school, and when he said he could not afford to pay the schooling, he was told he must go to Winslow, to the guardians, and ask them to pay the school fees.  He went and asked them, and they said no, but told him he could send one of his children to the Workhouse.   Could he do it?   Could he range his eight children before him and tell one of them he was going to send him to the Union?  Would any of them do it?  Would the guardians have done it?  He called it a disgrace to anyone professing Christianity.  He next referred to the exclusion of reporters from the guardians' meetings, and said that if Mr. Hillyer was returned, he would do all he could to get their proceedings reported.  He then called upon Mr. Hillyer. – Mr. Hillyer said it was rather early for him to address the meeting, so he would only say a few words and then let some other gentlemen speak.  First of all he would like to clear up the little floating tales that were about to the effect that he was doing this out of opposition to the present guardians.  They were gentlemen he had always been extremely friendly with, and he would like every one to understand that he had not the slightest ill-feeling against them, and he should also like to say that it was not from personal ambition.  He had been told that he should lose the personal friendship of the present guardians.  He had known them for five years, and did not believe it, but still if their friendship would not stand the test, then it must go…

…- Mr. Orchard [=Archard] inquired whether there was anything wrong to lay against Mr. Monk or Mr. James King, because if not he thought it was a pity to put the parish to the expense of an election.  Every one was entitled to their own views, but that was what he thought. – Mr. W. S. Neal said he had no doubt there were many there who would like to know whether there were any specific charges against the present Guardians.  In his opinion there did not seem to be any reason for putting the parish to the expense of £15.  There were no charges except those of the destitution, and the Chairman seemed to have forgotten that the Guardians were under the control of the Local Government Board, and that if they did not mind Mr. Auditor would pop a £5 surcharge on the guardian who was responsible. – The Chairman, in reply, contended that no auditor in the world would find fault with the Winslow Guardians for relieving the cases he had mentioned, but that he had brought no charges against either Mr. Monk or Mr. King, in fact he rather thought he should give Mr. Monk a vote (laughterI). – Mr. W. S. Neal said Mr. Saving stated the Gaurdians [sic] had a great deal of discretionary power.   Did he know that the Local Government Board had sent down strict orders to curtail the amount of out-door relief as much as possible?...

…- Mr. Hillyer next addressed the meeting again.   He first spoke of one of the Guardians holding the office of Surveyor, and said some gentlemen in the town had declared to him that they should have been pleased to see some one else in the office.  He and others were convinced that it was wrong for men to hold two or three offices, and England would not uphold it much longer…

…If he had his way Winslow Union [i.e. the Workhouse] should be done away with like the prisons (cheersI),  He had told the Government Inspector so, and the Inspector said he quite agreed with him.  If the Government Board would do away with the Union (and the expenses came not out of their pockets) they could afford to allow the poor 6/- or 8/- a week;  but they must have an Act of Parliament to do that, so it was no good talking about it at present.  But he could tell them what he would do if they did him the honour of returning him.  The Chairman had declared against the secrecy of the proceedings, and he was an advocate of the free Press in all Unions.  It was useless for them to send him if the press was refused, so that they should not know what he had been doing, and give an account of his stewardship.  (Mr. Neal here asked whether they had refused, when several voices replied “Yes, years agol” to which he said had they been asked recently, to which there was no reply.)  Mr. Hillyer went on to say that he should go as a perfectly free representative.  It was party feeling that was doing so much mischief in Winslow.  It was party spite that prevented their holding the meeting in the Boys’ School.  If sent, he would be free from all party spirit, and not biased, but every case should have the freest investigation he could secure and he would see that everything was carried out honestly and fairly.  There were only two seats, but there were twenty people ready to have come forward, but who did not like to because of opposing Mr. Monk and Mr King.  If they had retired there would have been no need to ask him (Mr. Hillyer) to stand.  He next referred to the out-door relief question, contending that the Local Government Board gave a certain amount of discretion, and with regard to such cases as those mentioned by the Chairman he would endeavour to give out-door relief  where it was necessary.  He would take away the £40 wasted on a chaplain whilst they had got a good church there (cheers).  But he knew that when once a chaplain was appointed they could not do away with him, and if they did there would be another in his place, so the best thing they could do would be to get an Act of Parliament to shut two or three of the houses up altogether.  After saying that he had plenty of time to fulfil the duties, he said if they thought a change was necessary, and that it was worth their while to send him they might give him a plumper, or they might give him one and Mr. Monk one.  He did not think it worth while to issue a printed address, but if they liked his views would they do their best to put him at the top of the poll and not at the bottom. – The Chairman said Mr. Monk had served the parish well;  and he had nothing to say against Mr. James King;  but he thought they might just have retired for once and let Mr. Hillyer see what he could do, for he knew he would speak his mind, and he had been one of the best overseers and lighting inspectors the parish ever had. – Mr Geo. George spoke at some length in favour of the old guardians.  He said it was not as if anything wrong had been brought forward against them.  But they had been in office a long time, and could have been turned out any year…

… He proposed a vote of confidence in Messrs. Monk and King, but when the time came that they wanted another he would support Mr. Hillyer. – The Chairman declined to put this vote to the meeting, saying it was called to support the candidature of Mr. Hillyer, and therefore he could not propose a vote of confidence in Messrs. Monk and King. – The meeting, which was a very peaceful one, (many present treating it only as a joke,) soon after terminated.

– By telegraph – Winslow, Friday afternoon.  Messrs. Monk and King are elected guardians.  Mr. Hillyer is about 50 votes behind.

Northampton Mercury, 10 April

CONTEST FOR GUARDIANS.- This rather unusual event has happened in consequence of the Liberals nominating Mr. J. Hillyer, landlord of the George Hotel in opposition to Messrs. Monk and King who have held office for some years.  A public meeting in furtherance of Mr. Hillyer’s candidature was held at the George Hotel on Monday night, Mr. Saving in the chair, when there was a fair attendance of ratepayers, and some strong speeches were made about the destitution which had prevailed and which it was contended the Guardians might have alleviated.  On the other hand it was stated that they had done all the Local Government Board would allow them to do.  The meeting was rather warm but perfectly orderly, and seemed in favour of the candidate.

Oxfordshire Telegraph, 14 April

To the Editor of the Winslow Advertiser.

SIR,- I notice that one of your contemporaries describes Mr. Hillyer as being put up by the Liberals.  This is evidently an error, as Mr. Hillyer has always shown himself ultra Conservative in parish matters, and, therefore, could not expect Liberal votes.  This being the case it is difficult to see what motive there could be in nominating him in opposition to the two old and respected Conservatives who have for so long held the office, unless it was to enable Mr. H and his nominator to talk big and see themselves in print; and for this the parish has got to pay about £15!
Yours truly, A RATEPAYER.
Winslow, April 10, 1886.

Northampton Mercury, 17 April

THE ELECTION OF GUARDIANS, which took place on the 9th inst., resulted in the return of the two old guardians, the votes, being Mr. H. Monk 187, Mr. James King 170, Mr. J. Hillyer 129.  A large number of the inhabitants did not vote at all, Mr. Hillyer not being Liberal enough to get their support, while the Conservatives voted for the two old guardians.

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Copyright 7 August, 2021