Chipping Wycombe

Double Member Borough

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 freemen

Number of voters:

about 50


17 Apr. 1754John Petty, Earl of Shelburne
 John Waller
10 Dec. 1757Edmund Waller vice John Waller, deceased
2 June 1760William Petty, Visct. Fitzmaurice, vice Shelburne, called to the Upper House
28 Mar. 1761William Petty, Visct. Fitzmaurice
 Robert Waller
5 Dec. 1761Isaac Barré vice Fitzmaurice, called to the Upper House
18 Nov. 1766Barré re-elected after appointment to office
16 Mar. 1768Robert Waller
 Isaac Barré
6 Oct. 1774Robert Waller
 Thomas Fitzmaurice
6 Sept. 1780Robert waller
 Charles Stanhope, Visct. Mahon
31 Mar. 1784Robert Waller
 Charles Stanhope, Visct. Mahon
28 Aug. 1784Waller re-elected after appointment to office
15 Mar. 1786John Henry Petty, Earl Wycombe, vice Mahon, called to the Upper House

Main Article

Chipping Wycombe was controlled by the Wallers of Beaconsfield and the Earl of Shelburne, each patron recommending to one seat. The Wallers were an old Buckinghamshire family; Lord Shelburne’s interest was derived from his inheritance of the Petty property in Buckinghamshire. The patrons seem to have worked amicably together, and all elections during this period were uncontested.

Some information about Wycombe is to be found in letters in the Lansdowne mss. When John, 1st Earl of Shelburne, stood at the general election of 1754 he received a message from Edmund Waller ‘that he did not mean to oppose him, provided my Lord did not mean to deprive his family of both seats’. William, 2nd Earl of Shelburne wrote to Isaac Barré on 14 May 1761, offering him a seat at Wycombe: ‘You cannot come into a borough where less violence of conscience will be required.’ Still, Barré’s return was not taken for granted, and he canvassed the borough with Edmund Waller. ‘A great majority answered as could be wished’, Barré reported to Shelburne on 25 May, ‘but there were some who hesitated, and at last answered very doubtfully.’ He went on to say:

Just before dinner I was told by young Waller that Lord Chief Justice Willes had wrote to his father to beg his interest for his son Mr. Willes, but that his answer gave him no hopes as he was heartily engaged to Lord Shelburne and determined to support his recommendation ... Some other offers were made, as I am informed but were rejected. The leading people think there is no danger.

Nor was there, either then or at any subsequent election during this period. But Wycombe was not controlled without expense, and Shelburne probably had the borough in mind when he wrote, some time after 1796:1

Family boroughs (by which I mean boroughs which lie naturally within the reach of cultivation of any house or property) are supposed to cost nothing: but I am sure from my own experience and observation that if examined into they will be found to cost as much as the purchase of any burgage tenure.

Author: John Brooke


  • 1. Fitzmaurice, Life of Shelburne, ii. 357.