North Buckinghamshire Election, 1886

The Liberal government elected in 1885 collapsed over the issue of Irish Home Rule, and another general election was called in June 1886. Many Liberal Unionist MPs now received Conservative support. In Winslow the campaign was much less hotly contested than in 1885, partly because the most active Liberal, W.H. French, was out of action due to his wife's illness and death. Captain Verney remained a loyal Gladstonian Liberal although his father declared against Home Rule. The Conservatives had a much stronger candidate than previously in Egerton Hubbard from Addington (formerly MP for Buckingham Borough). The Buckingham Express now subtitled itself the North Bucks Conservative. The Buckingham Advertiser took a largely Unionist stance. Captain Verney started a new paper, the North Bucks Flying Post, to put across his own views. That wasn't available when this page was written but the Bicester Herald continued to support the Liberals strongly.

Joseph Chamberlain and the Radical wing of the Liberals were Unionists. On 29 June the National Radical Union held a large and divided meeting at Wolverton. W.H. French was one of the North Bucks figures who appeared on the platform, and was "met with cheering and hissing". Their solution to the Home Rule question was "to secure a uniform scheme of local self-government for all parts of the United Kingdom". French emphasised that he still supported Verney. (Buckingham Advertiser, 3 July)

The Conservatives met on Winslow Market Square and at The Bell on 26 June.  Prominent figures alongside Hubbard, who spoke on the Square from his landau, included his sister Rose Hubbard (also a supporter of women’s suffrage), Dr Newham, Rev. H.A. Douglas-Hamilton, Meyrick Selby-Lowndes and “Messrs Grant King, W. Weston, H. Bullock, J. Linnell, T. Linnell, J. Mathison, Ridgway, Hillyer, B. Warr, Young, Curtis, Biggs, Matthews, Neal, Grace, Geo. Lee &c.”.  “A man named James Yewlett made himself somewhat conspicuous by a call for three cheers for Captain Verney, to which a group of lads responded”.  (Buckingham Advertiser, 3 July)

There was a Liberal meeting on 2 July, addressed by Verney who spoke mainly about Ireland.

Buckingham Advertiser, 10 July
  On Friday evening, July 2, a Liberal meeting was held in the Centenary Hall, to hear addresses from Captain Verney, Mr. Rowland Wilkinson, barrister-at-law, and other gentlemen.  The meeting was convened for eight o’clock, but it was half past before it commenced.  The Rev. J. Riordan, in the absence of Mr. W. H. French, was voted to the chair, and was supported by the Rev. J. S. Poulton, Messrs. S. Perkins (Padbury), Jones, Fulks, E.  J. French, Saving, J. East, John Elley, George Pacey (Captain Verney’s election agent), Saunders ( Whaddon), Chapman, Morey (Marston), J. Biggs (Grandborough), Jones (Padbury), Illing &c.  There were also several ladies present, including Mrs. E. H. Verney.  The room was literally crowded, many not gaining admittance.  Mr. S. Perkins first rose to read a letter from Mr. W. H. French, who stated that he was unable to be present at their meeting through family affliction…
  The Chairman called upon Mr. Sylvanus Jones to propose a resolution.- Mr. Jones, in replying to the call of the Chairman, said he did not think of being called upon to speak that evening, but he must say that they had had a good meeting at Swanbourne.  He also spoke on the Home Rule bill, and said if they sent Captain Verney back again to Parliament, they would send a good man (cheers).  He then proposed the following resolution:- “That this meeting is glad to know that Captain Verney will support any well-considered Liberal measures that may be brought forward to endeavour to settle the Irish Question upon the principles of truth and justice, and considers him a suitable candidate for the Division of the County, and pledges itself to do its utmost to secure his triumphant return to Parliament.”- Mr. Saving, in seconding the resolution, expressed a hope that they would all vote for Captain Verney, and again return him to Parliament (cheers)…

A hot topic in Winslow was the provision of allotments.  Verney accused Hubbard of taking no interest in them before the election, and Hubbard blamed the Liberals for not having introduced legislation (which did not happen until 1908).

