Bandon Bridge


Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the corporation

Number qualified to vote:



10,179 (1821); 9,820 (1831)


13 Mar. 1820JAMES BERNARD, Visct. Bernard 
17 June 1826JOHN WILLIAM PONSONBY, Visct. Duncannon 
19 Dec. 1826LORD JOHN RUSSELL vice Duncannon, chose to sit for co. Kilkenny 
17 Aug. 1830JAMES BERNARD, Visct. Bernard 
6 Jan. 1831FRANCIS BERNARD, Visct. Bernard vice Bernard, become a peer of Ireland 
7 May 1831FRANCIS BERNARD, Visct. Bernard 
 Sir Augustus William Clifford 
22 July 1831SIR AUGUSTUS WILLIAM CLIFFORD vice Bernard, vacated his seat5
 William Lowther, Visct. Lowther4
 Francis Bernard, Visct. Bernard2

Main Article

Bandon Bridge, a market town on the River Bandon with a declining cotton spinning industry and rising unemployment, had long been considered ‘a stronghold of Protestant loyalty’.1 For many years Francis Bernard of Castle Bernard, 1st earl of Bandon, had controlled its self-elected and exclusively Protestant corporation of 13 burgesses, most of whom were his close relatives and one of whom was annually elected provost. (From 1823 his fourth son William Bernard, Conservative Member, 1832-5, 1856-63, served alternately as provost with his land agent John Swete.) The charter had originally provided for the admission of an unlimited number of freemen by birth and servitude, but there had been no claim in recent years, ‘freedom having in fact no advantage’ and conferring ‘no share whatever in the election of a Member’. Bandon continued to take turns to nominate the Member with the Whig 6th duke of Devonshire, the town’s ‘principal proprietor’ and collector of its tolls, with whom he had come to terms in 1807, but in 1831 the ‘independently spirited’ Ultra Tory burgesses rebelled against their patrons and refused to return a reformer.2

At the 1820 general election Devonshire’s illegitimate son Sir Augustus William Clifford made way for Bandon’s heir James, Viscount Bernard, Lord Morpeth† noting that Devonshire ‘loses Bandon this time, which sets Clifford adrift’.3 In July 1821 an Orange procession to mark the anniversary of the battle of the Boyne was halted by armed local Catholics, and in the ensuing exchange a man was killed and a woman ‘far advanced in pregnancy’ shot.4 On 13 July John Leslie, one of the burgesses, informed Lord Shannon that although the Catholics ‘could not be too severely punished’ for their part in the ‘late disturbances’

yet the first blame is certainly attachable to those who are not fully satisfied to enjoy their supremacy without exhibiting an unmanly and insulting triumph ... The display was something more than usual this year. The appearance of Lord Bandon, after so many years, to vote the freedom of his corporation to the duke of York, is attributed to the assumption of the lead of the Orange party by the duke, and has aggravated the feeling ... of discord in his ... town ... The estrangement between the religions is multiplied and vengeance is declared against Catholics for dealing with Protestant shopkeepers.5

Two Orangemen were ‘indicted for murder’ but ‘found guilty of manslaughter only’ at the Cork assizes, when the remainder of the Protestant party was ‘discharged’.6 During 1822 the level of distress was reported to be ‘beyond description’.7 Petitions against Catholic claims, which Bernard opposed, were presented to the Commons, 16 Apr. 1823, 28 Mar. 1825, and the Lords, 17 Apr. 1823, 14 Apr. 1825. Favourable ones reached the Commons, 15 Apr., and the Lords, 17 May 1825.8

