Maidstone (UK Parliament constituency)

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Former County constituency
for the House of Commons
County Kent
Major settlements Maidstone
Number of members One
Replaced by Maidstone & The Weald
Number of members 1560–1885: Two
1885–1918: One
Type of constituency Borough constituency

Maidstone was a parliamentary constituency represented in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

The parliamentary borough of Maidstone returned two Members of Parliament (MPs) from 1552 until 1885, when its representation was reduced to one member. The borough was abolished in 1918 and replaced with a county division of the same name, which was abolished for the 1997 general election, and partially replaced by the new Maidstone and The Weald constituency.


Before the 19th century[edit]

Maidstone was first enfranchised as a parliamentary borough, electing two Members of Parliament, in 1552; at the time it was one of the largest English towns not already represented, and was one of a number of boroughs either enfranchised or re-enfranchised during the reign of Edward VI. However, barely had it won the right than its charter was cancelled after the accession of Mary I as a punishment for the town's part in Wyatt's Rebellion. This was the only recorded instance of a borough's right to return MPs being directly revoked until Grampound was disfranchised for corruption in the 1820s (although there were other cases of temporary suspension or of the right lapsing through disuse in medieval times, when representation was less valued).

After the death of Mary I, Maidstone's right were restored, and it elected members to the Parliament of 1560, since when the constituency has been continuously represented. The borough consisted of the whole parish of Maidstone, although the boundaries had no practical effect - the right to vote was vested in the freemen of the town, whether or not they were resident within the borough, provided they were not receiving poor relief. In 1833, just after this franchise was reformed by the Great Reform Act, it was estimated that there were 845 freemen, of whom more than 300 lived over seven miles from the town, and 31 of whom were disqualified from voting because they were in receipt of alms. At the 1831 general election, between 600 and 670 men voted.

A borough of this size was too large to fall under the dominance of a local landowner as was usual in the case of the smaller constituencies in the Unreformed Parliament, and Maidstone remained comparatively free with elections sometimes vigorously contested (and usually expensive for the candidates), although the Finch and Marsham families both had a degree of influence over results in the 18th century. Namier describes in detail the Maidstone election of 1761, showing how at this period the organised divisions among the rank-and-file voters in competitive constituencies tended to be religious rather than party-political; the Whig faction in Maidstone drew its strength from the Nonconformists while the Tories were the Anglican establishment. Yet so complicated was the politics of the period that although the local Whigs had asked Rose Fuller, a personal friend of the Whig Prime Minister The Duke of Newcastle, to stand as their candidate Newcastle refused to support him; indeed, Newcastle used his government patronage to force those of the electors employed in the naval dockyard at Chatham to vote for the incumbent Tory MPs, to whom he had already promised his support before Fuller's candidacy was mooted. In the event, though, Fuller succeeded in being elected, many of the government employees defying Newcastle to support him.

After the Reform Act[edit]

At the time of the Reform Act, the population of the borough was 15,387, and it contained 3,018 houses. The boundaries of the borough remained unchanged until 1918. Under the reformed franchise, there were 1,108 electors registered to vote at the general election of 1832. The town continued grow so that by 1865 the electorate had reached 1,817, and this was almost doubled by the extension of the franchise in the second reform act, so that there were 3,420 registered electors for the 1868 general election.

The borough retained two MPs until 1885, when its representation was halved; at the 1885 general election the franchise now extended to 6,530 electors, voting for a population of around 35,000. This was a relatively small electorate for the period and made bribery a practical proposition, and Maidstone was one of a small number of constituencies where corruption was proved after the tightening of election law in the 1880s. Generally a fairly safe Conservative seat, the constituency elected a Liberal candidate against the national tide in 1900, but it was clear that corrupt practices had contributed to his victory and he was unseated on petition; the voters seem to have resented the petition, however, and also elected the Liberal candidate in the ensuing by-election. At the following election in 1906, Maidstone again swung in the opposite direction to the country as a whole, electing a Conservative - one of only five Unionist gains across the country - and the victor was again charged with corruption; on this occasion the candidate was acquitted, but one of the judges noted that "there exists among the voters of this borough a number of the lower class who expect, and are known to respect, a payment or reward for their votes... The proved cases of bribery extend through all the wards."

The county constituency[edit]

The borough was abolished with effect from the general election of 1918, but the Maidstone name was transferred to the new county division in which the town stood, which consisted of Maidstone itself and the Maidstone and Hollingbourne rural districts. This contained no towns of any size, but the villages collectively outvoted Maidstone. The new constituency was as safely Conservative as its predecessor, and its boundaries remained unaltered until 1983.

By the 1980s, population growth meant that the constituency was considerably over-sized, with one of the largest electorates in England. In the 1983 boundary revisions, which for the first time reflected the local government boundary changes of the 1970s, the size of the Maidstone constituency was considerably reduced. The area to the north-east of the town, and two wards of the town itself, were moved into the new Mid Kent constituency; as these were strongly Conservative wards and there had been a Liberal surge in the area around the time the Liberal-SDP Alliance was formed, the Alliance had some hopes of making a breakthrough in the revised constituency. However, they could only cut the Tory majority to a little over 7,000 in 1983, John Wells taking over half the votes.

