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

Background Information

Number of voters:

about 3,000


29 May 1717MORETON re-elected after appointment to office1767
 Henry Colchester1342
30 Mar. 1720HENRY BERKELEY vice Stephens, deceased 
22 June 1720EDMUND BRAY vice Moreton, called to the Upper House 
 Thomas Tracy, Visct. Tracy 
 John Howe, jun. 
8 May 1734THOMAS CHESTER3606
 John Stephens2610

Main Article

From 1715 to 1734 the representation of Gloucestershire was monopolized by local Whig families. In 1715 Thomas Stephens of Lypiatt and Matthew Ducie Moreton were returned unopposed. Stephens died in 1720 and Moreton was made a peer in the same year. In the uncontested by-elections which followed, two other Whigs, Henry Berkeley of Berkeley and Edmund Bray of Great Barrington replaced them. In 1722 Berkeley was returned after a contest in company with another Whig, Kinard De La Bere of Southam, a relation of the Stephens family and a trustee of Thomas Stephens’s property during the minority of his son, John Stephens. In 1727 Berkeley was re-elected unopposed with Sir John Dutton. In 1734 Berkeley did not put up for re-election and Reginald Morgan Bray, the nephew and heir of Edmund Bray, ‘from the unhappy wildness his head had taken ... devoted himself to the service of the Tories’.1 In these circumstances Berkeley’s brother, the 3rd Earl of Berkeley, the head of the Whig interest in the county, persuaded Dutton to stand on a compromise with a Tory, Benjamin Bathurst, ‘as the only means to prevent two Tories being set up and chosen’;2 but, at a late stage in the campaign, John Stephens, now of age, declared himself a candidate, thus wrecking the compromise, with the result that Dutton withdrew, leaving Bathurst, with a second Tory candidate, Thomas Chester, to be returned after a contest with Stephens.

In September 1739 Robert Tracy, the sitting Whig Member for Tewkesbury, wrote to Walpole:

I presume before now you must have heard of Mr. [John] Stephens and my declaring jointly for the county of Gloucester at the next general election. I was particularly prevailed upon to do it at the earnest solicitation of Lord Berkeley, Lord Ducie, Sir John Dutton, Mr. Howe and several other gentlemen who are my friends, and upon their judgment and opinion did readily embark in the affair ... for I am very free to own that whenever I reflect upon the present representatives for this county, it is extremely grating, especially when I considered that there has been no [other] instance of 2 Tories being chosen for Gloucestershire since the Restoration.3

Sir John Dutton wrote to Lord Hardwicke:

I do myself the honour to acquaint you that my Lord Berkeley has declared my cousin Tracy and Mr. Stephens candidates for this county at the next general election upon the Whig interest. As this scheme has been in a great measure my own I have the satisfaction to acquaint your Lordship that from the happy turn things have now taken I make no doubt we shall carry the election by a great majority if my brother Whigs do their duty on this important occasion with that zeal I hope they will; for I take this to be the crisis which is to decide the fate of the two interests in this county.4

However, the Whigs’ run of misfortune continued. John Stephens, who in 1734 had spoiled their chances by standing ‘in hopes of restoring his shattered circumstances’, was compelled to flee the country to avoid arrest by his creditors. In May 1740 Dutton wrote to Hardwicke:

I am extremely concerned that I must now have the mortification to acquaint your Lordship that when we thought ourselves most secure of a certain election for two Whigs for this county and I am fully satisfied were really so Mr. Stephens’s ill conduct and the misfortunates he thereby drew upon himself have disappointed all our endeavours and obliged us to give up a most undoubted election as his being obliged to quit his country in so precipitate a manner rendered it impossible for my cousin Tracy to carry on the contest any longer with any prospect of success. Had Mr. Stephens been so just to his friends as to have acquainted any one of us with his real circumstances before this calamity fell upon him we should undoubtedly have had it in our power to have secured a compromise for my cousin Tracy; for Mr. Chester and his lady were both become extremely sick of the dispute; but so unaccountable was Mr. Stephens’s conduct on this occasion that he kept his own brother the counsellor [Thomas Stephens, town clerk of Bristol] and his mother-in-law perfect strangers to his distress till he was within half an hour of being laid up in gaol for life. I never took so much pains in all the elections wherein I have been concerned as I have done in this nor with so great a prospect of success and now I find all my endeavours rendered fruitless and my cousin Tracy, who through my means was induced to enter into this scheme for retrieving the Whig interest in this country, after very great expense and trouble disappointed by the evil conduct of this indiscreet man.5

Thomas Chester and Norborne Berkeley were returned unopposed and re-elected without a contest in 1747.

Author: Shirley Matthews


  • 1. Sir John Dutton to Hardwicke, 4 Sept. 1742, Add. 35601, f. 130.
  • 2. See DUTTON, Sir John.
  • 3. 21 Sept. 1739, Cholmondeley (Houghton) mss.
  • 4. 19 Sept. 1739, Add. 35586, f. 165.
  • 5. Add. 35586, ff. 165, 233-4.