Bishop's Castle

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 resident freemen

Number of voters:

about 150


18 Apr. 1754John Dashwood King110
 Barnaby Backwell94
 Jeremiah Brown39
 Sir Robert Cornwall25
27 Jan. 1755Walter Waring vice Backwell, deceased 
15 Feb. 1759Henry Grenville vice Waring, vacated his seat 
28 Mar. 1761Francis Child 
 Peregrine Cust 
24 Nov. 1763George Clive vice Child, deceased80
 Walter Waring53
21 Mar. 1768George Clive 
 William Clive 
16 Jan. 1770Alexander Wedderburn vice William Clive, vacated his seat 
1 Feb. 1771Wedderburn re-elected after appintment to office 
10 Oct. 1774George Clive 
 Henry Strachey 
15 June 1778Alexander Wedderburn vice Strachey, appointed to office 
31 Mar. 1779William Clive vice George Clive, deceased 
26 June 1780Henry Strachey vice Wedderburn, appointed to office 
12 Sept. 1780William Clive 
 Henry Strachey 
17 Apr. 1783Strachey re-elected after appointment to office 
3 Apr. 1784William Clive 
 Henry Strachey 

Main Article

Bishop’s Castle was the one notoriously corrupt borough in Shropshire, and though neighbouring big landowners had a natural influence in it, there being several such competing interests, the borough was till the 1760’s open even to strangers. Perhaps the strongest single interest was that of the Walcots of Walcot Hall, about 2½ miles from Bishop’s Castle; next, of the Warings of Owlbury. Before the general election of 1761, Shelburne noted against Bishop’s Castle in his list of constituencies:1‘Contest—want money and not the present [Members]’. The election cost the two new Members £2,400, of which nearly £2,000 went in direct payments to 122 freemen and four (out of 15) aldermen.2

In 1763 Lord Clive purchased the Walcot estate with a promise from Charles Walcot of ‘all his interest’ in the borough (but Clive seems in turn to have promised Walcot to accept his nomination for one seat at the next general election); and although Clive did not take possession of the estate till Michaelmas, on a vacancy caused by the death of Francis Child, 23 Sept. 1763, he nominated his cousin George Clive. Against him stood Walter Waring, supported by the Government. Clive, who about this time was hovering between Government and Opposition, tried through both to persuade Waring to desist, offering him £1,000 ‘for the expenses already incurred’.3 But Waring stood the poll, was defeated, presented a petition against the return, but withdrew it. He renewed his candidature before the general election of 1768, and the question arose whether Walcot would claim the nomination promised him by Clive. George Clive wrote to Lord Clive, 6 Oct. 1767:4

There is not the least doubt of your Lordship’s nomination of one, but a quarrel with Walcot would risk both. However it will be necessary to have an éclaircissement with him as soon as possible—to leave him unsupported Waring would get the advantage of him, if he could support an opposition. Mr. Walcot must be desirous of standing in conjunction with your interest and if so ought to be at half the expense.

But Walcot would not face the expense, and Lord Clive, having in December 1767 purchased Waring’s Shropshire estates for £30,500,5 with an undertaking on Waring’s part ‘to give his entire interest bona fide at all times with respect to Bishop’s Castle’,6 in March 1768 returned two Clives without a contest. Lastly, on 10 May 1769, Clive mentions in a letter to George Grenville7 the purchase of some estates he was making ‘for the purpose of entirely surrounding the town of Bishop’s Castle with my own possessions’: two letters from Corbyn Morris to Clive, 11 and 27 May,8 identify him as the seller. Bishop’s Castle now became a pocket borough of the Clives, so safe and cheap that its representatives could be changed with ease and frequency.

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


  • 1. Lansdowne mss.
  • 2. Salop RO, ms 599/3.
  • 3. Namier, Structure, 291-294; Grenville Pprs. iv. 14.
  • 4. Clive mss.
  • 5. Private Act, 8 Geo. III, c.62.
  • 6. John Walsh to Ld. Clive, 17 Dec. 1767, Clive mss.
  • 7. Grenville Pprs. iv. 423.
  • 8. Clive mss.