Durham County

Double Member County

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

Number of voters:

about 3,000


24 Apr. 1754Henry Vane, Visct. Barnard 
 George Bowes 
22 Mar. 1758Raby Vane vice Barnard, called to the Upper House 
9 Dec. 1760Robert Shafto vice Bowes, deceased916
 Sir Thomas Clavering545
1 Apr. 1761Robert Shafto1589
 Frederick Vane1553
 Sir Thomas Clavering1382
23 Mar. 1768Frederick Vane 
 Sir Thomas Clavering 
12 Oct. 1774Sir Thomas Clavering 
 Sir John Eden 
18 Sept. 1780Sir Thomas Clavering 
 Sir John Eden 
14 Apr. 1784Sir Thomas Clavering 
 Sir John Eden 

Main Article

The two most powerful electoral interests in the county were those of Lord Darlington and the bishop of Durham. One seat was readily conceded by the county to the Vane family, but when on the death of George Bowes, 17 Sept. 1760, Darlington tried to recommend also to the other seat, he met with strong opposition from Lord Ravensworth and many other influential families in the county. Before Bowes had died, Darlington wrote on 7 Sept. to his relative the Duke of Newcastle asking ‘that the Government interest in the county of Durham may not be disposed or promised, till your Grace is informed by me who the person is that has the good wishes of my Lord Bishop and myself, our interest being so connected that we shall concur in one’. Newcastle, while exhorting Darlington to choose a proper person who at the general election might be returned together with Darlington’s brother, committed himself without knowing who the candidate would be; and learned nearly three weeks later that it was Robert Shafto, of a family who had been ‘very violent Tories’, though ‘this gentleman I hear is not’. Newcastle was therefore greatly embarrassed when Thomas Clavering, of an impeccably Whig family, applied for his interest and influence with Darlington and the bishop; and so was Bishop Trevor himself who, as Mansfield wrote to Newcastle, 29 Sept., ‘wishes to secure Lord Darlington as to one [seat]; and as to the other, to follow, not to force, the bent of the county’. ‘Sir Thomas Clavering will certainly be supported by many considerable Whigs’, wrote Newcastle. ‘The Tories Will always take the side where they can do the most mischief; and therefore, to be sure, the contest will be very great and expensive.’ He therefore tried to stop it, and so did the bishop. But Darlington was obdurate, and by 7 Oct. the bishop expected that he would have to declare for Darlington’s candidate. ‘Shafto has been with me to declare his attachments to the Government’, he wrote to Newcastle, ‘in which I believe him sincere; but the Tories are certainly pleased with his standing and glad to join him; the run for him is certainly very great, and he gets on much faster without expense, than the other does with it.’ At the county meeting on 9 Oct. the bishop declared for Shafto. After two days’ polling Clavering withdrew, but declared that he would stand at the general election.1

At the general election the struggle was repeated, and Darlington’s candidates were again successful. Shafto declined to stand in 1768 and Clavering and Frederick Vane were returned unopposed; nor during this period did Darlington again attempt to return both Members.

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


  • 1. Add. 32911, ff. 122, 218; 32912, ff. 45, 209-11, 227-8, 455-6; 32916, ff. 12-14; E. Hughes, North Country Life in 18th Cent. 285-9.