Ballot Box, Balls and a Roman

Ballot Street, Smethwick (MAP: OS Town Plans 1:500 – published in 1887)
Ballot - Town Plan Maps

The map above is an example of one of Cassini’s newly available Town Plans. A great number of English towns, those with a population of over 4,000, were surveyed on the large scale of 1:500. Other early plans were published at scales of 1:528 and 1:1056, but from 1855 onwards the scale of 1:500 was settled on and most were surveyed only once. The maps, published between 1855 and 1920’s, show an immense amount of detail, down to every lamp-post and every pillar-box, even paths, trees and sheds in peoples gardens.

As we have chosen Ballot Street, here’s a bit of history you may, or may not, know. A ballot is a device used to cast votes in an election. It was originally a small ball used to record decisions made by voters. The word ballot comes from Italian ballotta, meaning a “small ball used in voting”. The first use of paper ballots to conduct an election appears to have been in Rome in 139 BC.

The coin shown above is Roman from around 63 B.C. Issued by Cassius Longinus, who became a proconsul in 48 B.C. and a Tribune of the Plebs in 44 B.C. The reverse of the coin shows a voter about to deposit a voting tablet marked V (meaning yes – ‘as you ask’) into a voting urn.

The first British secret ballot using ballot papers and a ballot box was held in Pontefract on 15 August 1872, under the terms of the recently enacted Ballot Act 1872. In a ministerial by-election following his appointment as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Hugh Childers was re-elected as MP for Pontefract. The original ballot box, sealed in wax with a liquorice stamp, can still be seen in Pontefract Museum.

Find out about the history of your area. Visit Cassini Maps

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