Bridport (UK Parliament constituency)

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Former Borough constituency
for the House of Commons
Number of members two (1295-1868); one (1868-1885)
Replaced by West Dorset

Bridport was a parliamentary borough in Dorset, England, which elected two Members of Parliament (MP) to the House of Commons from 1295 until 1868, and then one member from 1868 until 1885, when the borough was abolished.


Bridport was continuously represented in Parliament from the first. The medieval borough consisted of the parish of Bridport, a small port and market town, where the main economic interests were sailcloth and rope-making, as well as some fishing. (For some time in the 16th century, the town had a monopoly of making all cordage for the navy.) By 1831, the population of the borough was 4,242, and the town contained 678 houses.

The right to vote was at one period reserved to the town corporation (consisting of two bailiffs and 13 "capital burgesses"), but from 1628 it was exercised by all inhabitant householders paying scot and lot. This was a relatively liberal franchise for the period but nevertheless meant that only a fraction of the townsmen could vote: in 1806, the general election at which Bridport had the highest turnout in the last few years before the Reform Act, a total of 260 residents voted.

Bridport never reached the status of a pocket borough with an openly recognised "patron": the voters retained their freedom of choice and generally expected to extort a price for their votes, so much so that Oldfield recorded of one election in the early 19th century that "several candidates left them at the last election, in consequence of their demanding payment beforehand". Nevertheless, at various periods the borough came under the influence of local grandees and would usually return at least one of their nominees as MPs: the Russells (Dukes of Bedford) in the Elizabethan period and the Sturts in the latter half of the 18th century could normally rely on choosing one member. In 1572 the then Earl of Bedford made use of this influence to have his oldest son elected in defiance of the convention that the heirs of peers could not be members of the House of Commons; the only previous instance had been that of the Earl himself, who had remained an MP when he became heir to the Earldom in 1555. By vote of the House, the young Lord Russell was allowed to keep his seat for Bridport, and the precedent allowed other peers' heirs to sit from that point onwards.

Bridport retained both its seats under the Reform Act, the boundaries being extended to give it the requisite population - parts of the neighbouring parishes of Bradpole, Allington and Waldich, as well as Bridport Harbour, were brought in, increasing the population to about 6,000; in the election of 1832, the first after Reform, the registered electorate was 425. However, the constituency was too small to survive for long. One of its members was removed after election of 1868 by the Second Reform Act; and the borough was abolished altogether in 1885, the town being incorporated into the Western Dorset county division.

Members of Parliament[edit]

MPs 1295–1640[edit]

  • Constituency created (1295)
Parliament First member Second member
1386 John Hayward John Tracy[1]
1388 (Feb.) John Hayward John Tracy [1]
1388 (Sep) John Tracy William Cordell [1]
1390 (Jan) John Tracy John Hayward [1]
1390 (Nov)
1393 John Tracy John Hayward [1]
1394 John Tracy Gilbert Draper [1]
1395 John Roger I John Hayward [1]
1397 (Jan) John Palmer John Crouk [1]
1397 (Sep) John Hayward John Crouk [1]
1399 John Hayward John Tracy [1]
1402 Simon atte Ford Nicholas Tracy [1]
1404 (Jan)
1404 (Oct)
1406 Henry Rauf Roger Stikelane [1]
1407 Henry Rauf Walter Batcok [1]
1410 Thomas Lovell John Roger I [1]
1413 (Feb)
1413 (May) William Mountfort II John Roger I [1]
1414 (Apr) Simon atte Ford John Stampe [1]
1414 (Nov) Simon atte Ford Andrew Forshey [1]
1416 (Mar)
1416 (Oct)
1417 Simon atte Ford Edward Stikelane [1]
1419 Walter Tracy William Mountfort II [1]
1420 Simon atte Ford John Stampe [1]
1421 (May) Simon atte Ford John Hore [1]
1421 (Dec) Simon atte Ford William Pernham [1]
1422 Simon atte Ford [2]
1423 Simon atte Ford [2]
1425 Simon atte Ford [2]
1426 John Hore Simon atte Ford[3]
1437 John Hore[3]
Second Parliament of 1553 Christopher Smith William Pole
Parliament of 1554 Robert Neyl Edward Prout
Parliament of 1554-1555 John Alferd John Moyne or Moon
Parliament of 1555 Robert Fowkes Thomas Chard
Parliament of 1558 John Hippisley Thomas Welshe
Parliament of 1559 William Page Robert Moon
Parliament of 1563-1567 John Hastings Richard Inkpenne
Parliament of 1571 Thomas Parry George Trenchard
Parliament of 1572-1581 Miles Sandys Lord Russell (Summoned to the Lords)
1581: Hugh Vaughan
Parliament of 1584-1585 Dr Peter Turner Morgan Moon
Parliament of 1586-1587
Parliament of 1588-1589 George Pawlet Gregory Sprint
Parliament of 1593 Christopher Lambert John Fortescue
Parliament of 1597-1598 Leweston Fitzjames Adrian Gilbert
Parliament of 1601 Sir Robert Napier Richard Warburton
Parliament of 1604-1611 Sir Robert Miller John Pitt
Addled Parliament (1614) Sir William Bampfield John Jeffrey
Parliament of 1621-1622 John Strode John Browne
Happy Parliament (1624-1625) William Muschamp Robert Browne
Useless Parliament (1625) Sir Lewis Dyve Sir John Strode
Parliament of 1625-1626 Sir Richard Strode
Parliament of 1628-1629 Thomas Pawlet Bampfield Chafin
No Parliament summoned 1629-1640

