East Somerset (UK Parliament constituency)
|Former County constituency
for the House of Commons
|Number of members||One|
|Replaced by||Wells and Yeovil|
|Number of members||Two|
|Type of constituency||County constituency|
From 1832 to 1885, it returned two Members of Parliament (MPs), elected by the bloc vote system of election. From 1885 to 1918, a different constituency of the same name returned one MP, elected by the first past the post voting system.
The constituency, formally called The Eastern Division of Somerset, was created for the 1832 general election, when the former Somerset constituency was divided into new East and West divisions. It also absorbed the voters from the abolished borough of Milborne Port. The constituency might have been better described as North-Eastern Somerset, since its limits stopped well short of the southern extremities of the county. It surrounded the cities of Bath and Wells (although both were boroughs electing MPs in their own right, freeholders within these boroughs who met the property-owning qualifications for the county franchise could vote in East Somerset as well, as could those in Frome); other towns in the division were Glastonbury, Burnham-on-Sea, Clevedon, Keynsham, Midsomer Norton, Portishead, Radstock, Shepton Mallet, Somerton and Weston-super-Mare.
The Second Reform Act brought about significant boundary changes, which came into effect at the 1868 general election, as Somerset was given a third county constituency. The southern end of East Somerset (including Glastonbury, Radstock, Shepton Mallet and Somerton as well as the area round Frome and Wells) was moved into the new Mid Somerset division. The revised East Somerset constituency was now defined as consisting of the Long Ashton, Axbridge, Keynsham, Temple Cloud and Weston Petty Sessional Divisions.
At the 1885 general election, there were further radical boundary changes, Somerset's three two-member county divisions together with one abolished borough being reorganised into seven single-member county constituencies. One of these took the name of Eastern Somerset, but this included none of the voters from the 1867-85 East Somerset constituency, who were divided between the new Frome, Northern Somerset and Wells divisions.
The new Eastern division was carved out of the previous Mid Somerset division, with Shepton Mallet being its largest town; it also included Somerton, Street and Wincanton. This was a predominantly rural constituency, though with some industry in the towns (notably brewing and bootmaking), and a strong Nonconformist religious tradition. It would probably have been a safe Liberal seat, but when its sitting Liberal MP joined the Liberal Unionists when the party split in 1886, he had no difficulty holding his seat until he retired.
The constituency was abolished for the 1918 general election, when Somerset's number of county members was reduced by one. It was mostly replaced by the revised Wells county constituency, but the town of Somerton was transferred to Yeovil.
Members of Parliament
|Election||1st Member||1st Party||2nd Member||2nd Party|
|1832||William Gore-Langton||Whig||William Papwell Brigstocke||Whig|
|1834 by-election||William Miles1||Conservative|
|1847 by-election||William Pinney||Whig|
|1865||Ralph Neville-Grenville||Conservative||Richard Paget||Conservative|
|1868||Ralph Shuttleworth Allen||Conservative||Richard Bright||Conservative|
|1878 by-election||Sir Philip Miles, Bt||Conservative|
|1879 by-election||Lord Brooke||Conservative|
|1885||Redistribution of Seats Act: Name transferred to a different constituency, electing only one member|
1 Miles was created a Baronet in 1859.
|1906||John William Howard Thompson||Liberal|
|1910||Ernest Jardine||Liberal Unionist|
Elections in the 1900s
|Liberal||John William Howard Thompson||4,553||53.9|
|Liberal Unionist||Bertram Godfray Falle||3,890||46.1|
|Liberal gain from Liberal Unionist||Swing|
Elections in the 1910s
|Liberal Unionist||Ernest Jardine||4,997||55.7||9.6|
|Liberal||John William Howard Thompson||3,970||44.3||-9.6|
|Liberal Unionist gain from Liberal||Swing||+9.6|
|Liberal Unionist||Ernest Jardine||4,748||55.1||-0.6|
|Liberal||John William Howard Thompson||3,875||44.9||+0.6|
|Liberal Unionist hold||Swing||-0.6|
- The Constitutional Year Book for 1913 (London: National Union of Conservative and Unionist Associations, 1913)
- 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)
- Frederic A Youngs, jr, Guide to the Local Administrative Units of England, Vol I (London: Royal Historical Society, 1979)