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 4,000


17 Apr. 1754Arthur Onslow 
 Thomas Budgen 
8 Apr. 1761George Onslow 
 Sir Francis Vincent 
8 Jan. 1766Onslow re-elected after appointment to office 
30 Mar. 1768George Onslow 
 Sir Francis Vincent 
20 Oct. 1774Sir Francis Vincent2014
 James Scawen1656
 Sir Joseph Mawbey1390
14 June 1775Sir Joseph Mawbey vice Vincent, deceased1385
 William Norton1285
 Sir Francis Vincent, jun.844
27 Sept. 1780Sir Joseph Mawbey2419
 Augustus Keppel2179
 Thomas Onslow1506
10 Apr. 1782George Spencer, Visct. Althorp, vice Keppel, called to the Upper House 
19 Nov. 1783Sir Robert Clayton vice Althorp, called to the Upper House 
7 Apr. 1784Sir Joseph Mawbey 
 William Norton 
19 Jan. 1789Lord William Russell vice Norton, called to the Upper House 

Main Article

The Onslow family first sat for Surrey in 1627, and held one seat without a break 1713-74. The Vincents of Stoke D’Abernon had an interest dating back to the 17th century, but without the continuous representation of the Onslows. Throughout the 18th century Southwark and its business community exercised an increasing influence in the county. Sir Joseph Mawbey wrote in 1788:1

In some parts of the county the country gentlemen are said not to like the influence which the borough of Southwark and parts adjacent have in the elections for knights of the shire. But if in Queen Anne’s time that commercial influence was strong enough to bring in a Member ... we must not wonder if it should operate effectually in the present times.

Arthur Onslow retired in 1761 and was succeeded by his son George; Budgen was rejected at the county meeting, and replaced by Vincent. Onslow and Vincent were re-elected in 1768 without opposition. Onslow retired in 1774, having become unpopular in the county and not wishing to face an expensive contest, and there was considerable competition for his seat. Thomas Howard wrote to the 2nd Duke of Newcastle on 10 Oct.:2

The situation of this county is oddly circumstanced at present. Sir Joseph Mawbey hath been canvassing for some time, but I can hardly think that he will meet with success. My friends intend to propose me as a candidate. ... Sir Francis Vincent will also be proposed. It is now said that Colonel Norton ... intends to offer himself, and I am assured this morning that Sir Frederick Evelyn hath declared. Your Grace will judge by this that the county is in no want of candidates.

Mawbey, a radical and a Southwark distiller, was unpopular with the gentry. He himself thus relates what happened at the county meeting:3

Mr. Onslow, who was said to have engaged his interest to Mr. Norton, stated to all the three last candidates [Howard, Norton, and Evelyn] the certainty of their being defeated by Sir Joseph Mawbey if they all stood, and laboured to form a coalition. Neither would give way to each other: at length, however, he got them all to resign their respective pretensions in favour of Mr. Scawen, who happened to be present.

Mawbey had 904 single votes; ‘and as most of the 1390 who voted for him were believed to be attached to him in the first place, it is likely the election, if it had been only for one Member, would have fallen upon him’.

At the by-election of 1775 three candidates appeared: Vincent (son of the late Member) and Mawbey, both of whom supported the Opposition; and Norton, who supported Administration. Rockingham tried to persuade Mawbey to withdraw to prevent splitting the Opposition vote, but Mawbey argued that not he, but Vincent, should withdraw—he told Lord John Cavendish ‘that many persons were exasperated at the idea of being made the property from father to son of one family’.4 The result of the poll seems to show that he was right.

At the county meeting in 1780 Mawbey and Thomas Onslow were adopted candidates, and it seemed likely that there would be no opposition. But a group of London radicals persuaded Admiral Keppel, who had just been defeated at Windsor, to stand for Surrey.5 Keppel lived at the royal lodge at Bagshot, which had been granted to his brother for three lives, but the family had no estates in the county; and he owed his success to his prominence in the Opposition and his popularity as an admiral. Government spent £4,000 trying to secure the return of Onslow.6

About this time some of the leading landowners in Surrey were connected politically with the Rockingham party, including Lord Spencer, Lord Bessborough, Lord Midleton, and Sir Robert Clayton. There was a party flavour about Lord Althorp’s candidature in 1782. Lord Lucan, Althorp’s father-in-law, wrote on 7 Apr.:7

Lord Althorp ... will be chosen for Surrey next Wednesday by acclamation, as there will not be a dissenting voice to make it necessary to count numbers. He is very popular from his character, and will owe his election in the county solely to it, as he scarcely knows any man or freeholder in Surrey except those about Wimbledon Park.

Both Althorp and Lord William Russell (returned unopposed in 1789) came of families whose main estates and political interests lay in other counties. Clayton and Norton, both Surrey men, had clear-cut political allegiances. By 1790 party had come to count for a good deal in Surrey politics.

Author: John Brooke


  • 1. ‘Historical Account of the Elections for Surrey’, by ‘Surriensis’, Gent. Mag. 1788, pp. 1052-3. The identity of ‘Surriensis’ was revealed in the obituary of Mawbey, ibid. 1798, p. 543.
  • 2. Newcastle (Clumber) mss.
  • 3. Gent. Mag. 1788, p. 1052.
  • 4. Ld. John Cavendish to Rockingham, [May or June] 1775, Rockingham mss.
  • 5. T. R. Keppel, Life of Visct. Keppel, ii. 286-8.
  • 6. Christie, End of North’s Ministry, 102-3.
  • 7. HMC 14th Rep. IX, 165.