MPs 1640–1868[edit]

Year First member First party Second member Second party
April 1640 Thomas Trenchard Sir John Meller
November 1640 Roger Hill [4] Parliamentarian Giles Strangways Royalist
January 1644 Strangways disabled from sitting - seat vacant
1645 Thomas Ceeley
December 1648 Ceeley excluded in Pride's Purge - seat vacant
1653 Bridport was unrepresented in the Barebones Parliament and the First and Second Parliaments of the Protectorate
January 1659 Edward Cheek John Lee
May 1659 Roger Hill One seat vacant
April 1660 John Drake Henry Henley
1661 Humphrey Bishop John Strangways
February 1677 George Bowerman
February 1677 Wadham Strangways
February 1679 John Every
August 1679 Sir Robert Henley, Bt William Bragge
1681 John Michell
1685 Hugh Hodges Thomas Chafe
1689 Richard Brodrepp John Manley
1690 John Michell Sir Stephen Evance
1695 Nicholas Carey
1697 Peter Battiscombe
1698 Alexander Pitfield
1701 William Gulston
1702 Richard Bingham
1705 Thomas Strangways
1708 William Coventry
1713 John Hoskins Gifford
February 1715 John Strangways [5]
May 1715 Peter Walter
1719 Sir Dewey Bulkeley
1727 William Bowles [6] James Pelham [7]
1730 John Jewkes
1734 Solomon Ashley
1741 George Richards
1742 Viscount Deerhurst Tory
1744 Viscount Deerhurst Tory
1746 Thomas Grenville
May 1747 James Grenville
July 1747 John Frederick Pinney
1754 Thomas Coventry
1761 Sir Gerard Napier, Bt
1765 Benjamin Way
1768 Sambrooke Freeman
1774 Hon. Lucius Cary
1780 Thomas Scott Richard Beckford
1784 Charles Sturt
1790 James Watson
1795 George Barclay
1802 Sir Evan Nepean, Bt
1807 Sir Samuel Hood, Bt
1812 William Best Tory Sir Horace St Paul, Bt
1817 Henry Sturt
March 1820 James Scott Christopher Spurrier
June 1820 Sir Horace St Paul, Bt
1826 Henry Warburton Radical
1832 John Romilly Whig[8][9]
1835 Horace Twiss Conservative
1837 Swynfen Jervis Whig
June 1841 Thomas Alexander Mitchell Radical[10][11][12]
September 1841 by-election Alexander Baillie-Cochrane Conservative
1846 by-election [13] John Romilly Whig[8][9]
1847 Alexander Baillie-Cochrane Conservative
1852 John Patrick Murrough Radical[14][15][16][17]
1857 Kirkman Hodgson Whig
1859 Liberal Liberal
1868 Representation reduced to one member

MPs 1868–1885[edit]

Year Member Party
1868 Thomas Alexander Mitchell Liberal
1875 by-election Pandeli Ralli Liberal
1880 Charles Warton Conservative
1885 Constituency abolished


