Cirencester (UK Parliament constituency)

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Gloucestershire, East or Cirencester
Former County constituency
for the House of Commons
18851918
Number of members one
Cirencester
Former Borough constituency
for the House of Commons
1571–1885
Number of members two (1571-1868), one (1868-1885)

Cirencester was a parliamentary constituency in Gloucestershire. From 1571 until 1885, it was a parliamentary borough, which returned two Member of Parliament (MPs) to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom until 1868, and one member between 1868 and 1885. In 1885 the borough was abolished but the name was transferred to the county constituency in which it stood; this constituency was abolished for the 1918 general election.

History[edit]

The town sent Members to Parliament on at least one occasion during the 14th century and again in 1547. Cirencester borough as established in 1571 consisted of part of the parish of Cirencester, a market town in the east of Gloucestershire. In 1831, the population of the borough was 4,420, and the town contained 917 houses.

The right to vote was exercised by all resident householders of the borough who were not receiving alms, an unusually liberal franchise for the period in any but the smallest towns, which meant that there were about 500 qualified voters. This arose from the chance that a dispute over the franchise arose in 1624, and the House of Commons had to decide whether only the freeholders could vote or if the right should extend to all the householders. The 1620s was a rare period when the Commons as a matter of policy tended to decide for the broadest interpretation in franchise disputes (all 15 cases brought before them in that decade were resolved in favour of the solution which enfranchised most voters), and consequently in Cirencester the householders acquired the right of which they were never subsequently deprived (and which was later confirmed at another disputed election in 1724). Another election petition, in 1709, turned on whether the inhabitants of the Abbey, Emery and Sperringate Lane sections of the town were included within the borough; the Commons ruled that they were, but they were excluded again after yet another disputed election in 1792.

Despite Cirencester's relatively large electorate, the local landowners (or "patrons") were able to exert a very substantial influence over the elections, and it could probably be fairly described as a pocket borough. From at least the start of the 18th century, the Bathurst family were Lords of the Manor and had a share of the patronage, almost invariably filling one of the seats themselves and occasionally nominating the other MP as well. The Master family, whose influence predated that of the Bathursts, were able to command the second seat for long periods. In the 18th century, both the Bathursts and the Masters were Tories. Nevertheless, there were signs that the townspeople could show independence on occasion: in 1754, when the head of the Masters was a child and the Bathursts tried to take both seats, Cirencester shocked its Tory patrons by electing a local Whig nobleman instead.

The Reform Act 1832 extended the borough's boundaries slightly to include the whole of the parish, increasing the population to 5,420; but even with the revised franchise this gave Cirencester only 604 electors. The reform apparently did little to democratise the borough, for Bathursts and Masters continued to be elected almost continually throughout its existence. As subsequent Reform Acts raised the barrier for representation, Cirencester lost one of its two MPs in 1868 and had its boundaries further extended to take in the adjoining parish of Stratton; but, still too small, the borough was abolished altogether in 1885.

However, the name was transferred to the county constituency in which the town was placed, formally called The Eastern (or Cirencester) Division of Gloucestershire. This was a substantially-sized constituency fairly similar in its boundaries to the modern Cotswold District Council, with a strong rural element but including a number of small towns apart from Cirencester - Chipping Campden, Fairford, Moreton-in-Marsh, Tetbury and Stow-on-the-Wold among them. In character it proved more Liberal than Cirencester borough had done, though this may have been as much from the dilution of the Bathurst influence as from political factors - consequently instead of being a safe Conservative seat it was generally a knife-edge marginal. Arthur Winterbotham, the Liberal who had won the constituency by 700 votes at its first election, in 1885, was re-elected unopposed when he became a Liberal Unionist in 1886, but when he switched back to the Liberals at the next general election his majority fell to 153. Winterbotham died later the same year, and the by-election was decided in favour of the Conservative candidate, Colonel Thomas Chester-Master, by just 3 votes; but his defeated opponent petitioned against the result and after further scrutiny of the ballots the result was revised and declared to be tied. It was impossible at this stage to give a casting vote to the returning officer (the usual solution to a tied election at that period), so the election had to be run again.

The constituency was abolished in 1918, being split between the new Cirencester and Tewkesbury and Stroud constituencies.

Members of Parliament[edit]

MPs 1547[edit]

Year First member Second member
1547 John Eston George Ferrers

Borough constituency (1571–1885)[edit]

MPs 1571–1640[edit]

Year First member Second member
1571 Gabriel Blike Thomas Poole
1572 Thomas Poole Thomas Strange
1584 Thomas Poole (jun) William Estcourt
1586 George Master William Bridges, sat for Gloucestershire
and was replaced by
Charles Danvers
1589 Charles Danvers George Master
1593 Oliver St John[1] Henry Ferrers
1597 Henry Poole James Wroughton
1601 Richard Browne Richard George
1604–1611 Arnold Oldsworth Richard Martin, sat for Christchurch
and was replaced by
Edward Jones, who died
and was replaced by
Sir Anthony Manie
1614 Sir Anthony Manie Robert Strange
1621–1622 Sir Thomas Roe Thomas Nicholas
1624 Henry Poole Sir William Master
1625 Sir Miles Sandys Henry Poole
1626 Sir Neville Poole John George
1628–1629 Sir Giles Estcourt John George

MPs 1640–1868[edit]

