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 freeholders

Number of voters:

about 100


13 Apr. 1754James More Molyneux70
 Philip Carteret Webb70
 Peter Burrell46
 James Edward Oglethorpe45
24 Nov. 1759Thomas More Molyneux vice James More Molyneux, deceased 
26 Mar. 1761Thomas More Molyneux52
 Philip Carteret Webb52
 Richard Muilman34
 Thomas Parker34
19 Mar. 1768Thomas More Molyneux71
 William Burrell71
 James Edward Oglethorpe49
 John Johnstone49
11 May 1774Sir Merrick Burrell vice William Burrell, appointed to office 
12 Oct. 1774Thomas More Molyneux61
 Sir Merrick Burrell61
 William Burke40
 Henry Kelly40
4 Nov. 1776Peter Burrell vice Molyneux, deceased 
9 Sept. 1780Sir James Lowther 
 Edward Norton 
12 Dec. 1780Walter Spencer Stanhope vice Lowther, chose to sit for Cumberland 
2 Apr. 1784Thomas Postlethwaite 
 John Baynes Garforth 
13 June 1786John Lowther vice Postlethwaite, vacated his seat 

Main Article

No one family before 1780 had complete control of the borough. The Molyneuxes of Loseley, heirs to the More family who had sat for Haslemere in the 17th century, were lords of the manor (which gave them the returning officer) and owned considerable property in the borough. Other interests were: in General Oglethorpe of Westbrook, whose father and two brothers had represented Haslemere under William III and Queen Anne; in Peter Burrell who had built up an interest of his own; in Philip Carteret Webb who purchased in 1748 the Busbridge estate in the neighbourhood of Haslemere; and in smaller owners and independent freeholders.

Oglethorpe and Burrell had represented the borough since 1722, but in 1754 they were defeated by James More Molyneux and Philip Carteret Webb. Oglethorpe and Burrell petitioned, but the sitting Members had strong support, among others from Hardwicke who favoured Webb, and the Onslows who were friends of the Molyneuxes. In 1761 Thomas More Molyneux and Webb were opposed by Richard Muilman, of a very rich merchant family of Dutch extraction, connected with the South Sea Company and the Bank of England, and Thomas Parker, an agent of Lord Spencer, supported by Burrell. Defeated, they petitioned against the return.

Hardwicke wrote to Newcastle on 17 Nov. 17611 that he had inquired into the case; that justice seemed ‘absolutely with the sitting Members’; that on the other side it was ‘the grossest case of splitting votes’; and if so, the petition could not succeed. ‘I hope my Lord Spencer will not intermeddle in it; but, if he should, I really think that the Government ought not to give up the solicitor of the Treasury, who has been long in their service, to his Lordship’s solicitor; for Mr. Parker is no other, and not in the case of a gentleman of consideration in the country.’ Newcastle replied on 21 Nov.:2

Mr. Burrell is outrageous with me on account of the Haslemere election, and talks very high upon taking his property from him by power—his interest there being burgage tenure. That point should be cleared up, or otherwise many other boroughs may think themselves concerned in that question.

Hardwicke, hearing that the petitioners’ side was better attended than that of the sitting Members, wrote again to Newcastle for his active support; and to his son Charles Yorke to ‘speak to any of the lawyers, or others that are your friends to attend, for I own I should be sorry that an old friend of ours should lose it for want of proper support, when his cause is good’.3 The petition was withdrawn.

Webb did not stand again in 1768, and Molyneux and the Burrells joined forces, opposed by Oglethorpe and John Johnstone. In 1774 Molyneux and Sir Merrick Burrell stood again on a joint interest, unsuccessfully opposed by William Burke, who was set up by the Duke of Portland, and Henry Kelly.4 When in 1776 Thomas More Molyneux died s.p., Peter Burrell III was returned in his place, but the whole future of the borough became unsettled. On 3 June 1778 the Duke of Richmond wrote to the Duke of Portland that a Mr. Paine who ‘had been a principal agent for Molyneux and the Burrell family ... ill used by them ... was desirous of throwing the interest into other hands. That he was persuaded it might be done by buying first a few of the independent houses late Mr. Webb’s, which would secure a majority.’ He offered his services to Richmond, who did not want to engage in the matter, and who now referred it to Portland. And John Robinson wrote in his survey for the general election of 1780:

There is great reason to fear that the Burrells have lost this borough. The persons who had bought up Mr. Webb’s interest and property have it is said agreed also for the late Mr. Molyneux’s and by that closed the borough. It has fallen into the hands of persons who purchased on speculation and enquiries are making about them.

30 July. Sir James Lowther has entered into articles for the purchase of this borough, about three days ago, and paid part of the purchase money, though not the whole.

According to Oldfield,5 the speculator who had bought up the borough was Chandler, a Guildford attorney; it was re-sold to Lowther, who henceforth controlled both seats.

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


  • 1. Add. 32931, f. 98.
  • 2. Ibid. f. 195.
  • 3. Add. 35352, f. 228; 32934, f. 277; 35353, f. 274.
  • 4. Richmond to Portland, 3 June 1778, Portland mss.
  • 5. Boroughs (1792), iii. 26.