Mayor of Garratt

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Probably the most famous of the mock mayors, even though the last recognized Mayor died in 1810. Garratt was a small hamlet between Wandsworth and Tooting, now in South London but then in the county of Surrey. The election of the Mayor of Garratt always took place at the same time as the real election for Parliament, and its function as parody was always its main raison d'être. The first recorded election took place in 1747, and local public house landlords supported the event for the extra custom it brought. Within a few short years, thousands were flocking to Garratt, from London and elsewhere, and even fashionable society paid regular visits. Samuel Foote wrote a successful play, The Mayor of Garret, in 1763, which helped to publicize the event. The candidates were as flamboyant as possible, in dress and behaviour, and adopted silly names such as Lord Twankum, Squire Blow-Me-Down, and speeches and processions were made, as in real elections. Most of the candidates were from humble origins—watermen, cobblers, gravediggers, barbers, sweeps, and so on, but some became well-known characters in their own right: Sir John Harper, Sir Jeffrey Dunstan, and Sir Harry Dimsdale (not their real names) among them. The event gradually lost the support of both fashionable visitors and locals, perhaps because the crowds were getting too large or the humour had begun to wear thin. Dimsdale was the last recognized Mayor and he died in 1810. Sporadic attempts to revive the custom failed.

Anthony Shaw, The Mayor of Garratt (1980);Hone, 1827: ii. 410–33;Gomme, 1883: 208–9.

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