Droitwich (UK Parliament constituency)

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Worcestershire, Mid or Droitwich Division
Former County constituency
for the House of Commons
18851918
Number of members one
Droitwich
Former Borough constituency
for the House of Commons
1554–1885
Number of members two (1554–1832); one (1832–1885)

Droitwich was the name of a constituency of the House of Commons of England in 1295, and again from 1554, then of the House of Commons of Great Britain from 1707 to 1800 and of the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom from 1801 to 1918. It was a parliamentary borough in Worcestershire, represented by two Members of Parliament until 1832, and by one member from 1832 to 1885. The name was then transferred to a county constituency electing one MP from 1885 until 1918.

History[edit]

The borough consisted of three parishes and parts of two others in the town of Droitwich, a market town which for many centuries depended on the salt trade for its prosperity. When Droitwich's right to return MPs (which had been allowed to lapse) was restored in 1554, there was only one salt pit in the borough, and this became the basis of Droitwich's unique franchise: the right to vote was vested solely in those burgesses (members of the corporation) who owned shares in the pit giving them the right to draw brine. This was finally established by a resolution of the House of Commons in 1690; yet within a few years of this date that salt pit had dried up completely; by 1747 it was accepted that ownership of this property had no function except conferring the vote, and had to be proved by possession of the title deeds since there could be no evidence of an otherwise meaningless right which could not be exercised in practice.

Although these details of the franchise were unique to Droitwich, in practice it in many ways resembled a burgage borough, and like most of those came under the influence of a local magnate. The Foley family, Worcestershire industrialists, controlled Droitwich from the middle of the 17th century, although they seem to have allowed the townspeople to choose one of the two members at some periods. There was no contested election between 1747 and 1832, and by the time of the Reform Act it was estimated that only 28 men had the right to vote.

In 1831, the population of the borough was 2,487, and contained 533 houses. However, the boundaries were revised by the provisions of the Great Reform Act, taking in the rest of the town and some adjoining villages, so that the new constituency adjoined the borough of Worcester to the south. This increased the population to 5,992, which was enough for Droitwich to retain one of its two MPs, and there were 243 voters on the register for the first election under the reformed franchise, in 1832.

There was a further slight enlargement of the boundaries to the east in 1868. However, the constituency was not big enough to keep its MP under the Third Reform Act, which came into effect at the general election of 1885. The borough was abolished, but the town's name was applied to the new county division in which it was placed, formally called The Mid or Droitwich Division of Worcestershire. This was a constituency with a considerable industrial vote, including the heavy industrial town of Stourbridge and the carpet-weaving town of Stourport-on-Severn, but also contained a substantial middle-class residential population, boosted by the votes of the Kidderminster freeholders (who were entitled to a vote in the county division even if they lived within the Kidderminster borough boundaries), as well as agricultural interests. With a popular sitting Liberal MP turning Liberal Unionist in 1886, this was enough to keep Droitwich a relatively safe Unionist seat except in the Liberal landslide of 1906.

The constituency was abolished in 1918, being divided between the redrawn Kidderminster and new Evesham constituencies.

Members of Parliament[edit]

Droitwich borough[edit]

MPs 1554–1660[edit]

The constituency was re-established during the reign of Queen Mary I. The following were members of Parliament during the succeeding period:[1]

Year First member First party Second member Second party
1554 George Newport Robert Wythe
1555 George Newport Robert Wythe
1558 Walter Gower Robert Wythe
1559 Francis Newport
1562 Walter Gower
1571 Francis Brace Francis Kinwelmarsh
1572 John Russell William Sebright
1584 George Wild Jasper Cholmley
1586 Francis Brace George Lyttelton
1588 Francis Brace William Combe
1593 Robert Walter George Wild
1597 John Acton Thomas Baily
1601 John Buck Humphrey Wheler
1604 George Wild John Brace
1614 Edwin Sandys Ralph Clare
1621 Sir Thomas Coventry
replaced by
Ralph Clare
John Wilde
1624 Walter Blount
1625 John Coventry
1626 Thomas Coventry John Wilde
1627 George Wylde
1629–1640 Personal Rule of Charles I: no Parliament
1640 Short
Parliament
John Wilde Samuel Sandys Royalist
1640 Long
Parliament
Endymion Porter Royalist
Aug. 1642 disabled to sit – seat vacant
Mar. 1643 disabled to sit – seat vacant
1647 Thomas Rainsborough Edward Wilde
1648 George Wylde
1653 Droitwich was unrepresented in the Barebones Parliament and the First and Second Parliaments of the Protectorate
1659 Edward Salway John Wilde
1659 Third Protectorate Parliament – unknown

MPs 1660–1832[edit]

