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:



8,533 (1821); 8,760 (1831)


30 May 1820HON. EDMUND PHIPPS vice Normanby, vacated his seat

Main Article

Scarborough, a ‘celebrated watering place’ with ‘handsome and spacious’ streets, was situated on the North Sea coast, in the North Riding of the county. It was reported in 1831 that, despite the decline of shipbuilding, the town had experienced considerable growth in recent years as a centre for ‘sea bathing and amusement’, particularly for ‘the middling classes from the manufacturing districts of Lancashire and the West Riding’.1 The borough was coextensive with the parish. Local power was exercised by the corporation, a self-electing body dominated by a few families, which consisted of 36 capital burgesses; two bailiffs served as the returning officers for parliamentary elections. Since 1790 the representation had been shared between the families of John Henry Manners, 5th duke of Rutland, the recorder, and Henry Phipps†, 1st earl of Mulgrave, whose castle and estate lay nearby. Little evidence has been found concerning the mechanics of the relationship between the corporation and the Tory patrons, which continued uninterrupted throughout this period.2 In 1820 Charles Manners Sutton, Member since 1806 and Speaker of the Commons since 1817, again offered on his kinsman Rutland’s interest and conducted a personal canvass. Mulgrave’s eldest son Lord Normanby, who had come in in 1818, was absent in Florence, but his younger brother Charles ‘waited upon the corporation individually’, as was the custom, formally to solicit their votes. Some surprise was expressed in local newspapers that Mulgrave was prepared to return his son again, as Normanby had recently gone over to the Whigs. The lack of opposition did not prevent the town from being ‘in a state of bustle, festivity and gaiety’. After the election Manners Sutton and Charles Phipps hosted a dinner for the corporation, which was followed by a ball for 300 guests.3 Mulgrave soon had a change of heart and replaced his son in May 1820 with his brother Edmund, a former Member; the corporation later gave a dinner to about 100 of the ‘principal inhabitants’.4 Manners Sutton and Phipps retained their seats for the rest of this period.

Petitions were sent up to the Commons from the householders for repeal of the assessed taxes, 25 Mar. 1824, the merchants and tradesmen against restrictions on the circulation of small notes, 2 June 1828, the inhabitants for repeal of the coal duties, 8 Nov. 1830, and the ship owners for protection from foreign competition, 1 Mar. 1831.5 The Baptists and the Independents petitioned for repeal of the Test Acts, 22 Feb. 1828, as did the corporation and inhabitants against the Wellington ministry’s Catholic emancipation bill, 2 Mar. 1829. Phipps nevertheless supported concession, as he had before.6 Anti-slavery petitions were forwarded from three Dissenting groups, 11, 15 Nov. 1830, 7 Feb. 1831.7 The Grey ministry’s reform bill proposed to enfranchise the £10 householders while leaving Scarborough’s representation intact. The householders organized a favourable petition which was presented by the Member for Yorkshire, Sir John Vanden Bempde Johnstone of nearby Hackness Hall, 19 Mar. 1831.8 While Phipps acknowledged that the petitioners were ‘most respectable persons’, he did ‘not believe that they express the opinions of the majority of the inhabitants ... and I am sure not those of the corporation’; he voted against the bill’s second reading. Despite their political differences, he was brought forward at the ensuing dissolution by his nephew Normanby, who had recently succeeded as 2nd earl of Mulgrave. Sir William Francis Eliott of Stobbs Castle, Roxburghshire, informed lord chancellor Brougham that he intended ‘offering myself for Scarborough in opposition to ... Phipps’ and had ‘received many assurances of support’. In the event, he did not stand but the Leeds Mercury claimed, after the ‘farce of an election’ had been played out, that Phipps was ‘decidedly rejected of the town and were the franchise open to it, would not have the most remote chance of success’.9 To celebrate the passage of the Reform Act, effigies of all the members of the corporation were ‘publicly burnt’.10

The boundary commissioners reported that Scarborough was an ‘ample constituency contained within reasonable and well defined limits’, and that no alteration was required.11 There were 432 registered electors in 1832. At the general election of that year Phipps retired and Rutland’s candidate, Sir Frederick Trench*, was defeated by Johnstone and another Liberal baronet, Sir George Cayley of Brompton. Scarborough continued to be a battleground between the Rutland interest and local Liberal landowners for the next 20 years, but thereafter the Liberals predominated; Johnstone and his son held one seat, with a single interruption, until 1880, and Mulgrave’s son sat from 1847-57.12 The borough was disfranchised in 1885.

Author: Martin Casey


  • 1. Pigot’s Commercial Dir. (1828-9), 1061; PP (1831-2), xl. 160-1.
  • 2. PP (1831-2), xl. 160; (1835), xxv. 303-17; HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 458-60.
  • 3. Leeds Mercury, 11 Mar.; Yorks. Gazette, 11, 18 Mar. 1820.
  • 4. Yorks. Gazette, 3 June 1820.
  • 5. CJ, lxxix. 211; lxxxiii. 389; lxxxvi. 47, 330.
  • 6. Ibid. lxxxiii. 96; lxxxiv. 94.
  • 7. Ibid. lxxxvi. 56, 74, 216.
  • 8. Ibid. 406.
  • 9. Brougham mss, Eliott to Brougham, 24 Apr.; Leeds Mercury, 14 May 1831.
  • 10. J.S. Fletcher, Making of Modern Yorks. 185.
  • 11. PP (1831-2), xl. 160-1.
  • 12. N. Gash, Politics in Age of Peel, 209-11.