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 burgage holders

Number of voters:

nominally 118


(1801): 1,073


17 Jan. 1795 PETER ISAAC THELLUSSON vice Charles William Wyndham, vacated his seat 
22 Feb. 1797 DOUGLAS re-elected after appointment to office 
27 Dec. 1800 GEORGE SMITH vice Douglas (Baron Glenbervie [I]), appointed to office 
7 July 1802SAMUEL SMITH I 
24 Dec. 1802 EDMUND TURNOR vice Samuel Smith I, chose to sit for Leicester17
 Thomas Holt White4
1 Nov. 1806JOHN SMITH II 
26 Jan. 1807 HENRY WATKIN WILLIAMS WYNN vice Smith, chose to sit for Nottingham 
 WILLIAM CONYNGHAM PLUNKET vice Wickham, chose to sit for Callington 
22 July 1807 THOMAS THOMPSON II vice Smith, chose to sit for Leicester 
7 Oct. 1812GEORGE SMITH 
21 Dec. 1812 PHILIP HENRY STANHOPE, Visct. Mahon, vice Smith, chose to sit for Wendover 
3 Feb. 1817SIR OSWALD MOSLEY, Bt., vice Mahon, called to the Upper House 
16 June 1818SAMUEL SMITH I 

Main Article

George O’ Brien Wyndham, 3rd Earl of Egremont, purchased the controlling interest at Midhurst from the trustees of the 7th Viscount Montagu for 40,000 guineas in 1787.1 At the next election he returned his brothers. In 1795 he sold out to Robert Smith*, afterwards 1st Baron Carrington, who tried but failed in the same year to exchange Midhurst for the borough of Gatton.2 Egremont later explained these transactions to Lord Holland:

The borough of Midhurst belonged for a long time to Lord Montagu’s family, and they always sold the seats under the patronage of the government ... When Lord Montagu’s debts made it necessary to sell a great part of his estate, the family were desirous of retaining the borough, if possible, and I bought it intending to restore it to them whenever they might be in circumstances to buy it. When that hope was at end, I sold it to Lord Carrington, who used it for the purchase of his peerage and when that was accomplished sold it to his brothers, who, I suppose either have or will make something out of it.3

Carrington, indeed, returned his friend Pitt’s henchmen free of charge4 in 1796; and from 1800 his brothers and other relatives or business partners always had first choice of the seats which, if they chose to sit elsewhere, were awarded to political associates. It was on just such an occasion that the Smiths met with their only real challenge, in December 1802. It was foreshadowed in 1796 when an anonymous address in the name of the ‘real’ burgage holders and the majority of the inhabitants of Midhurst advertised for a champion.5 Thomas Holt White, the Enfield radical, volunteered for this role in 1802. There having been no poll since 1710, the returning officer Surtees Swinburn brushed aside Holt White’s efforts to challenge votes for Turnor on the second day, closing the poll with the announcement that ‘a good dinner was a better thing than a poll’. This was alleged by Holt White in his petition, in which he also questioned Turnor’s property qualification. It was found ‘frivolous and vexatious’, but he extricated himself from the venture ‘at a comparatively trifling expense’.6 At the next election Carrington was advised by his friend the prime minister Lord Grenville to keep watch over Midhurst, but there was no further incident.7 The Smiths had no wish to sell the seats and Oldfield’s report in 1820 that Egremont had repurchased the borough from Carrington proved unfounded.8

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. W. D. Cooper, Parl. Hist. Suss. 28; Oldfield, Rep. Hist. v. 52.
  • 2. Camden mss C260, Smith to Camden, 15 (? or 25) Oct. 1795.
  • 3. Add. 51725, Egremont to Holland, 21 Jan.
  • 4. Glenbervie Diaries, i. 129.
  • 5. Morning Chron. 24 May 1796.
  • 6. CJ, lviii. 118; lix. 62; Wakes Mus., Selborne, Holt White mss 417; R. H. Peckwell, Controverted Elections (1806), ii. 146.
  • 7. Holt White mss 356.
  • 8. Add. 51644, Lady Holland to Horner, 24 Dec. 1816; Key (1820), 8.