New Shoreham


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 inhabitants paying scot and lot and in the 40s. freeholders in the rape of Bramber

Estimated number qualified to vote:

1,600 in 18311

Number of voters:

1,040 in 1826


[New Shoreham]: 1,047 (1821); 1,503 (1831)


 Henry Webster246
 Edward Burtenshaw Sugden483

Main Article

New Shoreham, a small port and market town situated on the River Adur, one mile from the English Channel coast, received a boost to its general foreign trade during the early nineteenth century from the rapid growth of nearby Brighton and Worthing. It was reported in 1823 that the ‘very safe and commodious harbour for shipping’ had recently been ‘improved at an immense expense’, and that ‘a new dry dock’ for the repair of vessels had ‘just been completed’. The market was ‘principally for corn’.2 The boundary of the borough was coextensive with the parish, and resident ratepayers were eligible to vote, but as a result of a notorious corruption scandal the franchise had been extended in 1771 to 40s. freeholders in the rape of Bramber, a large rural area with a population of some 30,000 in 1831. This gave the constituency the character of a small county. No official return was made to show the relative numbers of scot and lot and freeholder voters, but the latter undoubtedly formed the overwhelming majority. The largest concentrations of electors were in the parishes of Horsham, New Shoreham and Worthing. Some of the freeholders were non-resident, and there was a sizeable contingent from London. Bernard Edward Howard, 12th duke of Norfolk, the lord of the manor, appointed the high constable, who served as the returning officer for parliamentary elections. Norfolk, a Whig, returned one Member and George O’Brien Wyndham, 3rd earl of Egremont, of Petworth House, a Tory, nominated the other, but neither was allowed to exercise his power entirely unchallenged.3

In 1820 the sitting Members, James Martin Lloyd, Norfolk’s nominee, and Sir Charles Burrell, Egremont’s son-in-law, offered again. Local opposition to Burrell, who acted in the Commons as an independent country gentleman, appears to have been orchestrated by the Horsham attorney T.C. Medwin, who had ‘reason to believe an opposition to his re-election by a gentleman of ... independent principles ... would be attended with success’. One of Medwin’s contacts asserted that ‘most of our inhabitant freeholders would rather vote for the Old Gentleman [Egremont] himself than Sir Charles’. Several possible candidates were mentioned, but the likely expense of a contest deterred some. John Smith of Brighton, who was later immortalized in Benjamin Haydon’s painting ‘The Mock Election’, a depiction of a burlesque ceremony in which he took part whilst an inmate of king’s bench prison, finally came forward. Shortly afterwards he was joined by Henry Webster, the brother of the ‘radical baronet’ Sir Godfrey Webster†, who was engaged in a battle to save his Sussex seat from a coalition which included Burrell’s brother. It was understood in metropolitan Whig circles that Henry Webster had been ‘set up’ by his brother as a retaliatory measure against the Burrells. In his published address Webster said he was ‘proud to avow’ his family’s politics and he frankly admitted that he was standing ‘in opposition to Sir Charles Burrell’. He subsequently claimed that his principles were the ‘same’ as Lloyd’s, but this sentiment was evidently not reciprocated. Canvassing reports showed that Webster had strong support in Horsham, New Shoreham and Worthing, but one of his supporters lamented that he had ‘offered himself so tardily’, when ‘almost every vote is engaged’, and another thought that Sir Godfrey’s notoriety was having a damaging effect in some quarters.4 Smith’s appearance at the hustings was farcical: having been obliged to nominate himself, he found he had no support and immediately withdrew in favour of Webster. At the end of the first day Lloyd was comfortably ahead, with 102 votes to Burrell’s 67 and Webster’s 43. On the second, Lloyd’s total increased to 383, while Burrell widened his lead over Webster by 251 to 167. Webster was unable to close the gap on the third day and he retired early on the fourth, before any more votes could be cast. In his parting address, he admitted that he had been ‘too late in my canvass to insure success’, but he rejected Burrell’s charge that his candidature had been ‘vexatious’ and pledged to offer again at the next election.5

