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Price of Provisions during Elections. During the election at Sudbury, four cabbages sold for 10l., and a plate of gooseberries fetched 25l. ; the sellers, where these articles were so dear, being voters. At Great Marlow, on the contrary, things were cheap, and an elector during the election bought a sow and nine young pigs for a penny.”
ELECTION Fort GARRETT.
The “County History" says, that the Hamlet of Garrett is in the road from Wandsworth to Tooting. About two centuries ago it appears to have been a single house called the Garvett. In it was the mansion-house of the Brodrick family, pulled down about fifty years ago; the ground is let to a market gardener; part of the garden wall remains. Garrett now contains about fifty houses, amongst which are some considerable manufactures. This used to be for many years the scene of a mock election, and much indecency on the meeting of every new parliament, when several characters in low life appeared as candidates, being furnished with fine clothes and gay equipages by the publicans, who made a good harvest. The last of these, known by the name of Sir Harry Dimsdale, was a deformed dwarf, little better than an idiot, who used to cry muffins in the streets about St. Ann's, Soho, and died about 1809. It has been dropped at the two last general elections; but the memory of it will be preserved by Foote's diverting farce of “The Mayor of Garrett."—There are three prints displaying the proceedings on occasion of this election.t
Since the "...; statement, which is almost in the words of Lysons, Garrett has been increased, and may be said, in 1826, to contain double the number of houses. Lysons and Bray call it a “hamlet;” and this denomination, if taken to mean “a small village,” is applicable to this place. For particulars concerning the “Mock Election," with a view to insertion in the Every Day-Book, Garrett itself has been visited, and persons seen there, and in the neighbourhood, who took part in the proceedings, and well remember them. Their statements of this public
* The Times, June 20, 1826. i Manning and Bray's History of Surrey.
burlesque will be laid before the reader presently.
As a preliminary, it may be remarked that in the election for Garrett, there was a whimsical assumption of office, and an arbitrary creation of officers and characters unknown in the elections of other boroughs. In particular, there was a “Master of the Horse.” The person so dignified at its latter elections was pointed out as the oldest individual in Wandsworth, who had figured in the “solemn mockery,” and as, therefore, most likely to furnish information, from “reminiscences” of his “ancient dignity.” He was described as “Old Jack Jones the sawyer;" and it was added, “You’ll find him by the water side; turn down by the church; he is lame and walks with a crutch; any body 'll tell you of him; he lives in a cottage by the bridge; if you don't find him at home, he is most likely at the Plume of Feathers, or just in the neighbourhood; you'll be sure to know him if you meet him—he is a thorough oddity, and can tell all about the Garrett Election.” The “Plume" was resorted to, and “old Jack Jones" obligingly sought by Mr. Attree the landlord, who for that purpose peregrinated the town; and the “Master of the Horse" made his entry into the parlour with as much alacrity as his wooden assistants helped him to. It was “the accustomed place,” wherein he had told his story “many a time and oft;” and having heard, “up town" that there was “somebody quite curious about the Garrett Election," he was dragging his “slow length along,” when “mine host of the Feathers" met him on the way.
John Jones may be described as “one of the has beens.” In his day he was tall of stature, stout of body, and had done as much work as any man of his time—when he was at it. But, then, he had overstrained himself, and for some years past had not been able to do a stroke of work; and he had seen a deal of “ran-dan,” and a racketty life had racketted his frame, and —— “Time Had written strange defeatures on his brow."
After the first civilities, and after he had deposited his crutch and stick by the side of a chair, and himself in an adjoining one, and after the glow of
pleasure from seeing a fresh face had subsided, and been replaced by a sense of the importance which attaches to the possession of something coveted by another, he talked of the “famous doings,” and “such sights as never were seen before, nor never would be seen again;" and he dimmed the hope of particular information, by “quips, and quirks, and wanton wiles;" and practised the “art of ingeniously tormenting,” by declarations of unbounded knowledge, and that “he could a tale unfold," but would not; because, as he said, “why should I make other people as wise as I am?" Yet there was a string which “discoursed most excellent music"—it was of himself and of the fame of his exploits. His “companions in arms” had been summoned to their last abiding-place, and, alas, “They left him alone in his glory !” John Jones's topic was not a dry one, nor was John Jones dry, but in the
commencement he had “preferred a little porter to anything else in the world," except, and afterwards accepted, “a drop of something by itself;" and, by degrees, he became communicative of all he could recollect. In the course of the present article his information will be embodied, with other memoranda, towards a history of the elections of the “borough of Garrett."
Had an artist been present at the conversation, he might have caught the features of the “Ex-master of the Horse," when they were heightened by his subject to a humorous expression. He was by no means unwilling to “have his head taken off;" but he deemed the “execution” an affair of so much im. portance as to solemnize his features from their wonted hilarity while speaking, to the funereal appearance which the writer has depicted, and the engraver perpetuated, in the following representation:
As a memorial of a remarkable living character, this portrait may be acceptable ; he is the only person alive at Wandsworth, of any distinction in the popular elections of its neighbourhood.
