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


2 May 1754Thomas Pelham 
 John Butler 
6 Apr. 1761Thomas Pelham 
 John Butler 
26 Dec. 1765Pelham re-elected after appointment to office 
3 Feb. 1767Lord George Henry Lennox vice Butler, deceased 
29 Mar. 1768Lord George Henry Lennox 
 Thomas Pelham 
9 Dec. 1768Richard Harcourt vice Pelham, called to the Upper House 
20 Oct. 1774Lord George Henry Lennox3583
 Sir Thomas Spencer Wilson1957
 Sir James Peachey1855
14 Sept. 1780Lord George Henry Lennox 
 Thomas Pelham 
25 Apr. 1782Pelham re-elected after appointment to office 
22 Apr. 1784Lord George Henry Lennox 
 Thomas Pelham 

Main Article

Sussex was the Duke of Newcastle’s county, and on it he lavished particular care and attention—his private fortune and, when in office, the favours of the Crown. Perpetually anxious and frightened of opposition, he liked to surround himself with his supporters; and his public days at his seats at Halland and Bishopstone were the provincial equivalents of his levees. There he entertained ‘a great company of people, of all denominations, from a duke to a beggar’,1 and showed himself as the acknowledged leader of his county.

During the Duke’s lifetime one Member was always a Pelham and the other usually a country gentleman friendly to the Pelhams. There was also a custom that one Member should be from east Sussex and the other from west. Newcastle was exceedingly jealous of the Duke of Richmond, the leading peer in the west, but Richmond lacked Newcastle’s experience and prestige and never commanded his influence. Neither did Thomas Pelham, who succeeded to Newcastle’s estates in Sussex, although his eldest son was returned for the county at the first general election after he had come of age.

The only contested election of this period, that of 1774, was between two country gentlemen—both sides agreed to give one vote to Lord George Lennox. Richmond was therefore neutral, and according to a note in the papers of Sir Thomas Wilson2 so was Pelham. But John Baker Holroyd, who himself had considered standing, wrote on 25 Nov. 1774 to congratulate Wilson on having freed the county from ‘lordly nominations’. It is not clear from Pelham’s papers whether or not he supported Peachey.

Author: John Brooke


  • 1. ‘Extracts from the Diary of a Sussex Tradesman’, Suss. Arch. Colls. xi. 191-2; see also p. 203 for a description of a public day in 1759.
  • 2. In the possession of the Viscountess Gough.