1832 Reform Act - A notice on "Pottery Representation" from the Enoch Wood scrapbook

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Date:19th of July 1831

Description:The 1832 Reform Act allowed more of Stoke-on-Trent's citizens to exercise a vote at elections - and when this notice was issued, the new Act was about to come into force.

How many people could vote?

Looking back, the change seems almost trivial. Before 1832, about 5% of Britain's population could vote, and the Reform Act perhaps boosted the figure to around 7%. This was equal to 1 in every 5 men of voting age.

Women would have to wait until the next century for their rights to be recognised.

Who qualified for a vote?

This was a red-hot issue at the time, and stirred emotions in Stoke-on-Trent and across the country.

Election candidates touted their pro-reform credentials to gathered crowds of local people.

Traditionally, men had to own freehold property worth 40 shillings to be able to vote in Staffordshire.

The planned Reform Act would also create a new Parliamentary borough of Stoke-on-Trent, returning two new Members of Parliament. In the past, Stoke-on-Trent had shared its MP with Staffordshire.

How did electors qualify?

A series of new voting qualifications were introduced, which are listed on this notice.

It was published from the Committee Room at Burslem's Legs of Man Inn, and the qualifications were as follows:

  • Being old enough

  • Having no criminal record

  • Owning or occupying a house valued for tax purposes at £10 or more

  • Having paid all taxes as required

  • Only middle-class voters really benefitted. This still left at least 4 out of every 5 men (and every woman) without a vote.

    About this document

    This document was collected by pottery manufacturer Enoch Wood, and is now amongst the collections at Stoke-on-Trent Museums.


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