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 and freeholders

Number of voters:

about 1,500


19 Apr. 1754John Tuckfield 
 John Walter 
26 Mar. 1761John Tuckfield760
 John Rolle Walter759
 William Mackworth Praed494
 Thomas Sewell491
19 Dec. 1767William Spicer vice Tickfield, deceased 
17 Mar. 1768John Rolle Walter 
 John Buller 
7 Oct. 1774John Rolle Walter 
 Charles Warwick Bampfylde 
9 Nov. 1776John Baring vice Walter, vacated his seat659
 John Burridge Cholwich558
11 Sept. 1780Sir Charles Warwick Bampfylde 
 John Baring 
5 Apr. 1784John Baring682
 Sir Charles Warwick Bampfylde580
 John Buller503

Main Article

Exeter, a cathedral city and port, was the centre of the serge-making industry. The corporation or chamber had considerable influence in elections and put forward its own candidates. In the eighteenth century, when the chamber was strongly Anglican, its candidates were invariably chosen from landed families living near Exeter.

Newcastle in his survey for the general election of 1754 wrote under Exeter ‘Two Tories’, without even mentioning their names—he either did not know or did not care who they were. The chamber dropped Humphry Sydenham, one of the sitting Members, because he had voted for the Jew bill, and replaced him by John Rolle Walter; and Walter and John Tuckfield, the other sitting Member, were returned unopposed.

In 1761 William Mackworth Praed, who possessed considerable property in Exeter, led an attack on the chamber. ‘He tells me that he is sure of carrying both Members at Exeter’, wrote John Richmond Webb to Sir Henry Erskine, ‘but wants a partner.’1 Lord Buckinghamshire, who seems to have had an interest there, was asked to allow his brother George Hobart to stand, but apparently made difficulties over money. ‘Mr. Praed insists’, continued Webb, ‘that his partner should spend equally with him, which he does not apprehend will exceed £2,000 each; but he don’t believe it will require above £1,000’; and suggested that ‘a merchant or one who can procure convoys and protect the trade of the place would be most proper’. The candidate chosen, Thomas Sewell, a lawyer, was hardly suitable; but he came with Treasury backing, and may have been suggested by Newcastle—he was on Newcastle’s list of candidates for whom seats had to be provided. Praed and Sewell were supported by ‘the merchants in general, the Dissenters, and by those who were termed the Low Church’,2 but were heavily defeated by a solid vote—only three out of 1,254 voters gave cross votes.

The next challenge to the corporation came in 1776. John Baring was probably the richest clothier in the district and had considerable property in the town; and his support came from the merchants, the Dissenters, and all who resented the corporation’s supremacy. After an expensive contest he beat John Burridge Cholwich, the corporation candidate, by over 100 votes.

The personal element in Exeter politics is shown in the elections of 1780 and 1784. In 1780 Cholwich was again a corporation candidate, and to him was joined Baring, who had stood against their interest in 1776; while Sir Charles Warwick Bampfylde, who had been their candidate in 1774, was now refused their placet. National politics did not dictate the corporation’s choice, for both Baring and Bampfylde were in opposition while Cholwich was expected by Robinson to support Administration. Cholwich declined the poll, and Baring and Bampfylde were returned unopposed. In 1784 Baring, who supported Pitt, and Bampfylde, who opposed him, were chosen by the corporation; and were opposed by John Buller, also a supporter of Pitt and in 1768 the corporation candidate.

Author: John Brooke


  • 1. Bute mss.
  • 2. A Jenkins, Hist. Exeter (2nd ed.), 206.