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 inhabitants paying scot and lot

Number of voters:

about 100


15 Apr. 1754John Gibbons 
 George Hay 
8 Dec. 1756Edward Wingfield, Visct. Powerscourt, vice Hay, appointed to office 
27 Mar. 1761George Prescott 
 Nicholas Linwood 
18 Mar. 1768Richard Worge 
 Richard Fuller 
5 May 1772James Hare vice Worge, vacated his seat56
 Ambrose Gilbert35
6 Oct. 1774John Luttrell83
 Simon Luttrell, Baron Irnham78
 John Frost Widmore31
 Mr. Crowe29
16 Dec. 1775James Luttrell vice John Luttrell, vacated his seat79
 John Frost Widmore16
6 Sept. 1780John Luttrell66
 James Luttrell61
 Sir Willoughby Aston56
 Robert Mayne51
30 Mar. 1784John Luttrell 
 Thomas Boothby Parkyns 
31 Jan. 1785James Gordon vice Luttrell, appointed to office 

Main Article

Stockbridge was a venal borough. In 1754 Robert Henley (later Lord Northington) managed the election, at least for one seat (of George Hay). But on 23 Nov. 1756, over Hay’s re-election, Henry Fox sent the following account of Stockbridge to the Duke of Bedford:1

The present attorney-general, Sir Robert Henley, more than a year and half ago sent a person to me with a very good scheme to put Stockbridge upon a more practicable, creditable, certain, and less venal, foot. I saw this person again in April and June last, and great progress was made. Dr. Hay on this vacancy applies to Sir Robert Henley; Sir Robert answers that what interest he had had, and particularly the person Dr. Hay mentioned, were now, not at his, but at Mr. Fox’s disposal.

But Hay did not apply to him, and Fox was determined not to return him. And in a letter to the Duke of Devonshire, 20 Nov.:2 ‘The election is quite sure against Dr. Hay ... and I fancy sure against any other person who may come unless with such a sum of money as must conquer anything.’ Lastly, in a state of the borough sent to Devonshire on 24 Nov.:

Should Mr. Fox, unasked, choose Dr. Hay, or should he choose his friend Lord Powerscourt now, and two friends at all future elections at Stockbridge for these fourteen years if he lives so long? There is not one person employed, or who has a vote, who has the least dependence on the Government or any public office whatsoever.

At this by-election Fox returned Lord Powerscourt, and in 1761 George Prescott and Nicholas Linwood.

On 15 Jan. 1767 Charles Fox wrote to John Craufurd from Naples, where he was with his father, that at Stockbridge they were sure for one but saw little likelihood of choosing two.3 James Harris noted in a memorandum of 9 Aug. of a dinner party at Stephen Fox’s:

I heard there that the voters of Stockbridge, 96 in number, had already received for their two votes 50 guineas a man; that this sum, an extraordinary one to the returning officer, and treating, would bring the expense to more than £2,500 a man. Sir George Macartney and General Worge of Senegal the candidates; the last, with about £7,000.

It is not clear in what relation Worge stood to Fox and whether either he or Richard Fuller, returned with him in 1768, was Fox’s candidate. But when in 1772 Worge vacated his seat, James Hare, a close friend of Charles James Fox, was returned after a contest.

By 1774 Charles James Fox was hard pressed for money and could no longer afford to maintain his interest at Stockbridge. The borough passed into the hands of the Luttrell family, apparently as the result of lavish bribery.4 For the remainder of this period they maintained their hold on both seats, though there were contests in 1774, 1775, and 1780. Stockbridge’s reputation for venality, bad in 1754, was notorious by 1790.

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


  • 1. Bedford mss 32, f. 107.
  • 2. Devonshire mss.
  • 3. Corresp. C.J. Fox, i. 35.
  • 4. Ex inf. Miss Rosalind M. T. Hill.