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 corporation

Number of voters:



16 Apr. 1754William Bouverie 
 Julines Beckford 
 Edward Poore 
 All three candidates returned. BOUVERIE and BECKFORD declared elected, 26 Nov. 1754 
25 Mar. 1761Edward Bouverie44
 Julines Beckford28
 Henry Penruddocke Wyndham15
6 Feb. 1765Samuel Eyre vice Beckford, deceased26
 Peter Bathurst24
16 Mar. 1768Edward Bouverie52
 Stephen Fox27
 Henry Dawkins27
 All three candidates returned. BOUVERIE and FOX declared elected, 10 Nov. 1768 
15 May 1771Jacob Pleydell Bouverie, Visct. Folkestone, vice Edward Bouverie, vacated his seat 
7 Oct. 1774Jacob Pleydell Bouverie, Visct. Folkestone 
 William Hussey 
19 Feb. 1776William Henry Bouverie vice Folkestone, called to the Upper House 
9 Sept. 1780William Henry Bouverie 
 William Hussey 
2 Apr. 1784William Henry Bouverie 
 William Hussey 

Main Article

Salisbury was a dignified, independent borough, with a corporation consisting largely of small gentry and substantial tradesmen. Bribery was unknown, and even canvassing was carried on discreetly. It was considered an honour to represent the borough, and its Members were invariably local men.

The strongest interest during this period was in the Bouverie family, who held one seat without a break from 1741 until 1835. From 1754 to 1765 William Beckford influenced the return of the other Member. On Julines Beckford’s death in 1765 six candidates offered themselves, all local men; only two stood the poll, and Samuel Eyre was elected ‘after as great a struggle and polite a canvass as was ever known’.1

At the general election of 1768 Bouverie’s seat was considered safe. The other candidates were Stephen Fox, son of Lord Holland, who lived at Winterslow, six miles from Salisbury, and whose grandfather had represented the city in Queen Anne’s reign; and Henry Dawkins, a wealthy West Indian, who had recently bought an estate near Salisbury. Henry Penruddocke Wyndham, the defeated candidate in 1761, who was absent in Italy, wrote to his father on 7 July 1767:2

I was greatly surprised to hear of Mr. Dawkins declaring himself a candidate for Salisbury, not being able to comprehend from whence he can derive his expectations. Is it possible that a man can think himself entitled to represent a city by buying an estate and living a few years near it? A man whose very name is new in Wiltshire and whose person was entirely unknown in Salisbury when I left?

Two returns were made: in one, Bouverie only was named; in the other, all three candidates. Dawkins withdrew his pretensions, and Bouverie and Fox were declared elected.

William Hussey, who sat for Salisbury from 1768 till his death in 1813, was the son of a former mayor and himself mayor in 1759. Independent and highly respected, he took such pains to cultivate the corporation as to establish his hold on the seat for life. In 1789 Lord Herbert wrote to his father about a proposal to call him to the House of Lords:3

For my own part I see nothing so desirable in it. ... Was anything to happen to Mr. Hussey, I think it not impossible but I might be elected in his place, but should I be a peer when such an event takes place, perhaps a very fair opportunity of getting half the representation of Salisbury into our family would be lost ... A seat for Salisbury is in my opinion a better thing than one in the House of Lords for my life.

Author: J. A. Cannon


  • 1. Salisbury Jnl. 11 Feb. 1765.
  • 2. Wyndham mss.
  • 3. Pembroke Ppr. ii. 450.