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 100


15 Apr. 1754Sir Richard Lyttelton 
 Joseph Gulston 
10 Dec. 1756Lyttelton re-elected after appointment to office 
25 Mar. 1761Joseph Gulston 
 Thomas Calcraft 
30 May 1765Joseph Gulston jun. vice Gulston, vacated his seat45
 Joshua Mauger41
21 Mar. 1768Thomas Calcraft59
 Joshua Mauger57
 Joseph Gulston49
 Mauger's election declared void, 10 Feb. 1769 
18 Feb. 1769Joshua Mauger 
11 Oct. 1774Sir Eyre Coote59
 Joshua Mauger55
 Charles James Fox5
 John Williams2
9 Sept. 1780Joseph Gulston 
 William Morton Pitt 
 Joshua Mauger 
 John Adams 
1 Apr. 1784William Morton Pitt 
 Michael Angelo Taylor 
 Joseph Gulston 

Main Article

There was an old and close connexion between Poole and Newfoundland: trade with Newfoundland and the Carolinas ranked foremost in Poole’s eighteenth-century economy, and the interests of Newfoundland were usually attended to in Parliament and Government departments by the Members for Poole and Dartmouth. Poole corporation was dominated by a merchant oligarchy, but most of the Members were big London merchants concerned in the Newfoundland trade, or neighbouring squires. The Trenchards of Lytchett, the Pitts of Encombe, and the Bonds of Creech Grange had long been connected with Poole; John Calcraft, who bought Rempstone in 1757, was a newcomer. There was also a Government interest—about a dozen placemen picked from among leading local families. The recorder of Poole, 1746-72, was James West, who while secretary to the Treasury was its link with the borough. He himself was apparently a stranger to Poole, but Sir Peter Thompson, described by Thomas Erle Drax as ‘the person who has most personal weight’ in the borough, was a close friend of West: in 1747 Thompson was returned together with West for St. Albans, with which he in turn had no obvious connexion.1

The Members at the dissolution in 1754 were George Trenchard who had sat for Poole 1713-41, and Joseph Gulston, its Member since 1741, a big London merchant trading to Portugal, South America, etc. Apparently Admiral Thomas Smith, an illegitimate son of Sir Thomas Lyttelton and a former governor of Newfoundland, had been considered as a candidate for Poole. In February 1750 John Masters, mayor in 1748 and in 1752, wrote to Dr. Ayscough, secretary to the Prince of Wales: ‘I hope our worthy good friend the Admiral enjoys perfect health at Hagley. We are watching ... for an opportunity to show him how much we have at heart his good success in this borough, though for some reasons we don’t at present think it proper to make it known.’2 In the end Smith supported his half-brother Richard Lyttelton, a candidate approved by the Pelhams; and Trenchard’s son was appointed commissioner of taxes ‘by the interest of Sir Richard Lyttelton ... in consideration of giving him the Trenchard interest’ at Poole.3 Trenchard wrote on 25 Mar. 1754, presumably to West:4

Our old friends at Poole sent yesterday a deputation to me to inform me that they had a letter from you, by the Duke’s order, to know their sentiments; and to desire my advice what answer to make; as they generally do upon important occasions. I have always told them, over their private affairs they might fight dog fight bear, but that I would never esteem that man my friend, who should in the least disturb or endeavour to give any trouble to the election of Sir Richard Lyttelton and Mr. Gulston.

He then dictated to them what they should write:

The corporation of Poole engage themselves to Mr. Pelham to choose their old Member Mr. Gulston; and upon Mr. Trenchard’s declining to sit any longer in Parliament and at Mr. Trenchard’s earnest request, they promised Mr. Pelham to choose Sir Richard Lyttelton in his room.

And he added in a P.S.:

They made thirty new burgesses last week; upon my honour I knew nothing of it till four days after, when my little dirty butcher’s boy told my servants of it in their hall; that my two sons-in-law and steward were made burgesses.

The mark against Poole in Newcastle’s election notes of 18 Mar. 1754 is ‘No difficulty’;5 and Gulston and Lyttelton were returned unopposed.

In 1760 Richard Lyttelton went abroad for his health, and was not likely to seek re-election. But even before his withdrawal was declared, John Calcraft solicited both Newcastle’s and Bute’s support for his brother Thomas as candidate for Poole. On 20 Dec. 1760 Sir Peter Thompson wrote to West:6

Mr. Gulston wrote me a letter the 2nd instant that he could not possibly make his friends at Poole a visit by reason his attendance in Parliament was necessary. I answered his letter the 6th and reminded him of his great neglect of the Poole turnpike bill in June 1757, and desired his reasons for so doing which I expected ere I would promise him my vote and my interest. ... In my humble opinion when Members of Parliament don’t attend the business of their boroughs in Parliament, they ought to be reminded in decent language or decent scribble. ...

