Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1715-1754, ed. R. Sedgwick, 1970
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Number of voters:

about 3,000


27 Jan. 1715JAMES BERTIE1604
 Sir John Austen1330
 Henry Barker1325
30 Mar. 1722JAMES BERTIE1800
 Henry Barker908
 Sir George Cooke662
 William Withers228
6 Sept. 1727JAMES BERTIE1410
 Thomas Catesby Paget, Lord Paget1039
 Henry Barker1074
15 May 1740SIR HUGH SMITHSON vice Child, deceased382
 Henry Barker147
5 Aug. 1742SIR ROGER NEWDIGATE vice Pulteney, called to the Upper House 
2 July 1747SIR HUGH SMITHSON1797
 George Cooke899
 Sir Roger Newdigate794
8 Mar. 1750GEORGE COOKE vice Smithson, called to the Upper House1617
 Frazer Honywood1201

Main Article

In 1715, according to a Whig report, the Tories,

having got a great mob on their side at Brentford, where the election for the county of Middlesex came on, ... those who came for the Whig candidates, Sir John Austen and Henry Barker Esq., were so deterred by the insults of the rude unruly multitudes (who were encouraged and set on by several clergymen) that great numbers of them went away without giving their votes: by which means the high church candidates, viz. the Hon. James Bertie and Hugh Smithson Esq., carried the day.1

In 1722 Barker and Austen stood again against three Tories, Bertie, William Withers, son of Sir William Withers, Tory M.P. for London under Queen Anne, and Sir George Cooke, father of George Cooke. The Duke of Chandos, one of the principal landowners in the county, wrote to Bertie:

I entreat you will be so good if you judge it not improper (since the other candidates I am told are endeavouring to prevail with Mr. Smithson for his interest) to write two lines to Mr. Smithson to let him know that though you don’t join with Sir George Cooke, yet he would be more acceptable to you for a partner than either of the other two gentlemen who offer their service on this occasion. As your interest is deservedly great and well established I am persuaded this will be a singular service to him, and may be a means of securing him Mr. Smithson’s interest, which otherwise is in danger of being disposed of to his prejudice.2

Bertie and Sir George Cooke agreed not to oppose one another3 but Austen was returned with Bertie.

At the 1727 election Barker hired a mob

of about a hundred ... at 5 s. each, at an alehouse, where samples [sic] of their clubs were produced ... Mr. Barker was not confined to land forces only, for that the captain of a certain man of war went by water to Brentford, and there landed a great number of his ship’s crew, which, he said, were there delivered for the service of Mr. Barker ... At this poll several justices of the peace appeared in the booth, and though they had no votes, made use of their authority to intimidate the friends of Mr. Bertie and Mr. Child by threatening to commit some without cause further than that they polled for Mr. Bertie and Mr. Child, and by actually committing others upon bare suspicion or having been rioters.4

Nevertheless, the two Tory candidates, Bertie and Child, were successful. In 1734 several of the county justices asked Lord Carnarvon, son of the Duke of Chandos, to stand, but he refused to oppose Pulteney and Child, the anti-administration candidates.5 Pulteney was attacked by a pro-government newspaper for standing jointly with Child:

This is that Whig whom the Tories have nominated for a county where no man could be easily chosen that was not embarked in the depth of their interests: where he himself would not have been chosen 7 years since and where he is now received on a thorough probation of his being their own.6

On Child’s death in 1740, Sir Hugh Smithson, cousin and heir of Hugh Smithson, stood as a Tory. The 6th Duke of Somerset, to whose grand-daughter he was engaged, wrote to him, 26 May:

I am glad to find by your letter of the 23rd instant ... that my interest has been of good service to you. Mr. Clitherow [j.p. for the county] was so very obliging to give me notice that Mr. Barker of Chiswick was the only person who offered them to oppose you at the election for the county of Middlesex. I did immediately send back my servant to receive Mr. Clitherow’s instructions in all things proper to be done on such a surprise, and notice was then given to my servants, agents and others to send in as many freeholders as could be procured at Brentford and some miles about, which proved right for your security and a great satisfaction to me when I heard you was elected.7

