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 bailiff, magistrates, freeholders of forty shillings per annum, and all that hold by burgage tensure, and in such freemen only of the said city as are enrolled, paying scot and lot there’

Number of voters:

about 700


15 Apr. 1754Granville Leveson Gower, Visct. Trentham327
 Thomas Anson308
 Sir Henry Every266
15 June 1755Henry Vernon vice Trentham, called to the Upper House306
 Sir Henry Every260
30 Mar. 1761Thomas Anson327
 John Levett313
 Hugo Meynell308
 Meynell vice Levett, on petition, 1 Feb. 1762 
19 Mar. 1768Thomas Anson 
 Thomas Gilbert 
31 Jan. 1770George Adams vice Anson, vacated his seat 
10 Oct. 1774George Anson (formerly Adams) 
 Thomas Gilbert 
11 Sept. 1780George Anson 
 Thomas Gilbert 
31 Mar. 1784George Anson 
 Thomas Gilbert 
5 Dec. 1789Thomas Anson vice George Anson, deceased 

Main Article

Newcastle wrote about Lichfield in his electoral survey of March 1754: ‘Lord Gower and Lord Anson to name by agreement for seven years.’ This statement anticipates their success. The borough had a complicated franchise; Gower and Anson had systematically bought up freeholds and burgages, and created faggot votes by splitting freeholds and granting annuities. But there was a strong independent party, and it was not until 1762 that they gained control of the borough.1 There were contests in 1747, 1753, 1754, and 1755—a tribute to the strength of the independent party.

After four contests in eight years it was expected that there would be no opposition in 1761, especially after Gower had compromised the county with the country gentlemen. But on 15 Mar. 1761 Lady Waldegrave, Gower’s sister, wrote to the Duke of Bedford:2

Lord Gower is much nettled at an express he received this morning from Lichfield acquainting him with Sir W. Bagot and his son’s having walked and canvassed the town with Mr. Levett on Friday last, and as it can be of no other consequence than erecting expense and trouble he looks upon it as a very ungenerous and spiteful proceeding, especially as they had settled the county amicably.

That Levett’s opposition was of much more consequence than Gower professed to believe was shown by the result. The poll lasted nine days, and the figures were: Anson 334; Meynell (Gower’s candidate) 315; Levett 313. After a scrutiny the sheriff struck off seven of Meynell’s votes, and returned Anson and Levett. Nearly 700 polled, and only 14 divided their votes. The House of Commons, after two divisions of 168 to 71 and 177 to 43, unseated Levett and declared Meynell duly elected.3

In 1766 the independent party tried to get the Duke of Portland to sponsor a candidate for the next general election, but failed.4 There was no further contest during this period.

Author: John Brooke


  • 1. J. C. Wedgwood, Staffs. Parlty. Hist. ii. 262, 267, 295.
  • 2. Bedford mss 43, f. 162.
  • 3. There is a full report of the proceedings in the Commons in Newdigate mss 2542.
  • 4. Rev. Jas. Falconer to Portland 4 Jan. 1766, Portland mss.