Double Member Borough

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in inhabitant householders

Number of voters:

about 200


15 Apr. 1754Thomas Lockyer 
 John Talbot 
29 Dec. 1755Talbot re-elected after appointment to office 
8 Dec. 1756Joseph Tolson Lockyer vice Talbot, deceased 
27 Mar. 1761Joseph Tolson Lockyer111
 John Perceval, Earl of Egmont100
 Richard Combe55
4 Dec. 1761William Wilson vice Egmont, chose to sit for Bridgwater 
26 Apr. 1765Peter Legh vice Lockyer, deceased89
 John Kennion51
16 Mar. 1768Peter Legh 
 Brownlow Cust 
8 Oct. 1774Peregrine Cust103
 William Innes102
 Richard Brown53
 Inigo William Jones53
 Election declared void, 4 Dec. 1775 
14 Dec. 1775Nathaniel Webb 
 Owen Salusbury Brereton 
 Richard Brown 
 Inigo William Jones 
7 Sept. 1780Peregrine Cust 
 Samuel Smith 
2 Apr. 1784Peregrine Cust95
 Benjamin Bond Hopkins89
 John Harcourt70
 Sir Samuel Hannay59
8 Feb. 1785John Harcourt vice Cust, deceased118
 George Johnstone101
 Johnstone vice Harcourt, on petition, 22 Feb. 1786 
24 Feb. 1787George Sumner vice Johnstone, vacated his seat 

Main Article

Ilchester was a venal borough, with an electorate described by Francis Fane in 1756 as ‘poor and corrupt, without honour, morals, or attachment to any man or party’.1 The election of 1774 was declared void because of bribery, and John Harcourt was unseated in 1786 because of ‘gross and illegal’ malpractices by the returning officer. For most of this period its patron was Thomas Lockyer, but by 1774 his hold on the borough seems to have become less complete. John Robinson wrote in his survey for the general election of 1784:2 ‘This borough is open, but notwithstanding the weight of interest is with the old Members’, i.e. the Lockyer candidates, who were in fact returned.

Lockyer died on 9 July 1785, and in his will instructed his executors to sell his property and invest the proceeds in Government stock. But it seems that Samuel Smith, his son-in-law, had succeeded to a good deal of Lockyer’s influence in the borough. There was also a rival interest managed by John Harcourt on behalf of Richard Troward, a London attorney, who had purchased property in Ilchester. At the by-election of 1785 Smith secured the return of his candidate, George Johnstone, on petition; and when Johnstone retired from Parliament, offered the seat to a friend of Lord Hawkesbury.3 Towards the end of this period the situation at Ilchester became very confused, and it is not at all clear who had the chief interest in the borough.

Author: John Brooke


  • 1. Add. 32867, f. 474.
  • 2. Laprade, 75.
  • 3. Add. 38220, f. 252.