Reading (UK Parliament constituency)

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Former Borough constituency
for the House of Commons
County Berkshire
Number of members Two until 1885, then one until 1950
Replaced by Reading North and Reading South
19551974 (1974)
Number of members One
Type of constituency Borough constituency
Replaced by Reading North and Reading South
Created from Reading North and Reading South

Reading was a parliamentary borough, and later a borough constituency, represented in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It comprised the town of Reading in the county of Berkshire.

From 1295, as a parliamentary borough, Reading elected two members of parliament (MPs). When the parliamentary borough was replaced by a borough constituency in 1885, this representation was reduced to a single MP. The constituency was abolished in 1950, re-created in 1955, and finally abolished in 1974.


1955-1974: The County Borough of Reading wards of Abbey, Battle, Castle, Caversham, Christchurch, Katesgrove, Minster, Redlands, Thames, and Whitley.


Reading was one of the boroughs summoned to send members to the Model Parliament. The boundaries (encompassing the whole of one parish and parts of two others) were effectively unchanged from 1295 to 1918. In 1831, the population of the borough was 15,935, and contained 3,307 houses.

The right to vote was exercised by all inhabitants paying scot and lot, a relatively wide franchise for the period, and almost 2,000 votes were cast at the general election of 1826. Despite this high electorate, the corporation of the town was generally considered in practice to control elections to a large extent. In the second half of the 18th century, Reading was notoriously one of the most corrupt constituencies in England, bribery being both routine and expensive: Namier quotes the accounts kept for Prime Minister Newcastle of the 1754 election, which note that John Dodd, the government's candidate there, had already received £1000 and was promised £500 or £600 more to help him win the seat. (Dodd lost by one vote, but had the result overturned on petition by a partisan vote in the House of Commons, and Newcastle's accounts show a continuing trickle of funds to him to nurse the constituency over the next few years.) A few years later, the nomination to one of Reading's seats was advertised for sale in a London newspaper, though Reading was not mentioned by name and no price was specified; the newspaper's printers were charged by the Commons with a breach of privilege, but the sale of seats remained legal if frowned-upon until 1809.

The Great Reform Act left Reading's representation and boundaries unchanged, and the reformed franchise far from increasing its electorate seems to have reduced it: it was estimated that there were 1,250 voters in 1831, but only 1,001 were registered for the first post-Reform election, that of 1832.

The Representation of the People Act 1884, coming into effect at the 1885 general election, caused the parliamentary borough to be replaced by a borough constituency, and reduced Reading's representation to a single MP. The single-member Reading constituency continued to exist until it was split in 1950 into the separate constituencies of Reading North and Reading South. These two constituencies were merged back into a single Reading constituency in 1955, but again split apart in 1974. Today the area formerly covered by the Reading constituency is within the constituencies of Reading East and Reading West.

Members of Parliament[edit]


  • Constituency created 1295
Parliament First member Second member
1369 William Catour [1]
1371 William Catour [2]
1378 David atte Hacche [3]
1385 John Doublet [4]
1386 William Stapper Robert atte Lee[5]
1388 (Feb) David atte Hacche Richard Bedull[5]
1388 (Sep) John Balet Nicholas Vachell[5]
1390 (Jan) John Kent Robert Capellade[5]
1390 (Nov)
1391 Henry Barbour John Doublet[5]
1393 William Catour David atte Hacche[5]
1394 William Saville William Tho...[5]
1395 William Shortwade John Ede[5]
1397 (Jan) John White Richard Pernecote[5]
1397 (Sep) Thomas Selham Robert Godewyn[5]
1399 Roger Hay John Hunt[5]
1404 (Jan) John Kent William Derby[5]
1404 (Oct)
1406 John Hunt Philip Richard[5]
1407 John Merehan William Kenelme[5]
1410 John White Alexander Colshull[5]
1413 (Feb)
1413 (May) William Wilton Richard Farle[5]
1414 (Apr) John Hastyng John Clerk[5]
1414 (Nov) Stephen Stapper John Pernecote[5]
1416 (Mar) Walter Mustard Thomas Lavyngton 1[5]
1416 (Oct)
1417 Alexander Colshull Thomas Lavyngton[5]
1419 Robert Morys Richard Cross[5]
1420 Thomas Lavyngton John Veyr[5]
1421 (May) Thomas Lavyngton Simon Porter alias Kent[5]
1421 (Dec) John Hunt William Kyng[5]
1422 Simon Porter alias Kent [6]
1425 Simon Porter alias Kent[6]
1432 Simon Porter alias Kent[6]
1433 Simon Porter alias Kent[6]
1435 Simon Porter alias Kent[6]
1437 Simon Porter alias Kent[6]
1447 Simon Porter alias Kent[6]
1449 (Feb) Simon Porter alias Kent[6]
1449 (Nov) Simon Porter alias Kent[6]
1510 Richard Cleche William Justice[7]
1512 William Gifford Richard Smith[7]
1515 Edmund Knightley John Pownsar[7]
1523 Nicholas Hyde William Edmonds[7]
1529 Thomas Vachell I John Raymond[7]
1536 Thomas Vachell I John Raymond[7]
1539 ?Thomas Vachell I ?John Raymond[7]
1542 Thomas Vachell I Richard Justice[7]
1545 Thomas Vachell I Roger Amyce[7]
1547 William Grey, died May 1551
repl. 1552 by Sir John Mason
John Marshe[7]
1553 (Mar) John Bourne John Winchcombe[7]
1553 (Oct) Thomas Vachell I John Bell[7]
1554 (Apr) Robert Bowyer III John Lovelace[7]
1554 (Nov) John Bourne Edmund Plowden[7]
1555 Thomas Vachell II John Bell[7]
1558 Thomas Aldworth John Bell[7]
1558/9 Thomas Aldworth Thomas Turner[8]
1562/3 Henry Knollys Robert Rowbotham[8]
1571 Henry Knollys John Hastings[8]
1572 Robert Knollys Francis Alford[8]
1584 Robert Knollys Robert Harris[8]
1586 Robert Knollys Robert Harris[8]
1588 Robert Knollys, sat for Breconshire,
repl. Feb 1589 by Thomas Egerton
Robert Harris[8]
1593 Humphrey Donatt Charles Wednester[8]
1597 Sir Humphrey Forster Francis Moore[8]
1601 Francis Moore Anthony Blagrave[8]
1604 Francis Moore Jerome Bowes
1614 Francis Moore Robert Knollys
1621–1622 Anthony Barker John Saunders
1624 Francis Knollys III John Saunders
1625 Francis Knollys III John Saunders
1626 Francis Knollys III John Saunders
1628 Francis Knollys III John Saunders
1629–1640 No Parliaments summoned


