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

The arrangement of these volumes follows that of the 1790-1820 section of the History of Parliament. There are 383 constituency articles, covering England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, in that order. With the exception of Scotland, they are set out alphabetically by county, and the county constituency articles precede those of the boroughs within the county. The English Cinque Ports are grouped together after Yorkshire. For Scotland, the 14 districts of burghs and Edinburgh are placed together, after the 33 counties. There are biographies, alphabetically arranged, of the 1,367 men who sat in the Commons between the general election of 1820 and the dissolution of the last unreformed Parliament in December 1832. Unsuccessful candidates involved in a double return have not been counted as Members unless they were returned elsewhere during this period. Readers are encouraged to treat the biographies and constituency articles as complementary.

In quotations from contemporary sources, spelling, capitalization and punctuation have been modernized. In the constituency histories and biographies, a raised asterisk following a name indicates a Member who sat during this period, in cases where the context does not make this obvious. A raised dagger denotes a Member sitting outside the period, before 1820 and/or after 1832.



This is based broadly on the pattern of the Survey in the 1790-1820 volumes, with a few variations. The constituencies are covered in the same way and order. The chapters on Wales, Scotland and Ireland also contain analyses of the political behaviour of the Members for those countries in the House. There are separate studies of the four general elections, which exclude any detailed examination of party and political developments in each Parliament. These are considered, for the whole period, in a separate part of the Survey. The physical structure, organization, procedure and business of the House of Commons are given due attention. There is a chapter on the complex evolution of the details of the English reform legislation of 1831-2, including the work of the boundary commissioners, and its impact on the old electoral system. The effect of reform on Wales, Scotland and Ireland is noticed in the pieces on those countries.

The part of the Survey which deals with the Members differs in a few minor particulars from that in the 1790-1820 section of the History of Parliament. There is a separate study of wealth and debt, which were previously considered under social standing. East and West Indians are treated separately rather than under entrepreneurs. There is a piece on scandals of various kinds, previously briefly noticed under rogues. To facilitate the compilation of the Members section of the Survey, a computerized database was devised. The appendices to the Survey combine elements of those in the 1790-1820 and 1690-1715 sections of the History of Parliament. The latter’s provision of a bibliography of the principal manuscript sources used has been followed (Appendix IX).



As in the 1790-1820 volumes, the constituency accounts of the English, Welsh and Irish boroughs begin with a definition of the right of election. In all articles except those on the Scottish burgh districts, an estimate of the number of qualified electors is then provided. Most of these are approximate, but in the case of almost all the English and Irish corporation boroughs and Edinburgh, where the franchise was in the city council, an exact figure can be supplied. For the Scottish counties, the number of enrolled freeholders in the general election years, taken from contemporary lists, is given. For the Scottish burgh groups, the number of councillors of each constituent burgh is stated in the first paragraph of the text. For the seven Welsh borough constituencies which contained more than one borough, all the relevant statistics are set out for each contributory. For the Irish counties, official totals of the number of registered freeholders before and after the 1829 Act which disfranchised the 40s. freeholders are supplied. For constituencies which experienced at least one contest, the largest number of men who actually voted in this period is given, where known, with the relevant date. The populations of the English, Welsh and Irish boroughs in 1821 and 1831 are stated; any qualifications (for example, figures which refer to the parish rather than the parliamentary borough) are footnoted. The populations of the Scottish contributory burghs are provided in the text. The dates of all elections, which are taken from the official Return of Members of Parliament (1878), are given, with those of by-elections italicized. The reason for the vacancy is stated. The names of all known candidates who went to the poll are supplied, with those of the successful ones in capitals. Poll figures are mostly taken from pollbooks, where available. In some cases, they are derived from newspaper reports. For Ireland, the basic source is Parliamentary Election Results in Ireland, 1801-1922 ed. B.M. Walker (Dublin, 1978). Where candidates standing for the same constituency took an additional name or style between elections, the change has been signified in brackets. Thus, under Cumberland, John Lowther returned in 1820 becomes (Sir) John Lowther, bt. in the returns for 1826 and 1830. A list of unsuccessful candidates can be found in Appendix VI.