The following interesting account respecting. Garrett is in “A Morning's Walk to Kew."— By Sir Richard Phillips. Wandsworth having been the oncefamed scene of those humorous popular elections of a mayor, or member for GAR aat; and the subject serving to illustrate the manners of the times, and abounding in original features of character, I collected among some of its elder inhabitants a variety of amusing facts and documents, relative to the eccentric candidates and their elections. Southward of Wandsworth, a road extends nearly two miles to the village of Lower Tooting, and nearly midway are a few houses, or hamlet, by the side of a small common, called Garrat, from which the road itself is called Garrat Lane. Various encroachments on this common led to an association of the neighbours about three-score years since, when they chose a president, or mayor, to protect their rights; and the time of their first election being the period of a new parliament, it was agreed that the mayor should be re-chosen after every general election. Some facetious members of the club gave, in a few years, local notoriety to this election ; and, when party spirit ran high in the days of Wilkes and Liberty, it was easy to create an appetite for a burlesque election among the lower orders of the Metropolis. The publicans at Wandsworth, Tooting, Battersea, Clapham, and Vauxhall, made a purse to give it character; and Mr. Foote rendered its interest universal, by calling one of his inimitable farces, “the Mayor of Garrat." I have indeed been told, that Foote, Garrick, and Wilkes, wrote some of the candidates' addresses, for the purpose of instructing the people in the corruptions which attend elections to the legislature, and of producing those reforms by means of ridicule and shame, which are vainly expected from solemn appeals of argument and patriotism. Not being able to find the members for Garrat in Beatson's Political Index, or in any of the Court Calendars, I am obliged to depend on tradition for information in regard to the early history of this famous borough. The first mayor of whom I could hear was called Sir John Harper. He filled the seat during two parliaments, and was, it appears, a man of wit, for, on a dead cat being thrown at him on the hustings, and a bystander exclaiming that it stunk worse than a fox, Sir John vociferated, “that's no wonder, for you see it's a poll-cat.” This noted baronet was, in the metropolis, a retailer of brick-dust;
and, his Garrat honours being supposed to be a means of improving his trade and the condition of his ass, many characters in similar occupations were led to aspire to the same distinctions. He was succeeded by Sir Jeffery Dunstan, who was returned for three parliaments, and was the most popular candidate that ever appeared on the Garrat hustings. His occupation was that of buying old wigs, once an article of trade like that in old clothes, but become obsolete since the full-bottomed and full-dressed wigs of both sexes went out of fashion. Sir Jeffery usually carried his wig-bag over his shoulder, and, to avoid the charge of vagrancy, vociferated, as he passed along the street, “old wigs;” but, having a person like Esop, and a countenance and manner marked by irresistible humour, he never appeared without a train of boys, and curious persons, whom he entertained by his sallies of wit, shrewd sayings, and smart repartees; and from whom, without begging, he collected sufficient to maintain his dignity of mayor and knight. He was no respecter of persons, and was so severe in his jokes on the corruptions and compromises of power, that this street-jester, was prosecuted for using what were then called seditious expressions; and, as a caricature on the times, which ought never to be forgotten, he was in 1793 tried, convicted, and imprisoned . In consequence of this affair, and some charges of dishonesty, he lost his popularity, and, at the general election for 1796, was ousted by Sir Harry Dimsdale, muffin-seller, a man as much deformed as himself. Sir Jeffery could not long survive his fall; but, in death as in life, he proved a satire on the vices of the proud, for in 1797 he died, like Alexander the Great, and many other heroes renowned in the historic page— of suffocation from excessive drinking 1 Sir Harry Dimsdale dying also before the next general election, and no candidate starting of sufficient originality of character, and, what was still more fatal, the victuallers having failed to raise a PUBLIe Punse, which was as stimulating a bait to the independent candidates for Garrat, as it is to the independent candidates for a certain assembly; the borough of Garrat has since remained vacant, and the populace have been without a professed political buffoon. None but those who have seen a Lon
don mob on any great holiday can form a just idea of these elections. On several occasions, a hundred thousand persons, half of them in carts, in hackneycoaches, and on horse and ass-back, cowered the various roads from London, and choked up all the approaches to the place of election. At the two last elections, I was told, that the road within a mile of Wandsworth was so blocked up by vehicles, that none could move backward or forward during many hours; and that the candidates, dressed like shimney-sweepers on May-day, or in the mock fashion of the period, were brought to the hustings in the carriages of peers, drawn by six horses, the owners themselves condescending to become their drivers * !
Before relating certain amusing facts which have never before appeared in print, or giving further particulars respecting Sir Jeffery Dunstan and Sir Henry bia. it seems fitting to add from the “Gentleman's Magazine” of 1781, as follows:—
“Wednesday June 25, the septennial mock election for Garrat was held this day; and upwards of 50,000 people were, on that ludicrous occasion, assembled at Wandsworth.”
In the same volume there is an article which, as it is the only other notice in that useful miscellany concerning this celebrated usage, and as there is not any notice of it in other magazines of the time, is here annexed.
