Double Member Borough

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in burgage holders

Number of voters:



13 Apr. 1754Chauncy Townsend
 Peregrine Bertie
25 Mar. 1761Chauncy Townsend
 Peregrine Bertie
21 Mar. 1768Peregrine Bertie
 William Blackstone
21 Feb. 1770Charles Dillon vice Blackstone, appointed to office
10 Oct. 1774Thomas Wenman
 Nathaniel Bayly
20 Mar. 1779Samuel Estwick vice Bayly, vacated his seat
9 Sept. 1780Samuel Estwick
 John Whalley Gardiner
29 Mar. 1783Estwick re-elected after appointment to office
3 Jan. 1784Estwick re-elected after appointment to office
1 Apr. 1784Samuel Estwick
 Chaloner Arcedeckne
3 Feb. 1786John Madocks vice Arcedeckne, vacated his seat

Main Article

In 1754 the Earl of Abingdon owned the majority of the burgages at Westbury, yet his hold on the borough was very tenuous. The borough was difficult to control because the right of voting lay in the lessee of the burgage, not the owner; and because the practice had been to grant long leases, which reduced Abingdon’s hold on his tenants. ‘As most of the tenants were poor, it afforded great scope for any adventurer to fight his Lordship with his own weapons by buying off his tenants.’1

The sitting Members in 1754 were Peregrine Bertie and Chauncy Townsend, who had an interest at Westbury through his wife. After the hard contest of 1747 there was a disposition on both sides to compromise; and at the general elections of 1754 and 1761 Bertie and Townsend were returned unopposed.

Willoughby Bertie, who succeeded as 4th Earl of Abingdon in 1760, set out to put the borough on a new footing. In 1762 he bought Townsend’s burgages, and by 1767 owned 65 out of the 69 in the borough. Next, the corporation was re-modelled: 7 of the 13 capital burgesses were ‘relations, friends, or domestics of Lord Abingdon’, and four were ‘persons of the town nominated by and supposed to be firmly attached to his Lordship’. Lastly, the mode of granting leases was entirely changed; and a system was devised of keeping them in hand, and making faggot votes shortly before an election. By this means Abingdon secured undisputed control of the borough.

Author: J. A. Cannon


  • 1. ‘Case of the Borough of Westbury’, 1767, Bodl. Top. Wilts. c.5.