Year First member First party Second member Second party
April 1640 Francis Knollys III Adm. Francis Knollys[9]
November 1640 Francis Knollys III (died 1643) Adm. Francis Knollys (died 1648)
1645 Daniel Blagrave
1648 Tanfield Vachell
1653 Not represented in Barebones Parliament
1654 Robert Hammond
1656 Daniel Blagrave
1659 Henry Neville Daniel Blagrave
1660 Thomas Rich John Blagrave
1661 Sir Thomas Dolman Richard Aldworth
1679 Nathan Knight John Blagrave
March 1685 Thomas Coates John Breedon
November 1685 William Aldworth
1689 Sir Henry Fane Whig Sir William Rich
1698 Sir Owen Buckingham John Dalby
January 1701 Francis Knollys
November 1701 Anthony Blagrave Tanfield Vachell
1702 Sir Owen Buckingham
1705 Sir William Rich
1708 Owen Buckingham Anthony Blagrave
1710 John Dalby
1713 Robert Clarges Felix Calvert
1716 Charles Cadogan Owen Buckingham
1720 Richard Thompson
1722 Anthony Blagrave Clement Kent
1727 Richard Potenger Richard Thompson
1734 Henry Grey
1739 John Blagrave
1740 William Strode
February 1741 John Dodd
May 1741 William Strode
1747 John Conyers Richard Neville Aldworth
1754 William Strode The Viscount Fane Opposition Whig
1755 John Dodd Government Whig
1761 Sir Francis Knollys
1768 Henry Vansittart
1774 Francis Annesley
1782 Richard Aldworth-Neville
1797 John Simeon
1802 Charles Shaw-Lefevre
1806 John Simeon
1818 Charles Fyshe Palmer
1820 John Berkeley Monck
1826 George Spence
1827 Charles Fyshe Palmer Whig
1830 Charles Russell Tory
1835 Thomas Noon Talfourd Whig
1837 Charles Fyshe Palmer Whig
1841 Charles Russell Conservative Viscount Chelsea Conservative
1847 Francis Pigott Whig Thomas Noon Talfourd Whig
1849 John Frederick Stanford Conservative
1852 Sir Henry Singer Keating Liberal
January 1860 Sir Francis Goldsmid Liberal
November 1860 Gillery Pigott Liberal
1863 George Shaw-Lefevre Liberal
1878 George Palmer Liberal
1885 Representation reduced to one member


Election Member Party
1885 Charles Townshend Murdoch Conservative
1892 George William Palmer Liberal
1895 Charles Townshend Murdoch Conservative
1898 by-election George William Palmer Liberal
1904 by-election Rufus Isaacs Liberal
1913 by-election Leslie Orme Wilson Conservative
1922 Edward Cecil George Cadogan Conservative
1923 Somerville Hastings Labour
1924 Herbert Williams Conservative
1929 Somerville Hastings Labour
1931 Alfred Bakewell Howitt Conservative
1945 Ian Mikardo Labour
1950 Constituency divided into Reading North and Reading South


