John Dumphreys

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John Molesworth Thomas Dumphreys (24 December 1844 – 18 December 1925) was a British Conservative politician. He was elected Member of Parliament for Bermondsey in a 1909 by-election, but weeks later lost the seat to the Liberals at the January 1910 General Election.

Dumphreys was born in Bermondsey in 1844. Of humble origins, he worked as a journeyman leather dresser. He was active in local politics most of his adult life, elected to the Borough Council, the School Board and County Council. He had also stood in Birmingham West in 1885, against Joseph Chamberlain, on a Fair Trade platform. He was something of a rarity, in being a "Conservative working man." In 1907 he became Mayor of Bermondsey. He was a supporter of Tariff Reform.[1]

Aged almost 65, he was selected as Conservative candidate for the by-election caused by the death of the sitting Liberal MP George Joseph Cooper, because Assheton Pownall, the Conservative prospective candidate for the expected General Election, was out of the country. The seat had alternated between Liberal and Conservative in recent elections, although the Liberals had secured a convincing victory in 1906.

Dumphreys was critical of the Liberal government's failure to act on the recommendation of the Poor Law Commission, which had been initiated by the previous Conservative government. In particular, he pressed for wholesale reform of the workhouse system, for better treatment of the deserving poor, and removal of the taint of pauper from children. "For every child a chance" was his philosophy.[2]

After a good-natured contest, Dumphreys was elected on 28 October 1909 with a majority of 987 votes over the Liberal candidate, Mr. Spencer Leigh Hughes, with the Labour candidate, Dr. Alfred Salter, securing 16% of the vote. However, polling day had been marred by two women attacking polling stations, smashing bottles containing corrosive liquid over ballot boxes, in an attempt to destroy votes. A presiding officer, Mr. Thornley, was badly injured in one of these attacks, and a Liberal agent suffered a severe burn to the neck. The count was delayed while ballot papers were carefully examined, but it was determined that only two votes had been destroyed.[3]

Dumphreys had little time to enjoy his victory, or to make much impact in the House of Commons. Parliament was dissolved in December 1909, and in the ensuing General Election, he was beaten by 969 votes in a straight fight by the new Liberal candidate Harold Glanville. Dumphreys thereby became one of the shortest-serving MPs in history. He tried to regain the seat in the December 1910 election, but was defeated by a wider margin, and never stood for Parliament again.

Dumphreys was the last Conservative MP for Bermondsey. His Labour opponent in the by-election, Dr. Alfred Salter eventually won the seat for Labour in 1922, and the seat became a Labour Party stronghold, until another by-election in 1983, when another Liberal candidate by the name of "Mr. S. Hughes" scored a notable victory.

Dumphreys died at Manor Park, Essex (now Greater London), in 1925, aged 80.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Times, 14 October 1909
  2. ^ The Times, 15 October 1909
  3. ^ The Times, 29 October 1909
  4. ^ The Times, 19 December 1925

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
George Joseph Cooper
Member of Parliament for Bermondsey
1909Jan. 1910
Succeeded by
Harold James Glanville