Single Member Borough

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1715-1754, ed. R. Sedgwick, 1970
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the freemen

Number of voters:

about 50


 Salwey Winnington 
27 Mar. 1722CREWE OFFLEY 
21 Aug. 1727CREWE OFFLEY 
30 Apr. 1734WILLIAM BOWLES24
 Crewe Offley4
20 Feb. 1735PHINEAS BOWLES vice William Bowles, chose to sit for Bridport 
9 Dec. 1748WILLIAM HENRY LYTTELTON vice Bowles, deceased27
 Edward Winnington22
 William Bowles18

Main Article

In 1715 Lord Herbert of Chirbury, whose estate of Ribbesford was three quarters of a mile from Bewdley, wrested control of the borough from another neighbouring family, the Winningtons. He retained control, returning government supporters, till 1734, when he was ousted by William Bowles, in circumstances described in a paper drawn up for Walpole after the election:1

The corporation consists of a bailiff and twelve aldermen, which bailiff and a majority of aldermen have a power to make honorary burgesses who have a right to elect a bailiff and Member of Parliament.

There are twentyfive common councilmen, chose by the aldermen, out of which (upon a demise) aldermen are generally chose; these have a right to elect a bailiff and Member of Parliament.

NB As these twentyfive died, the aldermen declined keeping up the number and in their stead chose honorary burgesses, so that there are (of the twenty five) but three now living.

The Lord Herbert the preceding election had in his interest nine of the aldermen, and all of the twentyfive then living, and the majority of the honorary burgesses, who elected Crewe Offley. Mr. Bowles had then in his interest but four aldermen, who he gave silver cups to value £25 each, and on demise of an alderman less than two years ago, gave three cups more to three other aldermen for electing Mr. Thomas Manning an alderman, by which and other means (too long to insert here) he got a majority of aldermen, and so made twelve honorary burgesses.

Lord Herbert, a ruined man, committed suicide in 1738, when that interest became extinct.

On Bowles’s death in 1748 control was acquired by the Lytteltons, after a struggle with the Winningtons, on terms shown by a letter from the recorder to George Lyttelton:

In pursuance to your direction I yesterday gave a discharge for the four hundred pounds lent the corporation, and in the evening met your friends in order to consult them what farther sum they expected from you. I told them they ought to make some allowance for the extraordinary expense you were put to in the contest which they all thought reasonable and then I proposed you should give them four hundred more which they all readily agreed to and said they would not have had so much did they not apprehend the other party would clamour.2

The letter added that eight out of the twelve aldermen agreed and that a present to the bailiff costing about £20 would be advisable. Commenting on this letter, Lyttelton observed that the bailiff’s present, plus the debt of another constituent,

will with the other eight hundred, and the expenses I have been at already not included therein, raise the price of my brother’s election above the £1,000 agreed for at first. But as they have abated £200 the round sum I am afraid I must not dispute with them for any more.3

Such payments appear to have been used for municipal purposes.4

Author: Romney R. Sedgwick


  • 1. ‘The Present State of the Corporation of Bewdley’, Cholmondeley (Houghton) mss.
  • 2. J. Foley to Geo. Lyttelton, 8 Mar. 1749, Lyttelton mss.
  • 3. Geo. Lyttelton to Sir Thos. Lyttelton, n.d., ibid.
  • 4. J. R. Burton, Bewdley, 47.