Hampshire (UK Parliament constituency)
|Former County constituency|
for the House of Commons
|Number of members||Two|
|Replaced by||North Hampshire and South Hampshire|
Hampshire was a county constituency of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which returned two Knights of the Shire (Members of Parliament) to the House of Commons from 1295 until 1832. (Officially the name was The County of Southampton, and it was occasionally referred to as Southamptonshire.)
The constituency consisted of the historic county of Hampshire, including the Isle of Wight. (Although Hampshire contained a number of parliamentary boroughs, each of which elected two MPs in its own right, these were not excluded from the county constituency, and owning property within the borough could confer a vote at the county election. This was even the case for the town of Southampton; although Southampton had the status of a county in itself after 1447, unlike most cities and towns with similar status its freeholders were not barred from voting at county elections.)
As in other county constituencies, the franchise between 1430 and 1832 was defined by the Forty Shilling Freeholder Act, which gave the right to vote to every man who possessed freehold property within the county valued at £2 or more per year for the purposes of land tax; it was not necessary for the freeholder to occupy his land, nor even in later years to be resident in the county at all. In the 18th century, the electorate amounted to around 5,000 voters.
Uniquely for a county constituency before the Reform Act, elections in Hampshire were held at two polling places, the poll being first opened at Winchester and then, once all the mainland voters had been polled, adjourning to Newport for the convenience of the Isle of Wight voters. This concession, however, only slightly mitigated the difficulties caused by voters having to travel to the county town to exercise their franchise. During the American Revolutionary War, elections from 1779 to the 1783 Peace of Paris were in New Alresford instead of Winchester, because the existing law would have required soldiers stationed at Winchester to depart during the election, leaving prisoners of war unguarded.
Up to Elizabethan times, at least, the voters had to contend with these difficulties themselves: Neale quotes an allusion to Hampshire freeholders "fasting and far from home" at a by-election in 1566 as evidence that the practice of feeding the voters to encourage their attendance was not yet universal. But later it became normal for voters to expect the candidates for whom they voted to meet their expenses in travelling to the poll and to entertain them generously when they reached it, making the cost of a contested election almost prohibitive in a county as large as Hampshire. When the prime minister Lord North sent £2,000 of the King's money to assist the government candidates fighting an election in Hampshire in 1779, he wrote to the King that it "bore ... a very small part of the expense" – yet it was insufficient to win the election, one of the government candidates being defeated.
Contested elections were therefore generally rare, potential candidates preferring to canvass support beforehand and usually not insisting on a vote being taken unless they were confident of winning; although there was a contest at each of the four general elections from 1705 to 1713, at all but four of the remaining 23 general elections before 1832, Hampshire's two MPs were elected unopposed.
Hampshire elections may have been less corrupt than most, and the 19th century chronicler of electoral abuses in the Unreformed Parliament, Thomas Oldfield, notes of the constituency that "We do not find a single petition [since 1640] complaining of an undue election in this county!!!" – complete with three exclamation marks. In the 18th and early 19th century Hampshire's voters were consistently of a High Tory persuasion, and throughout the 18th century the county's MPs were almost invariably nominees of the Crown. This influence arose in particular because of the number of government employees (in the dockyards at Portsmouth and Gosport, the forts of the Isle of Wight, and customs-houses all along the coast), as well as the Crown's tenants in the New Forest. Hampshire sentiments seem nevertheless to have been strongly in favour of reforming the House of Commons (views, no doubt, fuelled by the presence of several notorious rotten boroughs in the county), and on several occasions it submitted substantial petitions to Parliament in favour of the Reform Bill or of earlier unsuccessful proposals along the same lines.
According to the census of 1831, at around the time of the Great Reform Act Hampshire had a population of approximately 315,000. From 1832 the Reform Act split the constituency into three, giving the Isle of Wight a single member of its own and dividing the remainder of the county into two two-member divisions, Northern Hampshire and Southern Hampshire. (There were also minor changes to the parliamentary boundary between Hampshire and Sussex.)
Members of Parliament
|Election||First member||First party||Second member||Second party|
|April 1640||Sir Henry Wallop||Richard Whitehead|
|November 1640||Sir Henry Wallop (died 1642)|
- 1653: Richard Norton; Richard Major; John Hildesley
- 1654: Richard Lord Cromwell; Richard Norton; Richard Major; John St Barbe; Robert Wallop; Francis Rivet; Edward Hooper; John Bulkeley
- 1656: Richard Lord Cromwell; William Goffe; Robert Wallop; Richard Norton; Thomas Cole ; John Bulkeley; Edward Hooper; Richard Cobb
- Underdown, David (December 2005). "Aristocratic Faction and Reformist Politics in Eighteenth-Century Hampshire: The Election of December 1779". Huntington Library Quarterly. 68 (4): 601–630: 619. doi:10.1525/hlq.2005.68.4.601. JSTOR 10.1525/hlq.2005.68.4.601.
- Roe, William Thomas (1818). A Practical Treatise on the Law of Elections, Relating to England, Scotland, and Ireland. London: Charles Hunter. pp. 316–317 fn(a). Archived from the original on 4 April 2022. Retrieved 28 June 2019.: cites existing law 8 Geo II c.30 Archived 4 April 2022 at the Wayback Machine, and exceptions 20 Geo III c.1 Archived 4 April 2022 at the Wayback Machine and 20 Geo III c.50 ss.1–2 Archived 4 April 2022 at the Wayback Machine, continued by 21 Geo III c.43 Archived 4 April 2022 at the Wayback Machine and 22 Geo III c.29 Archived 4 April 2022 at the Wayback Machine.
- The 1779 election was moved with the consent of the candidates. Subsequently the law was changed to require such a move.
- "The Putnam Lineage"
- "POPHAM, Henry (c.1339-1418), of Popham, Hants". History of Parliament Online. Archived from the original on 14 September 2017. Retrieved 7 June 2017.
- "History of Parliament". Archived from the original on 3 May 2012. Retrieved 13 September 2011.
- "BOYS, Sir John (d.1447), of London, Harrow, Mdx. and Farley Chamberlayne, Hants". History of Parliament Online. Archived from the original on 23 December 2012. Retrieved 3 April 2022.
- "History of Parliament". Archived from the original on 12 October 2013. Retrieved 13 September 2011.
- "History of Parliament". Archived from the original on 21 September 2013. Retrieved 13 September 2011.
- "WEST, Thomas I (d.1622), of Testwood in Eling, Hants". History of Parliament Online. Archived from the original on 2 March 2012. Retrieved 3 April 2022.
- At the 1734 general election Powlett was also elected for Yarmouth. A petition was lodged against the Hampshire result, and he sat for Yarmouth until 1737 when the petition against the Hampshire result was withdrawn, then chose to represent Hampshire rather than Yarmouth for the remainder of the Parliament
- Robert Beatson, A Chronological Register of Both Houses of Parliament (London: Longman, Hurst, Res & Orme, 1807) 
- John Cannon, Parliamentary Representation 1832 - England and Wales (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973)
- Lewis Namier and John Brooke, The House of Commons 1754-1790 (London: HMSO, 1964)
- J. E. Neale, The Elizabethan House of Commons (London: Jonathan Cape, 1949)
- T. H. B. Oldfield, The Representative History of Great Britain and Ireland (London: Baldwin, Cradock & Joy, 1816)
- J Holladay Philbin, Parliamentary Reform 1640-1832 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1965)
- Edward Porritt and Annie G Porritt, The Unreformed House of Commons (Cambridge University Press, 1903)
- Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs – Constituencies beginning with "H" (part 1)