Double Member County

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

Number of voters:

about 8,000


24 Apr. 1754Sir Charles Kemys Tynte
 Thomas Prowse
1 Apr. 1761Sir Charles Kemys Tynte
 Thomas Prowse
28 Jan. 1767Sir Thomas Dyke Acland vice Prowse, deceased
23 Mar. 1768Sir Charles Kemys Tynte
 Richard Hippisley Coxe
26 Oct. 1774Richard Hippisley Coxe
 Edward Phelips
20 Sept. 1780Sir John Trevelyan
 Richard Hippisley Coxe
12 Apr. 1784Sir John Trevelyan
 Edward Phelips jun.

Main Article

There was no one dominant aristocratic interest in the county, and the knights of the shire were invariably chosen from among the leading country gentlemen. Of the two Members elected in 1754, Thomas Prowse had sat since 1740, and Sir Charles Kemys Tynte since 1747. Sir Thomas Dyke Acland, returned on Prowse’s death in 1767, refused to stand in 1768, and Tynte now stood on a joint interest with Richard Hippisley Coxe, while the third candidate, John Trevelyan, turned especially against Tynte (he seems to have made approaches to Coxe). Lord Westmorland wrote to Tynte on 5 Oct. 1767 that round Yeovil ‘the old stale cry of cider and general warrants’ was being raised against him;1 and on 14 Nov. Tynte published an advertisement in Felix Farley’s Bristol Journal denying the charge that he had voted for the cider bill or general warrants. Tynte and Coxe had the support of most big landowners, Trevelyan that of the Dissenters (the religious cleavage in Somerset was very sharp). Judging by remarks in contemporary correspondence and an election song about ‘rich bullies’ threatening the freeholders,2 Trevelyan’s appeal was of a fairly demagogical character. But a preliminary calculation by an agent of Tynte gave Tynte 4,830 votes, Coxe 4,740, and Trevelyan only 1,610; while a computation in the Luttrell mss, dated 14 Feb., gave Tynte 4,583 votes, Coxe 4,604, and Trevelyan 1,548. On 18 Mar. 1768, five days before the poll, Trevelyan wrote to Tynte:

The violent heats and animosities arising from my opposition, which I find inflame every part of the county, determine me for the sake of restoring the public harmony to decline the poll, and to wish you and Mr. Coxe all happiness in the enjoyment of the high honour and trust, which Wednesday next will be conferred on you.

Even so the joint expenses of Tynte and Coxe were over £5,000.

Tynte retired in 1774 and was succeeded by Edward Phelips sen. In 1780 John Robinson wrote about Somerset:

Sir John Trevelyan proposes to stand for this county, but he is against Government as well as the other gentlemen [Coxe and Phelips], so that whichever way it turns out nothing will be gained.

Phelips withdrew, and Coxe and Trevelyan were returned unopposed. Trevelyan’s expenses came to only £25.3

In 1784 Trevelyan and Edward Phelips jun. were nominated by the county meeting. There had been a rumour that Lord Poulett intended to offer a candidate: on 24 Jan. the Bristol Journal reported a declaration made by the justices at Wells quarter sessions that ‘no person who is heir apparent of a peer, or is in the immediate succession to a peerage, ought to be a representative’ for the county. Still, a few days before the election Poulett began a canvass on behalf of William Langton Gore. Trevelyan wrote (to Blackett, 14 Apr. 1784) about the election held at Ilchester on 12 Apr.:

When I came I was met by upwards of 40 gentlemen and 2,000 respectable freeholders, most of whom were on horseback, and proceeded to the market place amid such shouts as might have been heard for miles. We then dismounted from our horses and went into a house with some of the principal gentlemen, when upwards of £10,000 was subscribed in a very few minutes to oppose such an extraordinary proceeding. Whilst I was there Mr. Poulett, the brother of Lord Poulett, came to the door and desired to speak to me, assuring me that no opposition was intended against me. He then wished me joy of the election which was so soon to happen in my favour, and added that Mr. Langton Gore was going out of town. So we parted. We then marched to the town hall with great difficulty and were almost crushed to death in getting in, during which time Mr. Langton Gore and his party of three escaped, amidst such a horrid noise of groans and hisses as never before was heard. The election was gone through as soon as the forms would admit of, and we parted, the town of Ilchester first desiring to pay the usual fees of bellringing and chairing. The remainder of the expense [was] as follows:

Under sheriff£10.10.0.
County clerk   5. 5.0.
Porter to the county court   2. 2.0.

And then we all departed before dinner, as the town could not produce enough of meat and drink for one tenth of the freeholders present, none of whom came but at their own expense.

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


  • 1. Tynte mss, Som. RO.
  • 2. A copy of this song, ‘For the Independent Freeholders of Somersetshire’, is among the Luttrell mss at Dunster Castle.
  • 3. Trevelyan to J. E. Blackett, 23 Sept. 1780, Blackett mss.