The text begins with a brief summary of the constituency’s location, social and economic composition and condition and main sources of employment. For the boroughs, notice is taken of the apparatus of municipal government, with particular attention directed to those corporations which played a key role in parliamentary elections. The controlling or competing interests in each constituency are depicted. The narrative of parliamentary elections and of associated political activity between elections makes up the bulk of each article. In a new departure, the incidence of petitioning of both Houses on national issues has been traced in some detail, with references supplied to the Journals of both Houses. Petitioning and legislation on local matters, which increased greatly in this period, especially in the rapidly industrializing areas of the kingdom, have been noticed where relevant to electoral developments. No attempt has been made to undertake full occupational analysis of pollbooks, but the incidence of plumping and splitting, the voting of residents and out-voters, and in some cases the extent of turnout and continuity of voting between elections have been covered. The accounts conclude with a summary of the final impact of the 1832 Reform and Boundary Acts: total or partial disfranchisement; boundary changes; division of counties and the enfranchisement of new boroughs within them; the allocation of additional seats; amalgamation of some Scottish counties; the size of the registered electorate at the 1832 general election, and the outcome of that election.



These are arranged alphabetically, with cross-references for changes of name within the period, courtesy titles and Irish peerages. Members are styled at the head of their biographies according to the surname and style by which they were known when they were first returned to the House in this period. Men who have been covered under a different surname in a previous section of the History of Parliament have that name bracketed with the word `formerly’ after their 1820-1832 style. Exact namesakes are distinguished by the numbers I, II, etc., according to their date of entry to the House in this period: examples are ASSHETON SMITH, Thomas I and II; and CAMPBELL, John I and II. Eldest sons of peers are given their courtesy titles, and Irish and Scottish peerages are denoted by the addition of [I] and [S] respectively. In the preliminary paragraphs, MP [I] is used to identify Members of the Irish House of Commons before its abolition in 1801. Members’ principal residences are given in the heading. No address has usually been given for the eldest sons of peers if their home was the main family seat.

All the constituencies for which a Member sat are listed, in chronological order. Year dates only denote that the Member was returned at a general election and retired from that seat at a dissolution. Returns on petition or at by-elections and departures on account of death, elevation to the peerage or expulsion are signified by exact dates. These are also furnished in many cases for Members who vacated their seats (for whatever reason) by formally taking the Chiltern Hundreds. They are taken from TNA E197, kindly supplied by Roland Thorne. In cases where no precise date has been found, months have been used.

Exact birth or baptismal dates are given, when available. Where they have not been found, approximate year dates, signified by ‘?’, ‘c.’ or (less frequently) ‘bef.’ or ‘by’, depending on how the date has been inferred—most commonly from age at matriculation at university or admission to an Inn of Court, or from reported age at death. The genealogical information supplied by previous sections of the History of Parliament then follows. In new departures, father’s death dates (year only) are inserted in brackets after the father’s name or title, except in the case of Members who succeeded their fathers to property and/or a title; the date in these instances appears after ‘suc. fa.’ Also, brothers of our Members who sat outside this period are noted and daggered, along with brothers who sat between 1820 and 1832 (marked *). Another change from previous practice is the inclusion of the Member’s exact or approximate date of death (‘d.’) at the end of the first of the preliminary paragraphs. As a result, a month and year only are generally given in the text. Every effort has been made to establish accurate figures for the number of children, legitimate or otherwise, fathered by Members, and for those who died in their father’s lifetimes (d.v.p.); but the imperfection of records, certainly before 1837, means that they cannot all be regarded as entirely reliable.

Education is covered as previously. Careers in the navy, army, civil or diplomatic service, and the East India Company which preceded entry to Parliament are set out in the second preliminary paragraph. Offices held by Members are listed, but places on commissions of the peace, which were routine for any man of standing in a county, have not been included, though long service as chairman of quarter sessions has been noted. Likewise, directorships of commercial companies are included selectively.

