The Charter of Incorporation

After considerable public dissatisfaction with the Town Commissioners, a petition was signed by 108 of the principal householders, and presented to Mr. John Hartley, the Head Constable, asking him to call a public meeting to consider the possibility of petitioning Parliament and the Queen to ask for the granting a Charter of Incorporation for the town.

The application was made, and in August 1847 the Privy Council instructed Captain Warberton to hold an inquiry about the petition. The official inquiry was held in the assembly rooms in Queen Street, now a public house. The inquiry lasted for two days, and as it came to an end it was apparent that the desire of the people for an elected council had won the day.

The Wolverhampton Charter of Incorporation became law on the 18th of March, 1848. The Charter describes the powers of the proposed Incorporation, under the provisions of the Act. The town was divided into eight wards: St. Peter's, St. Mary's, St. James's, St. Matthew's, St. George's, St. John's, St. Paul's, and St. Mark's. There were to be thirty six elected Councillors and twelve Aldermen. Edward Bagnall Dimmack, Ironmaster, was to act as Returning Officer for the first Election, which was held on 12th, May, 1848.

Polling Booths were generally empty shops or houses, and each candidate supplied the electors with voting papers, with his own name and the names of those candidates for whom he wished the elector to vote. The elector was instructed to cross out any name he did not vote for, sign the voting paper, and personally hand it in to the person appointed by the Returning Officer, who inquired if the voter was the same person whose name was on the list of voters. If so, the paper was kept, and the vote recorded in the poll book.

The election results were declared in the Queen Street assembly rooms, and were as follows:

St. Peter’s Ward:
John Cholditch, wine merchant, 301 votes.
William Fleming Fryer, banker, 287 votes.
Joseph Underhill, ironmonger, 278 votes.
William Warner, Jun., draper, 253 votes.
Joseph Bridgen, bookseller, 235 votes.
William Wallace, veterinary surgeon, 219 votes.
  St. John’s Ward:
Jeremiah Wynn, factor, 228 votes.
Sidney Cartwright, toy manufacturer, 217 votes.
Samuel Walker, factor, 205 votes.
Henry Crane, factor, 200 votes.
Alexander Walton, factor, 198 votes.
Henry Walker, maltster, 187 votes.
St. George’s Ward:
George Lees Underhill, ironmonger, 189 votes.
William Ward Andrews, ironmonger, 183 votes.
Edward Griffin, rope manufacturer, 173 votes.
Thomas Moss Philips, solicitor, 157 votes.
John Langman, pawnbroker, 153 votes.
William Robinson Lowe, chemist, 118 votes.
  St. James’s Ward:
Thomas Aubery Hales, merchant, 260 votes.
Charles Clark, ironfounder, 243 votes.
James Shipton, carrier, 226 votes.
James William Weaver, carrier, 224 votes.
James Bradshaw, grocer and miller, 220 votes.
John Neve, ironmonger, 200 votes.
St. Paul’s Ward:
Edward Perry, Japanner, 163 votes.
Edward Hayling Coleman, surgeon, 155 votes.
Thomas Randle Andrews, draper, 134 votes.
  St. Mary’s Ward:
William Haynes, publican, 134 votes.
Joseph Walker, nail manufacturer, 97 votes.
Thomas Gatis, surgeon, 81 votes.
St. Mark’s Ward:
Moses Ironmonger, twine manufacturer, 79 votes.
George Benjamin Thorneycroft, ironmaster, 74 votes.
George Robinson, solicitor, 72 votes.
  St. Matthew’s Ward:
John Perks, toolmaker, 161 votes.
John Barker, ironmaster, 159 votes.
Thomas Walker, factor, 156 votes.

The first Council meeting was held in the Queen Street assembly rooms on 22nd May, 1848. All the new councillors were present, and George Robinson presided. The following Aldermen were elected: George Robinson, John Barker, Thomas Randle Andrews, Henry Walker, John Neve, Joseph Walker, Joseph Underhill, Thomas Gatis, Sidney Cartwright, Jeremiah Wynn, William Warner, and Henry Crane.

Finally the following additional councillors were elected:
Mr. Joseph Farmer, iron merchant; Mr. George H. Perry, Japanner; Mr. Thomas Bolton, solicitor;
Mr. William Corns, coffee mill maker; Mr. T. F. Meyrick, architect; Mr. R. Walton, builder;
Mr. Thomas Cherrington, gentleman; Mr. Stephen Evans, miller; Mr. Joseph Waltho, factor;
Mr. Charles Corser, solicitor; Mr. John Hartley, ironmaster; and Mr. William Fleeming, chemist.

Mr. G. B. Thorneycroft of Shrubbery Ironworks was elected as the town’s first Mayor at a council meeting on 22nd May, 1848.

Moving forward to 1948 and the commemoration of the Charter

Events included a Centenary Luncheon at the Civic Hall on Thursday 20th May, 1948, and the Wolverhampton Centenary Pageant, also held at the Civic Hall. The three hour-long pageant telling the story of Wolverhampton’s history ran from Saturday 22nd May, until Saturday 5th June. What follows is taken from the pageant souvenir programme.

Alderman J. Clarke, J.P.

Chairman of the pageant sub-committee.

Mr. T. Heath Joyce, the producer.

Mr. Heath, based at the Old Vic in London, was also responsible for pageants at Sheffield and Warrington.

Mr. L. du Garde Peach, the writer.

Mr. Garde Peach was a writer of many books, stage plays, film scripts, and over 400 radio plays. He also had a considerable reputation as a theatrical producer.

Marion Page Beasley, organising secretary and assistant producer.

Marion was a well known performer in shows produced by local operatic and dramatic societies, and organiser of many local events including the Wolverhampton Horse Show.

Alderman W. Lawley.

Chairman of the Centenary Committee.

Percy M. Young, M.A., Mus D. The composer.

Mr. Young was Head of the Music Department at the Wolverhampton and Staffordshire Technical College, a well known conductor, and author of a book about Handel.


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