Milborne Port

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 inhabitants paying scot and lot

Number of voters:

about 120


15 Apr. 1754Edward Walter   
 Thomas Medlycott   
27 Mar. 1761Edward Walter   
 Thomas Medlycott   
22 Nov. 1763Thomas Hutchings Medlycott vice Thomas Medlycott, deceased   
16 Mar. 1768Edward Walter   
 Thomas Hutchings Medlycott   
25 May 1770Robert Knight, Earl of Catherlough, vice Medlycott, vacated his seat   
7 Apr. 1772Richard Combe vice Catherlough, deceased53  
 George Prescott37  
 Prescott vice Combe, on petition, 22 May 1772   
10 Oct. 1774Temple Luttrell878658
 Charles Wolseley878658
 Edward Walter373762
 Isaac Hawkins Browne373762
 Three returns, LUTTRELL and WOLSELEY declared elected, 10 Feb. 1775   
9 Sept. 1780Thomas Hutchinigs Medlycott62  
 John Townson56  
 Temple Luttrell43  
 John Hunter35  
4 Dec. 1781John Pennington vice Medlycott, vacated his seat   
2 Apr. 1784John Pennington, Baron Muncaster   
 John Townson   
29 Jan. 1787William Popham vice Townson, vacated his seat   

Main Article

Basically Milborne Port was a scot and lot borough, but the choice of returning officers was the result of a complicated procedure which invited contention. There were nine capital burgesses or bailiffs, the holders of ancient tenements, two of whom in rotation appointed returning officers. In 1754 four of these tenements were owned by Thomas Medlycott and five by Edward Walter: together, therefore, they controlled the returning officers, and since each owned a good deal of property in the borough, in effect they controlled its representation. It seems to have been understood that each patron was to recommend to one seat; and though between 1754 and there was no poll, there was a good deal of skirmishing at election times.1 In 1767 John Reynolds, presumably an inhabitant of Milborne Port, advertised in the London newspapers for candidates; which suggests that the patrons’ hold on the borough was by no means complete.

In any case everything depended on close collaboration between the patrons, and in 1772 this broke down. Each patron offered a candidate, and Medlycott’s man, defeated on the poll, was seated on petition. This was a dress rehearsal for the bitter contest of 1774, when each patron proposed two candidates. The election took place just at the time when one pair of returning officers was due to hand over to another: there were in consequence four possible returning officers, two of whom acted together, and three polls were taken. To ensure the validity of their return, Medlycott and his men broke into the town hall one night to secure possession of the borough seal. Though the struggle was primarily for control of the borough, Luttrell and Wolseley, Medlycott’s candidates, took their stand on political principles. They attacked the Government’s American policy, ‘which may bring on a civil war in America’, and denounced the Quebec Act, which they asserted ‘empowered the Catholics to persecute’ and was ‘shocking to the feelings of humanity’.2 The House of Commons declared Medlycott’s candidates duly elected.

In 1779 Lord North intervened at Milborne Port, apparently with the aim of getting rid of Luttrell, a most persistent opponent of Administration. North employed Maurice Lloyd to buy Walter’s borough property, which was then offered to Medlycott on condition of his accepting Government candidates at the forthcoming general election. The transaction was distinctly shady: Lloyd apparently posed as a principal, and Walter later declared he would never have sold his property had he known it was to go to Medlycott. Luttrell secured a parliamentary inquiry, but his charge of corruption against North was declared ill-founded.3 At the general election of 1780 Medlycott and the Government candidate, John Townson, were opposed by Luttrell and John Hunter, a director of the East India Company; and Medlycott’s hold on the borough was confirmed. In 1784 he again returned two Government candidates.

Author: J. A. Cannon


  • 1. Sherborne Merc. 22 Apr. 1754; Add. 32917, f. 443.
  • 2. Sherborne Merc. 10 Oct. 1774.
  • 3. See LUTTRELL, Hon. Temple Simon.