Bewdley (UK Parliament constituency)

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Worcestershire, Bewdley
Former County constituency
for the House of Commons
18851950
Number of members One
Bewdley
Former Borough constituency
for the House of Commons
1605–1885
Number of members One

Bewdley was the name of a constituency of the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom from 1605 until 1950. Until 1885 it was a parliamentary borough in Worcestershire, represented by one Member of Parliament; the name was then transferred to a county constituency from 1885 until 1950. Its MPs included the former Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, who represented the seat from 1908 to 1937, and afterwards took the name of the constituency as part of his title when he was raised to the peerage.

History[edit]

The unreformed borough (1605–1832)[edit]

Bewdley was enfranchised in 1605, being one of only a handful of English boroughs electing one rather than two MPs. The borough consisted of part of Ribbesford parish in Worcestershire, of which the market town of Bewdley was the main settlement. In 1831, the population of the borough was 3,908, and contained 891 houses.

The right to vote was exercised by the bailiff and burgesses (members of the town corporation, who need not necessarily be resident in the borough); this normally amounted to only 13 voters, though the report to Parliament before the Reform Act recorded the electorate as 42. (The discrepancy is perhaps academic, since it was many years since there had been a contested election.)

In the second half of the 17th century, the inhabitants at large made several attempts to secure the right to vote by petitioning against the election results, but in each case the Commons upheld the restrictive provisions of the original grant. The corporation were entitled to nominate their own successors, meaning in theory that their power was self-sustaining. However, in the early 18th century this was circumvented by issuing a new Royal charter for the borough that extinguished the existing corporation and appointed a new one. In 1708 the Whig government had a new charter issued to eject the existing Tory-dominated corporation, and at that year's election both the old and new corporations attempted to exercise their right to vote; the Whig majority in the Commons upheld the new charter and seated the Whig candidate. After the 1710 election, however, the Whig government had lost its Commons majority and the new House declared the charter of 1708 void and the Tory candidate victorious. However, the repeal of the charter could only be secured through recourse to the courts, and although an action was begun it appears that the various parties made up their political differences before it reached a conclusion, and all sides eventually acquiesced in the new corporation's legitimacy.

For most of Bewdley's existence as a borough until the Reform Act, the corporation (and therefore the choice of its MP) was under the influence of one or other prominent local families. In the mid-17th century this control was exercised by the Foley family, but after they acquired a hold on nearby Droitwich (which elected two MPs) their interest in Bewdley seems to have waned – possibly because in Droitwich they were able to secure legal ownership of the voting rights, whereas in Bewdley they had to proceed by bribery. (In 1677, the Commons upheld a petition against Thomas Foley's election on grounds of bribery, and declared his opponent duly elected in his place.) At later periods the "patronage" was held alternately by the Lytteltons and the Winningtons; but from 1806 the influence passed to a local attorney, Wilson Roberts.

The reformed borough (1832–1885)[edit]

Under the Reform Act 1832, which liberalised the franchise, Bewdley's boundaries were also extended to take in the whole of Ribbesford parish; this brought six hamlets into the borough, and almost doubled the population to 7,500. This new constituency had 337 electors qualified to vote in 1832, and the second extension of the franchise with a further expansion of the borough boundaries in 1867 increased this to just over 1,000. At this period, elections were sometimes uncontested when the candidate was the head of the locally influential Winnington family, but otherwise were generally close-run affairs with the winning majority frequently under 20.

The county division (1885–1950)[edit]

The borough was too small to retain separate representation after the Third Reform Act, and was abolished with effect from the general election of 1885; however, the Bewdley name was transferred to the new county division in which the town was placed, formally called The Western or Bewdley Division of Worcestershire. This new constituency comprised the whole of the western half of the county, largely rural but including the town of Great Malvern, which contributed about a third of the population; the Worcester freeholders (who were entitled to a county vote even though their property was within the borough boundaries) also voted here. It was a very safe Conservative seat. Alfred Baldwin was elected as MP in 1892, holding the seat until his death in 1908. He was succeeded by his son, Stanley, who later became Prime Minister while still Bewdley's MP.