I have seen a letter from Mr. Paymaster Fox dated 11th instant addressed to Mr. Tito [an alderman] of this town, wherein that great man gives the strongest assurances that Mr. Calcraft will be here soon. ... I must own I now begin to fear there will be an opposition, and from the number of respectable burgesses concerned therein, there’s the greatest probability of success.

And West to Newcastle, 31 Jan. 1761:7

Mr. Tito ... declares that he and his friends will vote for any person recommended by your Grace and for no one else. ... Mr. Gulston still says that out of the 104 votes of which the town consists he has 58, that any opposition would hurt Mr. Calcraft more than him.

Gulston and Calcraft were returned unopposed, but continued jealously to watch each other. On 27 July 1762 John Oliver, a local attorney, sent John Calcraft an electoral analysis of the borough:8there were 33 certain friends of Calcraft, and only 19 of Gulston; 10 or 12 always abroad; 29 resident freemen uncertain; and 16 non-resident, mostly country gentlemen—‘you can better judge of their inclinations and interests than I possibly can’. Moreover Calcraft had a majority for nominating a mayor, which ‘is no small interest ... as ’tis always in the power of the mayor to make burgesses upon any election’.

The letter you wrote to the mayor of the news from Newfoundland [the capture of the island by the French] ... was by the whole town taken very kind, and the mayor made no bad use of it. I am told Tito has wrote to Mr. Fox to use his interest in procuring some ships to be sent by the Admiralty to the protection of the inhabitants there, who must doubtless be in the utmost distress and in very melancholy circumstances, as are also a great number of this town, which every individual must more or less feel ... especially if the news ... is true, that the French set fire to every harbour they visit. ...

There is this day a petition from the town sent to the lords of the Admiralty and another to the secretary of state of the Northern Provinces, praying that relief may be sent to Newfoundland; if you can be assisting therein and give any intelligence to the mayor of its success, nothing will be of more essential service to you or more satisfying to the merchants and traders here, for Mr. Gulston has not given any intelligence or taken any notice of it.

It was through John Calcraft and Fox that petitions were presented to the Treasury and to Parliament for the relief of the sufferers in Newfoundland and of the West of England merchants interested in the Newfoundland fisheries, and it was over the Newfoundland petition that Fox, on 23 Mar. 1763, at the end of his parliamentary career, suffered bitter humiliation.9

A year later Calcraft was in opposition to the Government, and on 26 Mar. 1764 Thomas Erle Drax, in a letter presumably to Grenville,10 thus concluded an account of the Poole electorate: ‘these hints might be serviceable to any friend of Mr. G[renville]’s [?], whose cause I will for one strenuously defend. I am certain that at a general election he may recommend two with great probability of success.’

Thompson urged West to attend the sessions at Poole more regularly, and to try to ‘raise an interest’ for his son, James West jun.—‘please to recollect’, he wrote, 21 Apr. 1764, ‘what I hinted relative to the interest of the present Members, that Mr. Gulston’s was but little, and Colonel Calcraft’s was less’. And on 4 May 1765:

Last post brought a letter from Mr. Gulston setting forth that he had represented this borough for 24 years, that through frequent fits of the gout he was unable to attend his duty in Parliament, therefore he hoped his friends would give him leave to resign in favour of his son ... the corporation met last night ... Mr. Gulston’s letter was read, and in general disliked, the majority agreeing that Mr. Gulston and his son ought to have honoured the corporation with their personal appearance ... indeed the speakers were almost all in opposition ... the face of this corporation is very different to what it was at the last general election.

The two Gulstons came to Poole on 13 May, canvassed the town, but met with doubtful success.11 Thompson wrote on 18 May:

I told them in decent English that I should vote against their scheme ... My kinsman, Mr. Peter Jolliffe junior, who is a gentleman of fortune, good sense and a considerable merchant ... has the most interest of any person in this corporation. He and his family are against Mr. Gulston, he told me that some of the independents proposed sending for Mr. Joshua Mauger, a merchant who lives near Soho, was lately made a burgess of this town, and spends two or three months in the summer here.

Thompson urged West to repair to Poole as soon as Gulston had vacated his seat ‘and give out that provided they choose his son he will resign his recordership in favour of John Bond’ (which West had been asked to do by the corporation in 1759).

