An original research article. Please cite as K. Navickas, ‘Wakefield’, http://protesthistory.org.uk/wakefield

During the 1835 general election, John Cryer, a bookseller and stationer of Ratten Row, took an ‘electoral walk’ around Wakefield. He meticulously described the colour of and slogans on each flag and banner hanging outside every pub, shop, and house in the centre of the town. He also noted the banners of rival party bands, together with the quality of their music, as they paraded through Wakefield.

It was a portrait of the political geography of the town. Allegiances were visually displayed vividly (and noisily) in the contesting Whig yellow, Tory blue–green, and occasionally Radical orange flags that transformed Wakefield into a political carnival.

For example, he noted the ‘inscriptions round the Market Place’:

Bulls Head – yellow [flag] – ‘Englishmen support your rights’.

Golden Lion – Blue i.e. Green – ‘The Commercial and Agricultural Interests’.

Fleece – Green – ditto

Rodney – Green – ‘For God our King and Country’



The festival atmosphere comes to life in his description, although the carnivalesque was undercut by party violence. Cryer commented: ‘N. B. Various encounters, contests and battles took place during Saturday and Monday between the different Blue and Yellow parties of Musicians in various parts of the town which proved so unfortunate to the Blue Party that all their expensive and richly got up Silk Green banners were all destroyed to atoms. On Tuesday morning they had all disappeared from the windows, not one to be seen’.[1]

However, the town was not, as say Preston was, divided strictly along party lines: yellow and blue–green almost touched side by side in many streets. At the end of Kirkgate by Thornes lane, the Bishop Blaize displayed a black flag fringed with white ribbons with ‘Church Reform no Pluralities’ on one side and ‘Remember the Poor Soke Suffered: 170 reduced to a pot of One’, on the other. Cryer helpfully gave a ‘history of the case’: ‘170 persons amongst whom was George Haigh signed a bond to oppose the owners of Wakefield Soke, so far as it respected Westgate Common and Thornes. Several lawsuits took place. George Haigh became the only responsible man in the firm. Gaskell [Daniel, the first reformist MP for Wakefield] has done nothing for him’.[2]

Above all, his pen portrait simply confirmed the proliferation of pubs in urban areas. His route is echoed today by the ‘Westgate run’ pub crawl starting at the bottom of Thornes park, though the number of pubs along the road is substantially fewer than in 1835.

[1] Wakefield Local Studies, Cryer collection of posters and handbills, box 2237.

[2] Ibid.


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