The Liberals held a meeting on the Market Square on 10 July, which lasted until 10 p.m. and carried on informally until midnight.  There were a number of disturbances.  The Conservatives met at The Bell on 12 July and the speakers included Henry Monk and Rev. H.A. Douglas-Hamilton. (Bicester Herald, 16 July)

Polling took place on Tuesday 13 July. 572 out of 695 registered voters in the Winslow district voted. The result was declared the next day.  The result was:
Hubbard 4,460
Verney 4,389

This was how Hubbard's supporters at the Buckingham Express (17 July) described his triumphant appearance at Winslow:

  Speaking from the carriage in which he had been drawn into the town by his supporters, Mr. Egerton Hubbard said “Electors of Winslow, I thank you very heartily for the gratifying and enthusiastic reception you have given me.  (Cheers).  We have had a severe contest, for we have had to fight against slander and untruth.  (Cheers).
  Your fellow subjects in Ireland will thank you for opposing a Bill, which under the name of Home Rule- meant separation and ruin to their country.  I have lived near the town of Winslow for nearly thirty years, as your neighbour, now as your member I hope I may be your friend for thirty years more.  (Loud and prolonged cheering).
  I shall do my best to promote your interests in common with those of the Electors of the rest of the Division.  (Loud cheering).
  One thing I will ask you- look on me not only as your Member but friend.  (Cries of “you are, you are.”)  And in any case where my opinion is desired apply to me with confidence.”  (Tremendous cheering amid which the newly elected member resumed his seat.)

The Bicester Herald (16 July) gave an account of what went wrong for the Liberals and how the victorious Conservatives behaved:

  THE POLLING AT WINSLOW AND THE AFTER PROCEEDINGS.- The election in Winslow district appears to have passed off very quietly as compared with its predecessor.  On the Liberal side there was an entire absence of enthusiasm until the polling day actually arrived, and until within four days of it there was not a Liberal bill to be seen in the town.  The organisation, too seemed to have failed, for not one of the old Liberal officials took an active part in it, the management of the district being in the hands of a stranger.  To anyone who knew what great things were done on behalf of Captain Verney at the previous election in the district, things did not wear a very favourable aspect.  On the Conservative side everything was extremely different.  At the last election, while tolerating Sir Samuel Wilson, it could not really be said that he was liked by his party in this vicinity.  Some were offended because they did not think Mr. Hubbard had been fairly treated, for others Sir. Samuel’s views were a great deal too Liberal, and the fact that he was a Presbyterian was against him in some people’s eyes and one way or another a number of the party did not trouble to vote at all.  This time there was a strong candidate in the person of Mr. Egerton Hubbard, whose family had been working and waiting for the seat and who was popular among every class of his party. 

The Irish question too had an immense influence in his favour.  Some Liberals it is certain voted in his favour and many more abstained from voting altogether.  The Conservatives had their old election sub-agent, assisted by a strong local committee, and they spared neither trouble nor money.  Directly the election became a certainty, the blacksmith’s shop which stands in the middle of the town [Russell's, 3 High Street] was converted into a Conservative centre, where every morning fresh appeals to the electors made their appearance.  There were letters in large type from John Bright and Spurgeon, names of weight to Liberals and Dissenters; from Chamberlain and Lord Hartingdon, Radical and Whig; and from MacArthur and Lord Salisbury, Wesleyan and Churchman.  The butcher’s shop adjoining was not far behind, and the “Bell” was literally covered with Union Jacks and appeals against the disintegration of the Empire.  On the night before the poll both parties seemed to be waking up, and the red and blue appeals, to vote for the different candidates, began to fly about; but the former were far less in number than the blue, and showed a marked decrease from last time.  Two well-known Winslow characters were invested in the dignity of blue sandwich men, and amused themselves and the juveniles by their drunken antics.  At eight next morning, guarded by a strong staff of police, the poll opened.  The Liberals present were- Mr. F. Verney (who was loudly cheered as he drove up), Mr. S. Jones, Mr. Pacey, and Mr. Saving, while inside was the Rev. J. S. Poulton.  Mr. H. Bullock, the sub-agent, was in charge of the Conservative arrangements.  Mr. H. Warr arrived early with a load of voters.  Conveyances were tolerably plentiful on both sides; but the Liberals missed the fine coach of the last election, although Lord Roseberry lent them two conveyances.  Mr. Egerton Hubbard drove up about 10.30, overtaking Mr. Cecil Hubbard and Mr. Lambton on the way, and was received with mingled cheers and groans.  The Hon. T. F. Fremantle and Lord Cottesloe were also similarly recognised.  Capt. Verney visited the polling station about half-past four, and met with a good reception.  The poll, though not so close as on the former occasion, was yet regarded as a very good one by the checkers.  Everything passed off very quietly at the close.

