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:

less than 50


17 Apr. 1754William Osbaldeston  
 Sir Ralph Milbanke  
27 Mar. 1761William Osbaldeston  
 John Major  
19 Nov. 1766Fountayne Wentworth Osbaldeston vice William Osbaldeston, deceased  
22 Mar. 1768George Manners29 
 Fountayne Wentworth Osbaldeston24 
 Sir John Major22 
11 July 1770Sir James Pennyman vice Osbaldeston, deceased2116
 Two polls taken and a double return made. PENNYMAN declared duly elected, 27 Nov. 1770  
28 July 1772George Carpenter, Earl of Tyrconnel, vice Manners, deceased  
8 Oct. 1774George Carpenter, Earl of Tyrconnel  
 Sir Hugh Palliser  
12 Apr. 1775Palliser re-elected after appointment to office  
27 Feb. 1779Charles Phipps vice Palliser, vacated his seat  
9 Sept. 1780George Carpenter, Earl of Tyrconnel  
 Charles Phipps  
3 Apr. 1784George Carpenter, Earl of Tyrconnel31 
 George Osbaldeston20 
 Charles Phipps13 

Main Article

At Scarborough various interests competed against each other and the electoral scene was always shifting. Government, which had considerable influence through the Customs and the Ordnance, was usually the decisive factor in Scarborough elections throughout this period. About 1754 the leading interests were in Edwin Lascelles, M.P. for Scarborough since 1744, and in William Osbaldeston of Hunmanby, 12 miles from Scarborough, who represented the borough 1736-47 and 1754-66.

On 18 July 1753 Henry Pelham wrote about Scarborough to Newcastle:1

They talk of going to offer the nomination of one to me, provided Mr. Lascelles and I can agree; I have told them it is not at all proper for me to interfere in their elections, but if I were to wish success to anyone more than another it would be their Member Mr. Osbaldeston.

And on 25 July: ‘I hope I shall be able to reconcile Osbaldeston and Lascelles. The latter is very reasonable, the former is honest but stiff.’ Then Sir Ralph Milbanke, a Yorkshire country gentleman, announced his candidature, and Lascelles withdrew. Osbaldeston and Milbanke received the placet of the Treasury, and were returned unopposed.2

In 1761 there were four candidates: Osbaldeston; John Major; Jenison Shafto, standing on the Lascelles interest; and George Cockburne, controller of the navy, supported by Lord Rockingham. All applied to Newcastle for Treasury support; Newcastle favoured Major and Osbaldeston, but out of regard to Rockingham was prepared to support Cockburne provided this did not hurt Osbaldeston. He wrote to Rockingham on 16 Jan. 1761:

I never thought of opposing my countryman, Mr. Major, but as it was desired by your Lordship, and Mr. Cockburne was a very good man and seemed to have a great interest according to his own representation. But no consideration could prevail upon me to do anything that could hurt Mr. Osbaldeston as, your Lordship will see, he says my declaring for Mr. Cockburne has done.

He left the matter to be decided by Rockingham and Osbaldeston, ‘and I shall act as you two shall determine’. Osbaldeston and Major were returned without a poll.3 On Osbaldeston’s death in 1766 he was succeeded by his brother and heir, Fountayne Wentworth Osbaldeston.

In 1768 the situation was changed radically by the intervention of Lord Granby, commander-in-chief and master-general of the Ordnance in the Chatham Administration. According to Lord Fitzwilliam, writing in 1783, Granby ‘gained a footing’ at Scarborough ‘by getting drunk with the mayor and corporation’; and in 1786 Granby’s son, the 4th Duke of Rutland, described his father’s influence in the borough as ‘solely founded on the interest of Government, of which he was permitted the exclusive patronage’.4 At the general election of 1768 Granby proposed his illegitimate son George Manners, against the sitting Members, Osbaldeston and Major. Manners alone received Government support, and declared a strict neutrality in regard to the other two candidates; there seems to have been a good deal of bribery, and the result of the poll was very close.5

Osbaldeston was over seventy and was not expected to live long. There was a group in the corporation which feared that on his death Granby would try for the second seat, and which encouraged the idea of a union between Major and Rockingham.6 Major seems to have been willing, but Rockingham was too cautious to venture where the ground was not safe. When Osbaldeston died in 1770 two candidates came forward: George Cockburne, who had stood in 1761, and Sir James Pennyman, a Yorkshire country gentleman and friend of Rockingham. Granby had now gone into opposition but insisted on supporting Cockburne, although he knew Cockburne, as a Government official, would vote with the court. To Rockingham, who was urging him to support Pennyman, Granby wrote: ‘I really believe my friend Cockburne will meet with greater difficulty than he expects. As my friend had offered himself, I could not think of opposing him but must wish him success.’7 Which suggests that Granby had not set out to try for the second seat.

But when Cockburne died shortly before the election was due, Granby put forward another candidate, Ralph Bell, and after two polls had been taken and a double return made, prepared to petition. John Calcraft advised him against it. ‘I cannot see the least hope of success’, he wrote on 16 Oct. 1770, ‘unless you can bring satisfactory proof of the bribery, and ’tis very difficult to get evidence of that kind.’8 Two days later Granby himself died suddenly at Scarborough, and the petition was dropped.

