Horsedrawn battle bus has a message to rival in 1910 general election at Great Yarmouth

General election in Yarmouth 1910

General election in Yarmouth 1910 - Credit: Colin Tooke Collection

The political party battle bus, covered with slogans, is not new to present day electioneering.

There was one in Great Yarmouth, long ago in 1910, and was used for canvassing for the general election, when the two candidates standing for Yarmouth were Sir Arthur Fell and Major James Platt.

Two elections were held in 1910, one in January and another in December, and on both occasions the same two candidates stood.

The horse-drawn pantechnicon is in the Market Place, outside number 15, the grocery shop of Arthur Penny, next door to Norman's furniture shop. A banner for Fell can just be seen on the building to the left, then the Edinburgh public house.

Local historian and author Colin Tooke who provided the old photo revealed public houses had a long history of being connected with the often corrupt elections before 1918, many offering free drinks and food to supporters of a particular party.

'At this pub, in the elections of 1796 - when it was called the Half Moon - the landlord provided beef steaks and porter for the Lacon supporters, together with 120 bottles of wine and 15 bowls of punch.

'He added to his account 12 shillings (60p) for broken glasses.'

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Mr Tooke explained that the cryptic slogan on the removal van in the picture refers to Fell's opponent, Major James Edward Platt, a businessman from Oldham.

Major Platt was well known for his involvement in equestrian events such as show jumping and polo and was often referred to as The Galloping Major. His father had been an MP for many years and a deep interest in politics led James to twice contest the Yarmouth seat as a Liberal.

Arthur Fell, a solicitor, had been knighted in 1908 and represented the town as a Conservative and later a Unionist in parliament from 1906 until 1922. He was a long-standing advocate of building a tunnel under the English Channel, an idea which had originated in 1883.

From 1914 Fell was chairman of an all-party Channel Tunnel Committee, claiming a tunnel 'would increase commerce in peacetime and improve communication in wartime'.

He continued to support the case even after he retired from parliament in 1922.

The 1910 elections were both victories for Fell, in January with a majority of 461 and in December with a majority of 373.

There were less than 8,000 votes cast in each election because this was at a time when voting was limited to only men who also had to own property of a certain value to take part.

Polling took place over several weeks, not on a single day, and the result was often not known for several months.

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