Year First member First party Second member Second party
1660 Samuel Sandys Thomas Coventry
1661 Samuel Sandys Henry Coventry[1]
1681 Samuel Sandys
1685 Samuel Sandys Whig Thomas Windsor Tory
1689 The Lord Coote Whig
1690 Philip Foley Country Whig
1695 Edward Harley Tory Charles Cocks Whig
1698 Thomas Foley Tory
1699 Thomas Foley Tory
February 1701 Philip Foley Tory
November 1701 Edward Foley Tory
1708 Edward Winnington
from 1709 Jeffreys
[2]
Tory
1711 Richard Foley Tory
1726 Thomas Winnington [3] Whig
1732 Edward Foley Tory
1741 Thomas Foley, later Lord Foley Tory
1742 Lord George Bentinck Whig
July 1747 [4] Francis Winnington
December 1747 Edwin Sandys Tory
1754 Thomas Foley, later Lord Foley Whig Robert Harley Tory
May 1768 Edward Foley[5]
April 1774 Andrew Foley [6] Whig
May 1774 Rowland Berkeley
October 1774 Thomas Foley, later 2nd Lord Foley Whig
1777 Sir Edward Winnington, Bt Whig
1805 Thomas Foley Whig
1807 Sir Thomas Winnington, Bt Whig
1816 The Earl of Sefton Whig
1819 Thomas Foley Whig
1822 John Hodgetts Hodgetts-Foley Whig
1831 Sir Thomas Winnington Whig
1832 Representation reduced to one member

MPs 1832–1885[edit]

Election Member Party
1832 John Hodgetts Hodgetts-Foley Whig
1835 John Barneby Conservative
1837 Sir John Somerset Pakington Conservative
1874 John Corbett Liberal
1885 Borough abolished – county division established

Mid or Droitwich Division of Worcestershire[edit]

MPs 1885–1918[edit]

Election Member Party
1885 John Corbett Liberal
1886 Liberal Unionist
1892 Richard Biddulph Martin Liberal Unionist
1906 Cecil Bisshopp Harmsworth Liberal
Jan. 1910 John Cavendish Lyttelton Liberal Unionist
1916 by-election Sir Herbert Huntingdon-Whiteley Conservative
1918 Constituency abolished

Notes

  1. ^ a b 1557–1640, 1659, 1681: Treadway Russell Nash, History and Antiquities of the County of Worcester I (1782), introduction, xxxii.
  2. ^ Winnington changed his name to Jeffreys during the Parliament of 1708–10
  3. ^ Winnington was re-elected at the election of 1741 but had also been elected for Worcester, which he chose to represent, and did not sit again for Droitwich
  4. ^ At the election of 1747 the returning officer made a double return, naming Thomas Foley, Francis Winnington and Samuel Masham as elected; after the consideration the Commons committee declared Winnington and Edwin Sandys (who had petitioned against the result) as the duly elected members
  5. ^ Thomas Foley elected to sit for Herefordshire, replaced by Edward Foley
  6. ^ Robert Harley died 15 March 1774 and replaced by Andrew Foley

Election results[edit]

Elections in the 1900s[edit]

Cecil Harmsworth
General Election 1906 Droitwich[1]

Electorate 11,283

Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal Cecil Bisshopp Harmsworth 5,165 52.8 +4.5
Liberal Unionist E. Knight 4,611 47.2 -4.5
Majority 554 5.6 9.0
Turnout 86.6
Liberal gain from Liberal Unionist Swing +4.5
General Election December 1910[2]

Electorate 11,200

Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal Unionist Hon. John Cavendish Lyttelton 4,880 50.4
Liberal Dr Clifford H Brookes 4,808 49.6
Turnout 9,688 86.5
Majority 72 0.8
Liberal Unionist hold Swing

References[edit]

  1. ^ British parliamentary election results, 1885-1918 (Craig)
  2. ^ British parliamentary election results 1885-1918
  • D Brunton & D H Pennington, Members of the Long Parliament (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1954)
  • F W S Craig, "British Parliamentary Election Results 1832–1885" (2nd edition, Aldershot: Parliamentary Research Services, 1989)
  • Michael Kinnear, The British Voter (London: BH Batsford, Ltd, 1968)
  • Henry Pelling, Social Geography of British Elections 1885–1910 (London: Macmillan, 1967)
  • J Holladay Philbin, Parliamentary Representation 1832 – England and Wales (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1965)
  • Edward Porritt and Annie G Porritt, The Unreformed House of Commons (Cambridge University Press, 1903)
  • Frederic A Youngs, jr, "Guide to the Local Administrative Units of England, Vol II" (London: Royal Historical Society, 1991)
  • Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs – Constituencies beginning with "D" (part 3)[self-published source][better source needed]