Available from Boydell and Brewer
Right of Election:
in the bailiffs and inhabitants paying scot and lot
Number of voters:
|16 June 1790||SIR JOHN PENNINGTON, Bt., Baron Muncaster [I]|
|WILLIAM COLES MEDLYCOTT|
|14 June 1791||RICHARD JOHNSON vice Medlycott, vacated his seat|
|15 Feb. 1794||MARK WOOD I vice Johnson, vacated his seat|
|27 May 1796||HENRY WILLIAM PAGET, Lord Paget||58|
|SIR ROBERT AINSLIE||55|
|5 July 1802||HENRY WILLIAM PAGET, Lord Paget|
|12 June 1804||HON. CHARLES PAGET vice Paget, vacated his seat|
|31 Oct. 1806||HUGH LEYCESTER|
|HENRY WILLIAM PAGET, Lord Paget|
|William Samuel Davison|
|5 May 1807||HENRY WILLIAM PAGET, Lord Paget|
|31 Jan. 1810||WILLIAM LEGGE, Visct. Lewisham, vice Paget, vacated his seat|
|5 Dec. 1810||HON. EDWARD PAGET vice Lewisham, called to the Upper House|
|5 Oct. 1812||HON. (SIR) EDWARD PAGET|
|ROBERT MATTHEW CASBERD|
|12 June 1816||PAGET re-elected after appointment to office|
|18 June 1818||HON. (SIR) EDWARD PAGET||39|
|ROBERT MATTHEW CASBERD||33|
|Samuel Moulton Barrett||15|
|17 July 1819||CASBERD re-elected after appointment to office||54|
The initiative in the borough lay with the owners of the nine capital burgages assigned to the bailiffs, two of whom, in rotation, named the returning officer. Between 1705 and 1780 the Medlycott family, who owned four of them, shared control with the successive owners of the other five. The two parties fell out, so there were contests in 1772 and 1774, but in 1780 Edward Walter† was duped by government into selling his five burgages to Thomas Hutchings Medlycott. The stratagem was unsuccessfully challenged by Walter’s displaced nominee at the election of 1780 when Medlycott stood in conjunction with a government nominee, Townson. Medlycott then sold his own seat to a ministerialist, John Pennington (afterwards Lord Muncaster) in 1781, and again returned him with Townson in 1784. Subsequently, his political apathy, of which the Whigs wished to take advantage, played into the hands of Henry Bayly Paget, Earl of Uxbridge, to whom Edward Walter had left the rest of his estates in 1780. It would seem that Muncaster was under an obligation to Uxbridge, possibly for the purchase money for his seat, and that Uxbridge regarded this as maintaining his lien on Milborne Port.1
After Medlycott’s death in 1795, his heir William Coles Medlycott was embarrassed by a challenge from two Whig adventurers, Norman Macleod* and Lucius Concannon*. On 29 Feb. 1796 they informed the electors that a report that they were giving up ‘the great and prevailing interest’ of which they were assured was a device of their opponents, who were looking for a candidate to replace Wood, the other sitting Member. Like Muncaster, he was not seeking re-election. Medlycott looked to Uxbridge to save the situation and Uxbridge’s heir Lord Paget offered in conjunction with Medlycott’s connexion by marriage, Sir Robert Ainslie. Uxbridge’s agents’ canvassing lists reveal that they had no fear of defeat, but they did not do as well as forecast and Paget spent over £1,500. Macleod’s petition (8 Oct. 1796) objecting to 14 votes and alleging bribery by Ainslie was not pursued, and an electors’ petition (20 Oct.), which also turned on the right of election with regard to the bailiffs, was decided in favour of the sitting Members.2
Subsequently Uxbridge ‘farmed Sir William Coles Medlycott’s moiety upon lease, and nominated both Members’. One seat was occupied by one of his sons and the other by barristers whom he had retained. An opposition to this arrangement took place in 1806. To meet the emergency, Lord Paget, who had vacated in favour of his brother Charles in 1804 after a disagreement on politics with his father and was not in Parliament, was induced to stand, ‘lest by his not becoming a candidate the earl’s interest in the borough should suffer’. He subsequently complained that Lord Grenville’s ministry had connived at sending down ‘two sets of candidates’ to the borough to thwart the family interest.3 One set of candidates evidently consisted of Samuel Boddington, a London merchant of whom Tierney wrote to Lord Holland that he preferred to fight in the hope of getting into Parliament cheaper, than pay £4,000 ‘quietly’, and one Anderson. Tierney asked Holland to secure three voters attached to Lord Digby in the borough for Boddington and his friend. A letter of Richard Sharp* to Lady Holland at this time suggested that Lord Henry Petty’s ‘friendly interference’ inspired Boddington’s intended trip to Dorset, and that ‘he and the other candidate are firmly attached to the persons and the principles that we approve’. The Pagets heard of Boddington’s plan and Sir Arthur Paget received a bland denial from Fremantle at the Treasury when he asked if they were countenancing Boddington. Hugh Leycester, Lord Paget’s running partner, was rushed to Milborne Port to forestall the challenge and Boddington and his friend did not materialize; instead, a second set of candidates appeared. Davison and Samuel, a London merchant and a nabob, addressed the borough on 30 Oct., refusing to make any promise as to politics and adding by way of explanation, ‘We are anxious to secure your independence and you will not be surprised, gentlemen, at our natural anxiety to secure our own’. They did not succeed and petitions from them and their supporters were discharged.4
In 1807 a token opposition came from James Bennett, whose address, 4 May, informed the electors that he was a property owner nearby and well known to them: but he did not persist. Uxbridge’s agent was warned from London, 27 Apr., that ‘two gentlemen’ were on the eve of starting to oppose Uxbridge’s interest and were determined to stand a poll and petition, but Hugh Leycester, on the spot, informed Lord Uxbridge, 2 May:
I think there is no chance of any opposition, unless upon the same principle as the last, by some persons coming down the day before and taking such votes as they can pick up, for the purpose of trying what can be done upon a petition—but the chances of success there, and consequently of the attempt here are so much diminished by what has happened since the last election, that I should hope we shall have no trouble, though we can depend on nothing till the last moment.
