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:

below 50


20 Apr. 1754Walter Carey 
 John Jeffreys 
9 Dec. 1754Jeffreys re-elected after appointment to office 
23 May 1757Richard Howe vice Carey, deceased 
31 Mar. 1761Richard Howe, Visct. Howe 
 John Jeffreys 
28 Apr. 1763Howe re-elected after appointment to office 
26 Dec. 1765Howe re-elected after appointment to office 
7 Feb. 1766Richard Hopkins vice Jeffreys, deceased 
1 Dec. 1767Hopkins re-elected after appointment to office 
23 Mar. 1768Richard Howe, Visct. Howe 
 Richard Hopkins 
11 Oct. 1774Richard Howe, Visct. Howe 
 Richard Hopkins 
12 Sept. 1780Richard Howe, Visct. Howe 
 Arthur Holdsworth 
16 Apr. 1782Charles Brett vice Howe, called to the Upper House 
31 Dec. 1783Brett re-elected after appointment to office 
5 Apr. 1784Arthur Holdsworth32
 Richard Hopkins31
 John Henry Southcote1
5 Oct. 1787Edmund Bastard vice Holdsworth, deceased 

Main Article

A good many of the Dartmouth electors were connected with the customs house and the castle, and Dartmouth was a Government borough managed by Arthur Holdsworth, of an old Dartmouth merchant family, and since 1753 governor of Dartmouth castle. After Poole, Dartmouth was the chief English centre for the Newfoundland fisheries and trade. The two Members at the dissolution in 1754, Walter Carey and his step-son John Jeffreys, were again Government candidates, and Newcastle’s election list notes against their names: ‘Settled. See Mr. Holdsworth’s letters.’1 Carey died 27 Apr. 1757, and on 5 May Robert Wilmot, the Duke of Devonshire’s secretary and agent, wrote to the Duke, then first lord of the Treasury, that Jeffreys had shown him a letter from Holdsworth,2

by which I understand that everything was likely to succeed as your Grace wished, not a word of a seaman or merchant. He had been at Dartmouth, and desired that everything might pass through his hand and no other, of which, he said, he would explain the reason hereafter to Mr. Jeffreys.

But on 5 May Newcastle wrote to Devonshire:3 ‘Jeffreys tells me the town of Dartmouth don’t like to choose Colonel Howard as he is a military man.’ And Devonshire to the Duke of Cumberland, on 13 May: ‘There is a vacancy at Dartmouth. The corporation have desired a seaman, so I proposed Captain Howe to the King who approved of him, and he will be chosen without opposition.’ Thus the preferences even of a Government borough had to be heeded.

Before the general election of 1761 Jeffreys wrote to Newcastle, 3 Dec. 1760:4

Agreeable to your Grace’s command I send your Grace a state of the corporation of Dartmouth. Mr. Holdsworth, governor of the Castle, has the entire interest in the borough, and has been so good as to tell me that he will choose me in the next Parliament, provided he receives a letter in my favour from your Grace. I have been informed that Lord Howe, as belonging to the navy, is very agreeable to Mr. Holdsworth, the gentlemen of the corporation, and the trade of the town, and that his Lordship is desirous of continuing their representative, which I am told is with your Grace’s approbation.

On 6 Mar. 1761 Newcastle wrote to recommend the two to Holdsworth, who replied on the 24th: ‘I had the honour to receive your Grace’s recommendation of Lord Howe and Mr. Jeffreys, and have the pleasure to assure your Grace that all my friends are unanimous in their behalf.’5

On Jeffreys’s death in January 1766, the Duke of Grafton’s friend Richard Hopkins was returned on the Government interest, and he and Howe were re-elected unopposed as its candidates in 1768 and 1774. Arthur Holdsworth died in 1777, and was succeeded as manager of Dartmouth and as governor of the castle by his son, another Arthur Holdsworth. By 1780 both Howe and Hopkins were in opposition to the Government and Robinson wrote against Dartmouth and its Members in his survey for the general election:

This borough although generally esteemed a Government borough is only canvassed as hopeful, because Mr. Holdsworth has not yet been seen; and some reports go as if the present Members again look up to it. Further inquiries are making.

30 July. Mr. Holdsworth is much attached to Lord Howe. His Lordship will therefore have his support. Mr. Hopkins may not. Perhaps Mr. Holdsworth may offer himself, it is now settling.

Howe and Holdsworth were returned, and both voted with the Opposition. The manager proved stronger than the Government. In December 1783 Robinson wrote about Dartmouth: ‘Is under the care of Mr. Holdsworth; will come in himself and ... some other friend of Government.’ There was a short interregnum at Dartmouth after Arthur Holdsworth’s death in 1787 and during the minority of his son, Arthur Howe Holdsworth; and for a while the borough came under the control of Edmund Bastard.

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


  • 1. Add. 32995, ff. 75-82.
  • 2. Devonshire mss.
  • 3. Add. 32871, f. 27.
  • 4. Add. 32915, f. 286.
  • 5. Add. 32917, f. 363; 32919, f. 491; 32921, f. 43.