Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

A single Member constituency

Right of Election:

in the corporation

Number of voters:



(1801): 2,755


18 June 1790FREDERICK NORTH, Lord North 
21 Dec. 1790 GEORGE AUGUSTUS NORTH, Lord North vice North, called to the Upper House 
21 Sept. 1792 HON. FREDERICK NORTH vice North, called to the Upper House 
5 Mar. 1794 WILLIAM HOLBECH vice North, appointed to office 
30 May 1796DUDLEY NORTH 
7 July 1802DUDLEY NORTH 
1 Nov. 1806WILLIAM PRAED10
 Dudley North6
  Double return. Election declared void, 9 Feb. 1808 
16 Feb. 1808DUDLEY NORTH5
 William Praed3
22 Nov. 1819 HON. HENEAGE LEGGE vice Douglas, deceased 

Main Article

The North family, seated at Wroxton nearby, had controlled the corporation and named the Member since 1740. By 1784 their hold was so weakened that it was reported that ‘Lord North has been very nearly shaken at Banbury, and upon a poll would have carried it only by one’.1 Nevertheless the Treasury regarded it as a close borough and no opposition was made to the ex-premier in 1790; or, when he succeeded as 2nd Earl of Guilford, to his son later that year; or on his death in 1792.

When Frederick North vacated his seat with an office of profit in 1794, his brother the 3rd Earl proposed bringing in William Adam*, who took steps to vacate his seat for Ross-shire. Guilford had advised him on 26 Feb.:

I have seen the town clerk who says he will answer with his head for your unanimous election. But you must absolutely come to me tomorrow morning and write a circular to each member of the corporation that they may receive it before the writ arrives.

When the pair proceeded to Banbury, Guilford was surprised to be informed by a determined group of corporators that ‘they would not support Mr Adam but would concur in any gentleman of the neighbourhood he would recommend. He asked them whom they w[oul]d wish to support, Mr H[olbech] being mentioned he said he had no objection and went away’. Adam was accordingly withdrawn. The general verdict was that the Foxite politics which had made it advisable for him to look outside Ross-shire for a seat had also dished him at Banbury: ‘his politics were very unpopular among them’.2 By another account:

Lord Guilford has an interest in the borough of Banbury equal to 10 votes out of 15 or 16; yet such was the dislike to have Adam forced upon them that Lord Guilford was obliged to give way, and Mr Holbech as a country gentleman was proposed.3

William Holbech of Farnborough had received an invitation from the rebellious corporators on the morning of 3 Mar., before Guilford’s arrival, but had then declined, thinking ‘the ground they went upon not strong enough and supposing Lord G.’s interest too firmly established’. Two hours later he was informed that he had ‘nothing to do but to come to Banbury and be elected’, Guilford having taken his leave without ‘any intercourse or messages’. Sir John Mordaunt*, describing the incident, added, ‘the rest I suppose was all triumph and feasting. As to losing the borough for ever, time and future conduct must show that, but I think it must stand on rather a precarious tenure.’ Before the year was out, Guilford was assuring Adam that the seat would be his with ‘no difficulty now, or all next year’.4

At the dissolution of 1796, Adam having chosen not to seek election, Guilford returned his Foxite kinsman Dudley North without opposition.5 North held the seat quietly until 1806, when there was a further upset. He was defeated by William Praed, the London banker, who had contrived to seduce the mayor and ten of the corporation from their patron. The situation caused considerable embarrassment to the premier Lord Grenville, whose adherent Praed was. Grenville’s brother Lord Buckingham disclaimed having assisted Praed, but George Rose alleged the contrary. The North family were fully aware of the danger. In September 1806 Guilford was anxious to secure a cornetcy of dragoons for the nephew of John Callow, ‘the richest man in the corporation and a leading person in it on the opposition side’. A report of 24 Oct. anticipated that Guilford would be beaten by ten votes to seven, commenting on the vicar’s conduct: ‘Dr Lamb has behaved most iniquitously, for had he kept away they would not have made a court for an election. They think of two warrants and a petition, Lord Glenbervie is to attend a consultation this day and his report will determine Lord Guilford ...’ Frederick North stated his brother’s plight to Lord Grenville: of the 18 corporators, seven supported his family, one would stay away and ten were opponents, though one or two of the latter might have their votes rejected, making it a near thing. More than half of the hostile ten, he asserted, were bad votes and could be ousted by quo warranto; so, in justice, could some of his family’s friends. The corporation must be dissolved by such proceedings and he asked Grenville to support a new charter in which Guilford by ‘prescriptive interest’ might nominate the new corporation. Grenville declined any such pledge, while expressing his ‘friendly disposition’ to the family (30 Oct.). Next day the result was ten to six (John Callow did not vote for North).6

