Stalham Baptists to host N Norfolk election hustings
Candidates for the North Norfolk constituency for the forthcoming general election will be taking part in a hustings at 7pm on Wednesday, November 27, hosted by Stalham Baptist Church. They are not expecting riots like those at the election 144 years earlier. Tony Rothe reports.
The four election candidates in North Norfolk are Labour's Emma Corlett, Harry Gwynne for the Brexit party, Duncan Baker, Conservative and Karen Ward, Liberal Democrat. The Green Party will not be fielding a candidate in North Norfolk this time.
The format will be similar to BBC’s “Question time”, so the candidates will answer questions from the floor as well as being able to make a 2-minute speech at the end. There will then be an opportunity to meet the candidates in an informal way with tea, coffee and cakes.
Organiser David Child, from Stalham Baptist Church, said: "This will be the third hustings we have hosted for general elections and all four of the prospective MP's for North Norfolk will be in attendance. As a church we are part of the community and it's important that people have the opportunity to listen to the people who will represent them. It's more of a Question Time-style event and previous hustings have been very successful. It's free to attend."
Whilst the organisers are hoping for lively debate, they are not expecting scenes like those experienced in Stalham at the general election in 1885.
Stalham’s Community Scene magazine takes up the story:
Life was tough for Stalham working people in Victorian times. No employment protection, families would be evicted from their tied cottages within hours of losing their job, no free medical care, no state pensions, no help for the disabled or mothers who could not work. If you found yourself in circumstances like these and had no support from friends or family the only option locally was the workhouse in nearby Smallburgh, where sanitary arrangements were non-existent, there was no running water and no proper care for the babies in the nursery.
The election of 1885 was the first that most adult males could vote in, and passions were running high between the Liberals and Conservatives. Henry Rider Haggard, pictured right, a Norfolk man and the author of King Solomon’s Mines amongst other works, was the front runner against the Liberal Robert Price, a surgeon and barrister.
Trouble started as Haggard’s cortege reached Ludham, a few miles away. They met a very hostile reception when a hail of stones was directed at the group. Haggard’s cavalcade headed for Stalham where an even larger crowd awaited them. On reaching the Swan Inn in Stalham High Street a liberal supporter grabbed the reins of Mr Kidman’s horse from an outrider protecting Haggard's coach, the rider cracked his whip across the assailant’s head and the riot began.
The crowd tried to overturn Haggard’s coach and attempted to dump it in Stalham Staithe, then attacked the police protecting the prospective MP. More stones and silt rained down on the party and Haggard made a sharp exit into the Swan Inn and locked himself in against the baying mob outside. At 11.00pm marching boots were heard coming over the cobbled railway bridge. The rioters thought the military had arrived, but it turned out to be over 100 members of the North Walsham Conservative Club, who lined up in front of the public house. Their leader informed the riotous crowd, who by now had drunk other pubs dry, that he had come to rescue their friend Mr Haggard from the dastardly treatment he had received at the hands of the inhabitants of Stalham. He then informed the mob that Rider Haggard had won the election, whereas, in fact, when the result was declared Haggard had lost to Price by 410 votes!
An article in the Times quoted Haggard as saying that the Kaffirs, Zulus and Hottentots were nature’s gentleman compared to The Stalham Savages - an accusation that was later repeated in Parliament. The story was also covered by other London newspapers.
The hustings will be held at Stalham Baptist Church in High Street, by the junction with Lower Staithe Road, Ingham Road and Yarmouth Road. NR12 9AZ.
The picture of Henry Rider Haggard is courtesy of Stalham Community Scene magazine
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