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|Former Borough constituency |
for the House of Commons
|Number of members||Two|
Okehampton was a parliamentary borough in Devon, which elected two Members of Parliament (MPs) to the House of Commons in 1301 and 1313, then continuously from 1640 to 1832, when the borough was abolished by the Great Reform Act.
Devon, also known as Devonshire, which was formerly its common and official name, is a county of England, reaching from the Bristol Channel in the north to the English Channel in the south. It is part of South West England, bounded by Cornwall to the west, Somerset to the north east, and Dorset to the east. The city of Exeter is the county town. The county includes the districts of East Devon, Mid Devon, North Devon, South Hams, Teignbridge, Torridge, and West Devon. Plymouth and Torbay are each geographically part of Devon, but are administered as unitary authorities. Combined as a ceremonial county, Devon's area is 6,707 km2 and its population is about 1.1 million.
The borough consisted of part of the parish of Okehampton, an entirely rural area with the small market town of Okehampton itself at its centre. In 1831, the population of the borough was 1,508, and contained 318 houses; the whole parish had a population of 2,055.
Okehampton is a town and civil parish in West Devon in the English county of Devon. It is situated at the northern edge of Dartmoor, and had a population of 5,922 at the 2011 census. Two electoral wards are based in the town. Their joint population at the same census is 7,500.
From its revival in the 17th century, the right to vote in Okehampton rested with all the freeholders and freemen of the borough, but the Town Corporation had considerable influence over the rest of the voters, and when it was unable to have its way by persuasion did not always stop short of outright coercion. In 1705 at the corporation's instigation an Okehampton freeman was forced into the army, and then offered his discharge if he would vote for Sir Simon Leach. (This was illegal on every count, for voters had statutory exemption from impressment.)
Through control of the Corporation (which like most at that period was self-electing), the main local landowners or "patrons" of the borough could therefore be sure of being able to choose Okehampton's MPs; this favour was maintained either by direct expenditure or by working for the interests of the Corporation members in other ways. As landowners they also had power to create voters directly, since they could convey the freehold of parcels of their land in the borough to reliable placemen. In the mid 18th century, the patrons were Thomas Pitt and the Duke of Bedford, and each was regarded as having unrestrained power to nominate one MP.
Thomas Pitt, of Boconnoc, Cornwall, was a British landowner and politician who sat in the House of Commons between 1727 and 1761. He was Lord Warden of the Stannaries from 1742 to 1751.
John Russell, 4th Duke of Bedford was an 18th-century British statesman. He was the fourth son of Wriothesley Russell, 2nd Duke of Bedford, by his wife, Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of John Howland of Streatham, Surrey. Known as Lord John Russell, he married in October 1731 Diana Spencer, daughter of Charles Spencer, 3rd Earl of Sunderland; became Duke of Bedford on his brother's death a year later; and having lost his first wife in 1735, married in April 1737 Lady Gertrude Leveson-Gower, daughter of John Leveson-Gower, 1st Earl Gower.
However, Pitt mortgaged his seat to the government after going bankrupt in 1754, so that at the next two elections the ministry could nominate a member. The government had to secure this influence by exercising patronage, and Namier quotes a number of letters that show how the process worked in Okehampton. In 1759, the Corporation was eager for the promotion of a local naval officer, Lieutenant Joseph Hunt. The Prime Minister, the Duke of Newcastle, urged Lord Anson, the First Lord of the Admiralty, to promote Hunt because "the interest of the borough of Oakhampton ... absolutely depends upon it. The King expects that I should keep up his interest in boroughs; I can't do it without I have the assistance of the several branches of the Government." Anson grudgingly replied that whenever the borough became vacant by the death of the sitting member he would promote Hunt to a command, but he also protested that the frequent demands to use naval patronage for political reasons weakened the navy "which has done more mischeif to the publick ... than the loss of a vote in the House of Commons".
Sir Lewis Bernstein Namier was a British historian of Polish-Jewish background. His best-known works were The Structure of Politics at the Accession of George III (1929), England in the Age of the American Revolution (1930) and the History of Parliament series he edited later in his life with John Brooke.
Admiral of the Fleet George Anson, 1st Baron Anson, was a Royal Navy officer. Anson served as a junior officer during the War of the Spanish Succession and then saw active service against Spain at the Battle of Cape Passaro during the War of the Quadruple Alliance. He then undertook a circumnavigation of the globe during the War of Jenkins' Ear. Anson commanded the fleet that defeated the French Admiral de la Jonquière at the First Battle of Cape Finisterre during the War of the Austrian Succession.
The First Lord of the Admiralty, or formally the Office of the First Lord of the Admiralty, was the political head of the Royal Navy who was the government's senior adviser on all naval affairs and responsible for the direction and control of Admiralty Department as well as general administration of the Naval Service of the United Kingdom, that encompassed the Royal Navy, the Royal Marines and other services. It was one of the earliest known permanent government posts. Apart from being the political head of the Royal Navy the post holder simultaneously held the title of the President of the Board of Commissioners for Exercising the Office of Lord High Admiral. The office of First Lord of the Admiralty existed from 1628 until it was abolished when the Admiralty, Air Ministry, Ministry of Defence and War Office were all merged to form the new Ministry of Defence in 1964.