Calcraft now took over the management of Granby’s interest at Scarborough, and in 1772 arranged the return of Granby’s son-in-law, Lord Tyrconnel, which cost apparently £2,500.9 At the general election of 1774 Tyrconnel and Sir Hugh Palliser, a Government candidate, were returned unopposed. Palliser, a naval officer closely connected with Lord Sandwich, first lord of the Admiralty, built up a considerable interest of his own at Scarborough, and on his retirement from the House in 1779 secured the unopposed return of Charles Phipps. At the general election of 1780 Edwin Lascelles canvassed the borough,10 but on polling day there was no opposition to Tyrconnel and Phipps.

Crewe’s Act, disfranchising the revenue officers, reduced the electorate of Scarborough from 44 to 35,11 and further complicated an already complicated situation. John Robinson wrote shortly before the general election of 1784:12

Lord Tyrconnel and Captain Phipps the present Members, Mr. Osbaldeston and Sir Hugh Palliser declared candidates. Lord Tyrconnel will certainly be rechose. ... It now appears that Captain Phipps has but little interest in the borough and has but small chance of succeeding against Mr. Osbaldeston. Mr. Osbaldeston is in the interest of Lord Fitzwilliam, and by beginning the canvass very early procured some promises from those who are not friendly to Captain Phipps and those also who did not know of Sir Hugh Palliser’s intending to offer himself.

Sir Hugh Palliser in his canvass appeared to have the good opinion and esteem of the town and corporation, and if he had declared himself sooner it is very likely he would have been as secure as Lord Tyrconnel; but even now he is supposed to be equal to Mr. Osbaldeston, and it is very probable with a little support will succeed against Mr. Osbaldeston. But if Captain Phipps stands, Mr. Osbaldeston will undoubtedly come in.

But Palliser withdrew from the contest.

Tyrconnel and Phipps both supported Pitt, while Osbaldeston was a friend of Lord Fitzwilliam and was believed to favour Fox. The situation was complicated by the fact that the Duke of Rutland, though politically in agreement with Phipps, was lukewarm about his candidature. Phipps’s brother, Lord Mulgrave, had a large estate near Scarborough, pretensions of his own in the borough, and an equal right with Rutland to Government favours. However, even in so small a borough as Scarborough, the issue of Pitt v. Fox was important. Rutland wrote subsequently to Pitt about this election:13

When Mr. Osbaldeston offered himself at the last election, his principles were supposed to be hostile to your Government, which he was obliged publicly to explain away previously to his being elected. This measure was forced upon him by my friends on my account.

The struggle between Rutland and Mulgrave at Scarborough continued after the general election of 1784. On 18 Oct. 1785 Rutland, now lord lieutenant of Ireland, wrote to his secretary Thomas Orde in London: 14

I know the rapacity of the place, and they know that during my father’s lifetime, while he acted with Government, they asked everything and got everything, and they will be apt to draw comparisons not much to my advantage. By my father’s weight with ministers the borough was procured; they have since starved with me in opposition on the empty diet of promise and expectation, and it must be by the gratification of their objects, by the gratification coming alone through me, and their knowing that they have no prospect of success from any other quarter, that my interest in Scarborough can be preserved.

And to Pitt on 13 Sept. 1786:

Be assured every favour conceded to those who have a claim upon Scarborough is a diminution of my interest. That interest is but an artificial one, nourished in the hotbed of Government favour, without any natural warmth; while those who oppose me have an ancient connexion with the place, live in its vicinity and have those constant means of cultivating a good intercourse with the inhabitants which must ever of itself establish a Member. ... If I cannot establish my exclusive claim to the patronage which has usually gone to the inhabitants of that place, I will concede all my future views on it.

‘My jealousy of Lord Mulgrave’s intentions increases every hour’, Rutland wrote to Orde on 30 Aug. 1787. Pitt, who had no wish to offend either Rutland or Mulgrave, both prominent members of his Administration, hesitated. ‘The voters of Scarborough are happy in the present situation of things’, wrote Thomas Gascoigne to Rutland on to Oct. 1787.15 ‘Three interests, and a contest inevitable!’

Author: John Brooke


  • 1. Add. 32732, ff. 302-3, 361.
  • 2. Add. 32735, f. 16; W. Murray to Rockingham, 27 Nov. 1753, Rockingham mss.
  • 3. Lascelles to Newcastle, 8 Sept. 1760, Rockingham mss; Add. 32909, f. 217; 32912, ff. 223-4, 381-2; 32916, f. 23; 32917, ff. 10, 12, 355.
  • 4. Fitzwilliam to Portland, 16 Nov. 1783, Portland mss; Corresp. between Pitt Rutland, 170.
  • 5. M. Cutts to Granby, 16 Mar. 1768, Rutland mss.
  • 6. Rob. Duesbery to Joseph Williamson, 9 Dec. 1768, Rockingham mss.
  • 7. Rockingham mss.
  • 8. Rutland mss.
  • 9. Parkes Merivale, Mems. Francis, i. 318.
  • 10. W. Siddall to Rockingham, 10 Sept. 1780, Rockingham mss.
  • 11. List of the corporation of Scarborough, June 1782, Rockingham mss.
  • 12. Laprade, 122-3, corrected from original.
  • 13. Pitt-Rutland Corresp. 170.
  • 14. Mss of Lord Bolton.
  • 15. HMC Rutland, iii. 418.