Boundary changes in 1997 saw the constituency abolished and replaced with a new Maidstone and The Weald county constituency. The Maidstone town wards which had been in Mid Kent since 1983 were included in the new seat, and a rural part of the Weald to the south of the town, previously in the Tunbridge Wells constituency was also included; but about a third of the electorate in the Maidstone constituency was transferred to the Faversham and Mid Kent constituency - this included the rural wards to the east of the town, but also the Shepway and Park Wood areas of Maidstone proper.

Members of Parliament[edit]

Maidstone borough[edit]

MPs 1560-1660[edit]

Parliament First member Second member
1562/3 Nicholas Barham[1] Henry Fisher[1]
1571 Thomas Walsingham Nicholas St Leger [1]
1572 Nicholas St Leger Thomas Dannett [1]
1584 Thomas Randolph Michael Sondes [1]
1586 John Astley Thomas Randolph [1]
1588 John Astley Thomas Randolph [1]
1593 Sir Thomas Fludd Lewen Buffkyn [1]
1597 Sir Thomas Fludd Sir John Leveson [1]
1601 Sir Thomas Fludd Sir John Leveson [1]
1604-1611 Sir Francis Fane Laurence Washington
1614 Sir Francis Fane Sir John Scott
1621-1622 Sir Francis Fane Sir Francis Barnham
1624 Sir George Fane Thomas Stanley
1625 Edward Mapleton Thomas Stanley
1626 Sir George Fane Francis Barnham
1628 Sir George Fane Francis Barnham
1629–1640 No Parliaments summoned
1640 (Apr) Sir George Fane Sir Francis Barnham
1640 (Nov) Sir Francis Barnham,died Nov 1646 Sir Humfrey Tufton
1645 Thomas Twisden Sir Humfrey Tufton
not sat after Pride's Purge, Dec 1648
1648 Thomas Twisden
excluded in Pride's Purge, Dec 1648
1653 Maidstone was unrepresented in the Barebones Parliament
1654 Sir John Banks (One seat only)
1656 Sir John Banks (One seat only)
1659 Sir John Banks Andrew Broughton

MPs 1660-1885[edit]

Year First member[2] First party Second member[2] Second party
April 1660 Thomas Twisden Robert Barnham
August 1660 Sir Edward Hales
1661 Sir Edmund Pierce
1668 Thomas Harlackenden
February 1679 Sir John Tufton Sir John Darell
August 1679 Thomas Fane
March 1685 Archibald Clinkard
November 1685 Edwin Wyatt
1689 Sir Thomas Taylor Caleb Banks
1690 Thomas Rider
1695 Sir John Banks
1696 Thomas Rider
1698 Sir Robert Marsham Thomas Bliss
July 1702 Sir Thomas Roberts
October 1702 Writ suspended - both seats vacant[3]
1704 Heneage Finch Thomas Bliss
1705 Sir Thomas Culpeper
1708 Sir Robert Marsham
1713 Sir Samuel Ongley
1715 Sir Thomas Culpeper
1716 Sir Barnham Rider
1722 John Finch
1723 Sir Barnham Rider
1727 Thomas Hope
1734 William Horsemonden-Turner
1740 Robert Fairfax
1741 Lord Guernsey John Bligh
1747 William Horsemonden-Turner Robert Fairfax
1753 Gabriel Hanger Tory
1754 Lord Guernsey
1757 Savile Finch
1761 Rose Fuller Whig William Northey Tory
1768 Hon. Charles Marsham Robert Gregory
1774 Sir Horatio Mann Lord Guernsey
1777 Hon. Charles Finch
1780 Clement Taylor
1784 Gerard Noel Edwards
1788 Sir Matthew Bloxham
1796 Major General Oliver de Lancey
1802 John Hodsdon Durand
1806 George Simson George Longman
1812 Samuel Egerton Brydges
1818 Abraham Wildey Robarts Whig George Longman
1820 John Wells Tory
1830 Henry Winchester
1831 Charles James Barnett Whig
1835 Wyndham Lewis Conservative
1837 Benjamin Disraeli Conservative
1838 John Minet Fector Conservative
1841 Alexander Hope Conservative George Dodd [4] Conservative
1852 James Whatman Whig
1853 William Lee Whig
1857 Alexander Beresford Hope Conservative Edward Scott Conservative
1859 Charles Buxton Liberal William Lee Liberal
1865 James Whatman Liberal
1870 Sir John Lubbock Liberal
1874 Sir Sydney Waterlow Liberal
1880 Alexander Henry Ross Conservative John Evans Freke-Aylmer Conservative
1885 Representation reduced to one member

MPs 1885-1918[edit]

Election Member[2] Party
1885 Alexander Henry Ross Conservative
1888 Fiennes Cornwallis Conservative
1895 Sir Frederick Hunt Conservative
1898 Fiennes Cornwallis Conservative
1900 John Barker Liberal
1901 Sir Francis Evans Liberal
1906 Viscount Castlereagh Conservative
1915 Carlyon Bellairs Conservative
1918 Borough abolished; county division created