In the event the sitting member, Thomas Potter, died just two days later and the following day Hunt was promoted to Commander. The new MP was a Rear-Admiral, George Brydges Rodney, and he seems to have secured his election with the promise of further preferment for Hunt: 18 months later, on the eve of the next general election, the government's election-manager in Okehampton wrote to Rodney to remind him that he had promised that Hunt should be made his flag Captain as soon as he had a ship. Rodney, knowing that Anson was unlikely to agree to promote Hunt again, wrote asking Newcastle to help by insisting upon it; but, instead, Rodney was persuaded to stand at Penryn rather than Okehampton, and the captaincy of the flagship went to a Penryn man. (In fact Hunt got his promotion the same month, December 1760, but was killed in action the following year.)
George Brydges Rodney, 1st Baron Rodney, KB, was a British naval officer. He is best known for his commands in the American War of Independence, particularly his victory over the French at the Battle of the Saintes in 1782. It is often claimed that he was the commander to have pioneered the tactic of "breaking the line".
Penryn was a parliamentary borough in Cornwall, which elected two Members of Parliament (MPs) to the House of Commons of England from 1553 until 1707, to the House of Commons of Great Britain from 1707 to 1800, and finally to the House of Commons of the United Kingdom from 1801 to until 1832. Elections were held using the bloc vote system.
Circumstances in Okehampton were somewhat changed at the end of the 18th century, however, by the judgments in two disputed elections. In 1791, there was a petition against the result of an election at which the patrons – who were, by this time, the Duke of Bedford and Earl Spencer – had created 72 new voters by conveying them freeholds a few weeks before the election. The Commons committee that heard the petition declared all 72 votes invalid.
Spencer and Bedford shortly afterwards sold their interest in the borough, and it was eventually bought by Albany Savile for £60,000. A second disputed election in 1810 led to a judgment that reaffirmed and strengthened the patron's power: on this occasion, it was determined that the franchise belonged to the freeholders and freemen of the borough, and further that the patron had the right to create freemen at will. This, of course, gave him total control of elections since he could create new voters without limit to swamp any opposition. Nevertheless, the relationship was not one-sided, and Savile did much for the town, lending considerable sums to the Corporation which were never repaid.
In 1816 there were 220 voters.
Okehampton was abolished as a constituency by the Reform Act. The borough was on the boundary between the new Northern Devon and Southern Devon county divisions, and its voters were divided between the two from 1832.
Okehampton re-enfranchised by Parliament in Nov 1640
|Year||First member||First party||Second member||Second party|
|November 1640||Edward Thomas||Parliamentarian||Lawrence Whitaker||Parliamentarian|
|December 1648||Thomas excluded in Pride's Purge – seat vacant|
|1653||Okehampton was unrepresented in the Barebones Parliament and the First and Second Parliaments of the Protectorate|
|January 1659||Robert Everland||Edward Wise|
|May 1659||Not represented in the restored Rump|
|1660||Josias Calmady I||Edward Wise|
|1661||Sir Thomas Hele|
|1671||Sir Arthur Harris|
|1679||Josias Calmady II|
|1681||Sir George Cary|
|1685||Sir Simon Leach||William Cary|
|1702||Sir Simon Leach|
|1722||Robert Pitt||John Crowley|
|1727||William Northmore||Tory||Thomas Pitt|
|1756||William Pitt (the Elder)||Whig|
|1759||Rear Admiral George Brydges Rodney|
|1761||Alexander Forrester||Wenman Coke|
|1768||Thomas Pitt||Thomas Brand|
|1770||Hon. Richard Fitzpatrick|
|1774||Richard Vernon||Alexander Wedderburn||Tory|
|1784||John Luxmoore||Thomas Wiggens|
|1785||Viscount Malden||Humphrey Minchin|
|1790||Colonel John St Leger||Robert Ladbroke|
|1796||Thomas Tyrwhitt||Whig||Richard Bateman-Robson||Whig|
|1802||Henry Holland, junior||Whig||James Charles Stuart Strange||Whig|
|1806||Richard Bateman-Robson||Whig||Joseph Foster-Barham||Whig|
|1807||Gwyllym Lloyd Wardle||Whig||Albany Savile||Tory|
|1812||The Lord Graves||Tory|
|1819||The Lord Dunalley||Whig|
|1824||William Henry Trant||Tory|
|1826||Sir Compton Domvile||Tory||Joseph Holden Strutt||Tory|
|1830||Lord Seymour||Tory||George James Welbore Agar-Ellis||Whig|
|April 1831||William Henry Trant||Tory||John Thomas Hope||Tory|
|July 1831||Sir Richard Rawlinson Vyvyan||Tory|
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