Available from Cambridge University Press
Right of Election:
in inhabitants paying scot and lot
Estimated number qualified to vote:
118 in 18311
757 (1821); 787 (1831)2
|8 Mar. 1820||LORD HENRY THOMAS HOWARD MOLYNEUX HOWARD|
|GEORGE RICHARD PHILIPS|
|30 June 1824||HENRY HOWARD vice Howard Molyneux Howard, deceased|
|8 June 1826||GEORGE RICHARD PHILIPS|
|PETER DU CANE|
|30 July 1830||GEORGE RICHARD PHILIPS|
|28 Apr. 1831||GEORGE RICHARD PHILIPS|
Steyning, a ‘neat’ market town several miles north-west of Brighton, was said in 1823 to have ‘no manufactory of any description’ and trade ‘entirely of a domestic nature’.3 The borough covered only a small part, about 20 acres, of the parish, which extended over some 3,100 acres. The franchise was in the resident ratepayers and it was reported in 1831 that, in addition to the 118 eligible voters, there were ‘about 16 borough houses which have the right of voting, at present occupied by paupers’. Bernard Edward Howard, 12th duke of Norfolk, the lord of the manor, appointed the constable, who served as the returning officer for parliamentary elections. Norfolk, a Whig, held unchallenged control of the borough in this period, owing to his predecessor’s purchase of the Honywood interest around 1800. Among the Members he nominated were his brother, his nephew and the auditor of his estates (Blount). Philips replaced his father, a Manchester cotton merchant, in 1820, apparently as part of a deal by which his father had loaned the duke £50,000; Du Cane, who came from a family of London merchants and bankers, was presumably a paying guest. Steyning and the contiguous borough of Bramber were condemned by Thomas Oldfield as ‘a finished picture of political deformity’.4
The occupiers of neighbouring land sent petitions to Parliament for relief from agricultural distress, 30 May 1820, 10 Apr. 1821, and the inhabitants petitioned the Commons for repeal of the coastwise coal duty, 22 Apr. 1823.5 Petitions were forwarded to the Commons from the owners and occupiers of land in the hundred of Steyning against revision of the corn laws, 6 Apr. 1827, and the importation of wool, 11 July 1828, 27 Mar. 1829.6 The gentry, clergy, freeholders and inhabitants presented anti-Catholic petitions to both Houses, 4, 16 Mar. 1829.7 Philips and Du Cane nevertheless voted for the Wellington ministry’s emancipation bill, in accordance with the views of their patron, a prominent Catholic. Norfolk and his Members also approved of the Grey ministry’s reform bills of 1831, which proposed the complete disfranchisement of Steyning. When the matter came up in committee, 26 July, the Tory Sir Charles Wetherell asked the Sussex county Members why no attempt had been made to save the borough, of which he confessed to know nothing. The reply was that such ‘rotten boroughs’ were indefensible, and Nicholas Ridley Colborne, Member for Horsham, added somewhat disingenuously that ‘the last time the present Members for Steyning went down to stand for that borough, they distinctly told the electors ... what would be the effect of the bill, and the electors returned them unanimously, knowing that it would be the last vote they would have to give’. The new criteria adopted in the revised reform bill of December 1831 confirmed Steyning’s fate, as it contained 218 houses and paid £335 in assessed taxes, placing it 43rd in the list of the smallest English boroughs. Its disfranchisement was agreed to by the Commons without debate, 20 Feb. 1832, and it was absorbed into the Western division of Sussex.
Authors: Howard Spencer / Terry Jenkins
- 1. PP (1831-2), xxxvi. 589.
- 2. Ibid. 50-51.
- 3. Pigot’s Commercial Dir. (1823-4), 522.
- 4. PP (1831-2), xxxvi. 50, 51; Warws. RO MI 247, Philips Mems. ii. 107, 108, 110, 111; VCH Suss. vi (1), 240, 241; Oldfield, Key (1820), 45.
- 5. CJ, lxxv. 251; lxxviii. 235; LJ, liii. 93; liv. 187.
- 6. CJ, lxxxii. 394; lxxxiii. 525; lxxxiv. 341.
- 7. CJ, lxxxiv. 103; LJ, lxi. 200.