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 inhabitant householders

Number of voters:

about 700


16 Apr. 1754Henry Reginald Courtenay482
 George Yonge334
 John Duke295
27 Mar. 1761Henry Reginald Courtenay 
 John Duke 
22 Nov. 1763Sir George Yonge vice Courtenay, deceased224
 Anthony Bacon120
17 Nov. 1766Yonge re-elected after appointment to office 
17 Mar. 1768Sir George Yonge429
 Brass Crosby325
 John Duke130
7 Oct. 1774Sir George Yonge429
 Laurence Cox305
 John Baring164
8 Sept. 1780Sir George Yonge393
 Alexander Macleod259
 Laurence Cox228
5 Apr. 1781Jacob Wilkinson vice Macleod, whose election was declared void233
 Alexander Macleod199
2 Apr. 1782Yonge re-elected after appointment to office 
16 July 1782Yonge re-elected after appointment to office 
30 Dec. 1783Yonge re-elected after appointment to office 
2 Apr. 1784Sir George Yonge350
 Sir George Collier216
 John Bailey137

Main Article

Honiton had a very wide franchise, and was one of the most venal boroughs in the kingdom. The electorate, which included most adult male inhabitants, was poor, unruly, and of low social standing: the poll book of 17631 does not record a single esquire, and few professional men—most of the voters were labourers, artisans, or small shopkeepers. Candidates were sought out, and even advertised for,2 and contests were frequent and expensive. Voters banded themselves into groups in order to get better terms: one group in 1774 was led by a cobbler known as ‘the King of New Street’, another in 1780 by a currier.

The strongest interest was that of the Yonge family, residing at Colyton, five miles from the borough, who held one seat with short intervals from 1679 to 1796. Next came the Courtenays, lords of the manor, who appointed the returning officer and owned the two principal inns in the town. Oldfield wrote of Lord Courtenay in 1792 that ‘what interest he has is conferred on Sir George Yonge’.3 And Yonge said of his connexion with the borough that he had inherited £80,000, his wife brought him a like amount, and Government had paid him £80,000, but Honiton had swallowed it all.4

Author: J. A. Cannon


  • 1. Photostat copy in Guildhall Lib.
  • 2. Porritt, Unreformed House of Commons, i. 357.
  • 3. Boroughs, i. 253.
  • 4. A. Farquharson, Hist. Honiton, 45.