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 freeholders and leaseholders for life

Estimated number qualified to vote:

about 150


477 (1821); 535 (1831)


 HENRY LAWES LUTTRELL, earl of Carhampton [I]
5 May 1821GEORGE CHARLES PRATT, earl of Brecknock vice Carhampton, deceased
2 Aug. 1830(SIR) SANDFORD GRAHAM, bt.
30 Apr. 1831(SIR) SANDFORD GRAHAM, bt.

Main Article

A small, impoverished town in Amesbury hundred, Ludgershall was ‘in appearance a mere village’ and had ‘nothing but its situation, which is truly delightful, to excite the attention of the stranger’.1 On a visit in 1826, William Cobbett† wrote that it

contained some rashers of bacon and a very civil landlady; but, it is one of the most mean and beggarly places that man ever set his eyes on. The curse, attending corruption, seems to be upon it. The look of the place would make one swear, that there never was a clean shirt in it, since the first stone of it was laid ... The borough is, as to all practical purposes, as much private property as this pen is my private property.2

A borough by prescription, its franchise was vested in residents and non-residents who had ‘any estate of inheritance, or of freehold or leasehold, determinable upon life or lives’.3 In practice, however, it had the character of a burgage borough, and was condemned as a constituency where ‘a doorway gives the right of voting’ and ‘spots of land not larger than a hearthstone convey this invaluable right in some instances’.4 In radical publications, the electorate was sometimes estimated at about 70, but, in answer to the home office circular of 1831, it was reckoned at a nominal 150.5 There had been no contests since 1791 and, by the compromise of 1793, which was presumably still in force, the Members were nominated by the two patrons. The Tory Sir James Graham* of Kirkstall, Yorkshire, returned either a supporter of Lord Liverpool’s administration or, although they were on opposite sides of the political divide, his son Sandford. He was lord of the manor and appointed a bailiff, who acted as returning officer, a role he was alleged to have performed himself on occasion. The second seat was controlled by a local man, Joseph Hague Everett† of Biddesden House, near Andover, Hampshire, who generally sold it to a Tory. Like his father, whom he had succeeded in 1810, he was a wealthy banker, although the partnership in Mansion House Street, London, ceased trading in 1825. It is not known whether he thereafter retained any active role in borough elections, but as late as May 1848, when he made his will, he still owned extensive property in the town.6 In 1815 Graham removed his son for acting with opposition, and he was replaced first by a ministerialist and then by an Irish peer, the 2nd earl of Carhampton, who generally sided with opposition out of pique. At the general election of 1818 Carhampton and Sandford Graham were returned, presumably on the patrons’ joint interest, and this was repeated at the next election two years later. Since it was assumed, probably correctly, that Graham returned his son, Carhampton was seen as Everett’s nominee, even though he had initially been returned through Graham’s influence.7 However, Charles Long*, the paymaster-general, reported sourly to Lord Lonsdale, one of Graham’s north country connections, 24 Feb. 1820, that ‘Sir James Graham brings in Lord Carhampton again for Ludgershall - this is the way he supports his friends’.8

The seat made vacant by Carhampton’s death in April 1821 was purchased, nominally or actually from Everett, by the 2nd Marquess Camden, a veteran Pittite, for his son Lord Brecknock, a silent ministerialist.9 After Graham’s death in 1825, when his son inherited his local property and influence, Ludgershall’s representation was divided between the patrons along party lines.10 At the general election of 1826 Sir Sandford, as he now was, withdrew and must have sold his seat to the ineffectual Whig George Agar Ellis of Spring Gardens, Westminster, who was anxiously in search of one that spring. Brecknock was successful in a contest for Bath, so allowing Edward Thomas Foley of Stoke Edith, Herefordshire, another inactive Tory, to be returned, ostensibly on the Everett interest.11 National issues inspired almost no political activity in Ludgershall, but an anti-Catholic petition from its rector, churchwardens, freeholders and inhabitants was presented to the Commons by Lord Chandos, 16 Feb. 1829, and there were agricultural disturbances in the area, 18 Nov. 1830.12 At the general election of 1830 Graham, ejecting Agar Ellis for this purpose, resumed his seat in tandem with Foley; neither was disturbed at the last pre-reform election the following year.13 On the motion that Ludgershall stand part of schedule A of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 22 July 1831, Graham, who (unlike Foley) voted for reform, briefly advocated the abolition of rotten boroughs because, as he joked, he was the nominee of a patron (himself) who had determined to support the bill. No one else spoke and its disfranchisement was agreed without a division. With 101 houses, of which fewer than five were valued at more than £10, Ludgershall was ranked eighth in the final list of condemned boroughs and was duly disfranchised by the Reform Act.14 Graham retired from the House at the dissolution in late 1832 and subsequently sold his property in the town, but Foley continued to sit as Member for Herefordshire.15

Author: Stephen Farrell


  • 1. Pigot’s Commercial Dir. (1830), 803; Devizes Gazette, 8 Apr. 1830; PP (1833), xxxvii. 690, 691.
  • 2. Cobbett’s Rural Rides ed. G.D.H. and M. Cole, i. 356.
  • 3. PP (1831-2), xxxvi. 547.
  • 4. Peep at Commons (1820), 11; Spectator, 1 Jan. 1831.
  • 5. Extraordinary Red Bk. (1821), 42; PP (1831-2), xxxvi. 34, 35.
  • 6. Oldfield, Key (1820), 12; The Times, 5 Aug. 1831; PROB 11/2173/449; VCH Wilts. v. 216-18; HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 421, 422; iii. 718, 719; iv. 49, 50, 55.
  • 7. Full View of Commons (1821), 21.
  • 8. Lonsdale mss.
  • 9. Lady Lyttelton Corresp. 235.
  • 10. PROB 11/1699/259.
  • 11. Northants. RO, Agar Ellis diary, 2, 3 June 1826; Spectator, 1 Jan. 1831.
  • 12. CJ, lxxxiv. 33; E. Hobsbawm and G. Rudé, Captain Swing (1985), 94, 95.
  • 13. Agar Ellis diary, 4 June 1830.
  • 14. PP (1830), x. 101; (1831-2), xxxvi. 34, 35, 160, 201.
  • 15. VCH Wilts. xv. 126.