Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the freemen

Estimated number qualified to vote:

between 30 and 38


3,164 (1821); 3,361 (1831)1


7 Mar. 1820SIR HARRY NEALE, bt.
5 June 1821WILLIAM MANNING vice Finch, vacated his seat
3 Apr. 1823WALTER BOYD vice Neale, vacated his seat
10 June 1826WALTER BOYD
9 July 1827THOMAS DIVETT vice Prendergast, vacated his seat
31 July 1828GEORGE BURRARD vice Divett, deceased

Main Article

As a port on the south coast Lymington had long been eclipsed by Southampton, 20 miles to the north-east. The proximity of a military depot during the Napoleonic wars boosted its harbour trade, but hampered efforts to promote the town as a resort.2 These endeavours began to bear fruit after 1830, aided by investment in new bathing facilities and a gas works. In 1835 the municipal corporations commissioners recorded that the town was ‘somewhat improving’, though they were sceptical of local insistence that the conferral of free port privileges would lead to a revival of trade. The population, which remained fairly static, consisted chiefly of ‘tradesmen of a middling description’ in 1832.3 The representation had long been completely in the hands of the Burrard family of Walhampton, headed in this period by Admiral Sir Harry Neale (formerly Burrard) and his brother, the Rev. George Burrard, rector of Shalfleet, Isle of Wight. Since 1774 they had kept a tight rein on admissions to the self-elected corporation, limited by borough statute to 50 burgesses (including an annually elected mayor), whose numbers increased from 30 in 1824 to 38 in 1831. The commissioners observed ‘some dissatisfaction’ among the inhabitants that the corporation was ‘almost entirely composed of persons unconnected with the town’, and reported:

The greater number of burgesses have been chosen merely as the friends or relations of the family considered to have the patronage of the borough, for the purpose, as cannot be doubted, of securing to this family a majority in the election of Members of Parliament.4

Of the burgesses listed in 1830, six were members of the Burrard family, while a further five were their close relatives, the Rookes. Members of the latter family, into which the patrons’ sisters had married, held the office of mayor and returning officer, 1823-4, 1827-8. Burrard himself was elected in 1825, when he replaced his father-in-law Admiral Joseph Bingham. Mayoral elections were marked by token contests, in which both Burrard and Neale suffered defeat. Given their unquestioned pre-eminence, however, it appears likely that neither sought nomination on these occasions and was proposed merely by way of compliment. The patrons’ gestures of munificence in this period included a new cemetery, improvements to the market place, and gas lighting for the town.5 Throughout this period the patrons’ nominees were ‘unanimously elected’ by the mayor and burgesses, and after general elections leading inhabitants were customarily invited to partake of a ‘sumptuous dinner’, while the lower orders were regaled with beer.6 The Members were supporters of the Liverpool and Wellington ministries, but opponents of the Grey ministry’s reform bill. Neale returned himself for the first two sessions of the 1820 Parliament, and George Burrard’s son and namesake was nominated for the last four years of the period. Otherwise they appear to have accommodated paying guests of a similar political persuasion. A radical publication of 1831 alleged that the borough had long been a ‘source of considerable wealth’ to the family, and Burrard’s tenure of local livings and a customs post was denounced as a ‘boroughmongering job’ the following year.7

In 1816 Oldfield had praised the attempts of the inhabitants in former times ‘to recover their ancient right of electing their representatives’, but until the height of the reform bill agitation, little occurred to ruffle the patrons’ feathers. In November 1820 it was reported that the ‘pensioners and sinecurists’ living in the town were ‘very sore’ at the abandonment of proceedings against Queen Caroline, in support of which the church bells were rung against the wishes of the curate and ‘all the houses in the town were illuminated’, except those of two protesters, who had their windows smashed.8 This led General Sir John Pringle Dalrymple of nearby Woodside to complain of the ineffectiveness of the corporation (which in any case possessed no magisterial authority) and the sole resident magistrate, Charles St. Barbe, of whom he remarked, ‘neither the habits of his early life, nor his present age, calculate him to overawe or control the populace’.9 The incident prompted a loyal address from Neale, Burrard and about 260 inhabitants, deploring the ‘scenes of riot and unrest that prevail in some parts of your Majesty’s dominions’ and the ‘blasphemy and uproar which are ... poisoning the morals of the weak and misguided’, 25 Nov. 1820.10 Further evidence of the support enjoyed by the patrons came on Neale’s return from foreign naval service, which was heralded with a welcoming address from 40 local tradesmen, 11 May 1827.11 Commenting on the dull proceedings at the 1830 general election, a radical publication sarcastically described how

two burgesses were proposed and elected nem. con. One of the Members being present, he returned thanks in a speech of unrivalled eloquence, but unfortunately it was lost to the world, on account of its having been inaudible. The said speech occupied at least half a minute in its delivery.12

The ‘Swing’ agricultural labourers’ riots of November 1830 only briefly disturbed the peace of an ‘otherwise quiet little town’. Serious trouble seems to have been forestalled by the appointment of 37 special constables and the decision of a meeting of magistrates, gentlemen and farmers to increase wages, which was communicated to the labourers assembled outside by the Rev. Burrard. Caroline Bowles, a cousin of the patrons and future wife of Robert Southey*, condemned this as craven capitulation, but a correspondent to The Times commended the use of ‘judicious remonstrances, blended with kind promises’, 6 Dec. 1830.13 Petitions for parliamentary reform reached the Commons, 17 Feb., 28 Mar., and the Lords, 25 Feb. 1831.14 One for the abolition of slavery was presented to the Commons, 13 Apr. 1831.15

