Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1715-1754, ed. R. Sedgwick, 1970
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the freemen and inhabitant householders

Number of voters:

about 500


25 June 1717NICHOLAS LECHMERE vice Anthony Lechmere, appointed to office 
19 Mar. 1718LECHMERE re-elected after appointment to office 
25 Oct. 1721THOMAS GAGE, Visct. Gage, vice Lechmere, called to the Upper House 
 George Reade 
20 Mar. 1722THOMAS GAGE, Visct. Gage 
 Thomas Reade 
21 Aug. 1727GEORGE READE 
 THOMAS GAGE, Visct. Gage 
 Thomas Reade 
29 Apr. 1734ROBERT TRACY287
 THOMAS GAGE, Visct. Gage279
 John Martin232
5 May 1741JOHN MARTIN 
 THOMAS GAGE, Visct. Gage 
30 June 1747THOMAS GAGE, Visct. Gage 

Main Article

Tewkesbury elections were controlled by the corporation, who usually chose neighbouring landowners, notably the Dowdeswells of Pull Court, who had constantly represented the borough since the Restoration, the Martins of Overbury, who held one seat in every Parliament but one from 1734 to 1807, and Lord Gage of Highmeadow, who sat from 1721 to 1754. Though the corporation prided themselves on being ‘above corruption’, elections were in fact extremely expensive. In 1727 a prospective candidate wrote:

As for the Tewkesbury affair I have in effect laid all thoughts aside, finding there is no hopes of success but upon very expensive terms. ... I perceive money will not be less prevailing in this corporation than in others and that therefore whoever empties his purse most freely need not fear carrying his election.1

Till 1734 all the Members returned were government supporters, but in that Parliament Lord Gage went into opposition, voting against the Spanish convention in March 1739. In the following September his fellow Member, Robert Tracy, reported to Walpole that on a visit to Tewkesbury, Gage had

harangued so much on his merit in voting against the convention, that he has got the greatest part of the place in a ferment and made them damn the convention and all who espoused it,2

including Tracy himself. After Gage’s visit the corporation sent the following instructions to their Members:

The reception your Lordship met with at the visit you lately paid us, might convince you how great a value and esteem we have for you, and how firmly you are riveted in this borough yet give us leave in the most public manner to return your Lordship our thanks for your conduct during the later sessions of Parliament. As this borough in your Lordship is represented by a person not to be corrupted so you must be the more dear to your constituents who are above corruption and are no other ways to be biased in their votes but in giving them the man they think will be most for the good of his country. It is therefore with great pleasure we hear that the city of London ever vigilant and zealous for the welfare of this nation and liberty of the subjects have given instructions to their Members to bring in a bill to restrain the number of placemen in the House of Commons which by the great numbers now there were it not a virtuous House of Commons would by its influence endanger the constitution. We therefore of the body corporate in conjunction with the gentlemen, clergy and inhabitants of this ancient borough of Tewkesbury in right as your constituents do require that both your Lordship and Mr. Tracy shall concur with the worthy Members of the city of London in supporting and making effectual the instructions they have received.3

Gage, of course, complied, but Tracy merely abstained from the division, with the result that he was replaced in 1741 by John Martin, also a government supporter. In 1747 both Members were opposition Whigs.

Author: Shirley Matthews


  • 1. Rich. Freeman to Nic. Jackson, 7 July 1727, Jackson mss, Glos. RO.
  • 2. 21 Sept. 1739, Cholmondeley (Houghton) mss.
  • 3. Lechmere mss, Worcs. RO.