Constituencies 1715-1754

Published in 1970

Between 1715 and 1754 the House of Commons consisted of 558 Members, elected by 314 constituencies. The 245 English constituencies (40 counties, 203 boroughs, 2 universities) returned 489 Members; the 24 Welsh constituencies and 45 Scottish constituencies returned one Member each. The constituencies and contested elections are listed in a section in the Introductory Survey.

The franchise in the counties was the ancient 40 shilling freeholder franchise: the vote belonged to those with freehold property worth £2 or more. In the boroughs, the widest franchise lay in the inhabitant householder or 'potwalloper' boroughs, where all resident householders not in receipt of alms or poor relief were able to vote. The largest group of boroughs was the freeman boroughs, where the right of voting lay in the freemen of the town. In the scot and lot boroughs, the right to vote was held by inhabitants paying the poor rate. Corporation boroughs, where the right to vote was confined to the corporation, were uniformly small, under 60 electors; burgage boroughs, where the franchise was attached to property, not to people, often became pocket boroughs. In a small number of boroughs, the freeholder boroughs, the right of voting lay in possession of a freehold within the borough concerned.

The twelve Welsh counties each returned one Member to Parliament, using the same franchise as for the English counties. The largest of them could muster around 2,000 voters. There were 12 Welsh borough constituencies, 5 of them single boroughs, and the others groups of boroughs united for electoral purposes, using various franchises.

In Scotland, the pre-1707 franchise had been adapted for the purposes of the Union Parliament. 27 of the 33 Scottish counties each sent one Member to the House of Commons, with six of the smaller counties grouped together in pairs and one of each pair alternated with the other in electing Members, Parliament by Parliament. The Scottish burghs, with the exception of Edinburgh, were, like the Welsh ones, combined in groups for the purpose of electing Members of Parliament, with fourteen groups or districts, five of them having four burghs and nine having five burghs. They used a system of indirect election, with each burgh council electing a delegate to a meeting which elected the Member of Parliament.