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 inhabitants paying scot and lot

Number of voters:

about 250


19 Apr. 1754John Perceval, Earl of Egmont119
 Robert Balch114
 George Bubb Dodington105
28 Mar. 1761John Perceval, Earl of Egmont 
 Edward Southwell 
 Robert Balch 
 John Willes 
5 May 1762John James Perceval vice Egmont, called to the Upper House 
21 Nov. 1763Gabriel Hanger, Baron Coleraine, vice Southwell, vacated his seat 
18 Mar. 1768Benjamin Allen 
 John James Perceval, Visct. Perceval 
 Anne Poulett 
 Poulett vice Perceval, on petition, 14 Mar. 1769 
8 Oct. 1774Anne Poulett 
 Benjamin Allen 
11 Sept. 1780Anne Poulett157
 Benjamin Allen133
 John Acland127
 Charles James Fox82
 Acland vice Allen, on petition, 2 Mar. 1781 
5 Apr. 1784Anne Poulett152
 Alexander Hood152
 Sir Gilbert Elliot5
21 July 1785Robert Thornton vice Poulett, deceased 

Main Article

George Bubb Dodington sat for Bridgwater 1722-1754 on an interest inherited from his uncle, George Dodington, who had represented the borough 1708-1713 and 1715-20. The Pouletts of Hinton St. George held one seat 1741-52, 1741-52, when, owing to divisions in the family, they lost it to Robert Balch, whose grandfather and great-grandfather had represented Bridgwater in the 17th century. From about 1750 Lord Egmont began to cultivate an interest. These were the chief forces in the politics of Bridgwater at the general election of 1754. Dodington, standing on a joint interest with Balch supported by the Treasury, was beaten by the coalition of Egmont, Poulett, and the corporation.

In 1761 Egmont stood on a joint interest with Edward Southwell, and Balch with John Willes. Dodington gave his interest to Balch and Willes, and secured for them the support of the custom house officers;1 Egmont had again the support of Poulett. Egmont and Southwell were successful; and in 1763, when Southwell vacated his seat to stand for Gloucestershire, Lord Coleraine was returned on the Egmont interest.

By 1768 Dodington was dead, and Egmont and Poulett opposed each other. Lord Perceval, Egmont’s son, stood on a joint interest with Benjamin Allen, son of a local doctor; and were opposed by Anne Poulett. Perceval and Allen were elected, but on petition Poulett was seated, vice Perceval. The House of Commons confirmed the right of election to be in householders paying scot and lot (Perceval and Allen had contended it should be in the corporation); and the limits of the parliamentary borough were strictly defined.

After 1768 the Egmont interest lapsed, and in 1774 there was no contest. Allen was in opposition to North’s Administration; and in 1780 the Treasury encouraged Poulett to find a candidate friendly to Government. Poulett chose John Acland, successor to the estates of the Palmer family who had represented Bridgwater in the early part of the century. Allen stood on a joint interest with Charles James Fox, who had been invited to contest the borough by John Chubb, a local merchant and spokesman of a group of Bridgwater electors who opposed North’s Administration.2 Fox took no part in the election and came out bottom of the poll; Allen was elected, but unseated on petition.

Acland retired in 1784, and Alexander Hood became Poulett’s new partner. They were opposed by Sir Gilbert Elliot, supported by Fox and Chubb. After Elllot’s defeat Fox’s interest at Bridgwater began to wane; there were quarrels among his supporters; and Robert Thornton, who stood in 1785 as a follower of Pitt, was unopposed.

Author: J. A. Cannon


  • 1. Willes to Bute, 5 Feb. 1763, Bute mss.
  • 2. T. B. Dilks, C. J. Fox and ... Bridgwater.