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:

about 150


18 Apr. 1754Charles Saunders97
 Peter Denis97
 Samuel Gumley31
 Luke Robinson31
22 Nov. 1755Saunders re-elected after appointment to office 
30 Mar. 1761Sir Charles Saunders 
 Peter Denis 
26 Dec. 1765Saunders re-elected after appointment to office 
19 Mar. 1768Sir Charles Saunders 
 Beilby Thompson 
10 Oct. 1774Sir Charles Saunders 
 Beilby Thompson 
1 Jan. 1776Lewis Thomas Watson vice Saunders, deceased119
 Christopher Atkinson37
8 Sept. 1780Christopher Atkinson118
 William Chaytor92
 Richard Thompson28
15 Dec. 1783Stephen Lushington vice Atkinson, expelled the House 
31 Mar. 1784William Chaytor 
 Lionel Darell 

Main Article

In 1754 the dominant interest at Hedon was in Lord Anson, first lord of the Admiralty, M.P. for Hedon 1744-7. On Anson’s death in 1762, his place as patron of the borough was taken by his friend, Sir Charles Saunders, Member since 1754. Saunders strengthened his interest by acquiring property in Hedon, and in 1768 and 1774 carried both seats without a contest.

Saunders died in 1775, and left his property at Hedon to William Iveson, an attorney, who had acted as his agent. Rockingham, with whom Saunders had been politically connected, now wrote to Iveson:1 the borough was ‘in great measure open’, it would be ‘an object of the ministry to seize upon it’, and Rockingham wished to forestall them.

I must first observe [he continued] that I imagine you are fully acquainted with Sir Charles Saunders’ most kind, steady and honourable inclinations of personal friendship towards me ... and I think you know that in regard to the borough of Hedon his wishes were that when he should be no more, that that interest which he had long cultivated there should become the more immediate object of my attention. Your own feelings will best dictate to you the line of conduct you should pursue. Living and dying Sir Charles Saunders has shown his real regard and esteem for you, and I can have no doubt, if you were persuaded what his wishes now would be, it would be the rule of your conduct. Allow me to say that I should be happy to have the occasion of considering you as a friend who would act as fairly and as honourably by me as you have done by Sir Charles Saunders during his life. I shall be happy to consider the interests of Hedon as much the object of my attention as they were of my departed friend Sir Charles Saunders.

My idea of the state of the present matters at Hedon is that it will depend on you. If you are inclined to carry the borough out of the hands of ministry they cannot get it, because with your assistance the interest which you will know how to collect can be brought to act against the attempt and must prevent it.

He went on to recommend his relation Lewis Thomas Watson, ‘a candidate on the same line of politics which Sir Charles Saunders held’. Iveson gave his interest to Watson, who was returned after a contest with Christopher Atkinson.

This was Rockingham’s only intervention at Hedon. His decision to abandon the borough probably arose from two causes: it was expensive and unsafe; and his follower, Beilby Thompson, who had sat for Hedon since 1768, was disposed to build up an interest there. The detailed story of Hedon between 1775 and 1784 is not known, but it seems that Lord Sandwich, probably with the help of Iveson, won the borough for Administration.2 Robinson wrote in his survey for the general election of 1780: ‘It is hoped this borough is so settled as to return two good Members.’ This was so: Thompson’s brother stood a poll against two candidates supported by Administration, and was badly defeated. And both at the by-election of 1783 and the general election of 1784 candidates supported by Administration were returned.

Author: John Brooke


  • 1. Rockingham mss.
  • 2. Wm. Hammond to the Duke of Portland, 20 Nov. 1783, Portland mss.