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

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the 40s. freeholders of the manor of Mallow

Number of voters:

524 in 1831


of the manor (1831): 7,688



Main Article

Mallow, one of two manor boroughs which retained the right to representation after the Union, was theoretically in the gift of the Jephson family, who lived at Mallow Castle and owned all or most of the manor from which the freeholder electorate was derived.1 In practice, however, Denham Jephson’s influence was often more nominal than real. Thus as a result of the preferences of some electors, and perhaps a feeling of deference and indebtedness, Jephson had by 1802 surrendered some of his influence to others: to Lord Longueville (Longfield) who commanded considerable influence in county Cork and to Sir James Cotter, a Cork banker who appears to have built up a personal interest in the borough.2 At the general election of that year, the Castle was led to believe that Longueville, Cotter and Jephson were joint patrons of the borough and Longueville’s cousin even claimed that his family were returning Jephson in place of John Longfield.3 The irony was that Longfield only sat at Westminster as a result of defeating Jephson in the Union ballot. Similarly in 1806 and 1807 the situation was not far short of Jephson returning himself upon his own interest and Longueville claiming the credit for it. Furthermore, the drift of events had changed only marginally by 1812. Longueville died in 1811 and the ageing Jephson decided against re-election. Although the precise details of the election are obscure, it is most probable that Lord Shannon (another major power in county Cork) took up Longueville’s cue and persuaded Jephson to throw his influence behind James Laurence Cotter. Cotter was duly returned unopposed.4

By 1818 circumstances had changed dramatically. Jephson died in May 1813 leaving his property to Col. Jephson, who himself died six months later, leaving a son under age.5 Moreover, by 1817 Cotter’s own position was highly vulnerable as a result of the failure of the family bank. With the prevailing family interest weakened by death and the sitting Member short of cash, it was not surprising that others saw an opportunity in the making. The chief secretary was informed in 1817 that fictitious Catholic freeholders were being registered to oppose the largely protestant electorate that evidently derived from the landed property of the manor. He was therefore advised to give the Cotters a job worth £400-£500 p.a. in order to encourage them to create an equal number of new voters ‘of the same class’ and so win the election. Nothing less, he was told, would ‘stem the torrent of Roman Catholic presumption’.6 Although there is no record of his family securing a job, James Cotter persevered and by mid June 1818 had been challenged by William Wrixon Becher who, unlike himself, supported Catholic emancipation. In the event, the state of the registry seems to have transferred the prevailing interest in the borough from the Jephsons, Cotters and Longfields to the Catholics. On 19 June the Catholic freeholders met and pledged their support to Wrixon Becher; next day Cotter retired from the contest and on 22 June Wrixon Becher was returned unopposed.7

Author: P. J. Jupp


  • 1. Wakefield, Account of Ireland, ii. 303.
  • 2. Rutland mss ‘Irish Constituencies 1784-5’, though the Bolton mss ‘Irish House of Commons, 1785’ suggests that Jephson returned Cotter at Lord Shannon’s wish; Cornwallis Corresp. iii. 2-3; Add. 35728, f. 74.
  • 3. Dublin SPO 520/131/3, Longfield to Marsden, 6 July 1802; Add. 35735, ff. 76-82.
  • 4. Add. 40280, f. 41.
  • 5. Dublin SPO 554/396/2, Mansergh to Peel, 30 Oct. 1813.
  • 6. Add. 40218, f. 274.
  • 7. Dublin Corresp. 22, 26 June 1818; Add. 40278, f. 243.