Until 1949, Council Elections were held in November, and Yeovil elected the Mayor at the annual Town Council meeting on 9 November (except when the day was a Sunday and then it would be on the 10th.) The election of the Mayor was always something of an event and I have looked at a few of those Mayor makings over a century ago.
On 9 November 1893, Councillor Sidney Watts was elected Mayor and at the close of the meeting, the new first citizen invited his fellow councillors, officials and the press representatives to join him in refreshments at which toasts were drunk and speeches delivered. At the close of the proceedings, and led by the Military Band, the councillors and officials conducted the new Mayor to his home in Princes Street. During the afternoon and evening ‘merry peals were rung from the bells of St John’s church, and the band paraded the town playing lively selections’.
Councillor Watts was re-elected Mayor for a third term on 9 November 1895, and on this occasion, the Military Band played outside the Town Hall whilst the church bells rang out. Preceded by the Mace Bearer, the new Mayor, councillors and officials accompanied by the Military Band, walked through the streets lined by a large crowd to his home.
Councillor Sidney Watts’ fourth re-election was the occasion of a much grander procession. All the shops and houses in Princes Street were ‘gaily decorated’ and this year the crowd lining the streets was even bigger. The Mayor, accompanied by Councillors C W Pittard and W Cox, his proposer and seconder, rode in an open carriage ‘drawn by a pair of greys, with postilions’ through the cheering crowd.
On 9 November 1898, Councillor John Vincent was elected Mayor and served for three terms. The traditional banquet given by the Mayor on his re -election in November 1900 was quite a splendid affair. The Western Gazette reported that the upper portion of the Town Hall was – ‘skilfully converted by means of curtains and tapestry, into a sumptuous dining room. The walls were also most artistically draped, and the table decorations of the most tasteful kind, reflecting greatly on the caterer, Mr W T Maynard, who personally superintended the arrangements……
The menu was as follows:-
Thick Turtle Princess Royale
Turbot Sauce Mousseline
Devilled Whitebait Soles a la Colbert
Fillets of Beef a la Chateaubriand
Kidneys Saute Au Vin
Saddle of Mutton Rolled Turkey and Ox Tongue
Roast Chicken and Sausages
Pheasant Grouse Black-Cock
St Vincent and Bachelor’s Pudding
Pine Apple Jelly Charlotte Russe
Devilled Sardines OlivesFarci
Pines Grapes Bananas &c
CAFÉ NOIRE LIQUEURS’
After surviving this feast came the toasts – all fifteen of them – The Queen, The Prince and Princess of Wales, and the rest of the Royal Family, The Bishops, Clergy and Ministers of all Denominations, The Imperial Forces, The Mayor, The Deputy Mayor, The Aldermen, The Borough Magistrates, The Town Clerk, The Councillors, The School Board, The Vice-Chairmen’ The Town and Trade of Yeovil, The Press, and finally The Ladies. Between the toasts songs were sung by Messrs G R Allen and W B Milborne, duets from Messrs W Cole and F Clements, and Mr Walter Raymond, the Somerset author, and Mr Shoreland Aplin ‘added to the pleasures of the evening by giving a couple of recitations. The singing of the National Anthem brought a most enjoyable evening to a close’.
Councillor W W Johnson was elected Mayor on 9 November 1902 and the surroundings for his banquet in the Town Hall were quite splendid. Once again the Western Gazette reported that – ‘A tent of muslin drapery with Indian tapestry had been temporarily erected. In this snug enclosure, with the canopy of white and yellow art muslin, its alcoves with huge palms on either side, the glittering candelabras and silver stands on which stood a cornucopia of luscious grapes and fruit, the many-coloured fairy lamps casting a soft subdued light over the whole – the place bore a resemblance to those enchanted apartments, imaginary or real, of antiquity.
‘Four tables had been arranged, the head table running in a parallel direction along the east end of the hall. On this table stood three silver stands on silver mirror centre pieces, while to the other less pretentious tables were allotted one stand each. The windows were hung with white muslin curtains underlined with red, and at various positions in the room stood large mirrors festooned with plants. The carpet had a border of red felt. Those who saw this banqueting hall declare that they never saw it look prettier. The whole work was carried out by Mr Connock, under the supervision of Mr W T Maynard, caterer’.
And what of the menu:
Real Turtle Ox Tail
Turbot-Lobster Sauce Soles-Sause Tartare
Creme of Chicken and Mushrooms Lamb Cutlets and Peas
Grouse Pheasant Golden Plover
Johnson Pudding Macedoine Jelly
Strawberry Creme Charlotte Russe
Devilled Prawns Canape of Olives
Café Noire Liqueurs’
The Toast list was impressive with sixteen toasts, one up on Councillor Vincent – Our London Friends was added. There were songs between toasts, a cello solo and Mr A’Court Simmonds’ band played selections.
They certainly knew how to have a good evening back in those far off days, but before we get too excited about the cost to the ratepayers, I should explain that the entire cost would be met by the new Mayor from his own pocket – You had to have a ‘few shillings’ to be Mayor in those days!