At the 1826 general election Devonshire returned the Whig whip Lord Duncannon, in case of his failure in county Kilkenny, for which he chose to sit.9 It was rumoured that the seatless Lord John Russell would fill the vacancy, but on 21 Sept. the duke of Bedford advised Lady Holland that speculation about John and ‘Devonshire’s borough of Bandon’ was ‘not quite correct’, since ‘no answer’ had yet been given and Lord Fitzwilliam had offered him Higham Ferrers.10 Russell was eventually returned quietly at the end of the year.11 He, of course, supported Catholic claims, for which petitions were presented to the Lords, 14 Feb. 1827, and the Commons, 16 Feb. 1827, 20 Feb. 1828. Hostile ones reached the Lords, 16 May 1828, and the Commons, 15 July 1828.12 Petitions were presented to the Commons for repeal of the Test Acts, 6 June 1827, and the abolition of slavery, 15 July 1828.13 The formation of a Brunswick Club that year was considered ‘unlikely’ by the local press, ‘so many of the Protestant gentry’ having signed a county Cork declaration in support of emancipation, but following Bandon’s offer of a £50 donation, one was established in November, with Bernard as vice-president. Its inaugural meeting, chaired by the serving provost William Bernard, was attended by about 1,500 persons, including ‘a number of Catholics’ and their Protestant supporters, whose attempts to speak resulted in an affray, 22 Dec. 1828. At Bandon’s request another meeting was held against the Wellington ministry’s concession of emancipation, 21 Jan., for which petitions reached both Houses accompanied by ones for repeal of the Irish Subletting and Vestry Acts, 24 Feb. 1829.14 Bandon Bridge was incorrectly listed by John Wilson Croker* as a borough with freeholder voters under the influence of the Catholic priests in a letter to Peel, the home secretary, urging their inclusion in the measure of disfranchisement, 6 Mar. 1829.15 That year’s July Orange parades exhibited more ‘party spirit’ and ‘riot and disorder’ than ‘ever before’.16 Petitions reached the Lords for relieving the operatives from distress, 3 May, and against tithe increases, 1 July 1830. One for repeal of the Vestry Act was presented to the Commons, 20 May 1830.17

At the 1830 general election Bernard resumed the seat. Following his succession as 2nd earl of Bandon that November, he put up his eldest son Francis Bernard, now styled Viscount Bernard, who was returned three days after coming of age.18 Petitions for the abolition of slavery reached the Lords, 6 Dec. 1830, and the Commons, 29 Mar. 1831. One for the Grey ministry’s reform bill, which Bernard opposed, was presented to the Lords, 12 Apr.19 At the ensuing general election Bernard retired in favour of Clifford, this being ‘the reformer’s year’ for making the return, as the press reported. (There had evidently been speculation that the 2nd earl would let the agreement with Devonshire lapse.) At the nomination, however, Bernard was proposed for re-election by the ‘independent spirited burgesses’, led by John Beamish and William Kingston, who ‘refused’ to support the borough’s ‘sentence of death’ under the reform bill and the ‘destruction’ of ‘franchises, immunities and privileges’ which they were ‘sworn to defend’. A ‘warm discussion’ ensued with Clifford’s proposers William Bernard and the provost Swete, following which a show of hands was ‘loudly called for’ and Bernard was returned ‘by a majority of two’. He will ‘likely refuse the honour’, conjectured the Dublin Evening Post, but ‘should he do so ... the majority of the burgesses are determined to assert their privileges and return whomsoever they think fit’. They ‘are not afraid’, declared the Tory Cork Constitution, and ‘there are 500 within the realm ready to supply his place’.20 On 8 June 1831 Thomas Lefroy* asked Lord Farnham whether Bandon ‘could leave the burgesses to themselves’ if Bernard resigned, as ‘if so, they would return’ the Ultra Tory Sir Richard Vyvyan*.21 Bandon, however, was determined to fulfill ‘his father’s engagement’ with Devonshire ‘upon a motive of honour’, and, ‘deferring to filial delicacy’, Bernard took the Chiltern Hundreds, 4 July 1831.22

At the ensuing by-election Clifford was duly proposed by William Bernard. The Rev. Somers Payne, ‘after deprecating the reform bill’, then nominated Viscount Lowther, former Tory Member for Westmorland, as ‘a person of their own principles and not one opposed to them’, adding that he ‘regretted’ having to act against Bandon, his relative by marriage. Viscount Bernard was again put in nomination by Beamish, but on this occasion apparently as ‘a pairing-off transaction’ to assist Clifford, ‘it being well known that ... if re-elected [he] would again vacate’. In the ensuing poll Clifford was supported by the provost Swete, Bandon’s brothers William and Richard, and Leslie. Lowther obtained votes from Payne, Kingston, the Rev. Richard Meade, and the provost’s son Benjamin. Bernard received votes from Beamish and one Ambrose Hickey. The two candidates ‘having an equality of votes’, the ‘election was decided by the provost’s casting vote in favour of Clifford’, to which Payne objected, saying that he was not entitled ‘to more than one vote’. Talk of a petition, however, came to nothing.23 Petitions for the grant to the Kildare Place Society reached the Commons, 5 Aug., and the Lords, 8 Aug. 1831. One against the new plan of Irish education was presented to the Lords, 22 Mar. 1832.24