Maidstone County Constituency (1918-1997)[edit]

Election Member[2] Party
1918 Carlyon Bellairs Conservative
1931 Sir Alfred Bossom Conservative
1959 John Wells Conservative
1987 Ann Widdecombe Conservative
1997 constituency abolished: see Maidstone and The Weald


Elections in the 1990s[edit]

General Election 1992: Maidstone[5]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative Ann Widdecombe 31,611 54.2 +1.7
Liberal Democrat Mrs PG Yates 15,325 26.3 −7.5
Labour Mrs AFH Logan 10,517 18.0 +5.5
Green Mrs PA Kemp 707 1.2 −0.1
Natural Law FJ Ingram 172 0.3 +0.3
Majority 16,286 27.9 +9.2
Turnout 58,332 80.1 +4.0
Conservative hold Swing +4.6

Elections in the 1980s[edit]

General Election 1983: Maidstone[6]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative John Wells 26,420 50.91
SDP–Liberal Alliance J Burnett 19,194 36.99
Labour GT Carey 6,280 12.10
Majority 7,226 13.92
Turnout 51,895 73.76

Elections in the 1970s[edit]

General Election 1979: Maidstone[7]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative John Wells 37,727 52.59
Liberal J Burnett 16,676 23.25
Labour R Evans 16,632 23.18
National Front Arthur Dennis Whiting 703 0.98
Majority 21,051 29.34
Turnout 71,734 77.03
General Election 1974 October: Maidstone[8]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative John Wells 28,852 44.21
Liberal J Burnett 18,581 28.47
Labour KM Graham 17,828 27.32
Majority 10,271 15.74
Turnout 65,260 74.05
General Election 1974 February: Maidstone[9]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative John Wells 31,334 44.12
Liberal E Harrison 23,678 33.34
Labour R Arndell 16,006 22.54
Majority 7,656 10.78
Turnout 71,014 81.31
General Election 1970: Maidstone[10]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative John Wells 31,316 51.37 -3.3
Labour KM Graham 18,473 30.31 -15.02
Liberal S Blow 11,167 18.32 N/A
Majority 12,843 21.07 +11.72
Turnout 60,959 72.12 -2.2

Elections in the 1960s[edit]

General Election 1966: Maidstone[11]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative John Wells 29,208 54.67 +7.76
Labour MJ O'Flaherty 24,214 45.33 +13.27
Majority 4,994 9.35 -5.49
Turnout 53,422 74.32 -3.69
General Election 1964: Maidstone[12]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative John Wells 25,079 46.91 -13.6
Labour J Daly 17,143 32.06 -4.43
Liberal S Blow 11,244 21.03 N/A
Majority 7,936 14.84 -6.18
Turnout 53,467 78.01 -0.61

Elections in the 1950s[edit]

General Election 1959: Maidstone[13]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative John Wells 30,115 60.51
Labour A Soper 19,652 39.49
Majority 2,240 21.02
Turnout 49,767 78.62

Elections in the 1930s[edit]

1931 General Election: Maidstone

Electorate 47,258[14]

Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative Alfred Charles Bossom 27,394
Labour Mrs Gertrude Speedwell Massingham 6,770
Majority 20,624
Conservative hold Swing

Elections in the 1900s[edit]

Maidstone by-election, 1901


Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal Sir Francis Evans 2,375 52.1
Conservative Sir Thomas Milvain 2,182 47.9
Turnout 4,557
Majority 193 4.2
Liberal hold Swing +9.0

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j  "Barham, Nicholas". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 
  2. ^ a b c d Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs – Constituencies beginning with "M" (part 1)[self-published source][better source needed]
  3. ^ At the election of 1702, Marsham and Roberts were returned as elected, and their opponents, Sir Thomas Twisden and Thomas Bliss, petitioned against the result. The Commons on investigation found all four candidates guilty of "bribery and other unlawful practices", declared the election void and resolved that no writ for a new election should be issued until the end of the session
  4. ^ Dodd was re-elected in 1852 but the election was declared void on petition, and a by-election was held
  5. ^ "Politics Resources". Election 1992. Politics Resources. 9 April 1992. Retrieved 2010-12-06. 
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ F W S Craig, British Parliamentary Election Results 1918-1949; Political Reference Publications, Glasgow 1949


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  • 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)
  • 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)
  • Edward Porritt and Annie G Porritt, The Unreformed House of Commons (Cambridge University Press, 1903)
  • Lewis Namier, The Structure of Politics at the Accession of George III (2nd edition - London: St Martin's Press, 1961)
  • Henry Pelling, Social Geography of British Elections 1885-1910 (London: Macmillan, 1967)
  • Robert Waller, The Almanac of British Politics (1st edition, London: Croom Helm, 1983; 5th edition, London: Routledge, 1996)
  • Frederic A Youngs, jr, "Guide to the Local Administrative Units of England, Vol I" (London: Royal Historical Society, 1979)