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

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the freemen

Number of voters:

99 in 1713


8 Feb. 1715HENRY HOWARD, Lord Morpeth 
 Thomas Renda 
 Oley Douglas 
16 Apr. 1717GEORGE CARPENTER vice Castlecomer, chose to sit for Ripon 
31 Mar. 1722HENRY HOWARD, Lord Morpeth 
 HENRY HOWARD, Lord Morpeth52
 George Bowes 
 Robert Fenwick17
27 Apr. 1734HENRY HOWARD, Lord Morpeth 
18 May 1738HENRY FURNESE vice Morpeth, called to the Upper House 
29 June 1747JAMES HAMILTON, Visct. Limerick 

Main Article

The patrons of Morpeth were the earls of Carlisle who, as lords of the manor, could restrict the admission of new freemen, reward their supporters by leasing farms to them on favourable terms, and punish recalcitrants by denying them access for their cattle to Cottingwood common, a tract of common land. From 1715 the 3rd Earl was always able to nominate one Member, his son, Lord Morpeth, ‘without expense’. When Morpeth as 4th Earl intimated that he expected the same treatment for Robert Ord, his agent replied:

Your Lordship was the Member who was chose without expense, and I dare say that at all times any of your Lordship’s relations may rely upon the same, but give me leave to observe to your Lordship that the way to establish your Lordship’s interest so firmly that none would presume to oppose it, which is the footing I wish to have it upon, is to engage every indifferent person that your Lordship may at any time think fit to recommend, to give some gratification, particularly among the poor who can receive no other benefit from your Lordship, having no cattle to put on Cottingwood nor able to take a farm.

The agent also recommended that Lord Carlisle should discharge the municipal debt of £150 and present the corporation with a badly needed fire-engine and a clock, which would make his ‘interest firm and lasting’. Lord Carlisle did not provide a fire-engine, but Ord was re-elected without opposition.

In return for one Member free of charge, the 3rd Earl was accustomed to allow the corporation to make what they could out of the second seat. Their policy was to

stipulate for such a sum as may amply provide for those that will take money and that such a sum over and above may be procured for the public as may make the corporation easy and not be burdened with an annual tax ... the town’s revenues being so very small and inconsiderable.1

In 1715 they returned Lord Castlecomer, who chose to sit for Ripon, whereupon they replaced him by George Carpenter, who was re-elected in 1722. When in 1724 Carpenter was thinking of buying an office of profit under the Crown, which would vacate his seat, he sounded them as to the terms on which he might be re-elected. He was informed ‘that they had assembled the freemen and that for £500 he should be chosen’. On learning that a wealthy coal owner, George Bowes, by-passing the corporation, had secured a majority of the voters by promising them £20 a man, Carpenter replied to the corporation

that £500 for the same Member to be re-elected was a great sum so soon after gratifying them largely, and it was not so kind as he expected; however, since even complying with that would not secure his election, he designed not to quit his seat in Parliament.

Carpenter did not stand in 1727 when Bowes, having secured 56 Morpeth voters by depositing £1,000 as a guarantee that they would be paid after the election, decided to stand for the county, turning over his interest at Morpeth to Thomas Robinson, in return for a payment of £1,200. On learning of this transaction the corporation

made several applications to those in Mr. Bowes’s interest that some share of the thousand pounds that they were to have (and lately lodged in town) might be applied to some public good. We were told for answer that they would not apply one shilling that way and that if sixpence were given us they would desert Mr. Bowes’s interest.

On this the corporation asked Lord Carlisle to ‘think of some proper person to represent us as a second Member’ on the usual terms:

if the poorer sort be gratified with £20 a man and somewhat done for the public, we don’t doubt but a majority may be gained for your Lordship’s recommendation, a great many of Mr. Bowes’s friends resolving not to vote for a Member of his putting up or recommending.

Lord Carlisle, however, came to an agreement with Bowes, under which their candidates were to join interests. The corporation thereupon put up Robert Fenwick, who was defeated by Robinson and Lord Morpeth, Robinson heading the poll because some of Bowes’s voters broke their pledge to vote for Robinson and Lord Morpeth and instead voted for Robinson and Bowes. A petition by Fenwick against Robinson was withdrawn at the request of the corporation in return for a payment to them by Robinson of £150.2

In 1734 Robinson was replaced by Sir Henry Liddell, another wealthy coal owner, who paid ‘a bounty’ of £1,000 to his supporters.3 He sat for Morpeth without opposition till he was raised to the peerage in 1747, when he turned over his interest to the 4th Earl of Carlisle, who nominated both candidates at the ensuing election. Later in the year the 4th Earl tightened his hold on the borough by securing a resolution from the freemen at a ‘corporate meeting’ that no freeman should be created without his prior consent.4 Soon after this the 2nd Lord Egmont, in his electoral survey, described Morpeth as ‘totally in Lord Carlisle’.

Author: Romney R. Sedgwick


  • 1. J. M. Fewster, ‘Pol. and Admin. of Morpeth in the later 18th Cent.’ (Durham Univ. Ph.D. thesis), 66, 55.
  • 2. Ibid. 53-56, 60; Robinson to Bowes, 5 Sept. 1727, Add. 40748, f. 43.
  • 3. Fewster, 67.
  • 4. Ibid. 38-39.