West Riding of Yorkshire (UK Parliament constituency)

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West Riding of Yorkshire
Former County constituency
for the House of Commons
County West Riding of Yorkshire
18321865
Number of members Two
Replaced by Northern West Riding of Yorkshire, and Southern West Riding of Yorkshire
Created from Yorkshire

West Riding of Yorkshire was a parliamentary constituency in England from 1832 to 1865. It returned two Members of Parliament (MPs) to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

Boundaries and History[edit]

This constituency comprised part of Yorkshire, the largest of the ancient counties of England. Between 1826 and 1832 the undivided county constituency had returned four Members of Parliament to the House of Commons, instead of the traditional two knights of the shire which the county had sent before then and all other English counties elected up until 1832.

The Reform Act 1832 divided Yorkshire into three county constituencies, which each returned two members. The divisions were based on the three ridings, which were traditional sub-divisions of Yorkshire. The West Riding occupied the south western part of the county. The parliamentary constituency covered the whole West Riding, as the non-resident owners of forty shilling freeholds in the Parliamentary boroughs enclaved within the area thereby acquired a county franchise.

The polling place for the West Riding, at which the hustings were held and the result was declared, was at Wakefield. Unusually for British elections detailed results by polling district are available for a by-election in 1835 and the general elections of 1837 and 1841. These details are given in the Elections section below and provide a list of major towns in the area. Electors had to declare their votes (verbally and in public), as this was before the introduction of the secret ballot. (Source: Stooks Smith).

Charles Seymour, in Electoral Reform in England and Wales, commented about the debate in 1832 about the non resident freeholder vote. This was a particularly important issue for the West Riding because the major towns of Bradford, Leeds and Sheffield and the important ones of Halifax, Huddersfield and Wakefield were all to become new Parliamentary boroughs in 1832.

Though the general principle of the freeholder franchise was accepted without debate, one aspect of the question gave rise to much discussion at the time ... . The bill provided that the freeholders in boroughs who did not occupy their property should vote in the counties in which the borough was situated. This clause drew forth a torrent of complaint, especially from the Conservatives. Peel pointed out that it would be far simpler for the freeholders in the represented boroughs to vote in the borough where their property was situate instead of being forced to travel to the county polling place; moreover if the borough freeholders were allowed to vote in the counties he felt that the boroughs would have an unfair influence in county elections and the rural element would be submerged by the urban.

... Althorp ... pointed out that until 1832 freeholders in the unrepresented towns always had voted in the counties, so the Tories could hardly complain that the ministers were introducing new principles to favour urban interests ... .

Stooks Smith confirms the number of electors in the polling districts of the West Riding of Yorkshire constituency named after Parliamentary boroughs, at a by-election in 1835 (see below), which suggests up to two-thirds out of a total electorate of 18,063 might have qualified because of freeholds located in boroughs. However it is not known if all these urban area voters were qualified as non-resident freeholders in the boroughs.

The Parliamentary boroughs in the area, during the period of the existence of this constituency, were Bradford, Halifax, Huddersfield, Knaresborough, Leeds, Pontefract, Ripon, Sheffield and Wakefield.

For the 1865 general election the West Riding was split into two new two member county divisions by the Birkenhead Enfranchisement Act 1861. Unusually this local redistribution had taken place between the general redistributions of seats, in 1832 and 1868. This was because some seats, taken from Sudbury and St Albans boroughs disenfranchised for corruption, were re-allocated to what (by the developing idea that representation should be related to population) were the still under-represented northern English counties. The new divisions were Northern West Riding of Yorkshire and Southern West Riding of Yorkshire.

Members of Parliament[edit]

MPs 1654–1658 (Protectorate Parliament)[edit]

Election Members
1654 First Protectorate Parliament Lord Fairfax John Lambert Henry Tempest John Bright Edward Gill Martin Lister
1656 Second Protectorate Parliament Francis Thorpe Henry Arthington John Stanhope

MPs 1832–1865[edit]

Election First member First party Second member Second party
1832 Viscount Morpeth Whig Sir George Strickland, Bt Whig
1841 Hon. John Stuart-Wortley Conservative Edmund Beckett Denison Conservative
1846 by-election Viscount Morpeth Whig
1847 Richard Cobden Radical
1848 by-election Edmund Beckett Denison Conservative
1857 Viscount Goderich Liberal
March 1859 by-election Sir John Ramsden, Bt Liberal
May 1859 Sir Francis Crossley, Bt Liberal
1865 Constituency abolished

Elections[edit]

Registered electors are indicated by the abbreviation reg. Where the exact number of electors casting a vote or votes is unknown, turnout estimated by dividing votes cast by 2. This will underestimate turnout to the extent that electors only used one of their two possible votes.

