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 inhabitants paying scot and lot

Number of voters:



1 Feb. 1715ROBERT CLARGES541
 William Cadogan442
  Election declared void, 30 May 1716 
 Felix Calvert 
18 Dec. 1717BUCKINGHAM re-elected after appointment to office 
15 Mar. 1720RICHARD THOMPSON vice Buckingham, deceased 
 Felix Calvert 
 Charles Cadogan234
 Richard Thompson209
 Richard Aston236
 John Dalby211
21 May 1735POTENGER re-elected after appointment to office 
6 Dec. 1739JOHN BLAGRAVE vice Potenger, deceased269
 Richard Manley236
26 Nov. 1740WILLIAM STRODE vice Grey, deceased285
 John Dodd275
 DODD vice Strode, on petition, 17 Feb. 1741 
29 June 1747JOHN CONYERS 

Main Article

Reading was an independent borough with a comparatively large electorate, which was not controlled by any outside influence. The principal interest seems to have lain in the corporation, who on 22 Oct. 1705 passed a resolution that it is the opinion of the board that for the time to come, the mayor, aldermen and burgesses in their common council, in case of members to serve in Parliament for this borough, do first determine and resolve amongst themselves who shall be deemed fit representatives for that purpose.1 The 14 Members returned were, with two exceptions, all local landowners, most of whom had strong connexions with the borough itself; and until 1741 every election was contested. At the general election of 1715, when over 200 freemen, as well as inhabitants, were allowed to vote in accordance with a decision of the House of Commons in 1708, two Tories were successful against a Whig single, General Cadogan, Marlborough’s quartermaster, who did not attend the poll. But on petition, lodged by the inhabitants, this decision was reversed by the House, who resolved, 30 May 1716, that the right to vote was limited to inhabitants paying scot and lot. As it further appeared ‘that most of the bribed voters, named on either side, were only freemen’, the election was declared void.2 One week later two Whigs defeated a Tory single on the new register. Tories were once more successful in 1722 but Whigs captured both seats in 1727 and 1734 against Tory singles. At a by-election in December 1739 a Tory, John Blagrave, whose family owned much property in the borough, opposed a Whig who was supported by Lord Tankerville, kinsman to the sitting Member, Henry Grey. Tankerville wrote twice to Newcastle shortly before the poll:

I am now strongly engaged in the Protestant cause at Reading which is greatly attacked: but I hope we shall be able to conquer all difficulties and return a good man to Parliament ... if Mr. Manley ... does not spend a good deal of money in my opinion [he] can’t be chose. He promises he will.3

Blagrave was returned by a small majority. A year later, at another by-election, William Strode, another Tory, took the second seat by a majority of ten but was unseated on petition by his Whig opponent, John Dodd. Blagrave and Strode were unopposed at the general election of 1741, when Dodd did not stand, probably because of the great expense of his petition only two months before.4 A week before the 1747 election the Whig Lord Fane, who had considerable influence in Berkshire, wrote to the Duke of Bedford,5 ‘I had got Mr. Aldworth to stand at Reading and shall be determined myself by the prospect I see of being able to carry two’. As both Fane and one of the opposition candidates, Lord Kingston, apparently withdrew before the poll, a compromise was probably arranged to avoid a contest. Fane and Aldworth went over to opposition in 1751 but as some of the Pelhamites in Reading saw ‘no reason why they should veer too’,6 Aldworth decided to move to Wallingford for the next election. In September 1753 the corporation sent an address, deploring the recent Act for the naturalization of the Jews, to the three parliamentary candidates, Dodd, Strode and Fane, who all replied that they agreed with the corporation’s views.7

Author: R. S. Lea


  • 1. HMC 11th Rep. VII, 204.
  • 2. CJ, xviii. 453-5.
  • 3. 1 and 2 Dec. 1739, Add. 32692, ff. 494, 498; see CHESTER.
  • 4. See DODD, John.
  • 5. 21 June 1747, Bedford mss.
  • 6. Fane to Bedford, 6 Dec. 1752, ibid.
  • 7. HMC 11th Rep. VII, 206.