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 2,500


16 Apr. 1754Francis Reynolds 
 Edward Marton 
22 Dec. 1758George Warren vice Marton, deceased 
31 Mar. 1761Francis Reynolds 
 Sir George Warren 
21 Mar. 1768Sir George Warren 
 Francis Reynolds 
15 Sept. 1773Lord Richard Cavendish vice Reynolds, deceased 
8 Oct. 1774Sir George Warren 
 Lord Richard Cavendish 
11 Sept. 1780Wilson Braddyll 
 Abraham Rawlinson 
26 Apr. 1784Abraham Rawlinson1169
 Francis Reynolds1106
 John Lowther1012
31 Mar. 1786Sir George Warren vice Reynolds, called to the Upper House1166
 John Lowther1140

Main Article

The Members for Lancaster were usually neighbouring landowners—Abraham Rawlinson was the only merchant to sit for the borough during this period. The Reynolds family had considerable influence, and it was on an agreement with Francis Reynolds that George Warren was first returned in 1758. The Cavendish interest was based on the estates which the family had inherited from Sir William Lowther. Sir James Lowther of Lowther also had an interest, but he did not concern himself in the borough until 1784. The general elections of 1754 and 1761 were uncontested, but in 1768 there was a serious opposition to Reynolds and Warren. On 10 May 1767 Abraham Rawlinson, a merchant at Lancaster (uncle of Abraham Rawlinson, M.P. for Lancaster 1780-90), wrote to Edmund Burke:

This you must know is an open borough, and several of the gentlemen in the county have an interest, who I find are not inclined to Sir George Warren. The merchants here have no other objection to him than the necessity they see of being represented by more knowledge and ability in commercial matters and more inclined to the business of the House. I would willingly hope with a little prudent management and proper introduction that both these interests might come together and fix on an able representative to be joined to our old Member, Mr. Reynolds ... If ... you should incline to make us an offer, I very much wish it might come recommended by my Lord Rockingham and the Cavendish family. They are both highly esteemed here.

In the autumn of 1767 Burke visited Lancaster where he received ‘great encouragement’: ‘I am satisfied’, he wrote to Charles O’Hara, 27 Oct., ‘I might carry a seat there, but some reasons induced me for that time to decline it.’

He felt that the offer should be made to the Cavendish family, who were at first disposed to decline it—‘not liking to interfere’, wrote Lord George, ‘in a place we had no connexion with and against a man we were little acquainted with’.1 But on 28 Oct. 1767 Sir William Meredith wrote to Burke:

Sir George Warren and Reynolds went to Lancaster last Tuesday, and are received as ill as you can wish them. Lord George has written himself, and commissioned me to recommend the public meeting; and assure Abraham Rawlinson that if his brother is nominated he will undertake for him.

About that meeting Lord George Cavendish wrote to Newcastle, 11 Nov.:2

A great number of the principal merchants and of the gentlemen of the greatest weight in the neighbourhood of Lancaster would propose [Lord] John [Cavendish] as a candidate for that town, almost against both his and my consent. The old members, from having no contradiction for a great while, have undoubtedly secured many votes, but yet I think there is no doubt of the thing’s doing.

But on 24 Nov. Lord John Cavendish wrote:3

I hope we are likely to succeed, but not in quite so triumphant a style as our friends have informed your Grace. I have all the most considerable interests, but as my opponents had four months start of me, they have engaged all the lower sort of people, and they spare no expense to keep them firm to them.

Rawlinson and his friends had underestimated Reynolds’s strength, and Warren had not become so unpopular that Reynolds could not carry him along. On 16 Mar. 1768 Lord John Cavendish reported to Newcastle:4

I was summoned by an express from Lancaster to come down directly, as upon a re-examination of my canvass it appeared worse than we apprehended. Accordingly I set out the seventh of this month, and on getting there found that I stood last upon the poll, though by a very small number, but my opponents were bidding any sums for votes, so that my success was very uncertain and an enormous expense inevitable. On this state, by the advice of the most considerable and judicious of my friends, I determined to go no further and declined in the best manner I could.

By 1772 Reynolds was in very bad health, and Lord Stamford thought of putting up his brother John Grey on a vacancy.5 On 19 July 1773 Edmund Burke wrote to Rockingham: ‘Reynolds is dead ... I take it for granted we shall have a fourth Cavendish in Parliament.’ Lord Richard Cavendish was elected unopposed; and in 1774 he and Warren.

Robinson wrote about Lancaster in his electoral survey for 1780:

Neither of these gentlemen may come in again, perhaps will not offer. There are three gentlemen who at present have entered into the field, and carry on a brisk contest, Mr. Braddyll, Mr. Rawlinson, and Mr. Fenton. All parties say they are sure, but it is very uncertain who will succeed. Mr. Fenton is the friend of Government.

It is not certain whether Braddyll and Rawlinson stood on a joint interest, but they probably both received support from the Cavendish family. Nor is it clear on what interest Fenton stood. He withdrew before the poll.

In 1784 and 1786 Lord Lonsdale tried to win a seat at Lancaster, his candidate on each occasion being his cousin John Lowther. These contests were protracted and expensive, and were marked by a lavish creation of freemen; and Lonsdale’s defeats did not stop him from trying again in 1790.

Author: John Brooke


  • 1. To the Duke of Devonshire, 17 Nov. 1767, Devonshire mss.
  • 2. Add. 32986, f. 355.
  • 3. Add. 32987, f. 103.
  • 4. Add. 32989, f. 191.
  • 5. Stamford to Portland, 20 Jan. 1772, Portland mss.