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 inhabitants paying scot and lot

Number of voters:

about 1,000


16 Apr. 1754John Manners363
 Job Staunton Charlton350
 Edward Delaval216
1 June 1756Manners re-elected after appointment to office 
27 Mar. 1761John Manners 
 Thomas Thoroton 
19 Mar. 1768John Manners 
 John Shelley 
13 Oct. 1774George Manners Sutton595
 Henry Clinton436
 Humphrey Sibthorp217
9 Sept. 1780Henry Clinton518
 Lord George Manners Sutton510
 Robert Forster418
28 Jan. 1783John Manners Sutton vice George Manners Sutton, deceased 
1 Apr. 1784John Manners Sutton 
 Constantine John Phipps, Baron Mulgrave 

Main Article

The chief interest in 1754 was in the Duke of Newcastle, lord of the manor of Newark. Next came that of the Sutton family which, through the marriage to the 3rd Duke of Rutland of the daughter and heir of the last Lord Lexinton, passed to Lord Robert Manners Sutton. The patrons worked together, and since 1715 had each recommended to one seat.

But Newark was not a pocket borough: disputed elections were frequent, and Newcastle and Rutland managed it by agreement and compromise. Lord Middleton, leader of the Nottinghamshire Tories, had a strong interest. Another who had to be placated was Dr. Bernard Wilson, vicar of Newark, a remarkable self-made man. He had been made vicar by Newcastle; had amassed a fortune estimated at over £100,000; and, disappointed of further preferment, had turned against his patron. An historian of Nottinghamshire writes of him:1

To give weight to his opposition ... he purchased estates, erected houses, procured assignments of mortgages, advanced money by way of loan to many of the inhabitants, and bestowed largesses upon others; and in short adopted all those plans, not even excepting the founding of charity schools, which he thought most likely to accomplish his purpose.

Job Staunton Charlton, M.P. for Newark 1741-1761, managed the borough for Newcastle. Though himself a Whig, he came of a Tory family and was on good terms with Middleton. Rutland had no friendship for Middleton or Charlton, or they for him; but all three worked together to prevent opposition. The odd man out was Wilson, who disliked Charlton and had a grudge against Newcastle.

At the general election of 1754 Wilson entered into an alliance with the anti-Pelhamite Whigs, led by the Duke of Bedford. They provided him with a candidate for Newark: Edward Delaval, brother of Francis Blake and John Hussey; and sponsored an agreement between the Delavals and Wilson, witnessed by William Beckford.2

Dr. Wilson agrees that if Edward Delaval be not returned M.P. for Newark at the next general election, or if returned, be not continued sitting Member for more than 14 days without petition, then Dr. Wilson to repay £2,000, the sum lent him by Francis B. Delaval Esq., in order to defray the expense of the above-named election for Newark, but if the said gentleman be returned as above recited then the note given by Dr. Wilson to be void.

Newcastle ordered Charlton to canvass jointly with John Manners, the Rutland candidate. On 27 Mar. Charlton informed Newcastle that they had already spent £650 each, which made them certain of 300 double votes and 7 single votes each—whether this was direct bribery is not clear.3 After the election (15 June 1754) Charlton wrote to Newcastle:4 ‘They have fixed upon next Monday to pay for the payment of the election charges, which I shall be glad of as they increase by such demands, they are come up to almost £1,700.’ It seems that this sum refers to the amount spent by both candidates. Charlton received £1,000 from secret service funds towards these expenses.5 Delaval had to sue Wilson to get back the £2,000 he had advanced.

At the general election of 1761 Charlton retired from Parliament; and in his place Newcastle chose Thomas Thoroton, man of business to the Rutland family. It was an unwise move, which Newcastle later regretted.

When ... I chose Mr. Thoroton [he wrote to John White on 3 Oct. 17676], who belongs to the Rutlands, I had some doubts whether he might not be supposed to be chose by the Rutlands, and consequently give a handle to them to choose, or to think they had chosen, two. I had the strongest assurances of the contrary from Mr. Thoroton himself, and Mr. Thoroton always professed and promised to resign whenever I should wish to have him, in favour of anyone of my recommendation.

Wilson, glad to see Charlton gone, promised his support; but Charlton, perhaps seeing the choice of Thoroton as a slight upon himself, was lukewarm. This time Middleton was the odd man out; and on 21 Mar. his brother, Thomas Willoughby, informed Newcastle that he intended to stand for Newark, and asked for his support.7 Charlton remained neutral, which offended Newcastle but was not surprising: he could hardly have much enthusiasm for an alliance which was intended to seat two candidates of the Manners family and keep out a Willoughby. Newcastle showed great energy, and alerted his friends in Newark; and on 23 Mar. Willoughby declined.

In 1761 Newcastle leased the manor of Newark to his nephew, Lord Lincoln, heir to his dukedom and to his Nottinghamshire estates. ‘I did however insist upon’, he wrote to White on 3 Oct. 1767,8 ‘and had an absolute promise from my Lord Lincoln, that the interest at Newark should always go as I would have it’—a promise which Lincoln denied he ever made.

Newcastle and Lincoln quarrelled in 1765; and in 1766, when Lincoln adhered to Chatham, became completely estranged. When Newcastle heard in October 1767 that Lincoln intended to put forward his cousin Henry Clinton for Newark at the forthcoming general election, he could hardly contain his anger at what he regarded as a shocking breach of faith. But the cards were stacked against him: Lincoln had the manor of Newark; Newcastle’s friends in the borough now looked to him, the heir, rather than to the aged Newcastle; Rutland supported his candidate; and Wilson did not interfere. Newcastle’s only hope was in an alliance with Middleton. He wrote to Rockingham on 17 Nov. 1767:9 ‘I don’t much like joining with my Lord Middleton, and again introducing the Tory Willoughby interest at Newark, which I myself had rooted out fifty years ago.’ Even this manœuvre would hardly have succeeded. None of Newcastle’s Nottinghamshire friends could offer him any hope. Eventually a compromise was arranged by Lord Mansfield, which confirmed Lincoln in his control of the seat and yet enabled Newcastle to save his face. Lincoln acquiesced in Newcastle’s choice at Retford, and Newcastle in Lincoln’s choice at Newark. A year later Newcastle was dead.

The story of Newark during the remainder of this period is scantily documented. But so much is clear: the character of the borough did not change. On 15 Apr. 1769, when it was believed that Shelley would vacate his seat by accepting a place, Wilson offered his interest to the Duke of Portland,10

towards the support of a candidate whom you shall please to recommend, and provided your Grace can obtain the interest of Lord Middleton I am very confident there cannot be the least doubt of carrying the election against any other powers.

Portland’s reply is not known; and the expected vacancy did not happen. Portland had a good understanding with the second Duke of Newcastle in Nottinghamshire electoral affairs, and would hardly interfere against him at Newark. Wilson died in 1772, and the Middleton interest seems to have been neglected. The Pelham Clinton and Manners Sutton families retained their hold on the borough, but throughout this period there was always a hard core of opposition.

Author: John Brooke


C. Bradley, ‘Parlty. Rep. of Pontefract, Newark & East Retford. 1754-68’, Manchester Univ. M.A. thesis.

  • 1. Bailey, Annals of Notts. iii. 1128.
  • 2. Cole, Hist. Doddington, 184-5.
  • 3. Add. 32734, f. 375.
  • 4. Add. 32735, f. 470.
  • 5. Namier, Structure, 200.
  • 6. Add. 32985, f. 328.
  • 7. Add. 32920, f. 377.
  • 8. Add. 32985, f. 328.
  • 9. Ibid. f. 453.
  • 10. Portland mss.