For Members new to Parliament in this period, the text of the biographies covers their family background and lives before entry to the House, including unsuccessful attempts to secure seats and extra-parliamentary political activity. For Members who sat before 1820, the retrospective element is kept to a minimum, unless significant new information has come to light. At the core of all the biographies is the Member’s parliamentary career. They explain how he obtained a seat and describe his activity (or lack of it) in the House, noting his political affiliation, voting record and contributions to debate, if any, and reason for leaving Parliament. Notice of membership of select committees has been restricted to the most important of such committees, in order to avoid producing tedious and largely meaningless lists. At the same time, in the case of Members who had a particular interest, membership of committees relevant to that subject is recorded. The handful of truly indefatigable committeemen are identified. Political activity outside the House during membership of it, especially at local meetings on national issues, is given due weight. Details of other non-parliamentary features of Members’ lives are included if they help to produce a fuller sense of the man. The political careers of Members who sat in the Commons after 1832 or were active as peers are lightly sketched. Those who did not sit again after 1832 receive slightly fuller coverage, if anything of interest can be said. The principal provisions of Members’ wills or grants of administration are stated, but notice of the contentious valuations in the death duty records have been restricted to the personal estates of Members whose wills were proved within about ten years of their leaving the House in this period. Anecdotal evidence of great wealth or financial ruin is, however, included.



Constituency Articles. As noted above, basic information about the dates and results of elections is taken from the Returns, pollbooks, the notebooks of W.W. Bean and newspapers. For the social and economic composition and condition of English and Welsh constituencies, the basic source was Pigot’s National Commercial Directory, in various contemporary editions. County directories, published local histories, articles in the journals of local historical and record societies and unpublished theses were also consulted, as appropriate. The Parliamentary Gazetteer of England and Wales, 4 vols. (1844) and Samuel Lewis, Topographical Dictionary of Wales, 2 vols. (1843) were sometimes drawn on. For the Scottish constituencies, the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland, 6 vols. (1895) was consulted; and for the Irish, Lewis’s Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 2 vols. (1837) was the principal source. Use was also made of T.H. B. Oldfield’s An Entire and Complete History … of the Boroughs of Great Britain, 2 vols. (1794); The Representative History of Great Britain and Ireland, 6 vols. (1816); and A Key to the House of Commons (1820). The Parliamentary Papers were an extremely valuable source for the constituency articles. The main groups consulted were PP (1823), xv (Scottish royal burghs); (1824), xxi and (1830), xxix (Irish electoral registration); (1830-1), x and (1831-2), xxvi, xxvii (statistical returns relating to the 1831 reform bills); (1831-2), xxxviii-xliii (reports of the boundary commissioners); (1835), xxiii-xxix and (1836), xxiii, xxiv (reports of municipal corporations commissioners). J. Holladay Philbin, Parliamentary Representation, 1832: England and Wales (New Haven, 1965) provides a handy guide to these sources of information. The richest source for the narratives of electoral and political history in each constituency was the provincial press, which proliferated in this period. Countless hours were spent at the Colindale outpost of the British Library. Reports in The Times, the Courier and some other national newspapers were also used. For petitions to both Houses on a wide variety of subjects, plus election petitions, the printed indexes to the Commons Journals and Lords Journals provided a way in. Full CJ and LJ references are supplied in the endnotes to the articles. Details of registered electorates at the 1832 general election are taken from McCalmont’s Parliamentary Poll Book ed. J. Vincent and M. Stenton (Brighton, 1971); Dod’s Electoral Facts from 1832 to 1853, Impartially Stated ed. H.J. Hanham (Brighton, 1972), and Philip Salmon, Electoral Reform at Work: Local Politics and National Parties, 1832-1841 (2002), 256-64. The original figures can be found in PP (1833), xxvii and (1834), ix.


Biographies. The basic canon of genealogical reference works and sources of information on education and office-holding were described in some detail by David Hayton in the Introductory Survey to the 1690-1715 volumes of the History of Parliament, and it would be pointless to reproduce them here.1 As ever, references are not usually given for information in the preliminary paragraphs derived from these standard sources. The starting point for all Members was Gerrit P. Judd, Members of Parliament, 1734-1832 (Yale, 1955) and its references. For the biographies in these volumes, heavy use was made of the online International Genealogical Index ( In a few instances, marriage and death certificates from the period after 1837 were obtained. The Gentleman’s Magazine was a fruitful source for marriages and obituaries. Wills proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury up to 1858 (TNA PROB 11) were routinely examined, as were records of grants of administration (PROB 6) and probate act books (PROB 8), as necessary, and the probate calendars for wills proved after 1858; these are currently available at First Avenue House, High Holborn, London WC1V 6NP. Death duty registers (TNA IR26) were consulted, but were only selectively used. A few Scottish wills and grants of probate were seen. Full references for these sources are in the endnotes. Mercantile careers were followed initially through directories, particularly the annual London ones. The London Gazette was useful for tracing the course of bankruptcy proceedings and clearing up some obscure steps in army promotions. Edith Mary Johnston-Liik, History of the Irish Parliament, 1692-1800, 6 vols. (Belfast, 2002) helped with some Irishmen. For Members whose Commons careers continued after 1832, annual editions of Dod’s Parliamentary Companion and James Grant’s Random Recollections of the House of Commons (5th edn. 1837) and Random Recollections of the Lords and Commons (ser. 2), 2 vols. (1838) were looked at.


