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The Victorians
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By the middle of the 19th century, Wareham was once again in decline. Some of the cottage industries on which ordinary people depended were becoming unviable. Dorset button making was one such activity. These buttons were hand sown on a ring that was made from Dorset sheepís horn but by 1850 machine manufactured buttons were being made in the midlands and the Dorset button makers could not compete. Sadly, the industry collapsed causing great hardship and deprivation.

In an attempt to create jobs and alleviate local poverty a group of liberal minded investors founded a pottery at Sandford. The Victorian works began life making bricks for the foundations of the buildings for the great exhibition in 1851 but it later went on to produce decorative hollow-ware pottery.

By 1900 the pottery concentrated on producing architectural products such as drainpipes and it continued to operate until the mid 1960s when it closed down. The site remained derelict until the late 1970s when the pottery was finally demolished and the area redeveloped for residential housing.

The Reform Act of 1832 had reduced Wareham's representation to just one member of Parliament. The town became alive at election times and both families fielded dominant characters. One in particular was John Samuel Wanley Sawbridge Drax, known as "The Wicked Squire", an arrogant and dictatorial man.

Elections took place over three days and there was much intimidation and other underhand tactics. Drax furnished his adherents with cudgels and banners proclaiming "Down with Calcraft" and it is said "blood ran in the streets". In 1868 Calcraft won by a small margin but died shortly afterwards and Drax regained the seat at a by-election.

Rivalry continued for the next ten years but the climax came in 1880. The Calcrafts stood down for Montague Guest, brother of Lord Wimborne of Canford.

In spite of all his gifts of venison and free beer, Drax was booed as he drove through the town. The pubs were open all day and windows were broken regularly. Dirty tricks were frequent and the Tories arranged for a party of Liberals to be hi-jacked and marooned on Horse Island in Poole Harbour. They were rescued just in time to vote by some passing fishermen.

At last the time came for the declaration of the poll. Silence reigned as the Mayor announced that Guest had won by 35 votes, then cheers and boos and a state of pandemonium ensued. Drax stood deathly pale at the Town Cross, a shattered man. After 250 years of service, his family had been rejected. He broke out in a torrent of unseemly oaths, cursing all and sundry. At that moment his coachman drove up with the Drax carriage. "Where to, Sir?" he enquired. The purple-faced squire shouted out, "Drive me to Hell!" and never entered Wareham again.

It was not known then, but the 1880 election was the last one in which Wareham would have the privilege of sole representation. As a result of the findings of a Royal Commission, Dorset lost five members of Parliament and Wareham to its disgust was merged with East Dorset.
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Dorset Buttons
Dorset Buttons
Making drainpipes in Sandford Pottery in about 1920
Making drainpipes in Sandford Pottery in about 1920
Old Town Hall
The Old Town Hall during elections of c1868, replaced by the present building in 1870
Drax Guest
John Samual Wanley Strawbridge Drax Montague Guest
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