The Narrative of a Newcastle Election
♫ Listen to it here ♫
This ballad from the reign of Queen Anne presents early evidence of Newcastle’s flourishing political song culture, and the use of the ballad form to impose a partisan narrative on electoral events.

Published in 1710, a year blighted by serious political and religious tensions and rioting against Protestant Dissenters, The Whigs Defeated offers a stridently High Church Tory take on the events of the Newcastle election. An early publication from the important Newcastle printer John White, the ballad celebrates the victory of the Tory candidates, Wrightson and Blackett, whose names are repeated like a taunt throughout. It also exposes alleged electoral malpractice by the Whigs, and captures the drama of elections with its account of how Tories clawed back victory on the second day of polling (voting in eighteenth-century elections usually took place over a number of days).

The ballad is set to ‘Chevy Chase’, which existed in different versions, and which Joseph Addison would dub a favourite of ‘the common People of England’. ‘Chevy Chase’ had strong associations with the North East, which the ballad evokes and exploits.

Matt Quinn recreates a piece that may have been sung by ballad singers in the streets of Newcastle after the election, and which exemplifies the use of the ballad form to promote a partisan account of a divisive contest.

The Whigs Defeated. Being an Excellent New Song upon the New-Castle Election ([Newcastle upon Tyne], [1710]), Copyright University of Nottingham Manuscripts and Special Collections, Me X 2/11