There was no petition and in 1807 the contest was repeated, ending this time in a tie on a maximum poll. There was a double return. Guilford’s legal agents informed him, 6 May:

We beg leave to congratulate your lordship on the prospect of the complete re-establishment of your lordship’s interest in this borough. The result of yesterday’s contest was fortunate beyond our most sanguine expectations, and we have no doubt it will reinstate your lordship’s influence too firmly to be again shaken ... Mr Callow and Doctor Lamb both voted for Mr North. Mr Richard Pain had sometime before delivered his resignation to the mayor and kept it in his pocket as a check on Doctor Lamb and immediately after the mayor had taken his oath, he went from the table to Dr Lamb and offered him Mr Payne’s resignation on condition of his voting for Mr Praed. This Doctor Lamb asserted on the hustings in the presence of the mayor who did not deny it.

This conduct so decidedly partial would we conceive in any case set aside Mr Praed’s election; and Mr Pain’s resignation (which should now be insisted on) leaving the majority in your lordship’s favour, will afford your lordship the means of strengthening it by filling up the vacancy as you may think most expedient.

Both candidates petitioned, calling votes for the other into question. Praed alleged that the mayor gave his casting vote for him, but had unaccountable scruples about returning him. The House declared the election void, 9 Feb. 1808. At the new election, the mayor, Charles Wyatt, rejected three votes for each candidate and voted for North, who gained the day.7

North, who claimed to have spent £5,000 on the elections and was unwilling to spend more, had promised to leave his own estate to Lord Guilford. The latter was therefore embarrassed in October 1811 when his sister Lady Glenbervie asked him to return her son Frederick for Banbury. He thought that he could not ‘desire D. North to give it up if he chooses still to be the Member’. North reluctantly agreed to give it up at the dissolution, and although Banbury was as he put it ‘a ticklish place’, and Frederick Douglas had some ‘inconvenient and unexpected expense’ in 1812, perhaps through fear of a contest, the Guilford patronage remained secure until 1831.8

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Rutland mss, Sydney to Rutland 5 Apr. 1784.
  • 2. PRO 30/8/107, ff. 90, 92; Blair Adam mss, Guilford to Adam, 26 Feb., Adam to Mackenzie, 4 Mar. 1794; SRO GD 46/4/119/2; NLS mss 11138, f. 63.
  • 3. Farington Diary (Yale ed.), ii. 350.
  • 4. Mordaunt mss, Sir J. Mordaunt to his wife, 8 Mar.; Blair Adam mss, Guilford to Adam, 23 Sept. [1794].
  • 5. Morning Chron. 7 May 1796.
  • 6. Fortescue mss, Buckingham to Grenville, 28 Oct., North to same, 28 Oct., reply 30 Oct.; Lonsdale mss, Rose to Lonsdale, 16 Nov.; Blair Adam mss, Guilford to Adam [Sept.], Walsh to Adam, 24 Oct. 1806; A. Beesley, Banbury (1841), 541.
  • 7. Kent AO, Waldershare mss C26, Aplin and Son to Guilford, 6 May 1807; CJ, lxiii. 8, 52; Beesley, 542.
  • 8. Glenbervie Jnls. 150-2, 156; Blair Adam mss. North to Adam, 22 Nov. 1811; Glenbervie Diaries, ii. 309.