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 and freeholders

Number of voters:

about 3,000


15 Apr. 1754John Hobart, Lord Hobart 
 Horatio Walpole 
29 Dec. 1755Hobart re-elected after appointment to office 
25 June 1756Edward Bacon vice Walpole, called to the Upper House 
8 Dec. 1756Harbord Harbord vice Hobart, called to the Upper House 
2 Jan. 1760Bacon re-elected after appointment to office 
27 Mar. 1761Harbord Harbord1729
 Edward Bacon1507
 Nockold Thompson718
 Robert Harvey499
18 Mar. 1768Harbord Harbord1811
 Edward Bacon1596
 Thomas Beevor1136
11 Oct. 1774Sir Harbord Harbord 
 Edward Bacon 
11 Sept. 1780Sir Harbord Harbord1382
 Edward Bacon1199
 John Thurlow1103
 William Windham1069
5 Apr. 1784Sir Harbord Harbord2305
 William Windham1297
 Henry Hobart1233
16 Sept. 1786Henry Hobart vice Harbord, called to the Upper House1450
 Thomas Beevor1383
 Robert John Buxton10
 Election declared void, 9 Mar. 1787 
28 Mar. 1787Henry Hobart1393
 Sir Thomas Beevor1313

Main Article

In 1754 Norwich was the third largest city in England and the fourth largest urban constituency, a cathedral city of great dignity and antiquity and the centre of the Norfolk woollen industry. Its municipal constitution resembled that of London, with a court of aldermen and a court of common council; and municipal politics were fiercely contested. There was a large body of Dissenters; and since the franchise included freeholders as well as freemen, a considerable rural vote. All the representatives of Norwich during this period were substantial country gentlemen or members of aristocratic families, and until 1780 political issues played little part in elections. In 1754 a Walpole and a Hobart were returned unopposed: by uniting their interests they hoped to maintain their ascendancy in the borough, but were forced to admit the claims of other families to a share in its representation.

The Norwich election of 1780 was fought on a curious mixture of local and national issues. The trade of Norwich had languished as a result of the entry of the European powers into the American war, yet there does not seem to have been any popular opposition to North’s policy. Harbord had made himself unpopular because of his rigid enforcement of the game laws and his ruthlessness in enclosing, and when the corporation found an alternative candidate in John Thurlow, brother of the lord chancellor, and alderman and merchant of Norwich, Harbord withdrew. He changed his mind, after receiving an invitation to stand signed by over 500 freemen, and was nominated on a joint interest with William Windham. The nucleus of their party seems to have been composed of Dissenters and their opposition was primarily against the junta which controlled the corporation. The American war was a secondary issue, and radicalism was not prominent at Norwich as it was in other large urban constituences. Harbord came head of the poll and Bacon a poor second.

The issue of Pitt v. Fox came up at the election of 1784 but, as in 1780, national politics were overshadowed by the local struggle between the corporation and the anti-corporation party. Harbord was accepted by both sides; Windham, a follower of Fox and an opponent of parliamentary reform, was the anti-corporation candidate; and Hobart, the corporation candidate, declared his adherence to Pitt. The by-elections of 1786 and 1787 were also fought on the local issue with almost no reference to national politics.

Author: John Brooke


B. D. Hayes, ‘Politics in Norfolk, 1750-1832’, Cambridge Univ. Ph.D. thesis.