Rabble Rouser of Walkern Mill
?Sneaksby? & The Rabble Rouser of Walkern Mill
This article appeared in the May 2013 issue of the Walkern Journal
George David Pearman left his mark in the village in the prominent form of Walkern Mill, which still proudly bears his name. The mill passed to him in the early 1850s, he had learnt his trade there with his uncle, the well-known miller Thomas Garratt. By 1861 David Pearman (he used his middle name) had had the mill converted to the new technology of being steam-driven, and through hard work and good fortune became a prosperous and successful man. With this came personal loss and a deal of envy from at least one other villager?
I recently stumbled upon a letter to the Hertford Guardian written in July 1865 by someone in Walkern using the pseudonym ?Fairplay?. It complained of David Pearman whose ?ambition to merge from obscurity and become a public man exceeds his fitness to do so.? He continued ?I remember him as poor and ignorant, but I thought also a decent and civil man. I remember his first marriage to the daughter of a staunch and universally respected Tory, and this connection brought better times to Mr Pearman ? a circumstance which should induce him to treat Conservatives with respect instead of low insult.? Strong words. But what had the miller done to deserve them?
In July 1865 there was a General Election: There were just two political parties in contention, the Conservatives and the Liberals, who had recently changed their name from Whigs. Hertfordshire had only three Parliamentary seats, but in 1865 there were four candidates, Edward Bulwer Lytton , Henry Surtees and Abel Smith for the Conservative, and Henry Cowper for the Liberals.
The voting process was rather different to what we have now. It took place on hustings, raised platforms from which the candidates could address the assembled voters. If there were the same number of nominated candidates as there were seats to be filled, they were declared elected as an “unopposed return”, but if there were more candidates than seats, then polling commenced. During polling, each voter had to stand on the hustings and declare their ballot openly. These votes were recorded in a poll book, along with the details of each voter. Polling could last for several days, but when over, the result was declared from the hustings by the returning officer. It was not uncommon for hot words to be exchanged or even for riots to break out.
Only men who owned land worth over