  The day after the poll the politicians were anxious to know the result.  As soon as it was ascertained that Mr. Hubbard was returned blacksmith’s anvils were placed in the centre of the Square, and a continual discharge was kept up to make the news known.  As Mr. Hubbard was coming to the town at about four o’clock it was determined to give him a reception, and he and Mrs. Hubbard were accordingly met at the Swan corner where the ponies were taken out of the pretty little carriage and headed by a Union Jack, guarded by the police and singing “Britons never will be slaves.” moved up the High street, where Mr. Hubbard was received by a large number of friends, including Lord Cottesloe, the Hon. T. F. Fremantle, the Revs. H. D. Hamilton, and F. R. B. Pinhorn, Dr. Newham, Mr. H. Monk, and a number of ladies.  After stopping a little while on the square the procession moved round the town.  During the evening the anvils were moved to the Swan field, where their fusillades attracted a crowd.  A short peal from the church bells were given, and the Union Jack was hoisted on the tower.  About ten o’clock some lawless parties set alight to two stacks of faggots and some implements belonging to Mr. Thomas Saving, a prominent Liberal.  The flames attracted a quantity of spectators.  This disgraceful act will not assist the Conservative cause.

The Liberals attributed the Conservative success partly to the Primrose League, the populist Conservative organisation in which women played a prominent role. Later in 1886 they tried to respond by forming branches of the Liberal Brotherhood across North Bucks, as reported by the Buckingham Advertiser (16 Oct):

  LIBERAL BROTHERHOOD.- A public gathering to inaugurate the formation of Branches of the Liberal Brotherhood in several of the villages in this district, was held on Wednesday, at the Centenary Hall.  A public tea was first of all held, at which 200 sat down, and which was well provided by Mr. F. Benbow.  About 8 o’clock a fair number of people gathered in the hall again for a public meeting, among them being, Rev. J. S. Poulton, Messrs. Fulks, Biggs, R. Norman, T. Saving, G. Clarke, J. Tattam, Rodwell, &c., &c.- On the proposition of Mr. Orchard, Mr. Saving was placed in the chair.- The Chairman, in his opening remarks, said they were met to consider two questions- the Land Question and the Allotment Question- and he advocated the land being let to the labourers at the same rent as to the farmers.- The Rev. J. S. Poulton then read a letter from Mr. French, expressing his sympathy with the movement, and regretting that at present he was unable to take any part in it.- Mr. Gardner (who was formerly in this district as a N.A.L.U. delegate) addressed the meeting , and concluded by moving the following resolution- “That this meeting is of the opinion that the land of the mother country has been cruelly neglected, and that the time has arrived when the agricultural labourer should be placed on the land, and this meeting pledges itself to support Jesse Colling’s Allotment Bill.”- Mr. G. Clarke (Singleborough) seconded it, speaking in favour of working men being allowed to have land, but advising them to put no faith in the Tory promise held out.- Mr. Thomas Pitkin supported the resolution, and in the course of his remarks said many of them had been very much to blame in being led away by the cry of Home Rule, they should let the question sit and get their man in.  He considered it a great shame Captain Verney was not elected, he was one of the best men that ever entered into the House (cheers).- A vote  of thanks to the Rev. S. J. Poulton and the deacons was passed for the use of the room, and acknowledged by Mr. Poulton, and Mr. Tattam next proposed a resolution demanding residential or manhood suffrage, and condemning the principle of plurality of votes, and the meeting shortly afterwards concluded.- The meeting was enlivened by the presence of the  Mursley Drum and Fife Band.