There was no trouble.5
As a matter of courtesy, Uxbridge informed Medlycott, who received a baronetcy in 1808, of his nominations: in reply to one such communication, 14 Nov. 1810, Medlycott assured Uxbridge of every co-operation short of ‘personal exertion’, which his health would not allow, on this and every future occasion. No exertions were called for in 1812, though Sir Arthur Paget arrived, in his brother’s absence, to introduce the new nominee Casberd.6 In 1818 Sir Edward Paget and Casberd were opposed by two Whigs, Richard Sharp and Moulton Barrett, a West India proprietor, uncle of the poet. They failed, as did an electors’ petition on their behalf, and Sharp was defeated, more narrowly, when he contested Casberd’s re-election in 1819.7 In 1818 a scherzo was provided when Robert Knight* and John Cam Hobhouse†, two radical Whigs, were procured by a local attorney, Samuel Leveridge, who addressed the borough, promising to rescue it ‘from the thraldom it has long been under from these Meddlycoats, Turncoats, and any other Coats’ through these two ‘friends of Romilly and Brougham, [and] enemies of Oliver [the government informer] and Castlereagh’. He claimed they had joint incomes of £40,000 a year, much of it spent philanthropically ‘in alleviating the sufferings and bettering the condition of their fellow creatures from the shameful condition brought on them by our late heavenborn ministers’. Hobhouse had heard that Sharp and Barrett were standing and realized there was something amiss. He was horrified at the address and repudiated it, and Leveridge.8 Sharp and Moulton Barrett were put up by Lord Darlington, the Whig borough-monger, who at that time, evidently at the instigation of John Henning, a glover with a grudge against the Pagets, purchased one Grimes’s land in the borough and began building houses on it. It was he who insisted on the petition after the election of 1818 and encouraged Sharp’s candidature in 1819.9 The Salisbury Journal, 16 Aug. 1819, reported the following:
At the new town of Milborne Port (the foundation stone of which was laid in March last, and which has already been extended to between 30 and 40 houses), an excellent dinner was, on Tuesday last, given to upwards of 200 persons—friends to the new interest. The evening was spent with the utmost hilarity.
Such hilarity was a fitting accompaniment to this reductio ad absurdum of the unreformed representation which led to a furious building competition between the Pagets and Darlington. Darlington’s venture came to grief after a further defeat in 1820.
Author: R. G. Thorne
- 1. John Rylands Lib. Haigh mss, Uxbridge to Muncaster, 29 June 1791, cited by J. R. E. Borron, Trans. Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. lxvi (1966), 347; Ginter, Whig Organization, 99, 100, 206, 216, 240; Mq. of Anglesey, One-Leg, 20, 346.
- 2. Dorset RO, Anglesey mss D20/Z1; A4, A10; CJ, lii. 17, 44, 65, 190.
- 3. Oldfield, Rep. Hist. iv. 471; Anglesey mss D20/Z3, Lowe to Leycester, 21 Oct. 1806; Paget Brothers, 57.
- 4. Add. 51585, Tierney to Holland, Tues. morn. [Oct.]; Add. 51593, Sharp to Lady, Holland, n.d.; Anglesey mss D20/Z3, Lowe to Leycester, 21 Oct. 1806; CJ, lxii. 43, 70.
- 5. Anglesey mss D20/Z3, March to James, 27 Apr.; Leycester to Uxbridge [2 May 1807].
- 6. Ibid.; Add. 48404, f. 103.
- 7. J. Marks, Hist. Barrett Fam. (1938); CJ, lxxiv. 88, 328; Salisbury Jnl. 26 July 1819.
- 8. Som. RO, Fooks mss, handbill ; Add. 38457, ff. 50-52; 47235, ff. 23-25.
- 9. Oldfield, Key (1820), 42; Add. 51830, Darlington to Holland, 3 Feb. 1819; Som. and Dorset N. and Q. (1975), xxx. 141.