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:

see text

Estimated number qualified to vote:



1,643 (1821); 2,139 (1831)


9 Mar. 1820THOMAS LEGH
11 Feb. 1825SIR ROBERT TOWNSEND TOWNSEND FARQUHAR, bt.  vice Claughton, vacated his seat
9 June 1826THOMAS LEGH
31 July 1830THOMAS LEGH
30 Apr. 1831THOMAS LEGH

Main Article

Newton was a small manufacturing town with one main street, five miles from Warrington and seven from Wigan. It had no corporation and was governed by the borough steward and the bailiff of the manor, who held a court baron and court leet three times a year and were the returning officers.2 The electorate had been deliberately reduced in number and it remained under the complete control of Thomas Legh of Lyme, Cheshire, the lord of the manor, who owned most of the property in the borough, including his residences at Haydock Lodge and Golborne Park. The franchise had been defined by an election committee in 1797 as being in ‘any person seised of a corporeal estate of freehold in any house, building, or lands, within the borough, of the value of forty shillings a year and upwards; and in case of joint-tenants, or tenants in common ... no more than one person has a right to vote for one and the same house or tenement’.3 Newton was in effect a burgage borough.

In 1820 Legh, who returned himself throughout the period, again brought in his brother-in-law Thomas Claughton, a salt manufacturer, lawyer and land speculator possessed of certain local properties. Claughton resigned as a bankrupt in 1825 and was replaced, presumably as a paying guest, by Sir Robert Townsend Farquhar, the former governor of Mauritius. At the general election of 1826 Legh returned Thomas Alcock, a wealthy Surrey landowner, and in 1830 and 1831 Thomas Houldsworth of Sherwood Hall, Nottinghamshire, a Manchester cotton spinner who had previously represented Pontefract. It was alleged in 1830 that he was a creditor of Legh, given the seat in compensation for his money.4 He was certainly a shareholder in the locally controversial schemes, 1830-2, for a Wigan-Newton-Warrington railway.5

The Grey ministry’s reform bills proposed the disfranchisement of Newton, which was ranked 34th in the revised list of boroughs in late 1831, with 274 houses and £151 received in assessed taxes.6 Enquiries that December revealed that the borough encompassed 50 acres in a parish (Winwick) of 2,644, and had no freemen. The steward John Fitchett and bailiff Richard Owen, however, added:

Neither do we consider this to be in fact the main object of the inquiry in the present instance; but rather to ascertain whether there be any difference in between the extent of the borough and the township within which the same is situate, which term in the eight northern counties is synonymous, or in general of similar import to the division of ‘parish’ in southern counties. In this case there is not any difference between the borough and township of Newton, which are co-extensive.7

Its extinction under the revised reform bill was confirmed by the Commons on 20 Feb. 1832. The Lords carried an amendment substituting Newton for Wigan as the election town for Lancashire South (by 54-5), 7 June 1832. It remained a municipal borough until 1835.8

Authors: Stephen Bairstow / Margaret Escott


  • 1. PP (1831-2), xxxvi. 559.
  • 2. E. Baines, Hist. Lancs.(1824), ii. 433; J.P. Earwacker, E. Cheshire, ii. 161-3; PP (1831-2), xxxvi. 47.
  • 3. CJ, liii. 147.
  • 4. Leeds Mercury, 24 July 1830.
  • 5. LJ, lxiii. 260, 927, 959, 1058.
  • 6. PP (1831-2), xxxvi. 27, 47.
  • 7. Ibid. 559; LJ, lxiv. 357.
  • 8. PP (1835), xxvi. 741.