Liberal activities in 1887

On 11 Jan there was a meeting at the Centenary Hall to form a Federation of the Liberal Brotherhood for North Bucks. W.H. French was chosen as President. Silvanus Jones published a poem about the meeting in the Advertiser (29 Jan): "Dwell in Unity".A torchlit procession set out for the station to meet Captain Verney and escorted him to the Market Square, then back to the Centenary Hall. Verney's speech (reported in detail in the Bicester Herald and Buckingham Advertiser, and derided in the Conservative North Bucks Times) included comments on the administration of local charities, especially those concerned with education: now that education was compulsory, the charity money should not be used simply to reduce the ratepayers' contribution. This led to some controversy in Winslow about the Rogers School Trust (see also Mr Neal's reply).

Buckingham Advertiser, 29 Jan
(To the Editor of the Buckingham Advertiser and North Bucks Free Press.)
  Sir,-“By his will in 1772 [a mistake for 1722], Joseph Rogers, of Winslow, bequeathed the sum of £600 upon trust, to be laid out in the purchase of land, the yearly rents and profits thereof to be expended in educating and instructing such a number of poor people’s children belonging to the parish of Winslow, as his trustees would find the same would answer.”
  The above bequest realizes a sum that would pay the present school fees for 120 “poor people’s children belonging to the parish of Winslow.”  As a fact, it now defrays the cost of educating 20 only, and those by no means necessarily “poor”; while the balance of £42 goes to save the pockets of Winslow ratepayers, who pose as the bountiful supporters of schools kept up for the good of the poor.
  I have been, not over politely, called to book for quoting the above words, and shall be pleased to give my authority for them, whenever my assailants will deign to furnish an abstract of the will of the late Joseph Rogers in substantiation of their position.
  My present object is to ask Mr. Evelyn Hubbard two brief questions, which are germane to the argument underlying his letter in your last issue.
  Charities are sometimes said to be “lost” (an expression to which I should at another time take exception).
  Now if the Rogers’ educational charity were to become “lost” who would be the losers: the poor of Winslow, or the ratepayers ?
  Also, is not teaching a boy science, or, for that matter, the making of clothing, boots, furniture, &c., “educating and instructing” him ?
  The evident and laudable intention of Joseph Rogers, deceased, was to benefit the poor of his town.  That intention is being daily frustrated by events, the responsibility for which I do not seek to fix on anyone.  I only indicate the facts.
                                                                        Yours truly,
                                                                                    W. H. FRENCH.
Winslow, January 25th, 1887.

Mr French's points were taken further at a public meeting in April: read more. The Winslow Brotherhood established a coal club, buying coal in bulk and selling it to members at 7½d per cwt. Liberal agitation over the provision of allotments achieved some success:

Bicester Herald, 25 Feb
  ALLOTMENTS MEETING AT WINSLOW.- A meeting in connection with the Allotments Extension Association was held at the Centenary Hall, Winslow, on Friday, Feb. 18.  Mr. A. Bishop attended on behalf of the association.  The attendance was not large… On the proposition of Mr. Archard, seconded by Mr. H. Lee, Mr. Sewell was selected chairman… Mr. Saving said he was sure they all had an interest in the land question, and particularly those who lived in an agricultural part of the country.  For himself he had long been convinced that the allotment system would be the salvation of the country. (Cheers.)  Look at Winslow for instance, what would be the situation at the present moment without even its present inconvenient system [i.e. Poor's Piece]? He did not hesitate to say that there were more labourers employed on the allotments at Winslow than on all other land in the parish…There was a sort of meeting held at Winslow, the other day, in connection with the Primrose League.  It was something like a penny gaff - (laughter ) - and wound up with a piece about three acres and a cow, holding up to ridicule the labouring class.  Who got it up? Why Miss Rose Hubbard moved them to get it up to ridicule the labouring population.  (Groans.)… The meeting ended with the customary votes of thanks.

