Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1715-1754, ed. R. Sedgwick, 1970
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in inhabitants paying scot and lot

Number of voters:

about 160


 Peter Walter 
 William Harvey 
 WALTER vice Strangways, on petition, 10 May 1715 
22 Apr. 1717COVENTRY re-elected after appointment to office 
30 Nov. 1719SIR DEWEY BULKELEY vice Coventry, called to the Upper House 
 William Bragg 
 Alexander Pitfield 
 Solomon Ashley 
20 Feb. 1730JOHN JEWKES vice Pelham, chose to sit for Newark 
29 Apr. 1734WILLIAM BOWLES171
 John Bance58
 Solomon Ashley102
2 Apr. 1742THOMAS HENRY COVENTRY, Visct. Deerhurst, vice Bowles, chose to sit for Bewdley 
5 Dec. 1744GEORGE WILLIAM COVENTRY, Visct. Deerhurst, vice Thomas Henry Coventry, Visct. Deerhurst, deceased 
12 Dec. 1746THOMAS GRENVILLE vice Richards, deceased122
 Martin Madan116
25 May 1747JAMES GRENVILLE vice Thomas Grenville, deceased 

Main Article

There was no predominant interest at Bridport, a small sea port,1 though three generations of the Strangways family of Melbury and Abbotsbury held the office of high steward till 1727. William Coventry, afterwards 5th Earl of Coventry, who succeeded Thomas Strangways as high steward in that year, established a personal interest, which, except in 1747, enabled him and his son, the 6th Earl, to control one seat between 1708 and 1780. The Admiralty had an interest, which for a time was used by Newcastle to bring in his friends, and thereafter by the Grenvilles. There was also a dissenting element.

The only Tory returned for Bridport was John Strangways, who in 1715 was unseated on a petition alleging partiality by the returning officers in accepting some 50 unqualified votes for him and rejecting over 20 qualified ones for his opponents.2 One of the Members was usually a government supporter but those put up by Lord Coventry either voted with the Opposition or, like William Bowles, took an independent line. Lord Coventry wrote to Newcastle, 28 June 1740:

Mr. Bowles and self will wait on your Grace any, hour you shall appoint Wednesday morning [so that we] may talk over the Bridport transactions and justify measures which may have been misrepresented.

At this time Lord Coventry and Thomas Brodrepp, father-in-law of George Richards, were actively engaged in promoting the construction of the new harbour at Bridport, for which they had signed indentures in January.3 In 1741 the Coventry candidates, Bowles and Richards, aided by the corporation, won both seats at the general election, defeating Solomon Ashley, who had the government interest and the dissenters. Bowles opted to sit for Bewdley, thus providing a seat for Thomas, Lord Deerhurst, whose father, Lord Coventry, asked Newcastle ‘not to encourage Mr. Ashley for a future choice ...’.4 On Richards’s death in 1746 George Grenville, then a lord of the Admiralty, put up his sailor brother, Capt. Thomas Grenville, on whose behalf he wrote to the Duke of Bedford, then first lord of the Admiralty:

Your Grace has a very considerable estate in [the Bridport] neighbourhood which, as it gives the inhabitants of that town some dependence upon you, must give them the strongest desire of obliging you. Mr. John Way, attorney-at-law there and one of their returning officers at present is, I am told, a steward to your Grace. Would it be too much trouble for me to beg a line or two from you to him in favour of my brother, the captain, as a mark of your kind opinion and approbation of him?5

Paying three guineas a man, Thomas Grenville defeated the Prince of Wales’s candidate, Col. Martin Madan, who had promised the same but failed to pay on losing the election.6 He was succeeded by his brother James, who, at the general election of 1747, was elected unopposed with a rich West India Tory, John Pinney. The 2nd Lord Egmont wrote of Bridport in his electoral survey c.1749-50: ‘May be carried by the weight of the Admiralty and West India merchants’.

Author: R. S. Lea


  • 1. Travels of Dr. Pococke (Cam. Soc. n.s. xlii), i. 96.
  • 2. CJ, xviii. 39.
  • 3. Add. 32693, f. 420; Dorset Nat. Hist. and Antiq. Field Club Proc. xxxiii. 187.
  • 4. Coventry to Newcastle, 30 May 1741, Add. 32697, f. 120.
  • 5. 24 Nov. 1746, Bedford mss.
  • 6. Nathaniel Down to Azariah Pinney, 20 May 1747, Pinney mss.