Available from Boydell and Brewer
Right of Election:
in burgage holders
Number of voters:
|1 Feb. 1715||PAUL FOLEY|
|BIRCH vice Foley, on petition, 18 June 1715|
|22 Nov. 1718||NICHOLAS PHILPOTT vice Cornewall, deceased|
|26 Mar. 1722||JOHN BIRCH||66|
|21 Sept. 1727||UVEDALE PRICE|
|30 Jan. 1730||BIRCH re-elected after appointment to office||33|
|14 Apr. 1732||JAMES CORNEWALL vice Birch, expelled the House||55|
|30 Apr. 1734||SIR JOHN BUCKWORTH||90|
|CORNEWALL vice Birch (deceased), on petition, 3 Mar. 1737|
|15 May 1741||GEORGE CARPENTER, Baron Carpenter|
|HENRY TEMPLE, Visct. Palmerston|
|1 July 1747||MANSEL POWELL||42|
|John Perceval, Visct. Perceval||22|
|Sir John Buckworth||22|
|PERCEVAL vice Powell, on petition, 9 Dec. 1747|
|30 Mar. 1749||MOSTYN re-elected after appointment to office|
Till 1737 Weobley was an independent venal borough, usually returning candidates drawn from local families at £15-£20 a vote.1 In that year the House of Commons, on a petition by James Cornewall against John Birch, decided that the right of election was in the occupiers or owners of certain ‘ancient vote-houses’ and not in the householders at large.2 Commenting on this decision, Edward Harley observed that
Birch was dead when this matter came to be heard and therefore no one defended his right and Cornewall made a compromise with Mansel Powell, who had bought several houses in this borough with old Barnsley’s money,3 to agree to this right of election which would fix the borough for the future in the interest of Powell, if Powell would not defend Birch’s right, who could have been proved to have been duly elected, had a defence been made for him.4
Subsequently Lord Weymouth, the lord of the manor, whose interest had been in abeyance during a long minority, joined with Powell, who had increased his holding to 40 out of 93 burgages, to gain control of the borough. In 1747 their control was challenged by Lord Perceval, afterwards the 2nd Lord Egmont, who was defeated at the poll but was awarded the seat vice Powell on petition. Egmont’s electoral survey gives an account of Weobley c. 1749-50:
Lord Weymouth has the two constables who are the returning officers but not one vote that he can command in the whole town. Nor any property but one vote house. Yet the constables have so often made villainous returns with impunity, and are chosen out of such a beggarly and rascally people, that they will never scruple to return against a fair and great majority. This makes it a bad borough to stand for in opposition if Lord Weymouth is with the Court, but of no consequence if he is against it.
As to the state of the voters. They consist of about 100 of which there are about 60 independent all living upon the spot constantly and mostly in their own houses.
Most of the other 40 vote for houses belonging to one Powell, who has joined himself to Lord Weymouth, but half these houses are without roof or floors, and utterly incapable of being inhabited, so that he has not above 6 or 7 tenants or voters constantly resident. But the constitution of the borough requiring that all voters should reside 40 days before the election and that they should have been upon the rates and paid scot and lot, and be parishioners, it is impossible in that small parish, as beggarly as it is, for him to fill bona fide half of these houses, nor would the House in an honest temper allow such houses which are not inhabitable to have votes where residence is required. Therefore I think the whole interest of Powell and Lord Weymouth together in opposition can amount to no more at most than the returning officer and 20 votes.
Before the next general election Powell sold his burgages to Lord Weymouth, who thus gained complete control of the borough.