This Day in History: 1896-04-15

On 15th April 1896, the ‘Victoria Daily Times’, British Columbia, reported the death of the last of the pot-wallopers Richard Atkinson, at Pontefract at the age of ninety-seven. ‘The Antiquary’ noted in May that year: ‘A break with the past of a curious kind is announced from Pontefract in Yorkshire. It is the death of the last “ pot-walloper” in that town a short time ago. A “pot-walloper” was another name for a pot-boiler, and signified a person who was entitled to the Parliamentary franchise by virtue of owning a free-hold hearth on which to “ wallop” or boil his pot. The “pot-wallopers” were a numerous class before the passing of the Reform Act of 1832. They claimed to vote for a member of Parliament because they had boiled their own pot in the parish for six months. The Doncaster Chronicle supplements this information with further particulars. “ ‘The pot’,” we are told, “was an iron pan with three legs, and it was suspended by a chain from an iron bar fastened in the chimney. The pot was familiar enough twenty or thirty years ago in remote parts of Yorkshire, where the ‘ pot-walloper’ and his vote would suggest the idea that, in days gone by, it was considered an accomplishment for a man to have a knowledge of the culinary art, since the contents of the pot consisted of  huge pieces of beef and bacon, with carrots, turnips, potatoes, onions, and the now almost forgotten dumpling, but erstwhile a favourite dish in Yorkshire.” The “ pot-walloper,” however, was not confined to the North of England, but existed in varying numbers all over the country. The race has now become extinct by the recent death of the last of them at Pontefract..’