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 and inhabitant householders

Number of voters:

about 500


16 Apr. 1754Nicolson Calvert252
 John Martin246
 Thomas Gage, Visct. Gage117
 Hon. Thomas Gage94
26 Mar. 1761Sir William Codrington 
 Nicolson Calvert 
18 Mar. 1768Sir William Codrington 
 Nicolson Calvert 
8 Oct. 1774Sir William Codrington 
 Joseph Martin 
8 Apr. 1776Joseph Martin vice Joseph Martin, deceased 
11 Sept. 1780Sir William Codrington 
 James Martin 
6 Apr. 1784James Martin266
 Sir William Codrington210
 John Embury150

Main Article

Tewkesbury was a placid borough, with the corporation in control. It was free from the cruder forms of bribery: instead, the Members paid a lump sum or else made a contribution towards some municipal undertaking. About 1754 the Dowdeswell, Martin, and Gage families had most influence in the borough: nine Dowdeswells had sat since 1660; the Martins held one seat 1734-47 and 1774-1807; and Lord Gage sat from 1721 to 1754.

At the general election of 1754 a number of voters got together and agreed ‘to choose no Members but such as will give £1,500 each towards mending their roads’. William Dowdeswell and Lord Gage, the sitting Members, refused, and when a contest became apparent Dowdeswell declined. Gage thereupon stood jointly with his son Thomas (the general) against John Martin and Nicolson Calvert, who had accepted the borough’s terms. Calvert and Martin ‘made their public entry into the town with pickaxes and shovels carried before them, and flags, with inscriptions thereon of “Calvert and Martin” on one side, and “good roads” on the other’.1

The next contest was in 1784. The sitting Members had diverged politically: Martin had gone with Pitt but Codrington supported Fox. John Embury, a local man, declared himself a candidate against Codrington, whom he described as ‘a man who, from his inattention to his constituents, and late political decisions, has forfeited your confidence and respect’.2 The contest, however, was conducted with great dignity. At the poll there was a discussion whether leases made within twelve months of the election were valid, and both sides agreed that they were not. As a consequence nearly two hundred votes were rejected. Martin and Codrington won comfortably, and Embury admitted that they had a legal majority.

Author: J. A. Cannon


  • 1. Namier, Structure, 131.
  • 2. Glocester Jnl. 5 Apr. 1784.