Year First member First party Second member Second party
April 1640 Henry Poole John George
November 1640 Sir Theobald Gorges Royalist John George Royalist
January 1644 Gorges and George disabled from sitting - both seats vacant
February 1648 Sir Thomas Fairfax [2] Nathaniel Rich
December 1648 Fairfax not recorded as sitting after Pride's Purge
1653 Cirencester was unrepresented in the Barebones Parliament
1654 John Stone Cirencester had only one seat in the First and
Second Parliaments of the Protectorate
1656
January 1659 Richard Southby
May 1659 Nathaniel Rich One seat vacant
April 1660 Thomas Master Henry Powle
1661 The Earl of Newburgh John George
1671 Henry Powle
1679 Sir Robert Atkyns
1685 Thomas Master The Earl of Newburgh
1689 John Grobham Howe
March 1690 Richard Grobham Howe Henry Powle
November 1690 John Grobham Howe
1698 Henry Ireton Charles Coxe
January 1701 James Thynne
December 1701 William Master
1705 Allen Bathurst Henry Ireton
1708 [3] Charles Coxe
1712 Thomas Master Tory
1713 Benjamin Bathurst Tory
1727 Peter Bathurst Tory
1734 William Wodehouse [4]
1735 Henry Bathurst Tory
1747 Thomas Master Tory
1749 John Coxe
1754 Hon. Benjamin Bathurst Tory Hon. John Dawnay [5] Whig
1761 James Whitshed Tory
1768 Estcourt Creswell
1774 Samuel Blackwell
1783 Lord Apsley Tory
1785 Richard Master [6] Tory
1792 (Sir) Robert Preston [7]
1794 Michael Hicks-Beach
1806 Joseph Cripps
1812 Lord Apsley Tory
1818 Joseph Cripps Tory
1834 Conservative Lord Robert Somerset Conservative
1837 Thomas William Chester-Master I Conservative
1841 William Cripps Conservative
1844 Viscount Villiers Conservative
1848 Joseph Randolph Mullings Conservative
1852 Hon. Ashley Ponsonby Whig
1857 Allen Alexander Bathurst Conservative
1859 Hon. Ashley Ponsonby Liberal
1865 Hon. Ralph Dutton Conservative
1868 Representation reduced to one member

MPs 1868–1885[edit]

Election Member Party
1868 Allen Alexander Bathurst, later Earl Bathurst Conservative
1878 by-election Thomas Chester-Master II Conservative
1885 Borough abolished - name transferred to county division

County constituency (1885–1918)[edit]

Election Member Party
1885 Arthur Brend Winterbotham Liberal
1886 Liberal Unionist
1892 Liberal
1892 by-election Colonel Thomas Chester-Master [8] Conservative
1893 by-election Harry Lawson Webster Lawson, later Viscount Burnham Liberal
1895 Hon. Benjamin Bathurst Conservative
1906 Walter Essex Liberal
1910 Colonel the Hon. Benjamin Bathurst Conservative
1918 constituency abolished

Notes

  1. ^ s:St. John, Oliver (1559-1630) (DNB00)
  2. ^ Fairfax was delayed from taking his seat by a dispute over the election; although he was eventually declared duly elected in February 1649, it is unlikely that he ever took his seat in the Rump, so probably never sat for Cirencester
  3. ^ At the election of 1708, Bathurst and Coxe were initially declared elected; but on petition, the election was declared void because the inhabitants of the Abbey, Emery and Sperringate Lane had been excluded from voting. However, both were re-elected in the ensuing by-election.
  4. ^ Wodehouse was also elected for Norfolk, but died before having chosen which constituency to represent
  5. ^ Succeeded as the 4th Viscount Downe (in the Peerage of Ireland), 1760
  6. ^ Master was re-elected in 1790, but on petition the committee declared he had not been duly elected, and seated his opponent, Preston, in his place
  7. ^ Succeeded to a baronetcy, March 1800
  8. ^ In the by-election of 1892, Chester-Master was originally declared the victor by 3 votes, but on petition and after scrutiny, the votes were declared equal and a new election was held

Elections in the 1900s[edit]

General Election 1906 Cirencester[1]

Electorate 9,673

Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal Richard Walter Essex 4,517 53.0 n/a
Conservative Allen Benjamin Bathurst 4,011 47.0 n/a
Majority 506 6.0 n/a
Turnout 88.2 n/a
Liberal gain from Conservative Swing n/a

References[edit]

  1. ^ British parliamentary election results, 1885-1918 (Craig)
  • Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs – Constituencies beginning with "C" (part 4)[self-published source][better source needed]
  • Robert Beatson, A Chronological Register of Both Houses of Parliament (London: Longman, Hurst, Res & Orme, 1807) [1]
  • D Brunton & D H Pennington, Members of the Long Parliament (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1954)
  • John Cannon, Parliamentary Reform 1640-1832 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972)
  • Cobbett's Parliamentary history of England, from the Norman Conquest in 1066 to the year 1803 (London: Thomas Hansard, 1808) [2]
  • F W S Craig, British Parliamentary Election Results 1832-1885 (2nd edition, Aldershot: Parliamentary Research Services, 1989)
  • The Constitutional Year Book for 1913 (London: National Union of Conservative and Unionist Associations, 1913)
  • Lewis Namier & John Brooke, The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1754-1790 (London: HMSO, 1964)
  • T. H. B. Oldfield The Representative History of Great Britain and Ireland (London: Baldwin, Cradock & Joy, 1816)
  • J Holladay Philbin, Parliamentary Representation 1832 - England and Wales (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1965)
  • Frederic A Youngs, jr, Guide to the Local Administrative Units of England, Vol I (London: Royal Historical Society, 1979)

External links[edit]