Birmingham (UK Parliament constituency)

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Birmingham
Former Borough constituency
for the House of Commons
County Warwickshire
18321885
Number of members 1832–1868: Two
1868–1885: Three
Replaced by Birmingham Bordesley, Birmingham Central, Birmingham East, Birmingham Edgbaston, Birmingham North, Birmingham South and Birmingham West
Created from Warwickshire

Birmingham was a parliamentary constituency of the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom for the city of Birmingham, in what is now the West Midlands Metropolitan County, but at the time was Warwickshire.

Boundaries and History[edit]

Until 1832, excepting for the single year 1275, Birmingham was only represented in Parliament as part of the county constituency of Warwickshire.

It became a Parliamentary borough in its own right following the passage of the 1832 Reform Act and remained a single constituency electing two members of parliament until it was divided in 1885.

The 1832 Reform Act introduced a uniform borough franchise on top of ancient franchise rights in existing Parliamentary boroughs: (see the Unreformed House of Commons for a list of the different franchises in each borough). As new boroughs, like Birmingham, had no ancient franchise holders only the new franchise rules applied to them. Seymour explains that:-

Only one class of new rights was created by the act of 1832. This was the £10 occupation qualification. According to the act, the franchise was granted to all male persons who for a year before registration had occupied as owner or tenants "any house, warehouse, country house, shop or other building, either separately or jointly with any land" of a clear yearly value of £10. The land must be within the electoral limits of the borough; and in order to qualify, the occupier must have been rated in respect of such premises, to all rates for the relief of the poor; and he must have paid at the time of registration all rates and taxes due from him the preceding April.

This occupation franchise was the characteristic of the borough franchise after 1832. As ownership furnished the ordinary qualification for franchise in the counties, so in the boroughs, occupation, actual or constructive, was the basis of the suffrage. While however, in the counties no provision was made for ascertaining the true value or bona fide rent which was to qualify for the franchise; in the boroughs, assessment to the taxes was embodied with the condition of value, and actual payment was super-added. There was another difference between the character of the county and borough franchises, as determined by the Reform Act. In the latter no claimant could be registered as a voter if he had received parochial relief within the past twelve months; in the counties, no disqualification was attached to the receipt of poor-relief. ...

From 1832 to 1868 the constituency returned two members, but the Representation of the People Act 1867 conferred a third seat from the United Kingdom general election, 1868. However the 1867 Act also introduced the limited vote restricting electors in three member constituencies to casting a maximum of two votes.

A way in which the limited vote system may fail to achieve its end of minority representation, is if the largest party is very well organised and is able to arrange the distribution of its supporters vote for maximum advantage. Charles Seymour explained the reaction of the Liberals of Birmingham after the limited vote was enacted.

The Liberals of Birmingham realized that if they were to retain the third seat, their vote must be divided economically between the three candidates. To prevent waste of votes, an organization must be built up which could control absolutely the choice of the elector; and each elector must vote invariably as he was told. The success of the Birmingham organization, which soon became known as the Caucus was unbroken and no Conservative candidate was returned. It was copied in many other constituencies and inaugurated a new era in the development of party electoral machinery, the effect of which upon the representative system has been profound.

The area was split into seven single-member constituencies in 1885; Birmingham Bordesley, Birmingham Central, Birmingham East, Birmingham Edgbaston, Birmingham North, Birmingham South and Birmingham West.

Members of Parliament[edit]

  • Constituency created (1832)
Year First member First party Second member Second party
1832 Thomas Attwood Liberal Joshua Scholefield Liberal
1840 George Frederick Muntz Liberal
1844 Richard Spooner Conservative
1847 William Scholefield Liberal
1857 John Bright Liberal
1867 George Dixon Liberal
  • Third member added (1868)
Year First member First party Second member Second party Third member Third party
1868 George Dixon Liberal Philip Henry Muntz Liberal John Bright Liberal
1876 Joseph Chamberlain Liberal
  • Constituency abolished (1885)

Election results[edit]

