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 700


19 Apr. 1754Edward Vernon 
 Samuel Kent 
7 Dec. 1757Thomas Staunton vice Vernon, deceased 
20 Nov. 1759George Montgomerie vice Kent, deceased 
27 Mar. 1761Thomas Staunton 
 Francis Vernon 
27 Dec. 1762Francis Vernon, Baron Orwell, re-elected after appointment to office 
16 Mar. 1768Thomas Staunton357
 William Wollaston357
 Wilbraham Tollemache291
 Edward Holden Cruttenden289
8 Oct. 1774William Wollaston337
 Thomas Staunton205
 Francis Vernon, Baron Orwell160
9 Sept. 1780William Wollaston346
 Thomas Staunton341
 Joshua Grigby253
 William Middleton247
3 Apr. 1784William Middleton460
 John Cator296
 Charles Alexander Crickitt7
 Cator's election declared void, 18 June 1784 
25 June 1784Charles Alexander Crickitt353
 Robert Thornton185

Main Article

There were two parties in the borough, the Blues and the Yellows, though what these stood for is not always easy to say. In 1754 Admiral Edward Vernon, who was in opposition to the Pelhams, stood on the Yellow interest; Samuel Kent and Sir Richard Lloyd, supporters of Administration, on the Blue. Newcastle’s electoral survey noted against Ipswich: ‘A strong contest between Lloyd and Vernon—success doubtful.’ But Lloyd declined before the poll.

On the death of Admiral Vernon, 30 Oct. 1757, his nephew and heir, Francis Vernon, intended to stand for Ipswich if both parties agreed to support him; but declined on being told that the Admiral had declared at the last Bury assizes that he did not desire ‘that his nephew, Mr. Vernon, or any other of his family should stand for Ipswich’. In consequence the Admiral’s friends ‘entered into engagements with Mr. Staunton and Mr. Montgomerie, who were to be at a joint expense in ... supporting that interest. ... They were to draw lots who should be first chosen, and at the general election to be set up jointly on the same interest.’1 Staunton obviously won, and was returned in succession to Admiral Vernon; while Montgomerie was returned on the death of Kent in October 1759. In 1761 Montgomerie declined, and Staunton and Francis Vernon were returned unopposed, Staunton as ‘Tory’ supported by the Yellows, and Vernon as ‘Whig’ and presumably supported by the Blues.

To what extent the names ‘Whig’ and ‘Tory’ meant anything at Ipswich is doubtful. On the formation of the Rockingham ministry Staunton wrote to Newcastle, 17 July 1765:2

The last Gazette has greatly revived the spirits of my Whig friends here, and in proportion damped those of my colleague and the Tories, with whom he connected himself by a formal compact. Sir Armine Wodehouse, whose son they had intended to join with Lord Orwell in opposition to me, seems much dejected, and I believe begins to grow sick of his Ipswich scheme.

In 1768 Orwell did not contest Ipswich, and Staunton and William Wollaston stood together on the Yellow interest. They were opposed by Wilbraham Tollemache, whose father, the Earl of Dysart, was high steward of the borough, and E. H. Cruttenden, a nabob, who appears to have had no connexion with Ipswich. On 10 Feb. 1768 Staunton and Wollaston published an address to the electors which indicates how Cruttenden and Tollemache hoped to win:

Strangers won’t dislodge us from the situation we possess in your esteem with the use of methods the most corrupt and venal. Your just abhorrence of every attempt to destroy your rights and liberties will be as constant as it is now strong.

Their confidence was justified: ‘Cruttenden, they say’, wrote George Clive to Lord Clive, 29 Mar. 1768,3‘has spent £8,000 without success.’ To strangers, Ipswich was an expensive borough; and to those who had connexions with it, a very troublesome one.

Little is known of the general election of 1774, except that Staunton and Wollaston again stood on the Yellow interest, and Orwell presumably on that of the Blues. But why this time there should be such a large difference in the number of votes cast for Staunton and Wollaston is not clear.

Robinson wrote about Ipswich in his survey for the general election of 1780: ‘There is a patriotic contest here. What may be the event is yet doubtful, although the old Members expect success.’ To which he added on 30 July: ‘Accounts now received say that the old Members will come in.’ Here then appears to be a contest fought on political issues. But in fact Staunton had voted against the Administration in the five recorded divisions, February-April 1780, and Robinson only classed him as ‘doubtful’; and henceforth he voted regularly against the Administration until the fall of North. As for Wollaston, he voted twice with Administration in the Parliament of 1774 (in all other divisions lists for that Parliament he does not appear); and in the Parliament of 1780 not a single vote by him is known—he seems to have been out of the country most of the time. In short, neither was a reliable Government supporter—which suggests that a ‘patriotic contest’ is too simplified a description of what took place.

At the general election of 1784 Staunton did not stand, and at first only two candidates came forward: Wollaston on the Yellow interest, and Middleton on the Blue.4 (Wollaston was abroad, but was proposed as a candidate by his brother.) The Yellows rejected the suggestion of the Blues that they should divide the borough; and invited John Cator, a stranger, to stand on a joint interest with Wollaston. The Yellow interest was managed by Emerson Cornwall, an Ipswich banker, who declared that the election would cost £2,000. Wollaston’s brother, acting on his behalf, would spend no more than £300; and Cator deposited £1,700 in Cornwall’s bank as his share of the joint expenses. This money, according to evidence given before a committee of the House of Commons, was used to bribe the electors.

On behalf of Administration John Robinson, who lived at Harwich, eleven miles from Ipswich, undertook to keep an eye on the election. Administration had promised their support to Middleton, and of the other candidates preferred Cator to Wollaston. On 1 Apr. 1784 George Rose wrote to Robinson:5

This business of Ipswich is a perplexing one. Mr. Middleton had encouragement given him at a time when he thought the corporation would have been reconciled to him, which Cornwall gave great expectations of. If he has no chance it is a pity that Wollaston should be irritated and made an enemy; at the same time faith must be kept with Middleton. I depend upon your prudence and discretion to manage that and to act as you shall judge proper.

He could not have trusted to better hands. ‘In the course of the canvass’, Dr. Wollaston ‘perceived his brother’s interest to have declined considerably, and hereupon determined ... to withdraw his name.’6 Robinson wrote from Harwich to his son-in-law, Lord Nevill, 5 Apr. 1784:7 ‘Ipswich you will see went as we wished. This place secured Cator, and my declaration at a lucky moment had the desired effect—Wollaston withdrew.’ And from the same place to Jenkinson, 11 Apr.:8 ‘Ipswich I clearly managed ... by the weight of 42 voters from hence, properly kept back, arranged, and at the moment declaring.’

The evening before the election Crickitt arrived in Ipswich, and declared his candidature. It was too late for him to hope for success; but he petitioned, alleging bribery by Cator, whose election was declared void. Cator did not contest the by-election; and Crickitt, standing on the Yellow interest, was returned.

Author: John Brooke


  • 1. Ld. Halifax to Newcastle, 5 Nov. 1757, Add. 32875, ff. 405-6.
  • 2. Add. 32968, f. 39.
  • 3. Clive mss.
  • 4. Luders, Proceedings upon Controverted Elections, i. 19-72.
  • 5. Laprade, 120.
  • 6. Luders, i. 27.
  • 7. Abergavenny mss.
  • 8. Add. 38567, ff. 187-8.