Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the corporation of the salt springs

Estimated number qualified to vote:

28 in 1831


2,176 (1821); 2,487 (1831)


8 Mar. 1820WILLIAM PHILIP MOLYNEUX, earl of Sefton [I]
14 Feb. 1822JOHN HODGETTS HODGETTS FOLEY vice Foley, deceased
13 June 1826WILLIAM PHILIP MOLYNEUX, earl of Sefton [I]
2 Aug. 1830WILLIAM PHILIP MOLYNEUX, earl of Sefton [I]

Main Article

Droitwich, an ancient market town ‘celebrated from the earliest times for its salt springs’ or ‘wiches’, produced ‘the finest and whitest salt in the kingdom’; but the municipal corporation commissioners reported that although trade had ‘very much increased’ since the repeal of the salt duty, the town ‘did not appear to be much increasing in wealth or extent’, it ‘requiring but few hands to manage the process’.1 The representation, which had not been contested since 1747, remained firmly in the hands of the Foleys of Whitley Court, whose interest had been strengthened by inter-marriage with the Winningtons of Stanford Court, their former rivals, in 1776. From 1793 the family was headed by the 3rd Baron Foley, recorder and patron of the self-elected corporation of two bailiffs and an ‘indefinite number of burgesses’, who qualified for the franchise by receiving a burgageship or ‘seisin of a share in the original salt pit’, called the ‘old brine pit’, which had long since dried up. Between 1820 and 1830 only seven new burgesses were invested with this privilege, one each year from 1822 and two in 1824; and by 1831 the number of qualified voters had fallen to 28. There was no admission fee.2

Foley’s nominees continued to sit undisturbed throughout this period, and like him were zealous Whigs. Lord Sefton, his first cousin, played a leading role in the opposition campaign for Queen Caroline, in whose support petitions reached the Commons, 2 Feb., and the Lords, 19 Feb. 1821.3 On the death of Foley’s cousin Thomas in 1822 Lord Grey was advised that ‘Lord Foley’s influence’ now went ‘no further than to enable him to bring in one of his own family’; but another cousin, John Hodgetts Hodgetts Foley, was returned without difficulty.4 An invitation to Sefton to stand against Huskisson at the 1823 Liverpool by-election prompted rumours of another vacancy, but he declined.5 Petitions against slavery reached the Commons, 21 June 1824, 11 Nov. 1830, 29 Mar. 1831, and the Lords, 16 Nov. 1830.6 Petitions endorsing the Grey ministry’s reform bill, which both Members supported, were presented to the Commons, 19 Mar., and the Lords, 21 Mar. 1831.7 At the 1831 general election Sefton, who was earmarked for a British peerage, made way for the former Member Sir Thomas Edward Winnington, another cousin of Lord Foley and supporter of reform.8 By the Reform Act, which deprived Droitwich of one Member, the borough was extensively enlarged from 2.7 to 35.3 square miles to include all ‘parishes which are wholly contained within a circle of four miles’ round the town, along with the outlying parishes of Elmbridge, Hanbury and Himbleton, ‘the bulk of whose population’ were ‘of the same rural character’ and did ‘not materially differ in their connection with Droitwich’. With a reformed electorate of 311, all of whom were registered as £10 householders (128 of them within the old limits), the new constituency was no longer subject to the hegemony of the corporation, and more power passed to John Somerset Pakington (formerly Russell), who had inherited the Westwood Park estate of his maternal uncle Sir John Pakington in 1830. Hodgetts Foley was nevertheless re-elected unopposed as a Liberal in 1832, but he was defeated by a Conservative in 1835. Pakington came in unopposed in 1837 and sat until his defeat in 1874, when he was raised to the peerage as Lord Hampton.9

Author: Philip Salmon


  • 1. Pigot’s Commercial Dir. (1828-9), 860; Lascelles’ Worcs. Dir. (1851), 135; PP (1831-2), xl. 127; (1835) xxiii. 184.
  • 2. PP (1831-2), xxxvi. 62, 519; (1835), xxiii. 102, 183; E. Porritt, Unreformed House of Commons, i. 36.
  • 3. CJ, lxxvi. 27; LJ, liv. 50.
  • 4. Grey mss, Tierney to Grey, 23 Jan. 1822.
  • 5. Add. 51836, Sefton to Holland [early 1823].
  • 6. CJ, lxxix. 526; lxxxvi. 55, 455; LJ, lxiii. 96.
  • 7. CJ, lxxxvi. 407; LJ, lxiii. 346.
  • 8. Worcester Herald, 23 Apr., 7 May 1831.
  • 9. N. Gash, Politics in Age of Peel, 433; PP (1831-2), xxxvi. 327, 479; (1831-2) xl. 127; W.R. Williams, Parl. Hist. Worcs. 136, 137.