The constituency (now simply the Worcestershire, Bewdley Division) was redrawn in 1918, its southern end being transferred to the Evesham seat and acquiring instead part of the north-western corner of the county including Stourport, previously in the abolished Droitwich division. These changes had little effect on the political complexion of Bewdley, and Baldwin generally secured twice as many votes as his nearest opponent, when the constituency was contested at all – indeed, in three of the five elections he fought as Prime Minister Bewdley returned him unopposed.

The Bewdley division was abolished with effect from the general election of 1950, being divided between the Kidderminster constituency (in which Bewdley itself was placed) and Worcestershire South (which included Malvern).

Members of Parliament[edit]

Bewdley borough 1605–1885[edit]

Year Member Party
1605 Richard Young
1614 James Button
1621 Sir Thomas Edmonds[1]
1624 Ralph Clare[1]
1640 (Apr) Sir Henry Herbert Royalist
1640 (Nov) Sir Henry Herbert Royalist
August 1642 Herbert disabled from sitting – seat vacant
1647 William Hopkins[2]
1648 Nicholas Lechmere[3]
1653 Bewdley was unrepresented in the Barebones Parliament
and the First and Second Parliaments of the Protectorate
January 1659 Edward Pytts
May 1659 Nicholas Lechmere
April 1660 Thomas Foley
1661 Sir Henry Herbert
1673 Thomas Foley[4]
1677 Henry Herbert
1679 Philip Foley
1685 Sir Charles Lyttelton, Bt
1689 Henry Herbert Whig
1694 Salwey Winnington Tory
1708 Hon. Henry Herbert Whig
1709 Charles Cornwall Tory
October 1710 Anthony Lechmere[5] Whig
December 1710 Salwey Winnington Tory
1715 Grey James Grove Whig
1722 Crewe Offley Whig
1734 William Bowles Whig
1735 Phineas Bowles Whig
1741 William Bowles Whig
1748 William Henry Lyttelton Tory
1755 William Finch
1761 Sir Edward Winnington, 1st Bt Whig
1768 Hon. Thomas Lyttelton[6] Tory
1769 Sir Edward Winnington, 1st Bt Whig
1774 William Henry Lyttelton Tory
1790 Hon. George Fulke Lyttelton Tory
1796 Miles Peter Andrews Tory
1814 Charles Edward Wilsonn Tory
1818 Wilson Aylesbury Roberts Tory
1832 Sir Thomas Winnington, 3rd Bt Whig
1837 Thomas Winnington[7] Whig
1847 Thomas James Ireland[8] Conservative
1848 Viscount Mandeville Conservative
1852 Sir Thomas Winnington, 4th Bt Liberal
1868 Sir Richard Atwood Glass[9] Conservative
1869 John Cunliffe Pickersgill Cunliffe[10] Conservative
1869 Augustus Henry Archibald Anson Liberal
1874 Charles Harrison[11] Liberal
1880 Enoch Baldwin Liberal
1885 Borough abolished – name transferred to county division

Bewdley county division 1885–1950[edit]

Election Member Party Notes
1885 Sir Edmund Lechmere, Bt Conservative
1892 Alfred Baldwin Conservative
1908 by-election Rt Hon Stanley Baldwin Conservative President of the Board of Trade (1 April 1921 – 19 October 1922)
1937 by-election Roger Conant Conservative
1950 constituency abolished: see Kidderminster & South Worcestershire

Elections in the 1910s[edit]

Stanley Baldwin
General Election 1918

Electorate 25,172

Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Unionist Stanley Baldwin unopposed
Unionist hold Swing

Elections in the 1920s[edit]

General Election 1922: Bewdley

Electorate 26,177

Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Unionist Rt Hon. Stanley Baldwin 11,192 66.1 n/a
Liberal Sardius Hancock 5,748 33.9 n/a
Majority 5,444 32.2 n/a
Turnout 16,940 64.7 n/a
Unionist hold Swing n/a
General Election 1923: Bewdley

