Pontefract was centre stage in August 1872 when the first secret ballot in Britain was used to elect a Member of Parliament, allowing people to vote in secret by placing an ‘X’ on a ballot paper next to the name of their choice.
It represented a huge change in the way elections were arranged. Before the Ballot Act of 1872, those who were eligible to vote had to declare their choice in public, a system that was open to bribery and intimidation.
The box is still marked with the seals used to ensure the votes were not tampered with. The seal was made with a liquorice stamp, used to make Pontefract cakes from a local liquorice factory.
The votes were counted and the results announced at the Town Hall in Pontefract, where the Liberal candidate, H.C. Childers was elected MP for the town.
David Evans and John Whitaker, Curators at Pontefract & Castleford Museums and Wakefield Museum, have recently taken the box to Westminster and talked about it there. This is is the talk they gave recently in Parliament highlighting its significance in the history of British democracy.