Bury St. Edmunds


Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the corporation

Number of voters:



17 Apr. 1754William Stanhope, Visct. Petersham16
 Augustus John Hervey15
 Felton Hervey15
 William Crofts7
 Election for the second seat declared void, 2 Dec. 1754 
9 Dec. 1754Felton Hervey 
21 Dec. 1756Augustus Henry Fitzroy, Earl of Euston, vice Petersham, called to the Upper House 
26 May 1757Augustus John Hervey vice Euston, called to the Upper House 
27 Mar. 1761Charles Fitzroy 
 Augustus John Hervey 
24 Feb. 1763William Hervey vice Augustus John Hervey, vacated his seat 
18 Mar. 1768Charles Fitzroy 
 Augustus John Hervey 
29 Jan. 1771Hervey re-elected after appointment to office 
8 Oct. 1774Augustus John Hervey 
 Sir Charles Davers 
27 Mar. 1775Henry Seymour Conway vice Hervey, called to the Upper House16
 William Hervey13
12 Sept. 1780Sir Charles Davers22
 Henry Seymour Conway18
 William Hervey13
2 Apr. 1784George Ferdinand Fitzroy 
 Sir Charles Davers 
5 Feb. 1787Lord Charles Fitzroy vice George Ferdinand Fitzroy, vacated his seat 

Main Article

Three families, all seated within a few miles of Bury St. Edmunds, contended for the representation of the borough: the Fitzroys, Dukes of Grafton; the Herveys, Earls of Bristol; and the Davers of Rushbrooke. Between 1754 and 1790 the Fitzroys held one seat for 31 years, the Herveys one seat for 17 years and both seats for four years, and the Davers family one seat for 16 years.

In the early part of the 18th century the Herveys were dominant, but in 1754 the ‘constant alliance between the house of Ickworth and the town of Bury’ was broken by an ‘unnatural contest’ in which Felton Hervey, supported by the Davers interest, opposed his nephew Augustus, brother and nominee of George, 2nd Earl of Bristol.1 From 1757 to 1761 the Herveys held both seats, probably because there was no Fitzroy or Davers of age.

On 14 Nov. 1760 the Duke of Grafton concluded an agreement with Sir Robert Davers:2

Upon consideration of Sir Robert Davers resigning to stand for Bury at the next general election, and on his giving the Duke of Grafton the strongest assurances of assisting Colonel Fitzroy at the aforesaid election with the utmost of his interest, the Duke of Grafton on his side does promise to Sir Robert Davers that he will make him his nominee (at the next general election that may happen next to that in 1761) at Bury or any other place where he may pretend to a sufficient interest.

In 1761 Augustus Hervey and Charles Fitzroy were returned unopposed.

Sir Robert Davers died in 1763, and on 3 Jan. 1767 Grafton concluded a new agreement with his brother, Sir Charles Davers. Davers promised to give ‘the fullest of his interest’ to Grafton’s nominee at the general election, and Grafton engaged to find Davers a seat and to pay his expenses above the sum of £100. The agreement concluded:

This agreement being entered into purely from mutual desire of preserving the peace of the town of Bury, and from a sincere wish of cementing the friendship subsisting between the parties, it is still understood that each party with these dispositions is equally ambitious to keep up that separate interest in the corporation of Bury with which they have hitherto been honoured.

Charles Fitzroy and Augustus Hervey were returned unopposed in 1768, and Grafton found Sir Charles Davers a seat at Weymouth and Melcombe Regis.

No agreement was made in 1774: Davers, Charles Fitzroy, and Augustus Hervey contested the borough; but Fitzroy withdrew before the poll. At the by-election of 1775 Grafton’s candidate, Henry Seymour Conway, defeated William Hervey; and again at the general election of 1780. But Grafton’s hold on the seat was not strong: in 1784 he was compelled to withdraw Conway, and offer his nephew George Fitzroy as candidate;3 and in 1795 Lord Euston told Pitt that Bury had ‘for some time been in a ticklish state’.4

Author: John Brooke


  • 1. Add. 32735, f. 76; Childe-Pemberton, The Earl Bishop, i. 44.
  • 2. Grafton mss.
  • 3. The King to Pitt, 28 Mar. 1784, Chatham mss.
  • 4. 29 Jan. 1795, ibid.