Electorate 26,765

Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Unionist Rt Hon. Stanley Baldwin 12,395 67.3 +1.2
Liberal Sardius Hancock 6,026 32.7 -1.2
Majority 6,369 34.6 +2.4
Turnout 18,421 68.8 +4.1
Unionist hold Swing +1.2
General Election 1924: Bewdley

Electorate

Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Unionist Rt Hon. Stanley Baldwin unopposed n/a n/a
Unionist hold Swing n/a
General Election 1929: Bewdley

Electorate 36,979

Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Unionist Rt Hon. Stanley Baldwin 16,593 62.9 n/a
Liberal Sidney Benjamin Carter 7,186 27.3 n/a
Labour Sardius Hancock 2,575 9.8 n/a
Majority 9,407 35.6 n/a
Turnout 26,354 71.3 n/a
Unionist hold Swing n/a

Elections in the 1930s[edit]

General Election 1931: Bewdley

Electorate 38,341

Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative Rt Hon. Stanley Baldwin unopposed n/a n/a
Conservative hold Swing n/a
General Election 1935: Bewdley

Electorate 38,789

Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative Rt Hon. Stanley Baldwin unopposed n/a n/a
Conservative hold Swing n/a
Bewdley by-election, 1937

Electorate

Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative Roger John Edward Conant 15,054 63.9 n/a
Liberal Dr Donald McIntosh Johnson 8,511 36.1 n/a
Majority 6,543 27.8 n/a
Turnout 23,565 60.6 n/a
Conservative hold Swing n/a

Election in the 1940s[edit]

A General election was due to take place before the end of 1940, but was postponed due to the Second World War. By 1939, the following candidates had been selected to contest this constituency; Conservative: Roger Conant, Liberal: Dr Donald Johnson.

General Election 1945: Bewdley

Electorate 46,828

Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative Maj. Roger John Edward Conant 17,393 55.0
Liberal Fl-Lt. Gerald Samson 14,223 45.0
Majority 3,170 10.0
Turnout 31,616 67.5
Conservative hold Swing

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b J. E. Burton, A History of Bewdley (1883), appendix, xxxix.
  2. ^ Double return with Daniel Dobbyns, and election voided. Hopkins died before taking his seat, replaced by Nicholas Lechmere
  3. ^ Sources differ: Brunton & Pennington record Lechmere as elected for Bewdley, as does Lechmere's entry in the Dictionary of National Biography. However, Cobbett gives the new MP's name as Daniel Dobins, and lists Lechmere as elected for Droitwich.
  4. ^ Foley was re-elected in 1676, but on petition his election was overturned for bribery and Herbert declared elected in his place
  5. ^ At the election of 1710, Lechmere was initially returned as elected, but on petition (in a dispute over the franchise) his election was overturned and Winnington declared elected in his place
  6. ^ Lyttelton's election was overturned on petition and Winnington seated in his place
  7. ^ (Succeeded as 4th Baronet in 1839)
  8. ^ On petition, the 1847 election was declared void, and a by-election held
  9. ^ On petition, the 1868 election was declared void, and a by-election held
  10. ^ On petition, Cunliffe's election was declared void and Anson was declared duly elected after scrutiny of the votes
  11. ^ Harrison was re-elected at the general election of 1880, but on petition his election was declared void, and a by-election held

References[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Glasgow Hillhead
Constituency represented by the Chancellor of the Exchequer
1922–1923
Succeeded by
Birmingham Ladywood
Preceded by
Glasgow Central
Constituency represented by the Prime Minister
1923–1924
Succeeded by
Aberavon
Preceded by
Aberavon
Constituency represented by the Prime Minister
1924–1929
Succeeded by
Seaham
Preceded by
Seaham
Constituency represented by the Prime Minister
1935–1937
Succeeded by
Birmingham Edgbaston