Double Member Borough
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Right of Election:
in burgage holders
Number of voters:
|13 Apr. 1754||Chauncy Townsend|
|25 Mar. 1761||Chauncy Townsend|
|21 Mar. 1768||Peregrine Bertie|
|21 Feb. 1770||Charles Dillon vice Blackstone, appointed to office|
|10 Oct. 1774||Thomas Wenman|
|20 Mar. 1779||Samuel Estwick vice Bayly, vacated his seat|
|9 Sept. 1780||Samuel Estwick|
|John Whalley Gardiner|
|29 Mar. 1783||Estwick re-elected after appointment to office|
|3 Jan. 1784||Estwick re-elected after appointment to office|
|1 Apr. 1784||Samuel Estwick|
|3 Feb. 1786||John Madocks vice Arcedeckne, vacated his seat|
In 1754 the Earl of Abingdon owned the majority of the burgages at Westbury, yet his hold on the borough was very tenuous. The borough was difficult to control because the right of voting lay in the lessee of the burgage, not the owner; and because the practice had been to grant long leases, which reduced Abingdon’s hold on his tenants. ‘As most of the tenants were poor, it afforded great scope for any adventurer to fight his Lordship with his own weapons by buying off his tenants.’1
The sitting Members in 1754 were Peregrine Bertie and Chauncy Townsend, who had an interest at Westbury through his wife. After the hard contest of 1747 there was a disposition on both sides to compromise; and at the general elections of 1754 and 1761 Bertie and Townsend were returned unopposed.
Willoughby Bertie, who succeeded as 4th Earl of Abingdon in 1760, set out to put the borough on a new footing. In 1762 he bought Townsend’s burgages, and by 1767 owned 65 out of the 69 in the borough. Next, the corporation was re-modelled: 7 of the 13 capital burgesses were ‘relations, friends, or domestics of Lord Abingdon’, and four were ‘persons of the town nominated by and supposed to be firmly attached to his Lordship’. Lastly, the mode of granting leases was entirely changed; and a system was devised of keeping them in hand, and making faggot votes shortly before an election. By this means Abingdon secured undisputed control of the borough.
Author: J. A. Cannon
- 1. ‘Case of the Borough of Westbury’, 1767, Bodl. Top. Wilts. c.5.