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 and freeholders

Number of voters:

about 3,300


2 Feb. 1715WALLER BACON1662
 Robert Bene1326
 Richard Berney1319
3 Apr. 1722WALLER BACON 
30 Aug. 1727ROBERT BRITIFFE1626
 Miles Branthwayt1265
 Richard Berney1188
15 May 1734HORATIO WALPOLE1785
 Sir Edward Ward1621
 Miles Branthwayt1567
19 Feb. 1735THOMAS VERE vice Bacon, deceased1820
 Miles Branthwayt1486
 William Clarke829
29 June 1747JOHN HOBART, Lord Hobart 

Main Article

Norwich, which claimed to be the second city in the kingdom, was governed by the mayor, sheriffs, citizens, and commonalty in common council assembled, consisting of twenty-four aldermen, sitting for life, and sixty common councillors, elected annually by the resident freemen. There was also a court of mayoralty, made up of the mayor, sheriffs, and aldermen, sitting by themselves and combining legislative, executive, and judicial functions. The court of mayoralty or, as it was sometimes called, of aldermen, was Whig and the common council Tory at George I’s accession.

In 1715 the late Tory Members were defeated by two Whigs, Robert Britiffe, a Norwich lawyer, employed by Walpole, and Waller Bacon, a local landowner. They were re-elected unopposed in 1722, when a rival Whig candidate withdrew,

the principal persons he depended upon amongst the Dissenters having now openly declared that, seeing the aim is only to break our interest, they will act against him.1

Before the municipal elections later in that year a local Whig leader wrote that if they did not go well

it will give such a turn to the constitution as will not be easily helped without taking away the charter and granting it on another foot, viz. by confirming the present court of aldermen, who have a majority firmly in the interest of the present Government, and granting to them a power to choose sixty common councillors, who shall remain so for life, and that for the future the mayor and sheriffs shall be annually chosen by a majority of the said court of aldermen and common council.2

In 1727 Britiffe and Bacon were again returned after a riotous contest, in which Richard Berney, a former Tory Member, was thought to have behaved badly by standing against them, ‘for he had lately been made recorder of this city, and principally by their interest’.3 In 1730 the disputes between the Whig aldermen were composed by a local Act putting the municipal constitution on a bicameral basis. In 1733 Walpole visited Norwich to induct his brother, Horace, as prospective candidate for the city, where he was fêted by the corporation, who presented him with a gold box. He was present at Norwich on the election day, at the end of which he was able to report to Newcastle that both Whig candidates had been successful:

Great expenses made, great threats ushered in the day, but a due provision to repel force by force made it a quiet election.;4

After Waller Bacon’s death in 1735, his son, who had been passed over for the vacancy in favour of Thomas Vere, a local merchant, threatened to divide the Whig interest by standing with Tory support at the next general election,5 but was bought off by being returned elsewhere on the Walpole interest. The situation was repeated in 1747, this time by the Earl of Buckinghamshire, formerly Sir John Hobart who succeeded in forcing a compromise under which his son, Lord Hobart, was returned unopposed with old Horace Walpole, Vere being dropped.6

Author: Romney R. Sedgwick


  • 1. John Clarke to Sunderland, 17 Feb. 1721, Sunderland (Blenheim) mss.
  • 2. S. & B. Webb, Eng. Local Govt. iii. 545-6.
  • 3. VCH Norf. ii. 520.
  • 4. J. H. Plumb, Walpole, ii. 283, 321.
  • 5. J. Fowle to ‘old’ Horace Walpole, 4 Nov. 1739, Walpole (Wolterton) mss.
  • 6. Pelham to same, 24 June, 4 July 1747, Add. 9186, ff.101, 105.