Map of Middlesex, drawn by Thomas Kitchin, geographer 1769 (with some towns not in the county i.e. south of the river or outside of the dashed line). It has a heading of Remarks that mentions 2 seats of Westminster and 4 of the City of London
Map of the seven single-MP county constituencies created by subdivision of the final version of the seat which existed between 1867 and 1885 and returned two MPs. Brentford division is highlighted which was named after the town where the hustings took place after 1700.
The county seat returned two Members of Parliament (sometimes referred to by the medieval term of knights of the shire). The place of election for the county was until 1700 at Hampstead Heath, thereafter at The Butts in the town centre of Brentford.Hustings were typically over a period of a fortnight when candidates set out their stall, and visible bribery had become not uncommon in closer contests around the country in such larger seats at the time, inspiring William Hogarth’s series of four pictures titled ‘Four Prints of An Election’ (when printed).
Until 1832 the county franchise was limited to forty shilling freeholders. The decrease in the value of money due to inflation and the expansion of the wealth and population as the urbanised area in the east around London and Westminster grew contributed to gradually expanding the electorate. The county was estimated by Henning to have about 1,660 voters in 1681. Sedgwick estimated about 3,000 in the 1715–54 period. Namier and Brook suggested there were about 3,500 in 1754–90. The number had reached about 6,000 by 1790–1820, according to Thorne. Close elections between popular candidates would therefore be expensive - the worth of being a local magistrate, major landowner or other dignitary carrying little weight among such a generally urban and numerous upper-middle class forming the bulk of the electorate.
For subsequent changes in the franchise see Reform Act 1832 and Reform Act 1867. From 1832 voters were registered; the size of the electorate is shown below.
The geographic county until 1885 also contained the borough constituencies of City of London (first recorded as having its extraordinary four members from 1298) and Westminster (enfranchised with two members from 1545). In 1832 three two-seat Boroughs were added (or enfranchised): Finsbury, Marylebone, and Tower Hamlets. In 1867 two new parliamentary boroughs each returning two MPs were constituted: 'Hackney' (St Leonard's Shoreditch, St Matthew's Bethnal Green and St John's Hackney) formerly represented in borough elections via Tower Hamlets and 'Chelsea' (parishes of Chelsea, Kensington, Hammersmith and Fulham). The single-member non-territorial University constituency of London University (1868–1950) was somewhat connected to the county by having most of its graduates eligible to vote.
Possession of a county electoral qualification, deriving from owning various types of property or having ecclesiastical 'offices' (controversially and sporadically defined) in an area not otherwise represented, conferred the right to vote in the county elections.
An 1885 redistribution of seats saw Middlesex and its early breakaway seats in and around the City reformed under the Redistribution of Seats Act 1885 reflecting the wider electorate of the Reform Act 1884 and need to 'liberate' boroughs, i.e. urban areas without properly apportioned representation:
Constituencies in the urban south-east part that returned 18 MPs were replaced by 38 single-member seats.
the City of London constituency (loosely considered with the county) was reduced from 4 to 2 members.
the Middlesex constituency latterly covering the north, west and south-west of the county returning 2 MPs was replaced by 7 single-member seats.
Local government bodies
In 1889 the 40 urban constituencies that comprised the south-eastern part fell into (for local government) a County of London save for the much smaller City of London which remained a separate quasi-county and legal jurisdiction. The seven county divisions (constituencies) in the north and west of the historic county came under a new local government body, the administrative county of Middlesex. Both counties were also known by their governing bodies' name, County Councils (abbreviated to LCC and MCC). The seven successor seats were Brentford, Ealing, Enfield, Harrow, Hornsey, Tottenham and Uxbridge. These (and numerous later successor seats) had MCC local governance until its abolition in 1965.
Preliminary note: The English civil year started on Lady Day, 25 March, until 1752 (Scotland having changed to 1 January in 1600). The year used in the lists of Parliaments in this article have been converted to the new style where necessary. It should be noted that old style dates for days between 1 January and 24 March actually referred to days after 31 December. No attempt has been made to compensate for the eleven days which did not occur in September 1752 in both England and Scotland as well as other British controlled territories (when the day after 2 September was 14 September), so as to bring the British Empire fully in line with the Gregorian calendar.
Some of the members elected during this period have been identified, but this list does not include Parliaments where no member has been identified before the reign of King Henry VIII. In the list (as opposed to the table below) the year given is for the first meeting of the Parliament, with the month added where there was more than one Parliament in the year. If a second year is given this is a date of dissolution. Early Parliaments usually only existed for a few days or weeks, so dissolutions in the same year as the first meeting are not recorded in this list If a specific date of election is known this is recorded in italic brackets. The Roman numerals in brackets, following some names, are those used to distinguish different politicians of the same name in 'The House of Commons' 1509-1558 and 1558-1603.
In this period, Parliament was not an institution with a regular pattern of elections and sittings. Therefore, a separate entry is made for each Parliament, even if the same Knight of the Shire served in successive Parliaments.
b Wroth ceased to be an MP after 11 May 1535. It is unknown if there was a by-election.
c Hawkes ceased to be MP by May/June 1532. It is unknown if there was a by-election.
d Hughes ceased to be an MP after January/April 1543. It is unknown if there was a by-election.
e In theory the Long Parliament existed throughout the 1640-1660 term, as it could not be lawfully dissolved without its own consent which was not given until 1660. In practice all or part of the membership of the House of Commons were not permitted to sit for lengthy periods. Other bodies considered to be Parliaments existed within parts of the term of the Long Parliament.
f Francklyn died and a by-election was held.
g In December 1648, Gilbert was excluded from Parliament in Pride's Purge and the seat was left vacant.
h Spencer is not recorded as having sat after Pride's Purge in December 1648.
Table of Members of the Commonwealth Parliaments 1653-1659
After 1832, when registration of voters was introduced, a turnout figure is given for contested elections. In two-member elections, when the exact number of participating voters is unknown, this is calculated by dividing the number of votes by two. To the extent that electors did not use both their votes this will be an underestimate of turnout.
Where a party had more than one candidate in one or both of a pair of successive elections change is calculated for each individual candidate, otherwise change is based on the party vote.
Candidates for whom no party has been identified are classified as Non Partisan. The candidate might have been associated with a party or faction in Parliament or consider himself to belong to a particular political tradition. Political parties before the nineteenth century were not as cohesive or organised as they later became. Contemporary commentators (even the reputed leaders of parties or factions) in the eighteenth century did not necessarily agree who the party supporters were. The traditional parties, which had arisen in the late seventeenth century, became increasingly irrelevant to politics in the eighteenth century (particularly after 1760), although for some contests in some constituencies party labels were still used. It was only towards the end of the century that party labels began to acquire some meaning again, although this process was by no means complete for several more generations.
Sources: The results for elections 1660-1790 were taken from the History of Parliament Trust publications. The results are based on Stooks Smith from 1790 until the 1832–33 general election and Craig from 1832. Where Stooks Smith gives additional information after 1832 this is indicated in a note.
Election of Mainwearing challenged by a petition of Burdett. Mainwaring unseated and Francis Burdett seated on 5 March 1805. (Source: The Times (of London), edition of 6 March 1805)
Election of Burdett challenged by a petition of Mainwearing. Burdett unseated and George Boulton Mainwaring seated with effect from 10 February 1806. (Source: The Times (of London), edition of 10 February 1806)