Beverley pasture masters elected in centuries-old tradition
IT'S one of the country's oldest and quirkiest elections.
In a centuries-old annual poll, Beverley's pasture masters have been elected to look after the town's common land, including Beverley Westwood.
Unlike a local or parliamentary election, there is no secret ballot as candidates and electors watch in a relaxed mood as the votes are cast.
The unique poll traditionally has to stop if more than 20 minutes elapse between individual voters registering their votes.
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Yesterday's election lasted two hours as votes were cast for the 15 pasture freemen contesting the 12 seats on the pasture masters' group.
It was only the third pasture masters' election in which women were eligible to stand, following a change in the law.
Sarah Walker, 41, who made history by becoming the first female elected in 2011, was re-elected yesterday.
Sarah, who is an NHS manager from Beverley, said: "I love Beverley's pastures and I just like being part of looking after them and making sure they are there for generations to come.
"The pastures are beautiful. They are a lovely thing that we have in Beverley. Not many people have access to land like we have."
Sarah was one of two women elected, along with accounts assistant Jane Pinder, from Beverley.
Allan English, who has been a pasture master for some 30 years, welcomes women on the committee.
He said: "Women have a different perspective on things.
"Everyone has an input at our meetings.
"Now women are eligible to become freemen, our numbers are increasing rather than decreasing."
The pasture masters fought for decades to allow women to join their dwindling ranks.
They had feared the ancient title could die out because it was only passed down the male line.
A change in the law now allows freemen's daughters, as well as sons, to inherit the ancient title from the age of 21 and stand for election.
Mr English said: "More and more people are taking up the freemanship, even if they are not living in Beverley.
"People are taking it up all around the world, which is a good thing because it helps to put Beverley on the map.
"My sister lives in Australia and she's looking at taking it up via Skype."
Numbers on the roll have increased to almost 300 freemen, including almost 100 women.
Twenty-six turned up to vote in yesterday's election at the town's Guildhall.
The pasture masters elected were: Harold Constable, Allan English, Alan Gillyon, John Musgrave, Michael Musgrave, Jane Pinder, Charles Walker, Neil Walker, Peter Walker, Sarah Walker, Trevor Walker and David Witty.