Available from Boydell and Brewer
Right of Election:
in the freemen
Number of voters:
about 1,900 in 1722; 450 in 1734; 300 in 1747
|1 Feb. 1715||CORBET KYNASTON|
|21 Nov. 1715||ANDREW CORBET, vice Jones, deceased|
|28 Mar. 1722||CORBET KYNASTON||1144|
|Sir Richard Corbet||744|
|BRIDGEMAN and CORBET vice Kynaston and Lyster, on petition, 9 Apr. 1723|
|30 Aug. 1727||RICHARD LYSTER||241|
|SIR JOHN ASTLEY||233|
|29 Apr. 1734||WILLIAM KINASTON||269|
|SIR RICHARD CORBET||265|
|5 May 1741||SIR RICHARD CORBET|
|6 July 1747||WILLIAM KINASTON||155|
|SIR RICHARD CORBET||150|
|Richard Prynce Astley||135|
|9 Mar. 1749||THOMAS HILL vice Kinaston, deceased|
Shrewsbury elections were contested on party lines by much the same families as those of the county. The corporation was dominated by the Whigs, who thus had control of the admission of freemen, but before 1723, owing to the size of the electorate, this advantage was not decisive. The Whigs had the support of the Dissenters and of the most powerful local landowner, Lord Bradford, whilst the Tory strength lay mainly in the suburbs and liberties, which extended over a wide area of countryside. In the town there was a strong undercurrent of Jacobitism, which broke out in 1715, when the mob burned the Dissenters’ meeting-houses.1
The election of 1715 was compromised, but in 1722 the Tories won both seats, though the Whig corporation had admitted 138 non-resident Whig freemen. The return was reversed on petition by a party vote of the House of Commons, who took the opportunity to reduce the electorate by excluding the liberties and most of the suburbs from the parliamentary borough. The right of election was declared to be only in the resident freemen, paying scot and lot.2
The 1727 election was an all-Tory affair, but the Whigs continued their measures for reducing the electorate with such effect that it amounted only to about 450 in 1734. At this election eight companies of foot were encamped in the suburbs ‘to support the corporation and overawe the other party’.3 Two Whigs, William Kinaston and Sir Richard Corbet, were returned, retaining their seats unopposed in 1741, and after a contest in 1747, by which time the electorate had been reduced to about 300 voters.
Shortly after the election of 1747, Sir Richard Corbet told Lord Powis, that he would not serve in another Parliament, especially as William Kinaston was unlikely to survive this one, and asked him to keep up the Whig interest in Shrewsbury.4 On Kinaston’s death in 1749 Thomas Hill was put up by the corporation and gentlemen of both parties. Hill’s agent informed him that
the Presbyterians seem to be quite desirous that you should be the candidate ... they cry by all means an honest worthy gentleman, a neighbour and no party man.5
Later he reported that the corporation were ‘taking a method which must infallibly give them the majority’, by striking out freemen unable to prove freedom by descent, and by manipulating parish assessments.6 Eventually Hill had the support of both sides, the Tory Sir John Astley giving him his interest and Lord Powis that of his Whig friends in the town.7
Author: J. B. Lawson
- 1. H. Owen J. B. Blakeway, Hist. Shrewsbury, i. 504.
- 2. Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. (ser. 1), xi. 204-5; CJ, xx. 190-4.
- 3. Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. (ser. 4), iv. 66.
- 4. Corbet to Edw. Corbet, n.d. 1747-9, Longnor mss, Salop RO 567.
- 5. To Thos. Hill, 19 Dec. 1748, Attingham mss, Salop RO.
- 6. To Thos. Hill, 14 Jan. 1749, ibid.
- 7. Sir John Astley to his agent, 2 Feb. 1749, Ld. Powis to Hill, 3 Mar. 1749, Attingham mss.