Gulston claimed that Grenville approved of his scheme. ‘If it be true, the placemen must be with him’, wrote Thompson on 20 May. ‘But ’tis a certain fact that four-fifths of the most wealthy burgesses are against Mr. Gulston.’ The sheriff was against him. ‘The placemen and theirs are about 12—the money-takers are about 16.’ Gulston’s party he reckoned at about twenty, but his friends said he had forty. ‘If the placemen are ... left to their liberty, Mr. Gulston will not stand the poll.’ The next day Mauger appeared at Poole, declared himself a candidate, and claimed to have been promised the Government interest by Grenville and Halifax. That the claim was not without foundation appears from a letter which Halifax addressed to Grenville on 26 May:12

I am just now informed that Mr. Mauger is very sure of carrying his election at Poole, if you will only make it immediately known that you are not against him; which he has every reason to suppose from my letter to him, in which (after several times consulting you) I took care to use your own words, as you gave them repeatedly to me at St. James’s. By the account I have had, Mr. Mauger will undoubtedly carry his election, if you shall be so good as to declare you take no part against him. But at all events I think he stands more than a fair chance.

That Halifax did not feel altogether certain of Grenville seems obvious, and it is not known what instructions were finally sent. Thompson wrote on 25 May:

The writ was delivered to the sheriff at twelve o’clock last night; notwithstanding that late hour some of the chiefs in the opposition had a meeting and as Sir Peter’s gentleman (that was the phrase) [James West jun.] was not here, they agreed to vote for Mr. Mauger.

At the election on 30 May the votes of 74 resident freemen were evenly divided; but Gulston had 8 non-resident freemen, and Mauger only 4. The Trenchard and the Drax interest backed Gulston, who had also ten out of twelve placemen. The election cost him less than £1,200. Its concluding stages were dramatic. The poll stood at 44 for Gulston and 41 for Mauger; the sheriff kept it open for two hours though no one voted: Mauger’s friends still hoped to induce two sick men, whose ‘situation would not admit of their being moved’, to let themselves be carried to the hall—one of them was offered £800 if he did. This would have raised Mauger’s vote to 43, and ‘the sheriff’s vote would have made them equal’; and next the sheriff meant to set aside the votes of Gulston jun. and T. E. Drax on a new plea: that they had only been sworn in as freemen on the day of election. Thompson had not meant to vote: he was against Gulston, but was displeased with Gulston’s opponents for hastily joining Mauger. Now Gulston’s friends implored him to vote. ‘On my going into the hall and voting for Mr. Gulston, the sheriff closed the poll’, and declared Gulston elected. After that ‘Mauger’s party dined at the George Inn, they threw out money to the mob, gave them blue ribbons and plenty of wine in half-pint tumblers, besides strong beer’; incensed against Thompson, they meant to attack his house. He went to meet them, was manhandled, and only with difficulty escaped.13

In July 1767, Mauger having canvassed the borough against the general election, Gulston and John Calcraft sent out a joint letter asking for votes and interest, Calcraft applying for his brother who was absent in Ireland.14 They both had Government support; and shared certain expenses (which came to about £1,000 each). Thompson wrote to West, 20 Feb. 1768: ‘Mr. Mauger’s friends give out that you will be here and vote for him.’ West’s name does not appear in the ms poll book of the election, 21 Mar. 1768,15 but on the 24th he wrote to Newcastle16 that ‘Lord Rockingham’s recommendation to him of Mr. Mauger at Poole has proved successful’. There was a great deal of cross-voting: only 35 voted for Calcraft and Gulston, while 37 for Mauger and either Calcraft or Gulston; moreover Mauger had 20 plumpers; and Thompson voted for Calcraft only. Gulston petitioned against Mauger’s return; and Mauger, finding himself in danger, contrived a petition against Calcraft.17 It was stated by Gulston’s witnesses before the House that Mauger, having been declared a candidate about July 1767, in December came to the mayor ‘and desired he would acquaint the corporation of Poole that if he was elected, he would make them a present of £1,000 to be applied to public uses’. Attempts were made to prove that the other candidates were prepared to do the same, but the evidence was disallowed as the petition was to unseat Mauger and not to seat Gulston. The corporation had a debt of upward of £2,000. Pressed as to what they would do about it, Alderman George Weston said: ‘When the corporation want to pay a debt, they make a parcel of burgesses.’ In the division for unseating Mauger, which on 10 Feb. 1769 was carried by 87 to 36, Grey Cooper, secretary to the Treasury, and Peter Burrell were tellers for the ‘ayes’, Henry Seymour and Charles Wolfran Cornwall, members of the Opposition, for the ‘noes’.

Gulston stood again; but the night before the poll withdrew, and Mauger was returned unopposed. ‘You have ere now, I doubt not, seen Colonel Calcraft’, wrote John Oliver to John Calcraft, 20 Feb. 1769,18 ‘and been informed of the despicable figure we made here Saturday last. This dastardly behaviour ... has given Mr. Mauger’s friends an opportunity to think they can turn out and put in who they please in case of a new election. Had our friends been kept together we could have polled 43 and Mauger 44.’ Calcraft’s friends were apprehensive of the consequences of that rout had Thomas Calcraft been unseated. But after Mauger had secured re-election, the petition against Calcraft was withdrawn.