Buckingham Advertiser, 19 Feb
  A movement is on foot to provide allotments for Winslow working men, on Magpie Farm, adjoining the Station Road, the present ones being so far from the town.  It is said that W. S. Lowndes, Esq., has given his consent. [This was where Lowndes Way is now. Some of the land was put up for sale as garden plots in 1906; see Station Road.]

Buckingham Advertiser, 26 Feb
  A step in the right direction !  we understand that a movement is on foot for providing the labourers of Winslow with some really good cow plots in Horwood Road, known as the Park, and at a rental slightly in advance of the present occupier. [These were smallholdings on land owned by H.R. Lambton of Redfield.]

On 28 Feb there was a meeting in the Congregational Schoolroom which didn't get beyond discussion about whether it had been properly convened and appeals to sink minor differences (Buckingham Advertiser, 5 March). According to the North Bucks Times, "Even the great Mr. French had very considerable difficulty in obtaining a hearing". However, the Liberals did succeed in getting one of the two places as guardian for Winslow, in place of the Conservative James King and perhaps as the result of a behind-the-scenes deal:

Bicester Herald, 1 April
  WINSLOW GUARDIANSHIP.- Mr. S. Jones (Nonconformist, Liberal) has put forth an address asking for support for the office of guardian.  It is generally thought that there will not be a contest, but that one of the old ones will retire.

An accident set back the Liberal cause:

Bicester Herald, 13 May
  SAD DISASTER TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE NORTH BUCKS LIBERAL BROTHERHOOD.- The members of the North Bucks Liberal Brotherhood will be sorry to learn that their president, Mr. W. H. French, of Winslow, sustained a severe accident on Friday last, May 6, by the breaking of a step ladder, which caused him to fall on a pig trough in his warehouse, whereby severe internal injuries ensued.  We are glad to state that he is somewhat better now than at first, although not likely at present to take any active part in business or politics.

A poorly-attended meeting of the Liberal Association and the agent (Mr Calladine) in the Congregational Schoolroom on 2 Aug recorded that the president and secretary had resigned (apparently in 1886) and tried to choose new district officers and delegates. Josiah Archard and Horace Lee were chosen as delegates.

On 19 Dec there was a Brotherhood meeting in the Centenary Hall with Captain Verney (now officially the prospective parliamentary candidate) and Dr J.F. Fox, MP for the Tullamore Division of King's County. Dr Fox gave a speech about Ireland before leaving to catch the 8.40 train.

The Bicester Herald of 30 Dec published a letter from W.H. French denouncing an "influential gentleman" who appears to be Mr Calladine.

Conservative activities in 1887

Many of the people at this meeting were actually Liberals, and the Bicester Herald published their questions in more detail.

Buckingham Advertiser, 19 Nov
  CONSERVATIVE MEETING.- A meeting was held at the George Hotel, on Thursday evening week, to hear an address by Mr. Hodges, the Conservative working-man, who has been lately lecturing in this district.   The room was well filled, amongst them being Mr. W. Neal, who was called to the chair, Mr. T. F Fremantle, jun., Messrs. C. Colgrove, Clare, George, Vaisey, Varney, Curtis, H. Lee, Russell, Whitchello, G. Ingram, W. Ingram, J. Varney, G. Bird, T. Saving, J. Sear, &c.  Mr Neal in opening the meeting explained that Mr. Bullock was to have taken the chair, but was unexpectedly called away in the middle of the day, and had sent a note asking him to do so.  Mr. Hodge’s address dwelt more particularly on two things, the Allotments Act, and the Irish Question, he received a capital hearing, only broken by one semi-inebriated gentleman (apparently of conservative politics) who after first questioning the accuracy of the lecturer’s statement about land being let at £8 per acre, fell to confirming everything he said, and then on being called to order several times by Mr. Hillier, and the chairman, he retired, remarking that the lecturer, and Mr. Gladstone ought to be hung up together- Considerable amusement was caused by his falling down stairs on his way out.  Mr. T. Saving said he was very glad to find from the gentleman’s speech on the Agricultural holdings Act, that the Conservatives were carrying out the Liberal programme, but he was afraid the gentleman had not made it very clear, what the remedy was for agricultural depression, unless it was fair trade.

