Fake elections and an ancient booze song? It’s Stroud Green, of course

PUBLISHED: 11:06 23 June 2017

Mike Durham overseeing the events. Picture: Catherine Davison

Mike Durham overseeing the events. Picture: Catherine Davison

Catherine Davison

The Stapleton Tavern was transported back to the 1770s on Saturday – and now the area has a new mayor (sort of) to show for its efforts. The Gazette found out how a badge in the V&A and a mysterious Sir Thomas Legg led to this moment.

Pub-goers cheer on the election candidates. Picture: Catherine DavisonPub-goers cheer on the election candidates. Picture: Catherine Davison

The people of Stroud Green partied like it was 1773 on Saturday.

The Stapleton Tavern at the bottom of Crouch Hill was rocking all day as locals were treated to renditions of the area’s official song, which was given its first outing in 250 years, and even a mayoral election.

Despite the politics, the so-called Stroud Green Day was all fun and games. In fact it was a revival of a late-18th century drinking and dining club set up by London city gents, who called themselves the Ancient Corporation of Stroud Green.

They would travel up to the Stapleton Hall Tavern, then known as The Green Man, and have a knees-up.

The lyrics. Picture: Catherine DavisonThe lyrics. Picture: Catherine Davison

“In 1750 somebody had the idea of having boozy picnics with drinking and dining in the countryside,” explains organiser and local historian Mike Durham. “The pub then was a country pub. There was nothing else here, not even the church.

“They would come up by horse and carriage – there would be up to 200 people according to reports. It sounds like they went and sat outside on the village green, which would be where the crossroads is outside the pub.

“Their name was a bit of a send-up of the Corporation of London. They eventually minted a badge in 1773, which is now in the V&A.”

The badge contains a dragon and the motto: “Justice, truth and friendship.” On the back is the inscription: “The right worshipful Sir Thomas Legg, knight of the oak, elected mayor of the Corporation of Stroud Green on Monday, July 26th 1773.” The group was holding mock elections.

A blackboard showing the Mayor of Stroud Green candidates. Picture: Catherine DavisonA blackboard showing the Mayor of Stroud Green candidates. Picture: Catherine Davison

After becoming aware of the badge, Mike set about finding out who Sir Thomas Legg was. “We started researching,” he continues. “But even after talking with historians we couldn’t find him. The hunt turned into a mystery story. We think it’s a made-up name – we think they would elect a mayor and always call him Sir Thomas Legg so they didn’t need to make a new badge.”

The other thing the group did was create their own song, the lyrics of which were unearthed in a library two years ago.

“I tried to get some musicians to set it to music,” Mike adds. “I rang up the English Folk Dance and Song Society in Camden. I sent them the words, and they sent them to some experts and the next day they sent me the tune, saying there’s not many tunes it would fit so this has to be it.

“So that was heard for the first time in 250 years on Saturday. A Highgate choir called Evoke sang it and it was really fantastic, just wonderful. The whole pub was singing along.”

Pub-goers singing along at the Stapleton Tavern on 17th June, 2017. Picture: Catherine DavisonPub-goers singing along at the Stapleton Tavern on 17th June, 2017. Picture: Catherine Davison

As for the 2017 elections, they were won by “a bloke named Joe”, who won with a landslide of 42 votes out of 61.

Mike adds: “What really astonished me was that when it came to the voting, the whole pub was queuing up to vote. It’s the Jeremy Corbyn effect – 61 people voted.

“In my opinion his duties are to uphold the long tradition of drinking and eating too well in Stroud Green.”

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