Okehampton (UK Parliament constituency)

Last updated

Okehampton
Former Borough constituency
for the House of Commons
1640–1832
Number of membersTwo

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 County of England

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.

Contents

History

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 town in Devon, England

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 politician

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 18th-century British statesman

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".

Lewis Namier British historian

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.

George Anson, 1st Baron Anson 18th-century British admiral

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.

First Lord of the Admiralty political head of the Royal Navy

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 Royal Navy admiral

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.

Members of Parliament

Okehampton re-enfranchised by Parliament in Nov 1640

1640–1832

YearFirst memberFirst partySecond memberSecond party
November 1640 Edward Thomas Parliamentarian Lawrence Whitaker Parliamentarian
December 1648Thomas excluded in Pride's Purge – seat vacant
1653Okehampton 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
1677 Henry Northleigh
1679 Josias Calmady II
1681 Sir George Cary
1685 Sir Simon Leach William Cary
1689 Henry Northleigh
1694 John Burrington
1695 Thomas Northmore
1698 William Harris
1702 Sir Simon Leach
1705 John Dibble
1708 William Harris
1709 Christopher Harris
1713 William Northmore Tory
1722 Robert Pitt John Crowley
1727 William Northmore Tory Thomas Pitt
1735 George Lyttelton
1754 Robert Vyner
1756 William Pitt (the Elder) Whig
1757 Thomas Potter
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
1778 Humphrey Minchin
1784 [1] John Luxmoore Thomas Wiggens
1785 Viscount Malden Humphrey Minchin
1790 Colonel John St Leger [2] Robert Ladbroke
1796 Thomas Tyrwhitt Whig Richard Bateman-Robson Whig
1802 Henry Holland, junior Whig James Charles Stuart Strange Whig
1804 Viscount Althorp Whig
1806 Richard Bateman-Robson Whig Joseph Foster-Barham Whig
1807 Gwyllym Lloyd Wardle Whig Albany Savile Tory
1812 The Lord Graves Tory
1818 Christopher Savile Tory
1819 The Lord Dunalley Whig
1820 Lord Glenorchy 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
1832 Constituency abolished

Notes

  1. At the election of 1784, Luxmoore and Wiggens were initially returned as elected, but on petition they were declared not have been duly elected and their opponents, Malden and Minchen, were seated in their place
  2. Major-General from 1795

Related Research Articles

Bedfordshire was a United Kingdom Parliamentary constituency, which elected two Members of Parliament from 1295 until 1885, when it was divided into two constituencies under the Redistribution of Seats Act 1885.

Hedon, sometimes spelt Heydon, was a parliamentary borough in the East Riding of Yorkshire, represented by two Members of Parliament in the House of Commons briefly in the 13th century and again from 1547 to 1832.

The UK parliamentary constituency of Seaford was a Cinque Port constituency, similar to a parliamentary borough, in Seaford, East Sussex. A rotten borough, prone by size to undue influence by a patron, it was disenfranchised in the Reform Act of 1832. It was notable for having returned three Prime Ministers as its members – Henry Pelham, who represented the town from 1717 to 1722, William Pitt the Elder from 1747 to 1754 and George Canning in 1827 – though only Canning was Prime Minister while representing Seaford.

Radnor or New Radnor was a constituency in Wales between 1542 and 1885; it elected one Member of Parliament (MP) to the House of Commons of the Parliaments of England (1542–1707), Great Britain (1707–1800) and the United Kingdom (1801–1885), by the first past the post electoral system. In the Redistribution of Seats Act 1885, the division was merged into Radnorshire.

Warwickshire was a parliamentary constituency in Warwickshire in England. It returned two Members of Parliament (MPs), traditionally known as knights of the shire, to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, elected by the bloc vote system.

Ilchester was a constituency of the House of Commons of the Parliament of England, then of the Parliament of Great Britain from 1707 to 1800 and of the Parliament of the United Kingdom from 1801 to 1832. It was represented by two Members of Parliament until 1832. It was one of the most notoriously corrupt rotten boroughs.

Bossiney was a parliamentary constituency in Cornwall, one of a number of Cornish rotten boroughs, and returned two Members of Parliament to the British House of Commons from 1552 until 1832, when it was abolished by the Great Reform Act.

The Cornish rotten and pocket boroughs were one of the most striking anomalies of the Unreformed House of Commons in the Parliament of the United Kingdom before the Reform Act of 1832. Immediately before the Act Cornwall had twenty boroughs, each electing two members of parliament, as well as its two knights of the shire, a total of 42 members, far in excess of the number to which its wealth, population or other importance would seem to entitle it. Until 1821 there was yet another borough which sent two men to parliament, giving Cornwall only one fewer member in the House of Commons than the whole of Scotland.

Callington was a rotten borough in Cornwall which returned two Members of Parliament to the House of Commons in the English and later British Parliament from 1585 to 1832, when it was abolished by the Reform Act 1832.

Plymouth was a parliamentary borough in Devon, which elected two members of parliament (MPs) to the House of Commons in 1298 and again from 1442 until 1918, when the borough was merged with the neighbouring Devonport and the combined area divided into three single-member constituencies.

East Retford was a parliamentary constituency in Nottinghamshire, which elected two Members of Parliament (MPs) to the House of Commons for the first time in 1316, and continuously from 1571 until 1885, when the constituency was abolished. Although East Retford was technically a parliamentary borough for the whole of its existence, in 1830 its franchise had been widened and its boundaries had been extended to include the whole Wapentake of Bassetlaw as a remedy for corruption among the voters, and from that point onward it resembled a county constituency in most respects.

Dunwich was a parliamentary borough in Suffolk, one of the most notorious of all the rotten boroughs. It elected two Members of Parliament (MPs) to the House of Commons from 1298 until 1832, when the constituency was abolished by the Great Reform Act.

Whitchurch was a parliamentary borough in the English County of Hampshire, which elected two Members of Parliament (MPs) to the House of Commons from 1586 until 1832, when the borough was abolished by the Great Reform Act.

Stockbridge was a parliamentary borough in Hampshire, which elected two Members of Parliament (MPs) to the House of Commons from 1563 until 1832, when the borough was abolished by the Great Reform Act. It was one of the more egregiously rotten boroughs, and the first to have its status threatened for its corruption by a parliamentary bill to disfranchise it, though the proposal was defeated.

Winchelsea was a parliamentary constituency in Sussex, which elected two Members of Parliament (MPs) to the House of Commons from 1366 until 1832, when it was abolished by the Great Reform Act.

Shaftesbury was a parliamentary constituency in Dorset. It returned two Members of Parliament to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom from 1295 until 1832 and one member until the constituency was abolished in 1885.

Lincolnshire was a county constituency of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which returned two Members of Parliament (MP) to the House of Commons from 1290 until 1832.

Hampshire was a county constituency of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which returned two Knights of the Shire to the House of Commons from 1295 until 1832.

Sandwich was a parliamentary constituency in Kent, which elected two Members of Parliament (MPs) to the House of Commons from 1366 until 1885, when it was disfranchised for corruption.

References