  • Note: When the exact number of electors voting is unknown, turnout is estimated on the basis of dividing votes cast by two. To the extent that electors did not use both their possible votes, turnout will be underestimated.
General Election 1832: Birmingham (2 seats)
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal Thomas Attwood Unopposed N/A N/A
Liberal Joshua Scholefield Unopposed N/A N/A
Turnout 4,309 reg. N/A N/A
  • Note (1832): Stooks Smith classifies Attwood and Scholefield as Radicals. Craig follows the modern convention, for Whig and Radical candidates from 1832, and classifies them as Liberals.
General Election 1835: Birmingham (2 seats)
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal Thomas Attwood 1,718 40.02 N/A
Liberal Joshua Scholefield 1,660 38.67 N/A
Conservative Richard Spooner 915 21.31 N/A
Turnout 3,681 reg. 70.09 N/A
  • Note (1835): 2,580 electors voted. (Source: Stooks Smith)
General Election 1837: Birmingham (2 seats)
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal Thomas Attwood 2,145 40.43 +0.41
Liberal Joshua Scholefield 2,114 39.85 +1.18
Conservative A.G. Stapleton 1,046 19.72 -1.59
Turnout 5,236 reg. 59.87 -10.22
  • Note (1837): 3,135 electors voted. (Source: Stooks Smith)
  • Resignation of Attwood
By-Election 25 January 1840: Birmingham
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal George Frederick Muntz 1,458 61.39 N/A
Conservative Sir Charles Wetherell 917 38.61 N/A
Majority 541 22.78 N/A
Turnout 4,619 reg. 51.42 N/A
Liberal hold Swing N/A
  • Stooks Smith classified Muntz as a Radical. Craig classified him as a Liberal.
General Election 1841: Birmingham (2 seats)
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal George Frederick Muntz 1,458 36.49 +36.49
Liberal Joshua Scholefield 1,963 32.91 -6.94
Conservative Richard Spooner 1,825 30.60 +10.88
Turnout 5,870 reg. 63.99 +4.12
  • Note (1841): 3,756 electors voted. (Source: Stooks Smith)
  • Death of Scholefield
By-Election 15 July 1844: Birmingham
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative Richard Spooner 2,095 50.17 N/A
Liberal William Scholefield 1,735 41.55 N/A
Liberal Joseph Sturge 346 8.29 N/A
Majority 360 8.62 N/A
Turnout 6,129 reg. 68.14 N/A
Conservative gain from Liberal Swing N/A
  • Stooks Smith classified Scholefield as a Whig (for this election) and Sturge as a Radical. Craig referred to them both as Liberals.
General Election 1847: Birmingham (2 seats)
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal George Frederick Muntz 2,830 35.18 -1.31
Liberal William Scholefield 2,824 35.10 +35.10
Conservative Richard Spooner 2,302 28.61 -1.99
Liberal Robert Allen 89 1.11 +1.11
Turnout 7,081 reg. 72.16 +8.17
  • Note (1847): 5,110 electors voted. Scholefield was classified (for this election) as a Radical, as was Allen. (Source: Stooks Smith)
General Election 1852: Birmingham (2 seats)
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal George Frederick Muntz Unopposed N/A N/A
Liberal William Scholefield Unopposed N/A N/A
Turnout 7,936 reg. N/A N/A
General Election 1857: Birmingham (2 seats)
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal George Frederick Muntz Unopposed N/A N/A
Liberal William Scholefield Unopposed N/A N/A
Turnout 9,074 reg. N/A N/A
  • Death of Muntz.
By-Election 10 August 1857: Birmingham
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal John Bright Unopposed N/A N/A
Liberal hold Swing N/A
General Election 1859: Birmingham (2 seats)
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal William Scholefield 4,425 42.79 N/A
Liberal John Bright 4,282 41.41 N/A
Conservative Thomas Dyke Acland 1,544 14.93 N/A
Turnout 9,222 reg. 56.06 N/A
General Election 1865: Birmingham (2 seats)
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal John Bright Unopposed N/A N/A
Liberal William Scholefield Unopposed N/A N/A
Turnout 14,997 reg. N/A N/A
  • Resignation of Attwood
By-Election 23 July 1867: Birmingham
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal George Dixon 5,819 58.00 N/A
Conservative Sampson Samuel Lloyd 4,214 42.00 N/A
Majority 1,605 16.00 N/A
Turnout 14,997 reg. 66.90 N/A
Liberal hold Swing N/A
General Election 1868: Birmingham (3 seats)
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal George Dixon 15,198 25.73 N/A
Liberal Philip Henry Muntz 14,614 24.74 N/A
Liberal John Bright 14,601 24.72 N/A
Conservative Sampson Samuel Lloyd 8,700 12.87 N/A
Conservative S. Evans 7,061 11.95 N/A
Turnout 42,042 reg. 70.26 N/A
By-Election 21 December 1868: Birmingham
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal John Bright Unopposed N/A N/A
Liberal hold Swing N/A
By-Election 20 October 1873: Birmingham
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal John Bright Unopposed N/A N/A
Liberal hold Swing N/A
General Election 1874: Birmingham (3 seats)
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal John Bright Unopposed N/A N/A
Liberal George Dixon Unopposed N/A N/A
Liberal Philip Henry Muntz Unopposed N/A N/A
Turnout 51,361 reg. N/A N/A
  • Resignaton of Dixon
By-Election 27 June 1876: Birmingham
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal Joseph Chamberlain Unopposed N/A N/A
Liberal hold Swing N/A
General Election 1880: Birmingham (3 seats)
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal Philip Henry Muntz 22,969 24.27 N/A
Liberal John Bright 22,079 23.33 N/A
Liberal Joseph Chamberlain 19,544 20.65 N/A
Conservative F.G. Burnaby 15,735 16.63 N/A
Conservative Hon. A.C.G. Calthorpe 14,308 15.12 N/A
Turnout 63,398 reg. 74.64 N/A
By-Election 8 May 1880: Birmingham (2 seats)
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal John Bright Unopposed N/A N/A
Liberal Joseph Chamberlain Unopposed N/A N/A
  • Constituency abolished 1885

References[edit]

  • British Parliamentary Election Results 1832–1885, compiled and edited by F.W.S. Craig (Macmillan Press 1977)
  • Electoral Reform in England and Wales, by Charles Seymour (David & Charles Reprints 1970) originally published in 1915, so out of copyright
  • The Parliaments of England by Henry Stooks Smith (1st edition published in three volumes 1844–50), second edition edited (in one volume) by F.W.S. Craig (Political Reference Publications 1973) originally published in 1844–50, so out of copyright
  • Who's Who of British Members of Parliament: Volume I 1832–1885, edited by M. Stenton (The Harvester Press 1976)
  • Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs – Constituencies beginning with "B" (part 3)[self-published source][better source needed]