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v "Bridport". History of Parliament online. Retrieved 2012-10-27. 
  2. ^ a b c "FORD, Simon atte, of Bridport, Dorset". History of Parliament Online. Retrieved 2012-10-27. 
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ Sir Lewis Dyve petitioned against the result. Cobbett records Dyve as MP from 1640, and the Dictionary of National Biography has Hill filling the vacancy in 1645; however Brunton & Pennington list Hill as the MP from 1640. The House of Commons Journals show Dyve was a petitioner rather than MP, and that Hill was an MP by 1643 at the latest
  5. ^ Strangeways was initially declared elected, but on petition it was found that some unqualified voters had been admitted while other qualified voters had had their votes refused, and Walter was declared duly elected in Strangways' place
  6. ^ Bowles was re-elected in 1741 but was also elected for Bewdley, which he chose to represent, and did not sit again for Bridport
  7. ^ Pelham was also elected for Newark, which he chose to represent, and never sat for Bridport
  8. ^ a b "Political". Durham Chronicle. 13 March 1846. p. 4. Retrieved 19 April 2018 – via British Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (help)). 
  9. ^ a b "Bridport Election". Nottingham Review and General Advertiser for the Midland Counties. 13 March 1846. p. 8. Retrieved 19 April 2018 – via British Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (help)). 
  10. ^ The Gardener's Chronicle for 1841. London: Haymarket Publishing. 1841. p. 354. Retrieved 19 April 2018. 
  11. ^ The Spectator, Volume 14. London: F. C. Westley. 1841. p. 513. 
  12. ^ "Bridport". Exeter and Plymouth Gazette. 7 August 1847. p. 8. Retrieved 19 April 2018 – via British Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (help)). 
  13. ^ Cochrane resigned to seek re-election as a supporter of free trade, and a by-election was held on 7 March 1846. Cochrane was initially declared re-elected by a majority of 1 vote, but on petition his election was declared void and after scrutiny of the votes Romilly was declared duly elected.
  14. ^ Abram, William Alexander. "History of Blackburn". Parish of Blackburn, County of Lancaster. p. 374. Retrieved 19 April 2018. 
  15. ^ "English Counties and Boroughs". The Spectator. 23 April 1859. p. 4. Retrieved 19 April 2018. 
  16. ^ "The Cotton Riots of 1878". Cotton Town. Retrieved 19 April 2018. 
  17. ^ Dod, Charles Roger (1854). "Members of the House of Commons". The Parliamentary Companion. p. 242. Retrieved 19 April 2018. 

Election results[edit]

Elections in the 1850s[edit]

General Election 1852: Bridport[1]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Radical Thomas Alexander Mitchell 366 45.4
Radical John Patrick Murrough 249 30.9
Conservative John Rolt[2] 191 23.7
Majority 58 7.2
Turnout 403 (est) 76.9 (est)
Registered electors 524
Radical hold Swing
Radical gain from Conservative Swing
General Election 1857: Bridport[1]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Radical Thomas Alexander Mitchell 330 45.3 −0.1
Whig Kirkman Hodgson 290 39.8 N/A
Conservative William Unwin Heygate 109 15.0 −8.7
Turnout 365 (est) 76.4 (est) −0.5
Registered electors 478
Majority 40 5.5 −1.7
Radical hold Swing +4.3
Majority 181 24.8 N/A
Whig gain from Radical Swing N/A
General Election 1859: Bridport[1]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal Thomas Alexander Mitchell 334 42.1 −3.2
Liberal Kirkman Hodgson 290 36.5 −3.3
Conservative Henry Hyde Nugent Bankes[3] 170 21.4 +6.4
Majority 120 15.1 +9.6
Turnout 397 (est) 79.2 (est) +2.8
Registered electors 501
Liberal hold Swing −3.2
Liberal hold Swing −3.2

Elections in the 1860s[edit]

General Election 1865: Bridport[1]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal Thomas Alexander Mitchell Unopposed
Liberal Kirkman Hodgson Unopposed
Registered electors 472
Liberal hold
Liberal hold

The seat was reduced to one member.

General Election 1868: Bridport[1]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal Thomas Alexander Mitchell Unopposed
Registered electors 1,027
Liberal hold

Elections in the 1870s[edit]

General Election 1874: Bridport[1]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal Thomas Alexander Mitchell Unopposed
Registered electors 1,045
Liberal hold

Mitchell's death caused a by-election.

By-election, 31 Mar 1875: Bridport[1]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal Pandeli Ralli 620 76.6 N/A
Conservative Charles Whetham[4] 189 23.4 N/A
Majority 431 53.3 N/A
Turnout 809 80.0 N/A
Registered electors 1,011
Liberal hold Swing N/A

Elections in the 1880s[edit]

General Election 1880: Bridport[1]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Conservative Charles Warton 468 50.5 N/A
Liberal Pandeli Ralli 459 49.5 N/A
Majority 9 1.0 N/A
Turnout 927 85.4 N/A
Registered electors 1,085
Conservative gain from Liberal Swing N/A