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Election Evictions


A General Election has been called! So let’s think about the secret ballot, something we take for granted today. Being able to vote in secret by placing an ‘X' on a ballot paper next to the name of our choice has not, however, always been our right.

 

Though long campaigned for by groups such as the Chartists, the first general election using a secret ballot was not until 1874. The image above is of the ballot box used in the first ever secret ballot in Britain in 1872, a local election in Pontefract.

 

Before the Ballot Act of 1872, those who were eligible to vote had to declare their choice in public, a system open to bribery and intimidation. Employers and landowners were able to influence the vote, putting pressure on their employees and tenants in advance and then checking on how they were casting their votes on election day.

 

One of the people to fall foul of this system was Benjamin (Bensha) Evans then tenant farmer of Llety Shon, Aberarth, part of the Monachty estate, and later the first owner of Portland House. In his Aberaeron guide, W.J. Lewis states that:

 

An ardent Liberal, Bensha was forced to leave the farm of which he was tenant, Llety Shon, because he refused to accede to his landlord’s request to vote Tory. In Aberaeron he set up a slate and timber business which supplied the needs of builders and others as far afield as Llandeilo, Tregaron and even Crickhowell. Many of his goods were purchased in Bristol and brought to Aberaeron chiefly in small smacks which took 3 to 6 weeks to complete the voyage.”

 

The Mynachty Estate, not only served notice on Bensha’s tenancy but apparently also subsequently boycotted his slate and timber business. In spite of this, the business must have thrived, as, by the early 1850s, he had the resources to build Portland House where he lived for the rest of his life. 

 

In her blog below, historical fiction writer, S.E. Morgan, writes of another local man who fell victim to an election eviction: the Reverend Gwilym Marles, grandfather of Dylan Thomas: 

 

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