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 burgage holders

Number of voters:

about 200


23 Apr. 1754Sir John Peachey
 John Sargeant
30 Mar. 1761William Hamilton
 John Burgoyne
16 Jan. 1765Bamber Gascoyne vice Hamitlon, vacated his seat
22 Mar. 1768Henry Thomas Fox Strangways, Lord Stavordale
 Charles James Fox
26 Feb. 1770Fox re-elected after appointment to office
25 May 1770Stavordale re-elected after vacating his seat
1 Jan. 1773Fox re-elected after appointment to office
10 Oct 1774Herbert Mackworth
 Clement Tudway
27 Dec. 1774Henry Seymour Conway vice Mackworth, chose to sit for Glamorgan
 John Ord vice Tudway, chose to sit for Wells
1 Dec. 1777Ord re-elected after appointment to office
8 Sept. 1780John St. John
 Henry Drummond
29 Nov. 1780Sir Sampson Gideon vice St. John, chose to sit for Newport, I.o.W.
2 Apr. 1784Henry Drummond
 Benjamin Lethieullier
21 June 1784Edward Cotsford vice Lethieullier, chose to sit for Andover

Main Article

About 1754 the chief interests at Midhurst were in Viscount Montagu and Sir John Peachey, but there was also a considerable independent interest. Montagu in 1752 claimed to own 104 burgages, and to have the support of 41 of the independent burgage holders; and allowed Peachey only 40, with the support of 32 independents.1

Montagu was a Roman Catholic, and had put his interest at Henry Pelham’s disposal. He wrote to Newcastle on 6 July 1760:2

When I embarked in elections Mr. Pelham encouraged me. It was his own proposition, and it was in so kind, so friendly a manner, I would not but undertake what he thought would be of advantage to his and to your Administration. He indeed embraced me, adding he meant to give me, though a Roman Catholic, a credit in my own country.

Both Montagu and Peachey wished for Treasury support, but Newcastle carefully avoided committing himself; and in 1754 they divided the borough between them.

Between 1754 and 1760 important changes took place at Midhurst. Montagu began to buy up the independent burgages, and about 1760 handed over his affairs to his son, Anthony Browne. Browne, who entertained political ambitions, joined the Church of England; but, not wishing to offend his father, kept his conversion secret. His political connexions were with Lord Waldegrave and Henry Fox, and in 1761 he offered his interest at Midhurst to Bute.

In 1760 Peachey sold his interest to Sir William Peere Williams, who also began to buy up independent burgages. The situation at Midhurst on the eve of the general election of 1761 is difficult to determine: a state of the borough, probably drawn up by Williams’s agent, gives him a clear majority;3 but John Page reported to Newcastle that after an examination of the votes Montagu had been found to have a majority.4

Williams proposed John Burgoyne as his candidate; while Eliab Harvey and William Hamilton were to stand on the Browne interest. After tedious and protracted efforts to avoid a contest, in which Newcastle, Fox, Fitzmaurice and Bute took part, a compromise was reached. On 19 Mar. 1761 Fox wrote to Fitzmaurice:5

We are agreed that one of Lord Montagu’s candidates shall retire on laying down £1,000 on our part and one on Sir William Williams’s, to assist the retiring candidate to come in on the first opportunity that can be found by the Ministry or any parties concerned in this agreement. This agreement between Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Harvey, Lord Waldegrave, Sir William Williams and Mr. Fox must however be sent to Lord Montagu with Lord Waldegrave’s and Mr. Fox’s opinion, which will probably weigh with him; but Mr. Browne by his father’s letter showed us cannot agree for his father.

The decision that £1,000 was to be paid by Browne’s friends was concealed from Montagu, and his agreement to the compromise was obtained. Hamilton refused to leave Midhurst or to pay his share of the £1,000, and it is not clear by whom the money was paid.

In April 1761 Williams was killed in the attack on Belle Isle, and his burgages seem to have been bought by Montagu. After Waldegrave’s death in April 1763 Browne attached himself to Henry Fox, now Lord Holland, and promised him the nomination to the next vacancy at Midhurst. This took place in 1764 when Hamilton was named minister to Naples, and resulted in a quarrel between Holland and Grenville, then first lord of the Treasury, who claimed the seat was at the disposal of Government. Holland, recalling Browne’s promise, proposed Sir George Macartney in place of Hamilton; but Grenville had promised the seat to Bamber Gascoyne, and after a good deal of discussion had his way.6

In 1767 Browne succeeded his father, and in 1768 gave both seats at Midhurst to Holland. Holland died before the general election of 1774, and Montagu, under pressure of financial difficulties, placed both seats at the disposal of the Treasury, in return for a secret service pension of £2,000 p.a. This was reduced to £1,000 in 1780, when both Government candidates agreed to pay their own expenses. Montagu died in 1787, and Midhurst was sold to Lord Egremont for £40,000.7

Author: John Brooke


M. Cramp, ‘Parlty. Rep. Five Suss. Boroughs’ (Manchester Univ. M.A. thesis).

  • 1. Add. 32726, f. 50.
  • 2. Add. 32908, f. 112.
  • 3. Rose Fuller mss, W. Suss. RO.
  • 4. Add. 32910, f. 417.
  • 5. Lansdowne mss.
  • 6. Corresp. between Holland and Grenville, Grenville mss (JM), Grenville letter bk.
  • 7. W. D. Cooper, Parlty. Hist. Suss. 28.