Parliamentary career. The Commons Journals covering this period (volumes lxxv-lxxxvii) were selectively indexed to Members’ names, with attention directed mainly to grants of leave of absence, appointments to select committees and, for backbenchers, legislative initiatives. The division lists (for details of which see Appendix VII) form the essential material for describing Members’ political allegiances and behaviour in the House. For reports of debates, the principal source for the period 1820-27 inclusive was Hansard’s Parliamentary Debates (new series), vols. i-xvii (1820-8). From February 1828 to the dissolution in 1832 the relevant 19 volumes of the Mirror of Parliament ed. John Henry Barrow (1828-32) were used. The reports of speeches and other proceedings in the Mirror appear to be comprehensive; but at an early stage it was discovered that reports in The Times contained much material which was not printed in the Debates. Therefore the additional matter in The Times from 1820 to 1827 was indexed. The bulk of it relates to the presentation of petitions, but it also notices some contributions to debate by Members who would otherwise have been written off as ‘silent’. For speeches and interventions which are reported in the Debates and Mirror, no references are given in the endnotes, but full dates are supplied in the text. Those which derive from The Times are given an endnote reference. The parliamentary lists of Members described in Appendix VII provide further guides to Members’ political disposition at various points in the period. The unpublished parliamentary diaries kept by the radical Whig Henry Grey Bennet (Parliamentary Archives HL/PO/RO/1/129), the only known surviving volume of which covers the 1821 session, and by the Whig plantation owner Samuel Moulton Barrett (Parliamentary Archives HC/LB/1/89), which describes proceedings, 5 Feb.-18 Apr. 1822, have been used. Both are rather dull. The Canningite John Evelyn Denison’s surviving diaries (Nottingham Univ. Lib. Acc. 636) concentrate on parliamentary matters and political developments between February 1826 and June 1830. The journals of the Tory backbencher Henry Bankes (Dorset RO D/BKL/116-77) contain much parliamentary material, as does that of Lord Grey’s son Lord Howick (Grey mss GRE/C2/4-5), for the period January 1828 to November 1830. The diary of the Whig George Agar Ellis (Northants. RO) has parliamentary as well as personal and social entries. So too does that of Edward John Littleton, later Lord Hatherton (Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Archives Service), some of which has been published in Three Early Nineteenth Century Diaries ed. A. Aspinall (1952). It throws much interesting light on the work of the 1831 boundary commission and the sometimes chaotic discussions and proceedings from which emerged the final English reform bill. The Tory Sir John Benn Walsh kept a diary (NLW, Ormathwaite mss FG/1/5,6), which includes reports of and reflections on parliamentary proceedings from November 1830 to the end of 1832. The diaries of John Bonham Carter (Hants RO, Bonham Carter mss F40); Sir John Dashwood King (Bodl. MS. DD. Dashwood F.4/4-9); Sir George Shiffner (E. Suss. RO SHR 827-9); Evelyn John Shirley (Warws. RO CR 229/174 and PRO NI D3531/J/2/3), and Richard Aglionby Slaney (Salop RO 6003/1-5) have varying amounts of parliamentary content. James Grattan kept a substantial journal, but it is mostly illegible (NLI, Grattan mss 3847-53, 5775-9, 14136-63). The enormous number of letters written by and to Members which form part of the many collections of manuscripts consulted in the preparation of these volumes are a rich source for parliamentary history (for which see Appendix IX). A list of the most frequently cited printed primary sources (letters, diaries, memoirs, recollections, being largely those on open access in the Institute of Historical Research) can be found under `Abbreviations’ in the preliminaries of the volumes of constituency histories and biographies.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: David R. Fisher

End Notes

  • 1. See HP Commons, 1690-1715, i. 14-20.