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

Number of voters:

about 200


20 Apr. 1754William Wildman Barrington, Visct. Barrington 
 Samuel Dicker 
25 Nov. 1755Barrington re-elected after appointment to office 
26 Jan. 1760George Pocock vice Dicker, deceased 
28 Mar. 1761William Wildman Barrington, Visct. Barrington 
 George Pocock 
11 June 1762Barrington re-elected after appointment to office 
26 Dec. 1765Barrington re-elected after appointment to office 
18 Mar. 1768William Wildman Barrington, Visct. Barrington 
 Francis Holburne 
27 Feb. 1770Holburne re-elected after appointment to office 
10 Aug. 1771Sir Charles Hardy vice Holburne, deceased 
7 Oct. 1774William Wildman Barrington, Visct. Barrington 
 Sir Charles Hardy 
5 June 1778George Legge, Visct. Lewisham, vice Barrington, vacated his seat 
31 May 1780Sir Frederick Leman Rogers vice Hardy, deceased 
 John Culme 
12 Sept. 1780Sir Frederick Leman Rogers162
 George Darby123
 John Culme76
 George Brydges Rodney21
7 Apr. 1784Robert Fanshawe93
 John Macbride90
 John Pollexfen Bastard76
1 Feb. 1790Alan Gardner vice Fanshawe, appointed to office 

Main Article

In 1754 Lord Barrington was put up for Plymouth while still a lord of the Admiralty, but by the time he was elected he had been appointed master of the great wardrobe. ‘It will make no variation to our sentiments’, wrote to him one of the chief men in the corporation, ‘as the borough is truly loyal, and from our knowledge of your Lordship, as well as the interest we have always espoused of the Admiralty.’1 Barrington represented Plymouth for the next 24 years without ever having to fight an election. A great mass of correspondence on borough concerns among his papers bears witness to his exertions on its behalf; and a rebuke which Lord Sandwich, first lord of the Admiralty, addressed through him to the corporation, 27 Dec. 1774, was no doubt meant also as a hint to their zealous advocate:

I must be so plain as to tell you that there is something in the mode of application from our friends at Plymouth that revolts me frequently against their requests ... I have the utmost respect for the corporation of Plymouth, and acknowledge myself greatly obliged to them; but I cannot acquiesce in their recommending to all employments that fall vacant at Plymouth ... I must be allowed to be the proper judge what proportion of that favour is due to them and to others of my friends.

When Sir Charles Hardy died in 1780, an attempt was made to break the corporation’s control of the borough. Sir Frederick Leman Rogers, the Government candidate, was opposed by John Culme, standing on the right of the freeholders. The mayor returned Rogers, and Parliament was dissolved before Culme’s petition could be heard. At the general election, Culme had considerable support among the freemen themselves, and had his additional freeholder votes been accepted, would have been top of the poll. His second votes went to Admiral Rodney, in his absence, presumably as a gesture of loyalty. The petition was dismissed.

The two Government candidates stayed with North in 1784, and Robinson at one time reconciled himself to losing one of the seats, expecting Rogers to be returned again. Rogers did not stand, but John Macbride, a naval officer, carried one seat against the Government, defeating J. P. Bastard.

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


  • 1. Barrington mss.