Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the freemen and freeholders paying scot and lot

Number of voters:

over 150


(1801): 2,634


22 June 1790HON. THOMAS ONSLOW67
 Hon. Chapple Norton43
19 Dec. 1792 ONSLOW re-elected after appointment to office 
27 May 1796HON. THOMAS ONSLOW141
 Peter Thompson Botham85
5 July 1802HON. THOMAS ONSLOW (Visct. Cranley) 
 Hon. Chapple Norton86
 NORTON vice Sumner, on petition, 16 Mar. 1807 
 George (Holme) Sumner75
18 June 1818ARTHUR ONSLOW120
 [?James Henry] Frankland61
10 Feb. 1819 CHARLES BARING WALL vice Best, appointed to office 

Main Article

The Onslows of nearby Clandon Park lost their monopoly of the representation in 1766 when, for the sake of peace, they conceded one seat to Sir Fletcher Norton of Wonersh, afterwards 1st Baron Grantley. Until 1790 the two families returned a Member each, unopposed, but five of the next seven elections were contested. The challenge was to the Nortons. Chapple Norton, who in his first Parliament had, latterly, voted against Pitt, was toppled in 1790 by George Sumner, a disappointed aspirant to the county seat, who supported Pitt. Sumner lived nearby at Hatchlands and was both wealthy and aggressive. He espoused the ‘independence’ of the borough. Onslow did not coalesce with Norton, but 32 of the most respectable electors divided their votes between them, 35 voting for Onslow and Sumner. It was a near thing, but Norton, who declined at the beginning of the second day, calculated that the majority of 80 unpolled votes were for Sumner and did not challenge the result.1 He persevered, however, and in 1796, Sumner having withdrawn, he narrowly defeated his replacement, the London merchant Peter Botham, an elector. On 25 May the Morning Chronicle predicted: ‘there will be a short and smart contest—but the old interests have the knowing ones on their side’. Five days later the same paper, claiming that nine good votes had been rejected, added, ‘This business must, of course, go before the House ... There never was such a contest in this borough—it lasted three days; it being an Onslow borough, the influence of the county round was raised in their favour.’ Botham wrote to Pitt, 8 June 1796, promising him his support if he were seated on petition, but his petition of 8 Oct. was discharged on 24 Oct., no recognizances having been entered.2

Despite reports of a contest early in 1802, the ‘old interests’ were not challenged at the ensuing election.3 In 1806 Sumner re-emerged, taking advantage of local discontent over the appointment of a churchwarden and of Norton’s long absence. The contest was a hard one, embittered by a disagreement over the appointment of a poll assessor and the qualification threshold of freemen. The electors’ petition against Sumner’s return alleged bribery, treating, intimidation and the rejection of good votes by the returning officer, and the House decided in Norton’s favour.4 The contest was repeated at the general election soon afterwards and Norton clung to his seat by three votes. Sumner threatened a petition, but the vendetta was ended by his coming in for the county with the support of the Nortons.5 In 1812 Norton retired and two Onslows were returned unopposed, but Arthur Onslow, not a member of the Clandon branch of the family, prudently emphasized his independence, and on the 1st Earl of Onslow’s death in 1814 it was not his maverick heir but William Norton, 2nd Baron Grantley, who became high steward of the borough. In 1818 Arthur Onslow was subtly transformed into the family nominee, and Best (recorder of the borough) put up by Grantley. They held at bay an opportunist challenger, who was unable to make the contest as close as the Sumner-Norton confrontations.6

Authors: Brian Murphy / R. G. Thorne


  • 1. De Guildeforde, A True State of the Poll (1790).
  • 2. PRO 30/8/114, f. 214; CJ, lii. 17, 65.
  • 3. The Times, 22 Jan., 8 Mar. 1802.
  • 4. CJ, lxii. 42; J. Wilson, Biog. Index (1808), 254, 573-4.
  • 5. See SURREY.
  • 6. The Late Elections (1818), 131; Oldfield, Key (1820), 125. For the identity of Frankland, Surr. Arch. Coll. xxii. 161.