At the general election Pulteney and Smithson were returned unopposed. A year later, George Cooke wrote to Sir Roger Newdigate, a local Tory landowner:

I have the pleasure to acquaint you by this special messenger that if you care to offer your services to represent the county of Middlesex in the room of Mr. Pulteney, now Earl of Bath, I have great reason to think you will be chose without opposition. When the Earl’s promotion was first known I had some conversation with Sir Hugh Smithson, Sir Robert Grosvenor and others who all agreed to name Mr. Clitherow. But there being then some doubt whether he would accept of it, I took the liberty to mention your name as a very proper person in case of the other’s refusal. Mr. Clitherow has this day absolutely declined standing, in consequence of which you have been named to the Earl of Bath who has no objection and will do all the service he can. Sir Hugh Smithson, Sir Robert Grosvenor ... and many others are agreed to support your interest and there is no question of your being perfectly agreeable to the county in general.8

The Duke of Bedford also pledged his interest to Newdigate,9 who was returned unopposed.

In 1747, Newdigate wrote:

Sir H. Smithson proposed to me to join him as a candidate for the next election for the county of Middlesex, and upon my declining it as a want of due deference to the county to propose ourselves without the authority of a general meeting he declared that if I would not immediately give him a positive answer he would advertise the next day and give it for a reason that he did not join me that I would not give him an answer, adding that he should be joined. I told him I could not give him an answer without the advice of my friends but should see Mr. Clitherow and would leave it to his opinion. Sir Hugh repeated his proposal to me before Mr. Clitherow and I repeated my answer, upon which Mr. Clitherow declared that it was always the method in the county to appoint the candidates at a general meeting ... Mr. Cooke came in, and said he had been applied to by many of his friends to stand, which he had given into upon hearing several persons named to be joined with me as Sir Hugh had deserted the country [i.e. the opposition] interest ... It was then determined to leave the whole of the result to a general meeting.10

Smithson stood jointly with another government supporter, defeating Cooke and Newdigate, on which the Duke of Newcastle wrote to him:

I cannot avoid taking the liberty to congratulate you upon the great and surprising majority with which you and your friend Sir William Beauchamp Proctor have carried the election for the county of Middlesex ... His Majesty and all his true friends and servants are sensible of the obligations they have to you for this great and most successful turn in this county.11

In 1750, when Smithson had succeeded to the peerage, Pelham wrote to the Duke of Bedford (10 Feb.):

Sir Hugh Smithson sent to me this morning Mr. Honywood [M.P.] the banker, as a proper person to stand for the county of Middlesex against Cooke. He has a very good estate and is a very active zealous Whig ... I hope your Grace approves of this measure, which is entirely Sir Hugh’s, and I doubt not but with unity and spirit, we shall be able to carry the election for Honywood.12

At the general meeting, however, George Cooke was adopted by ‘a great majority’. Bedford, who had made himself unpopular by his conduct in the Westminster election of 1749-50, was accused of interfering in a county election, while Smithson was said to be ‘hackneying out his interest and meanly canvassing for a candidate, who had already been precluded by the sense of a great majority of electors’ and ‘before he was scarce warm in his robes, polluting their maiden ermine by such an unconstitutional proceeding’.13 Cooke was returned, thus regaining one of the seats for the Tories.

Author: Eveline Cruickshanks


  • 1. Pol. State, ix. 88.
  • 2. 14 Mar. 1722, Chandos letter bks.
  • 3. Daily Post, 15 Mar. 1722.
  • 4. Pol. State, xxxiv. 155-8.
  • 5. Chandos to Sir Joseph Ayloffe, 17, 20 Mar. 1734, Chandos letter bks.
  • 6. ‘Free Briton’, quoted Gent. Mag. 1734, p. 204.
  • 7. Duke of Northumberland mss at Alnwick.
  • 8. Endorsed 15 July [1742], Newdigate mss.
  • 9. Bedford to Newdigate, 22 July 1742, Bedford mss.
  • 10. 30 Apr. 1747, Newdigate mss.
  • 11. 4 July 1747, Northumberland mss.
  • 12. Bedford mss.
  • 13. A Collection of Papers ... published during the election of a knight of the shire ... to serve ... in the room of Sir Hugh Smithson (1750).