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St.Bees Parish Council
The Beginning - Parish Revolution
On 4th December 1894 all roads in St. Bees led to the Village School. A large and excited crowd was assembling to elect the village’s first parish council. The new parish councils being set up all over England and Wales would be the first democratically elected bodies in the parishes. There was a whiff of rural revolution in the air; local affairs were being put in the hands of the man and woman in the street and excitement ran high.
The result was declared, and it only remained for Mr. Kitchin to allow a final opportunity for a secret ballot request. After an awkward silence a Mr. Brockbank spoke up, several other voters supported him, and the chairman was obliged to nullify that evening’s vote. A new election would be held on the 18th December - democracy had to be properly served!
This was a interesting result. Nationally, the trend had been that almost half the parish council seats were taken by farmers. The other half went to craftsmen and labourers, and there was just a sprinkling of gentry, clergy, professional people and businessmen. But in St. Bees it was different. The proximity to Whitehaven and heavy industry, and the influence of the Church and School, caused those elected to come from a wide range of occupations. This was to result in a very active council, as we shall see.
The council’s first meeting was on New Year's Eve 1894, which was at just about the last possible legal moment - they had to convene before the old year was out. Probably because of the evening’s forthcoming celebrations, the agenda was kept short. John Bowly, a professional civil servant, was elected Chairman, and Mr W E Walker elected Vice-Chairman. John Hartley, the Board School Headmaster, was appointed Clerk at an annual salary of £5.
The Main Street, circa 1900. Broomfield's Chemist shop is on the left; it also housed the village telephone exchange.