Double Member Borough

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the freemen

Number of voters:

about 600


23 Apr. 1754Thomas Watson374
 John Delaval307
 John Wilkes192
27 Mar. 1761Thomas Watson 
 John Craufurd 
18 Jan. 1765Sir John Hussey Delaval vice Craufurd, deceased 
24 Dec. 1765Wilmot Vaughan vice Watson, vacated his seat 
19 Mar. 1768Sir John Hussey Delaval 
 Robert Paris Taylor 
12 Oct. 1774Jacob Wilkinson452
 John Vaughan388
 Alexander Campbell147
15 Sept. 1780John Vaughan 
 Sir John Hussey Delaval 
3 Apr. 1784John Vaughan348
 John Hussey Delaval, Baron Delaval334
 Daniel Ord44
21 Sept. 1786Sir Gilbert Elliot vice Delaval, called to the Upper House361
 John Hiley Addington316

Main Article

Berwick ranked as an open borough, but Government had considerable influence through the Customs, Excise, and Taxes, the Post Office, and the garrison, navy, and Ordnance.

In 1754 of the three candidates Thomas Watson was of an old Berwick family, had several times been mayor, and had represented it since 1740 with Government support; John Delaval’s family, at Ford Castle, were neighbouring squires connected with Lord Northumberland; while John Wilkes was a stranger. Henry Pelham ‘having disobliged the great Delavals’,1 they were attacking Newcastle’s interest at Newark. Hence his support of Wilkes—he wrote to the King, 24 Apr., ‘that Mr. Wilkes has a very good chance at Berwick, if the voters who went by sea can arrive’. And in a later, undated note: ‘I am very sorry that the Berwick election is lost, the ship with a great many voters was not arrived when the poll was closed.’2 Wilkes petitioned on grounds of bribery, at first it seems primarily against Delaval. But soon the Duke of Newcastle inclined to ‘a cessation of hostilities’: he would try to make Wilkes drop his petition if the Delavals dropped ‘the Newark affair’;3 and on 4 Apr. 1755 Watson, alarmed at the prospect of Wilkes applying for a special commission to examine accusations of bribery, wrote to the Duke: ‘Wilkes had dropped all attempts against Mr. Delaval and now seems to point only at me.’4 Next Watson is seen acting jointly with the Delavals; he protested in his own and their name against intervention in Berwick appointments by Lord Barrington, M.P. for Berwick 1740-54;5 and wrote to Newcastle on 5 Aug., when complaining of two Berwick officials:6

Lord Northumberland intimated to your Grace Mr. Delaval’s and my discontent of these officers acting with such uncommon assurance against our measures and they continue the most violent partisans for Wilkes.

And on 15 Dec.:7

After the great trouble and expense that Mr. Wilkes has occasioned and the noise he has made, he has earnestly solicited of Mr. Delaval and me to put an end to all disputes and proposed to us to withdraw his petition.

In 1761 three candidates, Watson, Delaval, and Craufurd stood single; and on Craufurd refusing a juncture with Delaval, the latter withdrew.

On Craufurd’s death in 1764, Watson’s nephew Wilmot Vaughan stood against Delaval who, according to Watson,8 secured his seat ‘by the most notorious bribery of five guineas a man’; by promises, threats, and ‘very great expense’ on the part of Lord Northumberland; and by ‘many very extraordinary exertions of power’ by the Grenville Administration. Letters were sent by the Board of Ordnance enjoining every person in its employment to vote for Delaval; and a man sent from London, wrote Watson,

applied to every officer under the Board of Customs, threatened the loss of their places immediately if they did not vote for Sir John Delaval. The officers of Excise were all ordered at a great distance; most of them had been appointed at my instance. Never was known such bare-faced means used with every voter that held an employment, and out of 45 Mr. Vaughan had 43 promised to be for him.

It is uncertain whether Vaughan stood the poll in January 1765. He was returned in December of that year for the seat vacated by Watson; but a year later, after Watson’s death, would not by accepting office risk a by-election.

The circumstances of Robert Paris Taylor’s election in 1768, and of Jacob Wilkinson’s in 1774, are unknown; but Taylor is likely to have had Government support, though not Wilkinson.

In 1780 and 1784 John Vaughan and John Hussey Delaval were returned on their family interests.9

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


  • 1. J. S. Charlton to Newcastle, 2 Feb. 1754, Add. 32734, f. 102.
  • 2. Add. 32735, ff. 50, 176.
  • 3. Delaval to his wife, 14 Nov. and 19 [month omitted] 1754, Delaval mss, Newcastle-upon-Tyne Lib.
  • 4. Add. 32854, f. 256.
  • 5. Add. 32855, ff. 246-7.
  • 6. Add. 32857, f. 594.
  • 7. Add. 32861, f. 314.
  • 8. Add. 32968, f. 174.
  • 9. Laprade, 46, 75.