Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the freemen

Number of voters:

about 150


(1821): 8,326


20 Feb. 1801 PONSONBY TOTTENHAM vice Leigh, vacated his seat
10 Nov. 1806SIR ROBERT WIGRAM I, Bt.
3 Mar. 1810 PETER PARKER vice Nevill, vacated his seat
1 July 1811 RICHARD NEVILL vice Parker, vacated his seat
13 Feb. 1813 JOHN FISH vice Nevill, vacated his seat
9 Aug. 1814 RICHARD NEVILL vice Fish, vacated his seat
1 Mar. 1819 HENRY EVANS vice Nevill, vacated his seat

Main Article

On 6 May 1798 the heads of the leading interests in this fast expanding port, Lord Ely and Richard Nevill, came to an agreement ‘that a cordial union shall exist between them in the borough of Wexford’ under which each would return a Member and choose alternately the mayor, burgesses and an equal number of freemen, ‘each party to act as trustees for the other’. On 30 Nov. 1800 they agreed to the alternate nomination to the one seat surviving under the terms of the Union. This was confirmed on 16 June 1806 between Nevill and Ely’s heir who had succeeded on 22 Mar. The arrangement, which probably reflected the fact that neither owned great property in the town, lasted until 1829.1 Ely’s Member, Leigh, replaced almost at once by his kinsman Tottenham, came in in 1801 and Nevill returned himself in 1802. On the death of Ely, 22 Mar. 1806, Nevill gave out that ‘the bargain of alternative return’ had now ended and that he was determined to stand again at the general election without a doubt of success; but the 2nd Marquess supposed no such thing, and after their agreement in June it was he who named Sir Robert Wigram in 1806. In 1807 Wigram informed a friend that he must resign Wexford for this turn to its old Member Nevill.2 In 1810, in order to recoup his health, Nevill introduced a kinsman as substitute. In 1812 Ely, whom government had humoured by giving him local patronage,3 agreed to Nevill’s retaining the seat for that turn, as they could not spare him a seat elsewhere.4 In 1813 Nevill again introduced a substitute for a year, and he did exactly the same in 1819 when sitting in his own turn: on each occasion his substitutes were expected to support government, as he did.5

The local community, particularly the Catholics who were excluded from the corporation, gradually took exception to this arrangement and to the unrepresentative composition of the corporation. In 1813 and 1814 Catholic apprentices sought unsuccessfully to become freemen and in 1816 and 1817 there was unsuccessful opposition to the corporation’s levying of tolls and customs. The first breakthrough came in 1829 when the House decided that the franchise belonged to those who had served apprenticeships and who were resident at the time of their admission.6

Author: P. J. Jupp


  • 1. Report on Mun. Corp. [I], H.C. 1835, xxviii, pp. x, pt. 1, pp. 624-5.
  • 2. NLS mss 12917, Sir J. Newport to Elliot, 12 Apr.; Spencer mss, Spencer to Bedford, 27 Oct. 1806; PRO, Dacres Adams mss 10/10.
  • 3. Wellington mss, Wellesley to Richmond, 7 Mar. 1808.
  • 4. Add. 40280, f. 37.
  • 5. Add. 40227, f. 298.
  • 6. Report on Mun. Corp. [I ] H>C. 1835, xxviii, app. x, pt. 1, pp. 619-32; Parl. Rep. [I ], H.C. 1831-2 (519), xliii. 140-6.