As Lymington’s population fell below the threshold of 4,000, it was condemned to a place in schedule B of the original reform bill. On 15 Apr. 1831 Neale, deputizing for the mayor in his capacity as senior burgess, dispatched a memorandum arguing for the retention of both Members, citing the borough’s ecclesiastical status as a chapelry to Boldre, a village two and a half miles to the north with a population of 5,344 in 1821. According to Neale, Lymington had only been listed separately in the census owing to a ‘misunderstanding’.16 Ministers were unimpressed, and Lord John Russell denied the existence of a link with the chapelry, 18 Apr. At the 1831 general election the patrons sought and accepted Peel’s recommendation for one of the seats.17 The freeholders of the town reportedly sided strongly with the reform candidates for Hampshire, and over 2,000 attended a reform meeting addressed by Sir James Macdonald, the county Member, 3 May, following which an inhabitants’ address in favour of the bill reached the king.18 That month, the newly installed curate, the Rev. Peyton Blakiston, helped to establish a ‘friends of reform’ committee under the chairmanship of his brother John, who was described by Caroline Bowles as ‘a half-pay captain in the army, who turned patriot on losing all hopes of promotion ... from his mutinous conduct in India’. (She denounced his coadjutors as ‘two Dissenting ministers, flaming orators; an infidel tallow chandler, and a serious tailor’.)19 In response, Neale, who in private lamented that ‘political differences should exist in the town, and that parties should have been brought forward at so early a period’, held a public meeting, 6 June, at which he secured 154 pledges of support for his post-reform election.20 When Croker protested in the Commons at the borough’s continued presence in schedule B of the reintroduced bill, 28 July, Russell replied with an uncorroborated account of another meeting called ‘a short time ago’ to draw up a petition for the retention of both Members, at which the inhabitants had been ‘so unwilling ... to interfere in any way with the measure before the House, that they rejected the proposition by a majority of ten to one’. Lymington’s partial disfranchisement was formally debated next day, when Mackinnon, the Member recommended by Peel, cited the population and housing figures for the parish of Boldre as evidence of injustice, but to no avail. A petition from the inhabitants calling for the supplies to be withheld until the reform bill was passed was presented by Macdonald, 24 May, and on its enactment, a festival was held, apparently with the mayor’s approval, 7 Aug. 1832.21

By the Reform Act Lymington retained its two Members, on account of the relatively high level of its assessed taxes. The number of £10 houses had varied wildly in various returns, there being ‘great inequalities in the assessments’, but was eventually estimated at 195, significantly less than the required 300. In order to make up the shortfall, the boundary commissioners recommended an eastward extension into the parish of Boldre, which included part of Neale’s Walhampton estate, and observed that ‘both the inhabitants of Lymington and Boldre wish for it’, though they had initially reported the opposite and suggested the alternative of including Milford in the west.22 (According to a local historian, their ‘chief witness’ was Neale and ‘they listened to him with deference, and courteously adopted his suggestion that the only enlargement should be the addition of that portion of Walhampton which was contiguous with his own estate’.)23 It had been predicted by The Times that Lymington’s franchise would ‘pass from the control of the present patron and ... be independently exercised by the £10 householders after the reform bill was passed’, but the shape of the redrawn constituency and Neale’s local standing ensured that this did not happen in the short term.24 At the 1832 general election he and John Stewart, a West India proprietor brought forward by the burgesses, stood successfully as Conservatives against the Liberal John Blakiston. Neale retired in 1834 in favour of Mackinnon, his erstwhile nominee, and though the ‘shadow of the Burrard influence’ was ‘reflected in the person of Mr. Mackinnon for a further thirty years’, thereafter the Burrards gradually relinquished their role in the borough, which was reduced to a single Member by the 1867 Reform Act.25

Authors: Howard Spencer / Philip Salmon


  • 1. These figures are for the chapelry of Lymington.
  • 2. D. Garrow, Hist. Lymington, 24-26, 30-31; Hants Telegraph, 16 July 1827.
  • 3. PP (1831-2), xxxvii. 223; (1835), xxiv. 87; Hants RO 27M74 F102.
  • 4. PP (1835), xxiv. 84-86.
  • 5. Hants RO 27M74 F87, 89; DBC5; Z4; Garrow, 45.
  • 6. Hants RO 27M74 DBC5; Garrow, 20-21; Hants Telegraph, 13 Mar. 1830, 16 June 1826.
  • 7. [W.D. Carpenter], People’s Bk. (1831), 196; Extraordinary Black Bk. (1832), 517.
  • 8. The Times, 18 Nov. 1820.
  • 9. Wellington mss WP1/657/7/3.
  • 10. Hants RO 27M74 F84.
  • 11. Ibid. F88.
  • 12. Carpenter, 196.
  • 13. Corresp. of Southey with Caroline Bowles, ed. E. Dowden, 271.
  • 14. CJ, lxxxvi. 264, 446; LJ, lxiii. 253.
  • 15. CJ, lxxxvi. 483.
  • 16. PP (1830-1), x. 128.
  • 17. Hants RO 27M74/F102, Neale to Peel [Apr. 1831].
  • 18. Hants Chron. 30 Apr., 7, 28 May 1831.
  • 19. Southey Corresp. 243-4; C.P. Jones, Hist. Lymington, 141-5.
  • 20. Hants RO 27M74 F91-2; Hants Chron. 11 June 1831.
  • 21. CJ, lxxxvii. 337; Hants RO DBC 290b.
  • 22. PP (1830), x. 3; (1831), xvi. 93; (1831-2), xxxvi. 80-81, 188; xxxvii. 223-5.
  • 23. Jones, 140-1.
  • 24. The Times, 11 Aug. 1831.
  • 25. Jones, 145-7.