Mr. URBAN.—The learned antiquary finds a pleasure in tracing the origin of ancient customs, even when time has so altered them as totally to obliterate their use. It may therefore not be unpleasing to the generality of your readers, while it is yet recent in memory, to record in your Magazine the laudable motive that gave rise to the farcical custom of electing a Mayor of Garrat, which is now become truly ridiculous.
I have been told, that about thirty years ago, several persons who lived near that part of Wandsworth which adjoins to Garrat Lane, had formed a kind of club, not merely to eat and drink, but to concert measures for removing the encroachments made on that part of the common, and to prevent any
* Sir Richard Phillips' Walk to Kew.
others being made for the future. As the members were most of them persons in low circumstances, they agreed at every meeting to contribute some small matter, in order to make up a purse for the defence of their collective rights. When a sufficient sum of money was subscribed, they applied to a very worthy attorney in that neighbourhood, who brought an action against the encroachers in the name of the president (or, as they called him, the MAYon) of the club. They gained their suit with costs; the encroachments were destroyed; and ever after, the president, who lived many . years, was called “The Mayor of Garrat.” This event happening at the time of a general election, the ceremony upon every new parliament, of choosing outdoor members for the borough of Garrat, has been constantly kept up, and is still continued, to the great emolument of all the publicans at Wandsworth, who annually subscribe to all incidental ex-. penses attending this mock election. M. G. The late eminent antiquary, Dr. Ducarel, made inquiries respecting this custom of the late Mr. W. Massey of Wandsworth, who answered them in the following letter:— Wandsworth, June 25, 1754. DR. DUCAREL.—I promised to give you an account of the mock election for Garrat, a district within the compass of the parish of Wandsworth. I have been informed, that about 60 or 70 years ago, some watermen, belonging to this town, went to the Leather Bottle, a public house at Garrat, to spend a merry day, which, being the time of a general election for members of Parliament, in the midst of their frolick they took it into their heads to chuse one of their company a representative for that place; and, having gone through the usual ceremonies of an election, as well as the occasion would permit, he was declared duly elected. Whether the whimsical custom of swearing the electors upon a brick-bat, “quod rem cum aliqua muliere, intra limites istius pagi, habuissent, was then first established, or that it was a waggish after-thought, I cannot determine, but it has been regarded as the due qualification of the electors for many elections last past. This local usage, from that small be
ginning, has had a gradual increase; for no great account was made of it, that I can remember or hear of, before the two elections preceding this last, which has been performed with uncommon pomp and magnificence, in the plebeian mode of pageantry. And, as it has been taken notice of in our public newspapers, it may probably have a run, through those channels, to many parts of the kingdom, and, in time, become the inquiry of the curious, when and why such a mock usage was commenced. I have herewith sent you copies of some of the hand-bills of the candidates, that were printed and plentifully dispersed (in imitation of the grand monde) before the election came on, by which you may judge of the humour in which the other parts of it were conducted. Their pseudo-titles, as you will observe, are Lord Twankum, Squire Blow-medown, and Squire(Subbins. Lord Twankum's right name is John Gardiner, and is grave-digger to this parish; Blow-medown is — Willis, a waterman; and Squire Gubbins, whose name is Simmonds, keeps a publichouse, the sign of the Gubbins' Head, in Blackmanstreet, Southwark. Some time bence, perhaps, also it may be a matter of inquiry what is meant by the Gubbins' Head. This Simmonds formerly lived at Wandsworth, and went from hence to keep a public-house in Blackman-street; he being a droll companion in what is called low-life, several of his old acquaintance of this town used to call at his house, when they were in London, to drink a potor two; and, as he generally had some cold provisions (which by a cant name he usually called “his gubbins"), he made them welcome to such as he had, from whence he obtained that name; and putting up a man's head for the sign, it was called the “Gubbins' Head.” A hundred years hence, perhaps, if some knowledge of the occasion of the name of this sign should not be preserved in writing, our future antiquaries might puzzle themselves to find out the meaning of it. I make no question, but that we have many elaborate dissertations upon antique subjects, whose originals, being obscure or whimsy, like this, were never truly discovered. This leads me to the commendation of the utility of your design in recording singular accidents
and odd usages, the causes and origin of which might otherwise be lost in a loug tract of time.
Garrett Election, 1826.
It seems to be the desire of certain admirers of certain popular customs to get up another burlesque election for Garrett; the last was thirty years ago.
The following is a copy of a Notice, now executing (June 23, 1826) at a signpainters, on a board term feet high, for the purpose of being publicly exhibited. It need scarcely be observed that the commencing word of this very singular composition, which ought to be Oyez, is improperly spelt and divided, and “yes” is unaccountably placed between three inverted commas; the transcript is verbatim, and is arranged in this column as the original is on the sign
board. O &c & Yes” NOTICE That on Thursday 6th July, 1826 In conformity of THE HIGH Authorities, Of the United KINGDOM will assemble Throughout the EMPIRE and particularly at the ougting; at GARRAT, to whit, conformable to the Custom Of our ANcient LIBERTY. SIR JOHN PAUL PRY, now offers himself to a Generous PUBLIC GoD SAVE Tur KING
The last representative of Garrett was a “remarkable character" in the streets of the metropolis for many years. His ordinary costume was very different from