1877 : The School Board Election

10th February 1877

The School Board Election.
Stormy Public Meeting.

– On Thursday a public meeting of the ratepayers of the parish, convened by Mr. T. Allen, was held Lower Mitcham schools. The room was filled in every part, and the proceedings were of the most uproarious character. It is simply impossible to give any adequate idea of the stormy nature of the meeting, but all that determined interruption, personal and insulting remarks, loud laughter, groaning, and shouting, could do towards making it a “good old” election meeting was persistently carried out.

The election is to take place on Thursday next, and there have been ten gentlemen nominated for the seven seats, viz., Messrs. Allen, Wade, Harwood, Wilson, Nobes, Coles, Hooper, Bridger, Legg, and Nicholls, Mr. Czarnikow being the only member of the present Board who declined to stand. About half-past eight Mr. Henry Wood was voted to the chair.

– The first candidate who addressed the meeting was Mr. Allen, who commenced by stating that he was a labouring man, and proceeded to object to a distinction being made between such men as himself and those described as “gentlemen” in the nomination papers. He entered into a tirade against the expenditure of the School Board, and stated his detestation of what he described as the “ iniquitous system” that was being carried out. He attacked the Board on many points as to harshness until one might have thought that the School Board for Mitcham was a veritable modern “ Court of Inquisition.” Mr. Allen also directed the flashes of his eloquence against the Act of Parliament itself.

– After a time Mr. Nobes rose and asked whether the speaker was right in going away from his subject as he had. This was the signal for uproar, roaring and shouting becoming the order, or rather the disorder, of the day. Ultimately, the chairman ruling that Mr. Allen was in order, certain of the meeting addressed themselves to Mr. Nobes and shouted “Turn him out.” Mr. Allen continued his speech and expressed his belief that nothing further should be imparted to the children than reading, writing, and arithmetic up to compound addition. The patience of the audience becoming somewhat exhausted, he was greeted with cries of “time,” when he coolly informed his hearers that he would only detain them “ten minutes longer.” The remainder of his observations were not listened to so attentively as the rest, various interruptions taking place. One individual especially devoted himself to personalites, amid cries of “order,” “turn him out,” &c. This gentleman having been silenced — for a time — the other end of the room was the scene of some disturbance, something having occurred to tickle the fancy of this part of the gathering. Upon Mr. Allen resuming his seat, he was greeted with cheers and demonstrations of an opposite nature.

– Mr. Wade followed, and rendered an account of his stewardship during the past three years. He said the Board had endeavoured to carry out the Act of Parliament with flrmness but gentleness. He touched upon the word “gentleman,” so complainingly alluded to by Mr. Allen, and advised the meeting to take no notice of the term. He explained the action of the School Management Committee, challenging anyone to say that they had treated persons coming before them with anything but courtesy. The individual previously referred to here caused some amusement by remarking that the Queen’s Speech ought to have been read. A gentleman in the audience appealed to the Chairman to silence this obnoxious person, whereupon the latter proceeded to the spot where the gentleman was seated, and, so it is said, requested him to fight. Of course the gentleman again appealed to the Chairman. A scene of confusion ensued, a number of the candidates and some of the audience remarking that if the Chairman could not keep order they would leave the meeting. The difficulty was in some degree surmounted by the disturber spoken being accommodated with a seat on the platform, where — for a time — he behaved himself much better. Mr. Wade, upon continuing, referred to the fallacy of the statement that the children were in danger of being over educated, and quoted figures in support of his remarks. Mr. Allen then rose and asked several questions amid some laughter and disturbance. and having obtained replies, went on to address the meeting again.

– Mr. John Harwood, the next candidate, waived his right to speak, and the Rev. D. F. Wilson next occupied the platform, and was received with cheers. He gave particulars as to the vast increase in the number of children receiving instruction during the last few years, and expressed bis helief that the work of the School Board had been a success. (Cheers, applause, and hisses.)

