Local elections are due and this rare survival from 1954 seemed appropriate for this week’s column.

Andover was a smaller town in 1954, with about 15,000 population and the area was divided into four wards – Alamein, St Mary’s, Winton and Millway - each of which had three councillors who served for a period of three years. In each ward, the system was staggered so that one of the councillors stepped down each year, meaning a local election for at least one candidate annually. In 1954, Millway was slightly different in that there were two places to be filled, owing to one of the councillors, Mrs Olive Harvey, being elevated to a term as alderman before her time on the council had ended.

The four aldermen of the council were an addition to the 12 members of the ordinary council, elected by the councillors themselves from among their number and serving for six years before facing another election by the councillors. Nationally, the aldermanic system was increasingly regarded as an undemocratic anomaly and was abolished by the 1972 Local Government Act. Local elections have also changed since those days, as we now elect all the local councillors in one election, and they serve for four years.

Aldermanic elections aside, four new councillors every year meant the picture was constantly evolving and it could be argued that the council had to be far more receptive to the changing mood of the voters. In Andover of the early 1950s, the battle was usually between Labour and the Conservatives. Millway and Winton wards were predominantly Conservative while Alamein and St Mary’s were Labour. Independent candidates also had a sporting chance in any of the wards.

Both Mr Hardie and Mr Clark had similarities in their background. Each was born in 1904 and were from London suburbs. Mr Hardie, from Kingston-on-Thames, had worked as a compositor at Kelly’s printing works there and had moved to Andover with Kelly’s in 1932 when they opened their new works in Weyhill Road. It was his first attempt to win a seat on the borough council.

Mr Clark hailed from Battersea and came to Andover in 1947 to open his grocery business in Millway Road, which included a sub-post office. The old shop has now been replaced by houses but the pillar box remains on the pavement outside, as if to mark the spot. It was his third attempt to win a seat.

The mayor at the time of the local election, set for 10 May, was Independent Mrs Maud Sainsbury, partner in the music shop Sainsbury Fisher at 53 High Street, who was coming to the end of two consecutive years in the mayoralty. Her three-year term as a councillor also ended on 10 May, so she had to stand again in order to continue on the council. However, she switched from her old seat in Alamein ward to Millway, the ward in which she lived, as the existing councillor at the end of his three-year term, Mr F R Watts, had decided not to stand again. The other candidate in Millway was Reginald Harrison, headmaster of East Street primary school, who stood as a Conservative.

But Mrs Sainsbury was ill and in hospital with a leg thrombosis, reported as improving, so any electioneering was done from a hospital bed. However, she was a popular candidate. For Mr Harrison, it was his first election.

The two candidates of the four who won the most votes would take the two available seats, with the ‘winner’ taking the one vacated by Mr Watts (a three-year term) and the other - the partially expired seat of Alderman Mrs Harvey – to be taken by the runner-up, who would then have to stand again in 1955. When the votes were counted, Mrs Sainsbury got 919 votes and Mr Harrison 866. Mr Clark and Mr Hardie amassed 792 and 600 respectively.

This was a very good response from the Millway electorate, which numbered not much more than 3,000 people. Each one had two votes on this occasion but it still equates to a 50 per cent turnout for a local election, which would be considered exceptional today. Unfortunately, they were soon to go to the polls again; sadly, Mrs Sainsbury died a month later on 11 June, triggering a by-election.

As for the subjects of our poster, neither Mr Clark nor Mr Hardie were ever to gain a seat on the council but Mr Clark’s wife, Cissie, successfully stood for Millway ward in 1961 and served two terms, including a year as mayor in 1967.