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 300


18 Apr. 1754Thomas Villiers 
 Sir Robert Burdett 
28 June 1756George Bussy Villiers, Visct. Villiers, vice Thomas Villiers, deceased 
31 Mar. 1761George Bussy Villiers, Visct. Villiers152
 Sir Robert Burdett131
 Simon Luttrell122
23 Dec. 1765Edward Thurlow vice Villiers, called to the Upper House 
18 Mar. 1768William de Grey 
 Edward Thurlow 
30 Nov. 1768Charles Vernon vice de Grey, chose to sit for Newport 
4 Apr. 1770Thurlow re-elected after appointment to office 
1 Feb. 1771Thurlow re-elected after appointment to office 
10 Oct. 1774Thomas de Grey191
 Edward Thurlow 186
 Isaac Hawkins Browne118
13 June 1777de Grey re-elected after appointment to office 
10 June 1778Anthony Chamier vice Thurlow, called to the Upper House 
11 Sept. 1780Anthony Chamier 
 John Courtenay 
27 Nov. 1780John Calvert vice Chamier, deceased 
29 Apr. 1783Courtenay re-elected after appointment to office 
5 Apr. 1784John Courtenay 
 John Calvert 

Main Article

In 1754 two men had an important interest at Tamworth: Lord Weymouth, owner of Drayton Manor, two miles from Tamworth, and George Townshend, owner of the castle. Of lesser importance were Sir Robert Burdett and Simon Luttrell. Burdett, of an old Warwickshire family, M.P. for Tamworth since 1748, had the support of those who feared aristocratic domination. Luttrell, an Irishman, who had recently bought an estate in Warwickshire and was concerned in more than one borough, had little property in Tamworth, and relied mainly on money.

Townshend held the castle of Tamworth in right of his wife, Charlotte, suo jure Baroness Ferrers. In 1754 he had held it only two years, and did not feel strong enough to present a candidate. Burdett and Thomas Villiers, Weymouth’s candidate, were returned unopposed. In 1756, when Villiers was created a peer, Townshend put up his brother, Roger, against Weymouth’s candidate, Lord Villiers, but declined the poll.

Townshend, having failed to secure the borough by direct assault, retreated, and tried a more subtle approach. In 1761 the candidates were Burdett, Villiers and Luttrell. Burdett and Villiers stood jointly, and Townshend, too weak to bring forward his own candidate, gave them his interest. At the same time he concluded an alliance with Luttrell which was not to take effect until after the election.

It is settled and agreed this 6th day of March 1761 between the Rt. Hon. George Townshend and Simon Luttrell Esq. with relation to their interests at Tamworth, that as soon as the next election is over the Castle and Mr. Luttrell shall join their interests and at a joint and equal expense endeavour to bring in two for Tamworth, each party to name one, but in case they shall upon trial find it prudent to agree for one, then the nomination of that one is to be alternate between the Castle and Mr. Luttrell, and in case Mr. Luttrell shall be chosen for Tamworth at the ensuing election the Castle is to have the first nomination but if not Mr. Luttrell is to have the first.

That in case they shall judge proper to compromise with Lord Weymouth for one and one, the working of the colliery at Wincote, the restoring the corporation to the old usage of dividing the aldermen equally between the Castle and Drayton Manor, and the settling the town clerk’s and all other places dependent upon the corporation (including the living) equally between the Castle and Drayton Manor, shall be made preliminaries, and they thereby further engage to exert their endeavours to obtain a navigation for Tamworth.1

By 1765 Townshend felt able to challenge Weymouth. First, however, he tried to come to terms with him, but the negotiations broke down when Weymouth insisted that his own candidate should be returned at the coming by-election. Next, a fresh agreement was made with Luttrell (13 July 1765): Henry Lawes Luttrell was to be the candidate at the by-election, supported ‘at one common expense and as a common cause’; and the agreement of 1761 was re-affirmed for future elections. Shortly afterwards Luttrell was replaced as candidate by George Shirley, son of Robert, 1st Earl Ferrers and uncle of Lady Townshend—perhaps it was felt that the Castle interest would be strengthened by adopting as candidate a member of the family from whom the interest was derived.

While both sides canvassed and spent heavily, fresh negotiations were opened which concluded on 29 Oct. 1765. The first agreement was between Townshend and Weymouth.2

In consideration of the present contest against Mr. Thurlow, the candidate upon the Manor interest, being dropped, and of Lord Townshend’s concurring in his election, Lord Weymouth agrees that upon Lord Townshend and Mr. Luttrell contributing each five hundred pounds towards it, Lord Weymouth will provide a seat in and during the next Parliament for a person to be named by Lord Townshend ....

It is further agreed that Lord Weymouth will use his interest to fill up one half of the corporation with Lord Townshend’s friends as soon as it can be done with security and convenience to the united interest.

It was specified that the seat provided by Weymouth should be at Weobley. A second agreement, between Townshend and Luttrell, named Luttrell as Townshend’s candidate at the next general election.

Townshend and Luttrell had spent about £4,700. Luttrell objected that some of this money had not been spent on the election, quarrelled with Townshend, and demanded that the matter should be referred to arbitration. Following the by-election Townshend spent heavily on increasing his property in Tamworth, and Luttrell, who had become unpopular there, was now willing to give up his interest. Townshend and Weymouth, eager to see him go, agreed on 15 Jan. 1768 to provide him with a seat at Weobley at the general election.

Townshend and Weymouth now appeared to have the borough to themselves. But there was a large party uncommitted to either and resentful at seeing the borough pass under aristocratic control. In 1774 Isaac Hawkins Browne, who owned some property in Tamworth, obtained sufficient votes (including ten from the corporation) to show Townshend and Weymouth that their control was not complete. Although they never again had to face a serious challenge, attention and money had at all times to be devoted to the borough. In 1790 Weymouth sold his property at Tamworth to Sir Robert Peel, father of the statesman.

Author: John Brooke


D. Stuart, ‘Parlty. Hist. Tamworth, 1661-1837’, London Univ. M.A. thesis.

  • 1. Tamworth borough archives.
  • 2. Ibid.