Finsbury (UK Parliament constituency)

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Former Borough constituency
for the House of Commons
Number of members two
Replaced by Finsbury Central, Finsbury East, Holborn, Islington East, Islington North, Islington South and Islington West
Created from Middlesex
Number of members one
Replaced by Shoreditch and Finsbury
Created from Finsbury Central and Finsbury East

The parliamentary borough of Finsbury was a constituency of the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom from 1832 to 1885, and from 1918 to 1950. The constituency created in 1832 included part of the county of Middlesex north of the City of London and was named after the Finsbury division of the Ossulstone hundred. The 1918 constituency corresponded to the Metropolitan Borough of Finsbury within the County of London.


History 1832–1885[edit]

The original constituency was created by the Parliamentary Boundaries Act 1832, which carried into effect the redistribution of parliamentary seats under the Reform Act 1832.

Finsbury in the Metropolitan area, 1868–85
Finsbury in the Parliamentary County of London, 1918–50

It was originally proposed that the constituency would comprise the entire Finsbury Division and a number of adjoining parishes in the Holborn Division of Ossulstone, one of the hundreds of Middlesex. The commissioners appointed under the Boundaries Act decided to exclude the northern part of the Finsbury Division, which extended as far as Friern Barnet, some nine miles from London and a largely rural area. They could find no natural boundary to separate "the Rural from the Town District" and suggested that the dividing line should run through the northern section of Islington, following the boundaries formed for Church of England ecclesiastical districts. The seat as eventually created included the whole of Islington, however.[1]

The parliamentary borough was defined in Schedule O of the Boundaries Act as:

The several Parishes of Saint Luke, Saint George the Martyr, St Giles in the Fields, Saint George Bloomsbury, Saint Mary Stoke Newington, and St. Mary, Islington; the several Liberties or Places of Saffron Hill, Hatton Garden, Ely Rents, Ely Place, the Rolls, Glass House Yard, and the Charter House; Lincolns Inn and Grays Inn; the Parish of St. James and St. John Clerkenwell, except that Part thereof which is situate to the North of the Parish of Islington; those Parts of the respective Parishes of Saint Sepulchre and Saint Andrew Holborn and of Furnivals Inn and Staple Inn respectively, which are situated without the Liberty of the City of London.

The Redistribution of Seats Act 1885 divided the constituency, by then highly populated, into seven new single member constituencies. Four were divisions of a new Parliamentary Borough of Islington; while the Finsbury Parliamentary Borough was divided into three, named Central Division, East Division and Holborn Division.

History 1918–1950[edit]

The Representation of the People Act 1918 created a new single-member Finsbury Parliamentary borough in the County of London, identical to the Metropolitan Borough of Finsbury. In 1950, it was merged with the neighbouring borough of Shoreditch to become Shoreditch and Finsbury.

Members of Parliament[edit]

MPs 1832–1885[edit]

The parliamentary borough returned two members of parliament

Election 1st Member 1st Party 2nd Member 2nd Party
1832 Robert Grant Liberal Robert Spankie Conservative
1834 by-election Thomas Slingsby Duncombe Liberal
1835 Thomas Wakley Liberal
1852 Thomas Challis Liberal
1857 William Cox Liberal
1859 Samuel Morton Peto Liberal
1861 by-election William Cox Liberal
1865 William Torrens McCullagh Torrens Liberal Sir Andrew Lusk Liberal
1885 constituency abolished: see Finsbury Central, Finsbury East and Holborn

MPs 1918–1950[edit]

The borough was a single-member constituency.

Election Member Party
1918 Martin Archer-Shee Unionist
1923 George Gillett Labour
1931 National Labour
1935 George Saville Woods Labour
1945 John Platts-Mills Labour
1948 Labour Independent Group
1950 constituency abolished


Elections in the 1910s[edit]

H.E.A. Cotton
General Election 1918: Finsbury[2]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Coalition Conservative Martin Archer-Shee 8,782 63.8 n/a
Liberal H. E. A. Cotton 4,981 36.2 n/a
Majority 3,801 27.6 n/a
Turnout 13,763 39.5 n/a
Coalition Conservative win

Elections in the 1920s[edit]

General Election 1922: Finsbury[3]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Unionist Martin Archer-Shee 9,382 44.6 -19.2
Liberal Harry Gilpin 6,384 30.4 -5.8
Labour George Gillett 4,903 23.3 n/a
Independent Labour Christopher Roland Morden 349 1.7 n/a
Majority 2,998 14.2 -13.4
Turnout 21,018 54.3 +14.8
Unionist hold Swing -6.7
A.H. Scott
General Election 1923: Finsbury[4]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Labour George Gillett 8,907 42.4 +19.1
Unionist Martin Archer-Shee 7,063 33.6 -11.0
Liberal Alfred Scott 5,054 24.0 -6.4
Majority 1,844 8.8 30.1
Turnout 21,024 53.8 -0.5
Labour gain from Unionist Swing +15.0
General Election 1924: Finsbury[5]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Labour George Gillett 12,363 47.0 +4.6
Unionist Ernest Augustus Taylor 11,643 44.2 +10.6
Liberal Robert Shaw 2,324 8.8 -15.2
Majority 720 2.8 -6.0
Turnout 26,330 66.3 +12.5
Labour hold Swing -3.0
General Election 1929: Finsbury[6]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Labour George Gillett 17,970 56.5 +9.5
Unionist William Ray 9,026 28.3 -15.9
Liberal William John Pinard 4,855 15.2 +6.4
Majority 8,944 28.2 +25.4
Turnout 31,851 66.0 -0.3
Labour hold Swing +12.7

Elections in the 1930s[edit]

General Election 1931: Finsbury[7]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
National Labour George Gillett 17,292 63.1 n/a
Labour Co-op Thomas Edward Williams 10,133 36.9 -19.6
Majority 7,159 26.2 n/a
Turnout 27,425 58.1 -7.9
National Labour gain from Labour Swing n/a
General Election 1935: Finsbury[8]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Labour Co-op George Woods 13,408 55.8 +18.9
National Labour George Gillett 10,600 44.2 -18.9
Majority 2,808 11.6 +37.8
Turnout 24,008 56.2 -1.9
Labour Co-op gain from National Labour Swing +18.9

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: Finsbury[10]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Labour John Platts-Mills 9,786 70.8 +15.0
Conservative Frederick Burden 4,029 29.2 n/a
Majority 5,757 41.6 +30.0
Turnout 13,815 63.9 +7.7
Labour hold Swing n/a


  1. ^ Commissioners on Proposed Division of Counties and Boundaries of Boroughs (1832). Parliamentary representation: further return to an address to His Majesty, dated 12 December, 1831. p. 114. 
  2. ^ British Parliamentary Election Results 1918–1949, FWS Craig
  3. ^ British Parliamentary Election Results 1918–1949, FWS Craig
  4. ^ British Parliamentary Election Results 1918–1949, FWS Craig
  5. ^ British Parliamentary Election Results 1918–1949, FWS Craig
  6. ^ British Parliamentary Election Results 1918–1949, FWS Craig
  7. ^ British Parliamentary Election Results 1918–1949, FWS Craig
  8. ^ British Parliamentary Election Results 1918–1949, FWS Craig
  9. ^ Report of the Annual Conference of the Labour Party, 1939
  10. ^ British Parliamentary Election Results 1918–1949, FWS Craig