Election Member Party
1955 Constituency recreated
1955 Ian Mikardo Labour
1959 Peter Emery Conservative
1966 John Lee Labour
1970 Gerard Vaughan Conservative
Feb 1974 Constituency redivided into Reading North and Reading South


Elections in the 1910s[edit]

Sir Rufus Isaacs
General Election December 1910
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal Rt Hon. Sir Rufus Daniel Isaacs 5,094 50.5
Conservative Leslie Orme Wilson 4,995 49.5
Majority 99 1.0
Turnout 91.6
Liberal hold Swing
Reading by-election, 1913
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Unionist Leslie Orme Wilson 5,144 50.3 +0.8
Liberal George Peabody Gooch 4,013 39.3 -11.2
British Socialist Party Joseph George Butler 1,063 10.4 n/a
Majority 1,131 11.0 12.0
Turnout 92.2
Unionist gain from Liberal Swing +6.0

A General Election was due to take place by the end of 1915. By the summer of 1914, the following candidates had been adopted to contest that election. Due to the outbreak of war, the election never took place.

General Election 14 December 1918: Reading
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Unionist 15,204
Labour Thomas Charles Morris 8,410
Liberal Frederick Thoresby 3,143
National Socialist Party Lorenzo Edward Quelch 1,462
Unionist hold Swing
  • Wilson was the endorsed candidate of the Coalition Government.

Elections in the 1920s[edit]

Henry Roome
General Election 1922: Reading[11]

Electorate 45,003

Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Unionist Hon. Edward Cecil George Cadogan 16,082 42.7
Labour Derwent Hall Caine 14,322 38.1
Liberal Henry Delacombe Roome 7,212 19.2
Majority 1,760 4.6
Unionist hold Swing
General Election 1923: Reading[12]

Electorate 45,308

Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Labour Somerville Hastings 16,657 44.8 +6.7
Unionist Hon. Edward Cecil George Cadogan 15,115 40.7 -2.0
Liberal Frederick Maddison 5,406 14.5 -4.7
Majority 1,542 4.1
Turnout 82.1
Labour gain from Unionist Swing +4.3
General Election 1924: Reading[13]

Electorate 46,234

Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Unionist Herbert Geraint Williams 21,338 53.8
Labour Somerville Hastings 18,337 46.2
Majority 3,001 7.6
Turnout 85.8
Unionist gain from Labour Swing
General Election 1929: Reading[14]

Electorate 62,873

Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Labour Somerville Hastings 23,281 43.5
Unionist Herbert Geraint Williams 22,429 42.0
Liberal Rev. Dugald Macfadyen 7,733 14.5
Majority 852 1.5
Turnout 85.0
Labour gain from Unionist Swing

Elections in the 1930s[edit]

General Election 1931: Reading[15]

Electorate 65,009

Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative Alfred Bakewell Howitt 34,439 63.1
Labour Somerville Hastings 19,277 35.3
New Party ER Troward 861 1.6
Majority 15,162 27.8
Turnout 54,577 83.9
Conservative gain from Labour Swing
General Election 1935: Reading[16]

Electorate 67,181

Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative Alfred Bakewell Howitt 27,540 51.8
Labour Somerville Hastings 22,949 43.2
Liberal John William Todd 2,685 5.0
Majority 4,591 8.6
Turnout 53,174 79.1
Conservative hold Swing

General Election 1939/40: Another General Election was required to take place before the end of 1940. The political parties had been making preparations for an election to take place and by the Autumn of 1939, the following candidates had been selected;

Elections in the 1940s[edit]

General Election 1945: Reading[18]

Electorate 84,827

Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Labour Ian Mikardo 30,465 48.8
Conservative WEC McIlroy 24,075 38.6
Liberal RNT James 7,834 12.6
Majority 6,390 10.2
Turnout 73.5
Labour gain from Conservative Swing




  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x "History of Parliament". History of Parliament Trust. Retrieved 8 November 2011. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "History of Parliament". History of Parliament Trust. Retrieved 8 November 2011. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "History of Parliament". History of Parliament Trust. Retrieved 8 November 2011. 
  9. ^ In place of Edward Herbert and Sir John Berkeley, elected for Old Sarum and Heytesbury
  10. ^ Who's Who
  11. ^ British Parliamentary Election Results 1918-1949, FWS Craig
  12. ^ British Parliamentary Election Results 1918-1949, FWS Craig
  13. ^ British Parliamentary Election Results 1918-1949, FWS Craig
  14. ^ British Parliamentary Election Results 1918-1949, FWS Craig
  15. ^ British Parliamentary Election Results 1918-1949, F W S Craig
  16. ^ British Parliamentary Election Results 1918-1949, FWS Craig
  17. ^ Report of the Annual Conference of the Labour Party, 1939
  18. ^ British Parliamentary Election Results 1918-1949, FWS Craig

See also[edit]