– Mr. Nobes, the next speaker, was received with cheers. He referred to the term ” gentleman ” harped on so much throughout the evening, and expressed his conviction that it was very ungentlemanly on the part of Mr. Allen to bring forward the subject so prominently as he had done. (Hear, hear.) With regard to the charge of harshness he would give £20 to any local charity if any ratepayer could say that he had used a harsh word to them in connection with the duties of the Board. (Mr. Allen – l did not mean you). As to the charge of extravagance, this was also unjust, as although the Board might have made some mistakes, they had never spent money carelessly. (Hear, hear.) He also announced that he had written to Mr. Blake to withdraw his name from the list of nominees. This statement was received with regret by the audience, and Mr. Allen expressed his conviction that Mr. Nobes was a gentleman, a voice from the audience confirming this statement in treble notes, amidst some laughter. Mr. Allen again attempted to speak, but the audience by this time not being in a temper to submit to any further infliction, met him with hisses and cries of “Chair,” ” We don’t want to hear you all night,” &c., until Mr. Allen, after remaining on his legs some time, was obliged to resume his seat, but eventually rose again and made other remarks.

– Mr. Coles, who was received with deafening cheers, commenced by making a further reference to the word “gentleman.” He also spoke of the necessity that had existed for the establishment of a School Board. He told the meeting he wanted to play a solo while on that platform, although he had noticed that while other speakers had been there, Mr. Allen had been indulging in a kind of double bass behind. (Laughter.) Proceeding humorously and effectively to combat some of the arguments of Mr. Allen, he alluded to circumstance to which the latter had referred, when he (the speaker) had told him he was showing his ignorance. In the course of his remarks he expressed his belief that Mr. Allen, on the occasion in question, was like a “maniac. ”

– Mr. Alien rose, and, in excited manner, demanded to know whether this was gentlemanly conduct, but Mr. Coles having apologised, rather spoiled his victory, by designating that gentleman as a “madman.” (Load laughter.) When the speaker concluded Mr. Allen rose once more, but was met with cries of “Question,” Sit down,” “Chair,” &c. Ultimately he sat down again, and Mr. Coles also resumed his seat amidst applause.

– Mr. J. P. Hooper also addressed the meeting, defending the action of the School Board. He did not think also that Mr. Allen could produce any proofs of extravagance.

– Mr. Allen once again assumed an upright position and asked a question, which was answered, and Mr. Hooper also explained at what standard children could be exempted from attendance at schools.

– Mr. Allen rose and yet again put further questions, and two or three times more endeavoured to address the meeting.

– Mr. J. Bridger was not able to be present.

– The Rev. F.S. Legg, in the course of his remarks, stated that he came forward as a candidate for the district of Singlegate. He referred to his practical experience of schools, expressing his sympathy with the children, parents, and teachers. He was listened to attentively and applauded.

– Mr. Nicholls shortly addressed the meeting, promising that if elected he would do his best for the ratepayers.

– Upon his resuming his seat, person in the room wished to ask question of Mr. Allan, and upon receiving permission, came forward and, with true sarcasm, enquired of that gentleman whether, if were elected, would work with the Board would have a Board of his own? (Loud laughter.) Shortly afterwards the meeting concluded, having lasted till close upon eleven.

Croydon Advertiser and East Surrey Reporter – Saturday 10 February 1877 from the British Newspaper Archives (subscription required)

