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Historic cartoon of Newbury politics handed over to museum

Unusual piece found on the back of a mirror

John Herring

John Herring


01635 886633

Historic cartoon of Newbury politics handed over to museum

A PIECE of Newbury’s political history that had been hidden in the back of a mirror, has found a new home.  

Chris Hall discovered the cartoon drawing, reflecting the result of the 1906 general election, on the back of a mirror that had sat in his mother’s house in Newbury for more than 40 years.

The cartoon depicts rival candidates William Mount (Con) and Frederick Mackarness (Liberal) horseracing at Newbury Racecourse, which had opened in 1905. 

Mr Mackarness became the first Liberal MP of the area, beating Mr Mount by 402 votes.  

The cartoon is dated January 19, 1909, when votes in South Berkshire (Newbury division) were cast for the election, which was held over three weeks, with different areas voting on different dates.

Mr Hall said: “It’s been great investigating the history of this cartoon.

“I've learned about a period of history, the very early 1900s, that I knew nothing about and how it affected the Newbury area.

“It was especially fascinating reading the reports in the Newbury Weekly News and learning about the significance of the motor car on the election.

“Candidates could easily move around the constituency for the very first time, something we would not even think about today as being an issue.

“This is an unusual piece of Newbury’s history.

“I am not aware of political cartoons being used in local campaigning before and this is an example of that.

“To see Newbury Racecourse in the picture months after it was first opened is interesting too.

“What I find most significant is that this captures the start of the Liberal and Conservative battle for power in Newbury that is very much alive today.” 

The cartoon, thought to be a copy of an original, was published by William Gamble, who, according to local historian Phil Wood, was a newsagent based at 54 Northbrook Street and was better known for his photography. 

The cartoon was handed over to the West Berkshire Museum on Monday and will be stored in its collection.

Curator Janine Fox said: “We obviously don’t have anything quite like it in the collection.

“It very much reflects a sense of place, which is what the collection is all about.

“We do have items in the collection on Frederick Mackarness, but nothing of a comical nature. It would be nice to get it on display somehow.” 

Mr Mackarness’ horse includes the slogans ‘prosperity’ and ‘free trade’, which were used by the Liberal Party nationally and locally during the campaign.

Mr Mount’s horse ‘Berkshire man’ is being held back from winning by the issues of Chinese wages, loaf and food taxes, which were major issues surrounding the election.

However Mr Mount (Conservative) won the race in 1910 when Mr Mackarness did not seek re-election.

Mr Mount was the great-grandfather of former Prime Minister David Cameron.

Shortly after his election, Mr Markarness sponsored The Housing of the Working Classes Acts Amendment Bill, which sought to reorganise the provision of housing for the working classes in rural areas.

The bill was unsuccessful, but the Liberal Government later enacted the Housing of the Working Classes Act 1909, leading to the systematic inspection of the condition of working class housing and the provision of council housing.

Mr Mackarness also supported the causes of Chinese labour in South Africa and the civil rights of Indians.

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