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 corporation

Number of voters:

about 30


17 Apr. 1754John Garth 
 William Willy 
27 Mar. 1761John Garth 
 William Willy 
15 Jan. 1765Charles Garth vice John Garth, deceased17
 Sir Thomas Fludyer10
3 June 1765James Sutton vice Willy, deceased 
21 Mar. 1768Charles Garth 
 James Sutton 
7 Oct. 1774Charles Garth 
 James Sutton 
9 Sept. 1780Charles Garth 
 Sir James Tylney Long 
28 Nov. 1780Henry Jones vice Garth, appointed to office 
5 Apr. 1784Sir james Tylney Long 
 Henry Addington 
23 Dec. 1788Joshua Smith vice Long, vacated his seat 

Main Article

The borough was usually dominated by the families of leading clothiers, with their headquarters in London and estates in the neighbourhood, and was managed by its recorders in whose choice the clothiers had no doubt a decisive voice. John Garth was recorder of Devizes 1732-64 and Member 1740-1764, and was succeeded by his son Charles, recorder 1765-84 and Member 1765-80. William Willy, a leading clothier, sat for the borough 1747-1765, and was succeeded by his nephew James Sutton (son of a Devizes clothier) who represented Devizes 1765-80. Henry Addington, brother-in-law of James Sutton, was recorder 1784-1828 and Member 1784-1805. Henry Jones, M.P. 1780-4, was another London clothier; and Joshua Smith, M.P. 1788-1818 a merchant with an estate in the neighbourhood of Devizes.

In 1761, and again at the two by-elections of 1765, Sir Samuel Fludyer, probably the richest London clothier with Wiltshire connexions, tried to capture a seat at Devizes for his brother and partner, Sir Thomas Fludyer. Charles Garth wrote to the Duke of Newcastle, 9 Feb. 1762: ‘Notwithstanding Sir Samuel Fludyer’s opposition and interest with the clothiers, I canvassed for my father a majority of 26 voices to 8.’1 The contest was not carried to a poll, which it was at the by-election caused by the death of John Garth. George Sloper, a Devizes baker who rose to be its mayor, wrote in his diary, 14 Jan. 1765: ‘Fludyer’s great mob on Monday the evening before the election broke the windows of the houses of most of Mr. Garth’s friends.’2 And on 25 May Garth, writing to the South Carolina assembly, mentioned having received ‘a summons to Devizes, in consequence of the death of my colleague [William Willy], to support his nephew and my particular friend [James Sutton] against Sir Thomas Fludyer and two other candidates.’3 But the contest does not seem to have been carried to a poll. Fludyer’s failure seems to show that great wealth and business connexions, even when backed by Government influence as Fludyer’s were in January 1765, were not decisive at Devizes. Still, a certain outlay of money was required: John Garth, in a letter to Newcastle of 30 June 1760, wrote about the expense of supporting his seat ‘against the intrigues of a faction’ having been heavy ‘to one circumstanced as I am’; and Charles Garth informed Newcastle in February 1762 that supporting their parliamentary interest at Devizes ‘has already been attended with no inconsiderable expense, at least £5,000, as my father has often assured me.’4 The period of time this covers is not named.

After 1765 Devizes elections were apparently uncontested. In 1784 John Lubbock, the banker, intended to contest Devizes against Sir James Tylney Long and Henry Addington, but declined the poll ‘for the sake of peace’.5

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


  • 1. Add. 32934, ff. 243-4.
  • 2. B. H. Cunnington, Annals of the Borough of Devizes, 1791-1835, ii. 252.
  • 3. Transcripts of Charles Garth’s letter bks. in the possession of Mr. A. Godsal, at Haines Hill, Berks.
  • 4. Add. 32907, f. 459; 32934, f. 243.
  • 5. Cunnington, ii. 263.