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 burgage holders

Number of voters:



15 Apr. 1754Edward Bayntun Rolt
 Samuel Fludyer
31 Mar. 1761Sir Samuel Fludyer
 Edward Bayntun Rolt
29 Jan. 1768Sir Thomas Fludyer vice Sir Samuel Fludyer, deceased
16 Mar. 1768Sir Edward Bayntun Rolt
 Sir Thomas Fludyer
27 Mar. 1769Henry Dawkins vice Fludyer, deceased
6 Oct. 1774Sir Edward Bayntun Rolt
 Samuel Marsh
11 Sept. 1780Henry Dawkins
 Giles Hudson
28 Feb. 1783George Fludyer vice Hudson, deceased
1 Apr. 1784George Fludyer
 James Dawkins

Main Article

Chippenham is a rare example during this period of a burgage borough which had not been closed up. The borough had patrons, but no single individual held enough burgages to reduce the smaller holders to insignificance; these moreover included a number of substantial local merchants who by banding together could prevent the borough from being turned into private domain. One seat was held 1737-80 by Edward Bayntun Rolt, the other throughout the period, with a break of five years, by the Fludyer family. The Bayntun interest, which dated back to the Restoration, was based on the proximity of their seat at Spye Park to the borough. The founder of the other interest, Sir Samuel Fludyer, perhaps the most eminent cloth merchant in London, was able, by the trade advantages he could offer, to secure the support of the local clothiers, who ‘formed a circle of their own’ and by the power they wielded in a borough living on the cloth trade, largely determined parliamentary elections.1 Henry Dawkins, of a West Indian family settled in Wiltshire, was returned in 1769, during a minority in the Fludyer family; squeezed out in 1774, presumably by a juncture of the Fludyer and Bayntun interests, he was re-elected on Bayntun Rolt’s withdrawal in 1780, and was succeeded in 1784 by his son James.

The Chippenham elections of 1754 and 1761, although uncontested, cost the candidates £1,500 each. For 1768, 1769 and 1774 the information is scant. Before the general election of 1780 both Henry Dawkins and Giles Hudson, a partner of the Fludyers, were canvassing the borough. Bayntun Rolt, having reached the age of 70, voluntarily withdrew, but there is reason to think that he meant his son-in-law to succeed him. In the end, George Fludyer and Henry Dawkins were returned unopposed, and again in 1784. But to guard against their obtaining too great a hold on the borough, the corporation negotiated with them an agreement which was entered in the borough books:2

Whereas the last Sir Samuel Fludyer Bart. formerly purchased many burgage houses in the borough. ... And whereas many other burgage houses in this borough have also lately been purchased by Henry Dawkins Esqr. And whereas the freemen of the borough conceiving that such monopoly may ultimately tend to deprive them and their successors of their just rights and privileges unless proper means are taken to prevent it, have remonstrated to ... Sir Samuel Fludyer and Henry Dawkins ... against such proceeding.

The two parties agreed not to make any more purchases; to grant leases of at least seven years to all tenants who demanded them; and each party to allow the other to inspect all leases before they should be executed.

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


J. A. Cannon, ‘Parlty. Rep. of six Wilts. Boroughs, 1754-90’ (Bristol Univ. Ph.D. thesis).

  • 1. J. Britton, Beauties of Wilts. ii. 251.
  • 2. Corporation minute bk. no. 3.