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 burgage holders

Number of voters:



1 Feb. 1715PAUL FOLEY 
 John Birch 
 BIRCH vice Foley, on petition, 18 June 1715 
22 Nov. 1718NICHOLAS PHILPOTT vice Cornewall, deceased 
 Thomas Foley 
26 Mar. 1722JOHN BIRCH66
 Edward Hughes26
 John Carpenter24
21 Sept. 1727UVEDALE PRICE 
30 Jan. 1730BIRCH re-elected after appointment to office33
 James Cornewall26
14 Apr. 1732JAMES CORNEWALL vice Birch, expelled the House55
 John Birch26
 Paul Foley4
 James Cornewall37
 CORNEWALL vice Birch (deceased), on petition, 3 Mar. 1737 
15 May 1741GEORGE CARPENTER, Baron Carpenter 
 HENRY TEMPLE, Visct. Palmerston 
1 July 1747MANSEL POWELL42
 John Perceval, Visct. Perceval22
 Sir John Buckworth22
 PERCEVAL vice Powell, on petition, 9 Dec. 1747 
30 Mar. 1749MOSTYN re-elected after appointment to office 

Main Article

Till 1737 Weobley was an independent venal borough, usually returning candidates drawn from local families at £15-£20 a vote.1 In that year the House of Commons, on a petition by James Cornewall against John Birch, decided that the right of election was in the occupiers or owners of certain ‘ancient vote-houses’ and not in the householders at large.2 Commenting on this decision, Edward Harley observed that

Birch was dead when this matter came to be heard and therefore no one defended his right and Cornewall made a compromise with Mansel Powell, who had bought several houses in this borough with old Barnsley’s money,3 to agree to this right of election which would fix the borough for the future in the interest of Powell, if Powell would not defend Birch’s right, who could have been proved to have been duly elected, had a defence been made for him.4

Subsequently Lord Weymouth, the lord of the manor, whose interest had been in abeyance during a long minority, joined with Powell, who had increased his holding to 40 out of 93 burgages, to gain control of the borough. In 1747 their control was challenged by Lord Perceval, afterwards the 2nd Lord Egmont, who was defeated at the poll but was awarded the seat vice Powell on petition. Egmont’s electoral survey gives an account of Weobley c. 1749-50:

Lord Weymouth has the two constables who are the returning officers but not one vote that he can command in the whole town. Nor any property but one vote house. Yet the constables have so often made villainous returns with impunity, and are chosen out of such a beggarly and rascally people, that they will never scruple to return against a fair and great majority. This makes it a bad borough to stand for in opposition if Lord Weymouth is with the Court, but of no consequence if he is against it.

As to the state of the voters. They consist of about 100 of which there are about 60 independent all living upon the spot constantly and mostly in their own houses.

Most of the other 40 vote for houses belonging to one Powell, who has joined himself to Lord Weymouth, but half these houses are without roof or floors, and utterly incapable of being inhabited, so that he has not above 6 or 7 tenants or voters constantly resident. But the constitution of the borough requiring that all voters should reside 40 days before the election and that they should have been upon the rates and paid scot and lot, and be parishioners, it is impossible in that small parish, as beggarly as it is, for him to fill bona fide half of these houses, nor would the House in an honest temper allow such houses which are not inhabitable to have votes where residence is required. Therefore I think the whole interest of Powell and Lord Weymouth together in opposition can amount to no more at most than the returning officer and 20 votes.

Before the next general election Powell sold his burgages to Lord Weymouth, who thus gained complete control of the borough.

Author: R. S. Lea


  • 1. Ld. Weymouth to Ld. Gower, 7 Nov. 1735, Bath mss, Longleat.
  • 2. CJ, xxii. 770.
  • 3. See under POWELL, Mansel.
  • 4. Harley Diary, 3 Mar. 1737.