The Mitcham School Board Election. The polling took place Thursday. For some weeks past there has been a considerable amount excite ment prevalent the parish. The supporters of the various candidates have been animated in the discussion of their particular friends’ good qualities, and the advantages that were likely to accrue to the parish should they be elected. But very little ill-feeling, however, seems to have been engendered. Printer’€™s ink does not appear to have been very much used, the candidates’ addresses and one or two other manifestoes being the only outward and visible evidences the contest which was going on. The uproarious meeting of Thursday week certainly contributed in large degree to give the parishioners interest in the election, in fact the gathering has been one of the most lively subjects of conversation during the week. The shop windows of the town were the principal – almost the only – means of displaying the addresses of the various candidates, and it was a noticeable fact that in most places the utmost impartiality was observed, most of the shopkeepers exhibiting the addresses of all, without respect to party. On the day the election a stranger would not have been struck with any particular stir in the parish, in fact nothing but the aforesaid bills was observable to lead to the conclusion that so important an event as a School Board election was transpiring. The voting took place at three stations, situate at the Lower Mitcham Board Schools, the School Chapel, Upper green, and the Board schools, Merton-lane, and every arrangement was made the returning officer to ensure the proper carrying out of the privilege of voting. During the morning and afternoon the voters were comparatively few and far between, but in the evening, between the hours of six and eight, more animation was to be noticed, and close upon the hour for closing the poll there was some amount of rush.€ The utmost diversity of opinion existed with regard to the names of the three unfortunate candidates who would be at the bottom of the poll, and on enquiry of certain of the local celebrities different persons were mentioned as likely to be thus left out in the cold shade of defeat. One or two opinions, however, were generally prevalent. The Vicar was considered certain of election. Mr. Allen was confidently pointed to as being the candidate who would head the list, and Mr. Nobes was generally believed to be sure re-election. We heard it surmised that Messrs. Wade, Nichols, and Harwood would the defeated candidates, and others, again, would state their doubts as to the re-election of Mr. Hooper. The Singlegate people made considerable efforts secure the election the Rev. Mr. Legg and Mr. Nobes, calling upon the parishioners to give four votes to the former and three to the latter. The remaining candidates came in for their share public gossip. But few the gentlemen who had been nominated were noticed during the day, although most of them, should think, presented themselves at the polling books at different times to give their own votes. We heard of one the candidates, certainly the most energetic, riding about in a cart, from which at various spots delivered addressee to the electors, but this information cannot vouch for, although we think it a likely move on the part the individual referred to. The counting of the votes took place on Friday (yesterday), and the following were the numbers polled :-

Elected

Mr. Allen 1006
Mr. Legg 704
Mr. Wilson 589
Mr. Nobes 559
Mr. Nicholls 532
Mr. Wade 374
Mr. Hooper 362

Rejected

Mr. Coles 359
Mr. Harwood 213
Mr. Bridger 148

On looking at the above figures the first feature which particularly strikes one is fact that Mr. Allen has no less than 302 votes in excess of the gentleman whose name appears second. This result must be attributed to Mr. Allen’s personal popularity amongst a section of the parishioners, and perhaps in some degree to a feeling of dissatisfaction which exists amongst a portion the parish at the doings of the late Board, although it is—or ought to be well known that they are blamed for carrying out that which they could in no way avoid. The ratepayers, it would appear, expect great things of Mr. Allen. We earnestly hope they may not be disappointed.

Mr. Legg’s friends have certainly exerted themselves to place him in the position he occupies.

With regard to Mr. Wilson’s position other result was expected. Against this gentleman and Mr. Wade a dead set has been made by some of the inhabitants, and they were apparently censured for doing that which the very Act of Parliament lays down, and the entire Board has sanctioned. It is therefore matter for satisfaction that both gentlemen have been returned.

Mr. Nicholls we do not know, but apparently he is well known of the parishioners.

Mr. Hooper is the last elected candidate, and what is rather remarkable he has only received three votes above the next lowest, Mr. Coles, who with Mr. Harwood and Mr. Bridger are the rejected candidates.

By this election four members of the old Board will retain their seats, while new blood to the extent of three members will be imported. Two of the rejected candidates were members of the Board which has lately ceased to exist.

Source: Croydon Advertiser and East Surrey Reporter – Saturday 17 February 1877 from the British Newspaper Archive (subscription required)

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