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 tenants of the Prince of Wales (the lord of the manor) capable of being portreeves and in inhabitants paying scot and lot

Number of voters:

about 100


18 Apr. 1754Jonathan Rashleigh 
 George Edgcumbe 
30 Mar. 1761Jonathan Rashleigh 
 George Edgcumbe 
7 Dec. 1761Robert Walsingham vice Edgcumbe, called to the Upper House 
21 Jan. 17651Philip Rashleigh vice Rashleigh, deceased27
 Charles Crockatt24
18 Mar. 17682Philip Rashleigh69
 James Modyford Heywood61
 John Williams29
 Thomas Arthington26
10 Oct. 1774Philip Rashleigh 
 Molyneux Shuldham 
8 Sept. 1780Philip Rashleigh 
 Molyneux Shuldham, Baron Shuldham 
7 Apr. 1784Philip Rashleigh38
 John Grant31
 George Legge, Visct. Lewisham9
13 Feb. 1786Richard Edgcumbe vice Grant, vacated his seat 

Main Article

The main interest at Fowey was in the families of Rashleigh and Edgcumbe: Fowey being a port, there was also a certain Government interest; and as it was a decaying port, candidates were welcomed who could bring ‘some kind of trade’ to it.3 And George, 3rd Lord Edgcumbe, wrote to Newcastle, 26 June 1761, on the vacancy caused by his succeeding to the peerage, that agents were

making interest for Crockatt, a merchant of London, who (they say) engages to bring a number of Carolina ships there every year, and offers a bond of ten thousand pound for the performance of it ... the opposition is become serious and I have but a small majority, though I think enough to ensure the election, for the whole bench and every gentleman of the town are with me, but notwithstanding that it will cause an expense never known in that borough before.

This time Crockatt did not stand the poll, but he did in January 1765, having then Government support.4 M. Wolcott, a tenant and follower of Rashleigh, wrote to him on 16 Mar.:5

In regard to poor Fowey, two things yet remain worthy the attention of a great man. The first is the destruction of the party rage raised by the late election, and the second is bringing a trade for their subsistence. ... I have for these many years looked on poor Fowey as three parts ruined, without spirit or power to relieve herself, and this party rage will complete it without a speedy remedy by making her forever venal. I think I know there are not five men in the town or parish that are not in heart and good wishes for Mr. Crockatt’s trade, for I think ’twas the necessitous call for trade and subsistence that first made the opposition at the last election and no other opposition to the interest of Menabilly [the Rashleigh seat near Fowey].

To satisfy that ‘necessitous call for trade’, Timothy Brett, clerk of the cheque at Portsmouth and brother of Charles Brett, in November 1766, having proposed himself to Edgcumbe as candidate at the next general election, discussed with him and Rashleigh ‘a plan for carrying on a fishery’ from Fowey by fitting out two ships for voyages to Newfoundland—Edgcumbe was willing to contribute £1,000 and Brett £500, ‘towards carrying the scheme into execution’. He recommended employing even opponents ‘in their respective occupations’, so as to convince them ‘that it will be for their interest to become friends’.6 In the end Edgcumbe’s candidate was J. M. Heywood, a West Indian—and according to Thomas Pitt, discussing Fowey in 1747, there was a club of West Indian merchants who made it a rule ‘to promote the trade of any borough where a friend may be chosen’.

Sir Francis Basset was apparently behind the candidature in 1784 of Lord Lewisham, who was also his candidate at Tregony. Edward James Eliot wrote to his father, Lord Eliot, 1 Mar. 1785:7‘Mr. Rashleigh tells me that Sir Francis Basset has just informed him he shall give him no more trouble at Fowey.’

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


  • 1. Figures from certified copies of the poll, Rashleigh mss, Cornw. RO.
  • 2. Figures from certified copies of the poll, Rashleigh mss, Cornw. RO.
  • 3. Thomas Pitt’s survey of Cornish boroughs, 2 Aug. 1747, HMC Fortescue, i. 127.
  • 4. Namier, Structure, 320.
  • 5. Rashleigh mss.
  • 6. Brett to Rashleigh, 20, 22 Nov., 3 Dec. 1766, ibid.
  • 7. Eliot mss.