Brecon (UK Parliament constituency)
|Former Borough constituency
for the House of Commons
|Number of members||one|
Brecon was a parliamentary constituency in Wales which returned one Member of Parliament to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom and its predecessors, from 1542 until it was abolished for the 1885 general election.
From its first election in 1542 until some time before 1715, the constituency consisted of a number of boroughs within the historic county of Brecknockshire or Breconshire in Wales. From then until 1885 the seat represented the parliamentary borough of Brecon alone. The constituency should not be confused with the county constituency of Breconshire, which existed from the sixteenth century until 1918.
On the basis of information from several volumes of the History of Parliament, it is apparent that the history of the borough representation from Wales and Monmouthshire is more complicated than that of the English boroughs.
The Laws in Wales Act 1535 (26 Hen. VIII, c. 26) provided for a single borough seat for each of 11 of the 12 Welsh counties and Monmouthshire. The legislation was ambiguous as to which communities were enfranchised. The county towns were awarded a seat, but this in some fashion represented all the ancient boroughs of the county as the others were required to contribute to the members wages. It was not clear if the burgesses of the contributing boroughs could take part in the election. The only election under the original scheme was for the 1542 Parliament. It seems that only burgesses from the county towns actually took part. An Act of 1544 (35 Hen. VIII, c. 11) confirmed that the contributing boroughs could send representatives to take part in the election at the county town. As far as can be told from surviving indentures of returns, the degree to which the out boroughs participated varied, but by the end of the sixteenth century all the seats had some participation from them at some elections at least.
The original scheme was modified by later legislation and decisions of the House of Commons (which were sometimes made with no regard to precedent or evidence: for example in 1728 it was decided that only the freemen of the borough of Montgomery could participate in the election for that seat, thus disenfranchising the freemen of Llanidloes, Welshpool and Llanfyllin).
In the case of Breconshire, the county town was Brecon. The township of Llywel, eleven miles due west of Brecon, formed part of the constituency. There is no evidence to suggest any other boroughs actually took part in elections before 1597. The out boroughs then participating were Bulith now known as Builth Wells, Crickhowel or Crickhowell, Hay now Hay-on-Wye and Telgarth or Talgarth.
At some point between 1603 and 1715 the out boroughs ceased to participate in elections for the constituency. Until 1727 all the freemen of Brecon formed the electorate, but in 1727 the House of Commons ruled that only the resident freemen could vote. There had been about 180 electors in 1723 and 1727, but only 69 in 1744 after the basis of the franchise had been changed. There were about 100 voters between 1754 and 1790.
When registration of electors and an additional householder franchise were introduced in 1832 Brecon, still based on the town of Brecon, had the smallest electorate in Wales with just 242 registered voters.
Brecon was little affected by the upsurge of radical politics in the 1860s apart from the one occasion in 1866 when Thomas Price, the prominent nonconformist minister, intervened in a by-election contest to compel the Liberal candidate, the Earl of Brecknock, to issue an address more strongly in favour of reform.
Even after the extension of the franchise in 1868, the number of voters only increased to 814. This did, however, result in one of the most tumultuous elections in the history of the borough, which included torchlight procession and lively meetings at which speakers struggled to make themselves heard. On the day of the election it was generally accepted that supporters of the Conservative candidate, Howel Gwyn, had been caught engaged in bribery.
The unseating of Howel Gwyn by petition in April 1869 indicated how Brecon largely remained a closed borough, dominated by the politics of influence.
After 1885 Breconshire was represented in Parliament by the single member county constituency, which included all the boroughs at one time in the Brecon constituency.
Members of Parliament
Members of Parliament 1542–1640
As there were sometimes significant gaps between Parliaments held in this period, the dates of first assembly and dissolution are given. Where the name of the member has not yet been ascertained or (before 1558) is not recorded in a surviving document, the entry unknown is entered in the table.
