Double Member Borough

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the freemen

Number of voters:

about 1,000


16 Apr. 1754John Grey 
 William Whitmore 
30 Mar. 1761John Grey 
 William Whitmore 
1 Apr. 1766Whitmore re-elected after appointment to office 
18 Mar. 1768George Pigot, Baron Pigot 
 William Whitmore 
20 Sept. 1771Thomas Whitmore vice William Whitmore, deceased 
10 Oct. 1774George Pigot, Baron Pigot 
 Thomas Whitmore 
16 Feb. 1778Hugh Pigot vice Lord Pigot, deceased 
11 Sept. 1780Thomas Whitmore 
 Hugh Pigot 
4. Apr. 1782Pigot re-elected after appointment to office 
5 Apr. 1784Isaac Hawkins Browne662
 Thomas Whitmore646
 Hugh Pigot381

Main Article

In 1754, and again in 1761, the Whitmores of Apley held undisputed sway at Bridgnorth, the other two families with property near or in the borough, the Actons of Aldenham and the Weavers of Morval (succeeded by the Blayneys) having become inactive. John Grey, brother of Lord Stamford, was a Whitmore nominee, but had the additional advantage of residing eight miles from Bridgnorth and of being a brother-in-law of Richard Acton. When in November 1765 the bailiffs consulted the Whitmores as to the choice of a successor to him, and his nephew Booth Grey was recommended, their answer was ‘no one so proper’. But their attitude changed when George, Lord Pigot entered the field, a nabob of Shropshire origin who in 1765 had bought the estate of Patshull in Staffordshire, seven miles from Bridgnorth. After a good deal of manoeuvring and ineffective attempts by Whitmore and Stamford to dissuade Pigot from standing, an agreement was reached whereby Whitmore and Pigot divided the borough; and until 1784 parliamentary elections at Bridgnorth were uncontested.

John Robinson, in the electoral survey drawn up in the second week of December 1783, wrote against Bridgnorth: ‘the old Members’; and marked them as opposed to Pitt.1 But by the end of January 1784 there was a third candidate, friendly to Pitt: Isaac Hawkins Browne, who had recently bought Badger Hall, about five miles from Bridgnorth, and was already involved in the town’s affairs. On 27 Jan. a rumour of an impending dissolution having reached Bridgnorth, a meeting of resident freemen unanimously nominated Whitmore and Browne by a large majority. In the next two months there was prolonged poster and newspaper warfare between Browne’s and Pigot’s supporters, in which the main matters canvassed were such points of electoral etiquette as the antecedents, size and character of the meeting of 27 Jan. and the propriety of Browne’s initial canvass.2 Thomas Whitmore, though in national politics on the same side as Pigot, declared himself neutral between him and Browne. But Pigot, after his defeat, issued an address condemning the manner in which the poll was carried against him, and ‘the secret and unexpected combination then made, and uniformly persisted in against me, assisted by the dark and insidious practices which had long been exercised by pretended friends’;3 and the poll figures support the charge that at some stage Whitmore gave his interest to Browne—perhaps still resenting Lord Pigot’s intrusion in 1768. Of the 983 who voted at this election, 530 voted for Whitmore and Browne and only 102 for Whitmore and Pigot. It seems doubtful whether the attitude of the candidates in national politics had any marked influence on the election results.

By 1784 less than one-third of the freemen listed or voting were resident in the borough, which rendered the Whitmore hold on it less proprietary. Still, the Bridgnorth contest in 1784 was unique in that for once a Whitmore did not top the poll.

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


Based on research by J. F. A. Mason.

  • 1. Laprade, 75.
  • 2. Shrewsbury Chron. 14 Feb.-20 Mar.
  • 3. Ibid. 17 Apr.