Bandon Bridge was one of ten Irish boroughs with under 300 voters which Dominick Browne, Member for Mayo, unsuccessfully proposed for disfranchisement, 9 July 1832. Finding that the existing limits of the borough were ‘a matter of mere conjecture’ and ‘not accurately known’, the boundary commissioners drew a line around the ‘whole of what may be fairly considered as part of the town’. By the Reform Act, which Clifford of course supported, they estimated that 232 £10 householders would be added to the eight resident burgesses with reserved rights. In the event 258 registered for the new franchise, bringing the reformed electorate to 266, of whom 233 voted at the 1832 general election, when William Bernard stood successfully as a Conservative against a local Liberal.25 It has been suggested that reform ended the interference of Bandon, who, finding the corporation unwilling ‘to accede to his wishes’ regarding his ‘father’s engagement’ with Devonshire, formally resigned and withdrew his financial support in July 1833. By 1837, however, he was again its recorder.26 His brother retired in 1835, but his son Francis came in again at a by-election in 1842, and sat undisturbed as a Conservative until his succession to the earldom in 1856, when William resumed the seat. On the latter’s death in 1863 Francis Bernard’s younger brother Henry was returned.

Author: Philip Salmon


  • 1. S. Lewis, Top. Dict. of Ireland (1837), i. 178-80; Cork Constitution, 19 July 1831.
  • 2. PP (1831-2), xliii. 9-11; (1835), xxvii. 208; Cork Constitution, 24 Sept. 1833; I. D’Alton, Protestant Society and Politics in Cork, 101, 102.
  • 3. Dublin Evening Post, 18 Mar. 1820; Castle Howard mss, Morpeth to wife, 2 Feb. 1820.
  • 4. The Times, 16 Oct. 1821.
  • 5. PRO NI, Shannon mss D2707/A3/1/46.
  • 6. The Times, 16 Oct. 1821; G. Bennett, Hist. Bandon (1869), 535, 536.
  • 7. Bennett, 537; The Times, 15 Nov. 1822.
  • 8. CJ, lxxviii. 203; lxxx. 274, 309; LJ, lv. 624; lvii. 541, 836.
  • 9. Southern Reporter, 20 June 1826.
  • 10. Add. 51669, f. 25.
  • 11. Cork Constitution, 21 Dec. 1826; The Times, 28 Dec. 1826.
  • 12. LJ, lix. 73; lx. 455; CJ, lxxxii. 181; lxxxiii. 87, 324.
  • 13. CJ, lxxxii. 520; lxxxiii. 536.
  • 14. Southern Reporter, 22 Nov., 23 Dec. 1828, 24 Jan. 1829; CJ, lxxxiv. 81; LJ, lxi. 78.
  • 15. Add. 40320, f. 110.
  • 16. The Times, 8 July 1829.
  • 17. LJ, lxii. 307, 789; CJ, lxxxv. 450.
  • 18. Cork Constitution, 17 July, 27 Nov. 1830, 8 Jan. 1831; Southern Reporter, 10 Aug. 1830.
  • 19. LJ, lxi. 78; lxiii. 408; CJ, lxxxvi. 456.
  • 20. Dublin Evening Post, 7, 12 May; Southern Reporter, 10 May; Cork Constitution, 10, 12 May, 19 July 1831.
  • 21. NLI, Farnham mss 18611 (1).
  • 22. Southern Reporter, 14 July; Cork Constitution, 19 July 1831.
  • 23. Southern Reporter, 23 July; Cork Constitution, 26 July; Dublin Evening Post, 26 July 1831; D’Alton, 102; Bennett, 545.
  • 24. CJ, lxxxvi. 730; LJ, lxiii. 903.
  • 25. PP (1831-2), xxxvi. 620; xliii. 9-11; (1833), xxvii. 294.
  • 26. D’Alton, 171; Cork Constitution, 24 Sept. 1833; PP (1835), xxvii. 208, 209; Almanac Dublin Dir. (1837), 260.