The Roman numerals after some names are those used in The House of Commons 1509–1558 to distinguish a member from another politician of the same name.
|1542||16 January 1542||28 March 1544||Edward Games|
|1545||23 November 1545||31 January 1547||Edward Games|
|1547||4 November 1547||15 April 1552||Edward Games|
|1553||1 March 1553||31 March 1553||Edward Games|
|1553||5 October 1553||5 December 1553||Edward Games|
|1554||2 April 1554||3 May 1554||Edward Games|
|1554||12 November 1554||16 January 1555||Meredith Games|
|1555||21 October 1555||9 December 1555||unknown|
|1558||20 January 1558||17 November 1558||William Aubrey|
|1559||23 January 1559||8 May 1559||Roland Vaughan|
|1562/63||11 January 1563||2 January 1567||Sir Roger Vaughan|
|1571||2 April 1571||29 May 1571||Richard Price|
|1572||8 May 1572||19 April 1583||Walter Games|
|1584||23 November 1584||14 September 1585||David Williams|
|1586||13 October 1586||23 March 1587||David Williams|
|1588||4 February 1589||29 March 1589||David Williams|
|1593||18 February 1593||10 April 1593||Sir Matthew Morgan|
|1597||24 October 1597||9 February 1598||David Williams|
|1601||27 October 1601||19 December 1601||Henry Williams|
|1604||19 March 1604||9 February 1611||Sir Henry Williams|
|1614||5 April 1614||7 June 1614||Sir John Crompton|
|1620||16 January 1621||8 February 1622||Sir Walter Pye|
|12 January 1624||12 February 1624||27 March 1625||Sir Walter Pye|
|4 March 1625||17 May 1625||12 August 1625||Sir Walter Pye|
|12 January 1626||6 February 1626||15 June 1626||Sir Walter Pye||Elected to sit for Herefordshire|
|February 1626||Sir Henry Lynde|
|31 March 1628||17 March 1628||10 March 1629||Walter Pye (Royalist)|
|1640||13 April 1640||5 May 1640||Herbert Price|
Members of Parliament 1640–1660
|1640||3 November 1640||Herbert Price||Long Parliament|
|...||1647||20 April 1653||Ludovic Lewis||Rump Parliament|
|...||4 July 1653||12 December 1653||unrepresented||Barebones Parliament|
|1654||3 September 1654||22 January 1655||unrepresented||First Protectorate Parliament|
|1656||17 September 1656||4 February 1658||unrepresented||Second Protectorate Parliament|
|1658/59||27 January 1659||22 April 1659||Samuel Wightwick||Third Protectorate Parliament|
|...||7 May 1659||20 February 1660||unknown||Rump Parliament restored|
|...||21 February 1660||16 March 1660||unknown||Long Parliament restored|
Members of Parliament 1660–1885
- 1 F. W. S. Craig, in his compilations of election results for Great Britain, classifies Whig, Radical and similar candidates as Liberals from 1832. The name Liberal was gradually adopted as a description for the Whigs and politicians allied with them, before the formal creation of the Liberal Party shortly after the 1859 general election.
- Price, Thomas (5 January 1866). "To the Independent Electors of the Borough of Brecon". Seren Cymru. Retrieved 20 November 2014.
- "Brecon Borough Election. Meetings of the Liberal Party". Brecon County Times. 21 November 1868. Retrieved 5 December 2014.
- "The Polling Day". Brecon County Times. 21 November 1868. Retrieved 5 December 2014.
- Watkin, Thomas Glyn (January 2008). "Aubrey, William (c.1529–1595)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online edition, subscription required). Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2008-02-24.
- Boundaries of Parliamentary Constituencies 1885–1972, compiled and edited by F.W.S. Craig (Parliamentary Reference Publications 1972)
- British Parliamentary Election Results 1832–1885, compiled and edited by F.W.S. Craig (Macmillan Press 1977)
- The House of Commons 1509–1558, by S.T. Bindoff (Secker & Warburg 1982)
- The House of Commons 1558–1603, by P.W. Hasler (HMSO 1981)
- The House of Commons 1715–1754, by Romney Sedgwick (HMSO 1970)
- The House of Commons 1754–1790, by Sir Lewis Namier and John Brooke (HMSO 1964)
- 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)
- Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs – Constituencies beginning with "B" (part 5)