  • Constituency created (1832)
General Election 1832: West Riding of Yorkshire (2 seats)
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal George Howard Unopposed N/A N/A
Liberal George Strickland Unopposed N/A N/A
Turnout 18,506 reg. N/A N/A
  • Note 1832: Stooks Smith classified Morpeth and Strickland as Whigs. In accordance with the modern convention, for Whig and Radical candidates from 1832, Craig classified them as Liberals.
General Election 1835: West Riding of Yorkshire (2 seats)
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal George Howard Unopposed N/A N/A
Liberal George Strickland Unopposed N/A N/A
Turnout 18,061 reg. N/A N/A
By-Election 6 May 1835: West Riding of Yorkshire
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal George Howard 9,066 59.16 N/A
Conservative John Stuart-Wortley 6,259 40.84 N/A
Majority 2,807 18.32 N/A
Turnout 18,061 reg. 84.85 N/A
Liberal hold Swing N/A

Breakdown of vote by polling district

Polling District reg. Morpeth Wortley
Barnsley 889 491 281
Bradford 2,504 1,553 616
Dent 161 68 75
Doncaster 1,136 506 447
Halifax 1,691 1,108 331
Huddersfield 1,822 1,072 513
Keighley 499 268 170
Knaresborough 927 285 493
Leeds 2,250 872 979
Pateley Bridge 609 278 263
Settle 802 277 413
Sheffield 1,391 716 455
Skipton 736 417 191
Snaith 630 193 352
Wakefield 2,016 962 680
Total 18,063 9,066 6,259
  • Note (1835 be): Discrepancy of 2 in reg. between Craig (result) and Stooks Smith (breakdowb).
General Election 1837: West Riding of Yorkshire (2 seats)
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal George Howard 12,576 34.98 N/A
Liberal George Strickland 11,892 33.07 N/A
Conservative John Stuart-Wortley 11,489 31.95 N/A
Turnout 29,346 reg. 80.79 -4.06
  • Note (1837): 23,708 voted. (Source: Stooks Smith).
General Election 1841: West Riding of Yorkshire (2 seats)
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Conservative John Stuart-Wortley 13,165 26.30 -5.65
Conservative Edmund Beckett 12,780 25.53 +25.53
Liberal William Wentworth-FitzWilliam 12,080 24.13 +24.13
Liberal George Howard 12,031 24.04 -10.94
Turnout 31,215 reg. 80.96 +0.17
By-Election 4 February 1846: West Riding of Yorkshire
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal George Howard Unoppose N/A N/A
Liberal gain from Conservative Swing N/A
By-Election 18 July 1846: West Riding of Yorkshire
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal George Howard Unopposed N/A N/A
Liberal hold Swing N/A
General Election 1847: West Riding of Yorkshire (2 seats)
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal Richard Cobden Unopposed N/A N/A
Liberal George Howard Unopposed N/A N/A
Turnout 36,165 reg. N/A N/A
By-Election 11 December 1848: West Riding of Yorkshire
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Conservative Edmund Beckett 14,743 55.55 N/A
Liberal Culling Eardley 11,795 44.45 N/A
Majority 2,948 11.11 N/A
Turnout 35,280 reg. 75.22 N/A
Conservative gain from Liberal Swing N/A
General Election 1852: West Riding of Yorkshire (2 seats)
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal Richard Cobden Unopposed N/A N/A
Conservative Edmund Beckett Unopposed N/A N/A
Turnout 37,319 reg. N/A N/A
General Election 1857: West Riding of Yorkshire (2 seats)
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Conservative Edmund Beckett Unopposed N/A N/A
Liberal George Robinson Unopposed N/A N/A
Turnout 37,513 reg. N/A N/A
By-Election 21 February 1859: West Riding of Yorkshire
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal John Ramsden Unopposed N/A N/A
Liberal hold Swing N/A
General Election 1859: West Riding of Yorkshire (2 seats)
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal John Ramsden 15,978 35.49 N/A
Liberal Francis Crossley 15,401 34.21 N/A
Conservative James Archibald Stuart-Wortley 13,636 30.29 N/A
Turnout 36,645 reg. 61.42 est. N/A
  • Constituency abolished 1865

References[edit]

  • British Parliamentary Election Results 1832-1885, compiled and edited by F.W.S. Craig (Macmillan Press 1977)
  • Electoral Reform in England and Wales, by Charles Seymour (David & Charles Reprints 1970) originally published in 1915, so out of copyright
  • The Parliaments of England by Henry Stooks Smith (1st edition published in three volumes 1844-50), second edition edited (in one volume) by F.W.S. Craig (Political Reference Publications 1973) originally published in 1844-50, so out of copyright
  • Who's Who of British Members of Parliament: Volume I 1832-1885, edited by M. Stenton (The Harvester Press 1976)
  • Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs – Constituencies beginning with "Y" [self-published source][better source needed]