The inhabitants of New Shoreham petitioned the Commons for the restoration of Queen Caroline’s name to the liturgy, 26 Jan. 1821, while the owners and occupiers of land in the rape of Bramber petitioned for relief from agricultural distress, 11 Feb. 1822.6 For some time prior to the general election of 1826 it had been anticipated that Lloyd would not stand again. Late in 1824 Thomas Read Kemp* informed Medwin’s son that he had decided against fighting ‘the independent battle’ at New Shoreham in favour of a return to his former constituents at Lewes. When Lloyd’s intended retirement was confirmed in July 1825, two candidates came forward: Norfolk’s nephew Henry Howard, then sitting for the duke’s pocket borough of Steyning, and Edward Sugden, a chancery barrister resident at Slaugham in the northern part of Bramber rape. The Medwins, having ascertained that Webster would not offer again, agreed to act as Howard’s agent, declining a similar request from Sugden. In his address Sugden, a Tory, explained that ‘in regard to the Catholic question I have pledged myself, at the desire of a numerous body of you, to oppose the introduction of Catholics into Parliament’. He also asserted that the ‘intended re-agitation of the agricultural question requires the attention on your behalf of men of business in Parliament’. Norfolk, a prominent Catholic, wrote to Henry Brougham* that ‘High Church bigotry is I am sorry to say not losing ground in this neighbourhood, where the "No Popery" cry is exerting itself against my nephew’, although he remained ‘confident of his success in spite of Mr. Sugden’.7 At the dissolution the following summer Burrell’s position was considered to be secure, but a ‘formidable contest’ was expected between Howard and Sugden. This was presented as a clash between a Whig aristocrat who, as one of his supporters put it, had been ‘swaddled, rocked and dandled into a legislator’, and a Tory parvenu (Sugden’s father was a hairdresser). Sugden’s supporters sought to exploit resentment at the way Norfolk was foisting a non-resident on the constituency, and the Tory Brighton Gazette warned that if Howard was returned ‘the rape of Bramber will thenceforth be as close a borough as Steyning or Horsham’. Howard’s camp achieved a significant coup with the publication, 3 June, of a letter from the eminent Catholic lawyer Charles Butler to Edward Blount*, Norfolk’s auditor, which cast grave doubts on Sugden’s anti-Catholic credentials. Writing a year earlier, Butler had communicated details of a conversation in which Sugden had declared himself ‘a decided friend to Catholic emancipation’, with a view to obtaining the ducal interest at New Shoreham. Furthermore, he had asked that his opinion on the matter should be concealed ‘on account of the great unpopularity attached in that part of Sussex to the Catholic question’. In reply, Sugden could only protest that subsequent events had made him a convinced anti-Catholic and, more lamely, that his conversation with Butler was supposed to be private. A leader writer in The Times denounced this ‘soapery’ and accused Sugden of ‘base and sordid hypocrisy’. While his candidature was undoubtedly damaged by the disclosure, it was evidently not doomed by it. One of Howard’s agents observed that Sugden’s ‘eloquent addresses’ were acting ‘as electricity on the voters’, and he detailed his own efforts to bring down the London out-voters, adding that he had secured all six of those from Guildford. The Bisshopps of Parham, a major force in New Shoreham politics before 1820, had reportedly promised their support to Howard, but the earl of Abergavenny’s interest was ‘said to go "No Popery"’.8 On the hustings, Burrell confidently appealed to his long record of service and espousal of ‘independent principles’, while Howard struggled to obtain a hearing. Sugden, who emphasized his determination to prevent New Shoreham from becoming a pocket borough, declared himself ‘Mr. Howard’s equal in every respect, excepting [his] boasted line of ancestry’, and recalled how he had ‘raised himself from the class of those whom he was addressing ... by his own honest unwearied industry ... without being beholden to favour from any man’. He reiterated his opposition to Catholic emancipation, but expressed sympathy with the claims of Protestant Dissenters and cautious support for the abolition of slavery. According to a manuscript polling list, Burrell was comfortably ahead at the end of the first day with 156 votes, but Howard, on 99, only led Sugden by one. In Howard’s camp there was alarm that Sugden’s party were ‘almost kidnapping our friends’. The state of the poll at the end of the second day is not known, but one of Howard’s agents learned that the enemy were ‘doing their utmost to get the ascendancy tomorrow’, whereas he was ‘confidently informed that if we get a good majority ... Sugden will no longer persevere in his presumptuous pretensions’. Burrell had 711 votes after the third day’s polling and Howard had pulled clear of Sugden by 446 to 385. The positions remained unchanged on the fourth day, when Sugden abandoned the contest. It was later stated that 1,040 electors had cast their votes. Fragmentary polling data suggests that Howard obtained 96 votes to Sugden’s 47 in the parish of Horsham, and 99 to 80 in Worthing, whereas in New Shoreham Sugden secured 93 to Howard’s 62 (of which 78 and 39 respectively were scot and lot voters). The total cost of the election was reputedly almost £6,000, as ‘lavish [indirect] payments’ to the voters were ‘still rampant’. This was the last occasion on which the election proceedings were conducted in the porch of the parish church.9 Sugden afterwards claimed that the non-resident electors had tipped the balance against him, and he pledged to stand again. He was still active in the constituency in August 1827, but subsequently found another route to the Commons.10