Liberal activities in 1888

There was serious infighting among local Liberals in early 1888, not directly about Irish Home Rule but some of the disaffected associated with the Liberal Unionists. W.H. French was attacked in the Buckingham Express after breaking a window in Buckingham, but had a vote of confidence from the Winslow United Temperance Society and from the Liberal Brotherhood after a meeting in the Congregational Schoolroom (Bicester Herald, 6 Jan). They elected as delegates to the Liberal Two Hundred (the decision-making body for the constituency): W.H. French, T.B. Saving, Horace Lee, James Spooner, Thomas Higgins and Silvanus Jones. Someone signing himself P.L. complained that one of these "was a youth who at present is neither a voter nor a householder" (Buckingham Advertiser, 7 Jan). Horace Lee, who was 27, took this as an attack on himself (Buckingham Advertiser, 21 Jan). Another correspondent claimed that French had altered the time of the meeting to make sure that his friends were chosen.

There was then a controversy about endorsing Captain Verney as prospective parliamentary candidate, which French said the Brotherhood could not legally do because of its activities in making grants and loans which could be interpreted as corrupt electoral practices. There was also a rumour that French wanted to be the candidate himself, which probably began as a joke taken out of context. He got some sympathy from the Buckingham Advertiser:

Buckingham Advertiser, 21 Jan
  It would appear that the rift is not so completely healed between the Brotherhood and the Liberal Association as some persons imagine.  Our reasons for this are the significant way in which it was suggested that the authors of “On looker”- in all probability the letter which appeared in our columns was referred to- were in the Hall, and that they would be relieved at Mr. French’s naïve statement that he had withdrawn from the candidature.
  It was also suggestive that when Captain Verney rose to speak about 9.45 Mr. French left the hall.  It was 9.45 when Mr. French rose to speak at the Centenary Hall, at Winslow, to which “On looker” referred.
  As outsiders, we should not be surprised if Mr. French withdrew from his thankless office as virtual and gratuitous organiser of the party.
  Indeed it is quite on the tapis that he may transfer his services to another constituency, two having already been mentioned as being desirous of availing themselves of the same.
  Between the lines of his Presidential address we think one can discover less call for rest than for change of engagement.  Mr. French’s physical power did not seen to us to have been taxed by his recent efforts in the neighbourhood of Buckingham; he seemed full of power and energy.
  Thus it is we say that we doubt whether, after the lapse of time, and another election comes on, they will find themselves able to draw upon Mr. French’s experience and energy for their desired success.
  As we have said repeatedly-occurring circumstances confirm this opinion.  During the delegates’ meeting on Friday the President regretted Mr. Bullard should have been called away by an engagement placed upon him by the Association secretary.  Reporters were not admitted to the meeting: but this was common talk during the evening.
  Bu the President did not tell them that on that identical day the Claydon cottage rents were being collected, and which circumstance equally added its detriment to the gathering in the Hall.
  Mr. Smart stoutly declined re-election as Vice-president of the Brotherhood, and was to be seen with Mr. S. Perkins in the body of the Hall on Friday night.

On 9 March, the Liberal Registration Committee met at the Congregational Schoolroom to endorse Verney and condemn French (motion proposed by T.B. Saving and seconded by George Whichello). The Liberal Brotherhood met at the Centenary Hall on 13 March and called on French to resign as their president, claiming that he wanted to support Hon. Rupert Carington as a Unionist candidate. French refused to vacate the chair and two separate meetings carried on at the same time (Bicester Herald, 23 March). After this things apparently quietened down until preparations for the first Bucks County Council elections later in the year.

The Liberal Brotherhood, with French's financial backing, took over a farm at Steeple Claydon to turn it over to smallholdings for labourers. There seems to have been a similar plan for Winslow which did not materialise, as T.B. Saving in a letter to the Buckingham Advertiser (21 Jan) wrote in reply to a letter from T.D. Curtis: "I am given to understand that he is expecting to have to give up his farm ... the Liberal Brotherhood have recently made an application for it."

See also:

Copyright 17 May, 2021