Torrington (UK Parliament constituency)

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Torrington
Former Borough constituency
for the House of Commons
1295–1372
Number of members two
Devon, Torrington
Former County constituency
for the House of Commons
1950–February 1974
Number of members one
Replaced by North Devon, Tiverton & West Devon
Created from South Molton

Torrington was a county constituency centred on the town of Torrington in Devon. It returned one Member of Parliament to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom from 1950 until it was abolished for the February 1974 general election.

An earlier constituency called Torrington, a parliamentary borough consisting only of the town itself, returned members to some of the parliaments of the Middle Ages; it was not represented after 1372.

Boundaries[edit]

The Municipal Boroughs of Bideford, Great Torrington, and Okehampton, the Urban Districts of Crediton and Northam, and the Rural Districts of Bideford, Crediton, Okehampton, and Torrington.

History[edit]

The medieval borough[edit]

Torrington, sometimes referred to as Chipping Torrington, was one of a number of English boroughs that were represented in Parliament only intermittently during the Middle Ages, and eventually lost the right completely; at this period, writs of election were directed to the sheriff of each county, and it was left to their discretion which towns were summoned to send burgesses. Torrington is unusual, however, in that clear evidence of its reluctance to return members survives - the cost of supporting its two MPs was considered much too detrimental to be offset by any benefits that came from being represented. Late in the reign of Edward III, the townsmen of Torrington petitioned the king

That they ought not to be so burdened with sending men, neither did they send any before the 21st of his reign, when the Sheriff maliciously returned into the Chancery, that the said town was a Borough, and so, from that year, by Pretext of the said Return, the town has been many times put to great pains and expenses, to their no small grievance and damage, and manifest impoverishing.

The petition was not entirely accurate, for Torrington had sent members to some 17 parliaments before the sheriff's "malicious" action, although it was true that the town was not represented in the three immediately preceding that date. The King accepted the petition, and granted Torrington a Patent of Exemption from being required to send members to Parliament; yet, notwithstanding this, they were called upon again to send MPs to two Parliaments in the next three years. After this, however, Torrington's name appears no more on the list of boroughs.

As time passed, and the benefits of representation in Parliament became more obvious, the town repented of its earlier action. Around three centuries later, at the time of the Restoration of Charles II, Torrington petitioned to be restored to its ancient rights and allowed once more to return Members of Parliament. The petition was unavailing.

The modern county constituency[edit]

A new Torrington constituency was created by the Representation of the People Act 1948 as part of the boundary changes that came into effect at the general election of 1950. It was a county constituency, one of six in Devon, and covered central and western parts of the county. Though named after Great Torrington, its largest town was Bideford.

The constituency was a highly rural one dominated by farming, and was assumed to be an entirely safe seat for the Conservatives and their allies. However, when George Lambert (who had won the seat three times with large majorities) inherited a peerage in 1958, the resulting by-election was sensationally won by Mark Bonham-Carter for the Liberals, the first sign of the Liberals' national revival which continued at other by-elections across the country over the next fifteen years. The Conservatives recaptured the seat at the following year's general election, and retained it for the remainder of its existence, but it remained marginal until the 1970 general election.

The Torrington constituency was abolished with effect from the February 1974 general election (at which Devon's county constituencies were reduced by one) being divided between the revised North Devon and Tiverton constituencies and the new West Devon.

Members of Parliament[edit]

Election Member Party
1950 George Lambert National Liberal
1958 by-election Mark Bonham-Carter Liberal
1959 Percy Browne Conservative
1964 Peter Mills Conservative
1974 constituency abolished

Election results[edit]

Elections in the 1950s[edit]

General Election 1950: Torrington[1]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
National Liberal and Conservative George Lambert 19,128 51.07 n/a
Liberal Mrs Elizabeth Rashleigh 9,589 25.60 n/a
Labour Thomas B.H. Chappell 8,735 23.32 n/a
Majority 9,539 25.47 n/a
Turnout 83.16 n/a
National Liberal and Conservative win (new seat)
General Election 1951: Torrington[2]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
National Liberal and Conservative George Lambert 23,162 66.23
Labour GR Sargeant 11,812 33.77
Majority 11,350 32.45
Turnout 76.41
National Liberal and Conservative hold Swing
General Election 1955: Torrington[3]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
National Liberal and Conservative George Lambert 20,124 65.1 -1.1
Labour Leonard Lamb 10,812 35.0 +1.2
Majority 9,312 30.1 -2.4
Turnout 30,936 69.2 - 7.2
National Liberal and Conservative hold Swing
Torrington by-election, 1958
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal Mark Raymond Bonham Carter 13,408 38.0 N/A
Conservative Anthony Henry Fanshawe Royle 13,189 37.4 N/A
Labour Leonard Lamb 8,697 24.6 -10.4
Majority 219 0.6 N/A
Turnout
Liberal gain from National Liberal and Conservative Swing
General Election 1959: Torrington
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Conservative Percy Basil Browne 17,283 45.56
Liberal Mark Raymond Bonham Carter 15,018 39.59
Labour Raymond Francis Harvey Dobson 5,633 14.85
Majority 2,265 5.97
Turnout 86.16
Conservative hold Swing

Elections in the 1960s[edit]

General Election 1964: Torrington
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Conservative Peter McLay Mills 16,899 44.94
Liberal Mark Raymond Bonham Carter 14,831 39.45
Labour David Anthony Llewellyn Owen 5,867 15.60
Majority 2,068 5.50
Turnout 85.11
Conservative hold Swing
General Election 1966: Torrington
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Conservative Peter McLay Mills 17,912 47.04
Liberal Lewis Anthony Lacey 14,260 37.46
Labour A Frank Paton 5,891 15.48
Majority 3,652 9.59
Turnout 85.78
Conservative hold Swing

Elections in the 1970s[edit]

General Election 1970: Torrington
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Conservative Peter McLay Mills 21,328 54.03
Liberal Lewis Anthony Lacey 11,455 29.02
Labour Terence Kendrick Marston 6,695 16.96
Majority 9,873 25.01
Turnout 80.73
Conservative hold Swing

References[edit]