The Protestant Dissenters of New Shoreham presented a petition to the Commons for repeal of the Test Acts, 17 Mar., and the inhabitants sent up one against Catholic relief, 22 May 1828.11 During the Commons debate on the proposed disfranchisement of East Retford, 27 June 1828, Burrell maintained that bribery was ‘out of the question’ at New Shoreham, and he extolled the ‘incorruptible’ character of his constituents. In 1829 Howard naturally supported the Wellington ministry’s Catholic emancipation bill, but Burrell opposed it. Early in 1830 Howard, acting on his uncle’s behalf, piloted the Shoreham bridge bill through the Commons. A local newspaper concluded that the duke had thereby ‘fixed himself too firmly to leave a chance for any other person’ and that ‘the few thousands ... the bridge will cost his grace will save him many others that have been spent on elections’. Following the dissolution that summer Howard’s sister noted that ‘he has been extremely well received and ... no other candidate has yet appeared’, and she thought it ‘scarcely likely any opposition will be got up at the last moment’. On election day Burrell emphasized his support for repeal of the malt duty and currency reform, which he believed would ‘cause the country again to flourish as it has done before’. Howard defended his votes for Catholic emancipation, to which he hoped the electors were now reconciled, and the sale of beer bill, but said he would have preferred a reduction of the malt duty. They were returned unopposed.12

Anti-slavery petitions were presented to Parliament from the Wesleyan Methodists of New Shoreham, 10, 16 Nov. 1830.13 The inhabitants petitioned for repeal of the coastwise coal duty, which pressed ‘with undue weight on the most industrious and least opulent portion of the community’, 25 Feb., 7 Mar. 1831.14 The Grey ministry’s reform bill of March 1831 proposed to allow New Shoreham to keep its representation and to enfranchise the £10 householders. A petition from the inhabitants in favour of the bill reached the Lords, 21 Apr. 1831.15 While both Members supported the measure, of which Norfolk approved, Burrell indicated that he was unhappy with its details. At the ensuing dissolution there were whispers of opposition to him, but no alternative candidate appeared. Banners were paraded proclaiming ‘Burrell, the advocate of the constitution’, and ‘Henry Howard votes for the king and the people’. Burrell, who was introduced by Sir Charles Goring and R. Aldridge, defended his right to reserve judgement on the reform bill’s details, although, on being pressed, he said he was ‘decidedly averse’ to the nomination boroughs. Howard, who was sponsored by Sir Timothy Shelley† and Captain Pechell, expressed his ‘fullest confidence’ in the government. Both Members remarked on the presence of a number of ladies, whom Howard described as ‘the beautiful reformers’. After his unopposed return, Howard wrote to his sister:

As for the feeling in the rape of Bramber, I never would have believed it to be so strong and so universal in favour of the bill. I was at one time rather afraid of their getting up a contest against Sir C. Burrell because they thought he had not pledged himself sufficiently, however he behaved like a man on the hustings and all went off [smoothly] ... I had offers of support from a great many (quite enough to have secured my return free of expense) and did not meet with a refusal. There certainly are some anti-reformers, perhaps, one or one-and-a-half to every hundred.16

By the Reform Act of 1832, New Shoreham was reduced in size as a result of the removal of the parish of Horsham (which now constituted the borough of that name). The existing scot and lot voters retained their privilege for life, as did the freeholders, subject to a residency requirement.17 There were 1,927 registered electors in 1832, and at the general election of that year Burrell was returned ahead of a Liberal. Burrell sat until his death in 1862 and was succeeded in turn by his two sons; the other seat was usually held by a fellow Conservative. New Shoreham was disfranchised in 1885.

Authors: Howard Spencer / Terry Jenkins


  • 1. PP (1831-2), xxxvi. 586.
  • 2. Pigot’s Commercial Dir. (1823-4), 521, 522; (1832-4), 1050.
  • 3. PP (1830-1), x. 101; (1831-2), xxxvi. 586; Arundel Castle mss FC 251, list of London out-voters, 1825; Horsham Mus. mss 112, poll analysis, 1826.
  • 4. Horsham Mus. mss 110, letters to T.C. Medwin from F. Cooper, 23 (with reply), 24 Feb., n.d., T. Attree, 26 Feb., 8 Mar., H. Webster, 9 Mar., C. Clutty, 12 Mar., election addresses and canvassing returns; Keele Univ. Lib. Sneyd mss, Agar Ellis to Sneyd, 6 Mar. 1820.
  • 5. Horsham Mus. mss 110, election addresses; 111, polling sheet; Suss. Advertiser, 13 Mar. 1820; W.D. Cooper, Parl. Hist. Suss. 32.
  • 6. CJ, lxxvi. 12; lxxvii. 16.
  • 7. Horsham Mus. mss 185, Kemp to P. Medwin, 13 Dec. 1824; 112, Sugden to same, 4 July, with reply; Brougham mss, Norfolk to Brougham, 21 Aug.; Arundel Castle mss FC 251; Brighton Gazette, 14 July; Suss. Advertiser, 25 July 1825.
  • 8. Brighton Gazette, 6 Apr., 1, 8 June; The Times, 13 June; Horsham Mus. mss 112, T. France to P. Medwin, 9, 15 June, P.J. Martin to same, 13 June 1826.
  • 9. Brighton Gazette, 8, 15 June; Suss. Advertiser, 19 June; Horsham Mus. mss 112, D. Stedman to P. Medwin, 13 June, R. Upperton to same, 14 June 1826, partial poll analysis; PP (1831-2), xxxvi. 586; R. Cheal, Story of Shoreham, 214.
  • 10. Brighton Gazette, 6 July 1826; Brighton Herald, 1 Sept. 1827.
  • 11. CJ, lxxxiii. 176, 372.
  • 12. Brighton Gazette, 8 July, 5 Aug.; Hants RO, Carnarvon mss 75M91/L27/2, Henrietta Howard to Sophia Bosanquet, 27 July 1830.
  • 13. CJ, lxxxvi. 52; LJ, lxiii. 93.
  • 14. CJ, lxxxvi. 347; LJ, lxiii. 254.
  • 15. LJ, lxiii. 499.
  • 16. Brighton Guardian, 27 Apr., 4 May; Brighton Gazette, 28 Apr., 5 May; Carnarvon mss L3, Howard to Lady Porchester, 4 May 1831.
  • 17. N. Gash, Politics in Age of Peel, 76 and n.