Britain Votes: Kitchen ballot is as quiet as a monastery

Polling station
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The Independent Online
ELECTION FEVER was understandably in short supply at one of the most remote polling stations in Britain yesterday. An imposing former monastery 1,000ft up in the mid-Wales mountains was fulfilling a public duty in the Welsh Assembly elections.

By tea-time four of the 23 electors on the register had voted. They popped their ballot papers in a traditional black box in the kitchen of the whitewashed building at Capel-y-Ffin where Stanley Knill lives with his wife Carol, son Andrew, daughter-in-law Susan and grandchildren Katie, four, and Christopher, two.

"Three Knills have voted - a 75 per cent turnout by the family," Mr Knill joked as he surveyed the grandeur of the enfolding Black Mountains.

Since moving in 15 years ago he has acted as presiding officer at a number of Westminster and local elections - starting with the Brecon and Radnor by-election in 1985.

"The job more or less comes with the house. It's a tacit agreement with the local authority," said Mr Knill, a 66-year-old consulting engineer.

The monastery dates from 1870 when an eccentric monk, Father Ignatius, felt the calling to revive Benedictine monasticism. In the 1920s it was bought by Eric Gill, the artist and typographer who designed the Gill Sans Serif typeface.

Beside a lane leading to the monastery there is a wooden cross in memory of Father Ignatius. It is inscribed "Burning Bush Opposite" - a reference to foliage which was supposed to have cured one of Father Ignatius's nuns of a chronic illness.

After the polls closed last night Mr Knill faced an hour's drive across the mountain to take the ballot box to Brecon for the count. To get there he heads along a narrow road which climbs up the valley to the Gospel Pass, more than 1,700ft above sea level. Then it's downhill all the way to complete a day's public service in a location far removed from the hurly-burly of politics.