John Calcraft, shortly before his death in August 1772, wrote in an unfinished memorandum: ‘At Poole, if John Pitt chooses to be elected as my Member there, he should have the preference, joining hand and heart and remembering the former agreement.’19 To support a neighbouring squire with an interest of his own looks like withdrawal from the borough; and Calcraft’s interest at Poole did not outlast him for long, if at all. But after the death of most of the men whose papers supply the story of the borough 1754-70, information concerning it becomes very fragmentary. It is not known how Sir Eyre Coote, apparently a stranger to Poole, came to be returned in 1774. He may have been connected with Calcraft’s friends in East India House, or perhaps with Lord Sandwich who during the next ten years interested himself in Poole. Nor is anything known about Coote’s relation to Mauger, except that the two stood on the freeman franchise, and Charles James Fox and John Williams on that of the ‘commonalty’, i.e. householders paying scot and lot; but the petition to establish the latter was rejected by the House.

On 12 Apr. 1776 Isaac and Benjamin Lester, former supporters of Calcraft, wrote to Lord Sandwich to assure him of their attachment to Administration; in exchange they asked for protection for their ‘persons and property’, the latter ‘much injured, both at home and abroad, by evil minded persons, enemies to Government and to America’.20 These, including an unnamed M.P., ‘well known at our town’, were stirring up resentment against them in the neighbourhood, and ‘it has been with the utmost difficulty we have been able to get people to go out with our ships this year, from apprehension they have imbibed of the severity they are to expect from the Americans, if they should fall into their hands’. It seems very likely that the leading Poole merchants were driven by the circumstances of the American war to seek protection from the Government, and especially from the Admiralty, and this may have contributed to the decline of Mauger’s influence in the corporation. The position in the borough was becoming chaotic. John Robinson wrote about it in July 1780:

Here will be a contest. Mr. Gulston, Mr. Mauger, Mr. Pitt, the son of Mr. John Pitt, Sir Eyre Coote, and Lord Cranborne, have all been talked of. Sir Eyre Coote it is said will decline. Lord Cranborne will not think of it in the present state of Lord Salisbury’s health. Mr. Mauger has but little chance as an individual and may probably also decline. Mr. Pitt has made professions of friendship to Lord North, and it seems likely that the result on the whole will be a return of Mr. Pitt and Mr. Gulston, who is a warm friend.

Mauger now stood on the commonalty franchise which he had controverted at the last election. Gulston and William Morton Pitt, who stood apparently on a joint interest—Gulston’s biographer speaks of ‘his ill-judged generosity’ in bringing in Pitt, an opponent of his in local affairs—were returned, and the petition against them, alleging the rights of the commonalty, was rejected by the House. On 14 Sept. 1781 Benjamin Lester wrote to Sandwich that he let himself be elected mayor and his son sheriff to keep out ‘a faction in the borough’ who tried to change the franchise and had voted for Mauger and Adams—‘I shall always take care to hold a proper majority in this place, wishing for repeated opportunities to use it as your Lordship and Lord North may judge proper.’

From a note of Robinson’s, February-March 1784,21 it appears that the Government turned to Lester—the immediate result is unascertained, but in 1790 Lester himself was elected for Poole as a Pittite. On the other hand, William Morton Pitt, writing to William Pitt, 8 Oct. 1794, claimed that in 1784 it was Mr. Hyde who ‘by his weight and influence very materially contributed, if not wholly, to turn out Mr. Gulston, a friend to the Coalition ... and brought in Michael Angelo Taylor, who was recommended by Lord Howe and yourself, and who had no other pretensions in the place’.22

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


  • 1. Drax to Grenville, 26 Mar. 1764, Grenville mss (JM); about Thompson see Nichols, Lit. Anecs. v. 511-14.
  • 2. M. Wyndham, Chronicles of 18th Cent. ii. 63.
  • 3. Add. 38335, f. 55.
  • 4. Add. 32734, ff. 346-7.
  • 5. Add. 32995, f. 98.
  • 6. West mss.
  • 7. Add. 32918, f. 170.
  • 8. Add. 38199, ff. 79-80.
  • 9. Walpole, Mems. Geo. III, i. 199; Harris’s ‘Debates’.
  • 10. Grenville mss (JM).
  • 11. Peter Thompson to James West, 13 May 1765, West mss.
  • 12. Grenville mss (JM).
  • 13. Thompson to West, 1, 5, 12, 22 June 1765, West mss.
  • 14. Copy of this letter to H. P. Wyndham, dated 27 July 1767, Calcraft mss.
  • 15. Calcraft mss.
  • 16. Add. 32989, f. 250.
  • 17. CJ, xxxii. 55-56.
  • 18. Calcraft mss.
  • 19. Parkes Merivale, Mems. Francis, i. 318.
  • 20. Sandwich mss.
  • 21. Laprade, 115.
  • 22. Chatham mss.