|Former Borough constituency |
for the House of Commons
|Number of members||Two until 1832; one 1832–1885|
|Replaced by||North Dorset|
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.
Shaftesbury was one of the towns summoned to send representatives to the Model Parliament of 1295, and thereafter was continuously represented (except during the temporary upheavals of the Commonwealth) until the 19th century. The constituency was a parliamentary borough, which until 1832 consisted of parts of three parishes in the town of Shaftesbury, a market town in Dorset. In the 17th century the Mayor and Corporation attempted to restrict the right to vote to themselves, but after a decision in 1697 the vote was exercised by all inhabitant householders paying scot and lot. Shaftesbury being a prosperous town this included the vast majority of households, and in 1831 when the borough contained only 474 houses, 400 separate properties were rated for scot and lot and 359 people voted in that year's election. The franchise was therefore in practice, for the period, a very liberal one.
Like many boroughs, Shaftesbury generally recognised the local landowner as its "patron", with the right to nominate both its MPs, but also expected this influence to be cemented with generous bribery, making electoral control of the substantial electorate an expensive business. In the mid 18th century the joint patrons were Lord Ilchester and The Earl of Shaftesbury, who generally agreed to nominate one member each rather than bringing about a contested election which would allow the voters scope to demand bribes. Ilchester, who as Stephen Fox had sat as the borough's MP for a number of years before being raised to the peerage, described it as "troublesome, expensive and corrupt".
The patrons were free to recoup their expenditure by selling the seats to suitable candidates (at that period perfectly legal) rather than giving them to family or friends, but avoiding an expensive contest meant they could pocket the proceeds rather than seeing them (illegally) passing into the pockets of the voters. Namier quotes from the papers of Prime Minister Newcastle to show that Sir Thomas Clavering paid £2000 for his seat at Shaftesbury in 1754,  and that in 1761 Newcastle quoted the same sum as the likely price of a seat for Sir Gilbert Heathcote, but added that no other pocket borough would be any cheaper.
However, the agreement between the patrons to split the seats amicably merely caused the townsmen to encourage independent candidates to stand so as to ensure a contest, and from 1761 onwards there was generally at least one candidate competing against those backed by the patrons. There also developed the practice of extending bribes in the form of "loans", which would not be called in provided the voter voted as instructed.
Over the years a number of election results were overturned because of corrupt or illegal practices by the victors, but that of 1774 was particularly notorious. At that election one candidate, Hans Winthrop Mortimer, stood independently of the established interests in the town and, having been easily defeated, petitioned to have the result overturned and produced copious evidence of corruption. Thomas Rumbold and Francis Sykes were both shown to have bribed at a rate of 20 guineas (£21) a man, the total spent amounting to several thousand pounds; worse, the magistrates of the town were implicated in distributing this largesse. The contemporary historian of abuses in the rotten boroughs, Thomas Oldfield, gave this account of the "very singular and very absurd contrivances" unsuccessfully used in the hope of preventing proof of involvement:
The Commons Committee accepted the evidence before them, and not only declared Sykes and Rumbold not duly elected and Mortimer duly elected to one of the seats in their place, but ordered that Sykes, Rumbold, and a long list of other inhabitants of the town should be prosecuted by the Attorney General for bribery and perjury. A bill was also brought in to permanently deprive the guilty parties of their votes; however this was never passed, the prosecution never took place, and the Commons was eventually persuaded to reverse its condemnations of Sykes and Rumbold so that both were able to stand for the borough at the next general election. They did not escape penalty entirely, however, as Mortimer brought a civil suit for bribery against Sykes at Dorchester Assizes, and was awarded £11,000 in damages – which he used to buy houses in the town, increasing his own influence at future elections.
The combination of corruption at the election itself and the need to fight petitions against the result afterwards made Shaftesbury too expensive to be useful to Ilchester, and he sold most of his property in the town to Sykes, while the Earl of Shaftesbury, having failed to get his candidate elected in 1776, seems to have withdrawn from any active involvement. Meanwhile, Mortimer continued his acquisition of property in the town until he owned the majority of houses in the borough, but spent so much on this and on fighting elections that he ran through his substantial fortune and ended in a debtors' prison.
The majority interest in the borough then passed to the nabob Paul Benfield, who bought up Mortimer's properties cheaply when they were auctioned off to benefit his creditors. However, after twice being elected in expensive contests, Benfield too was bankrupted. Shaftesbury then passed through a number of hands until, on the eve of the Reform Act, the principal interest was that of Earl Grosvenor. His accession seems to have eliminated Shaftesbury's endemic bribery and converted it to a more secure pocket borough: when Edward Harbord was offered the seat in 1820 in token of Grosvenor's admiration for his stand over Peterloo, he described it as "a place where no questions are asked as to political principles, and no money required". However, Grosvenor opted for coercion rather than persuasion to enforce his will, and at the tumultuous election of 1830 threatened to evict any of his tenants who did not back his candidates. This won the day, although the anti-Grosvenor candidate promised to compensate any of his supporters who might be evicted, and the election ended in a riot. Grosvenor's agents then proceeded to issue notice to quit to the recalcitrant tenants, fuelling an even-more-vigorous (but still unsuccessful) opposition to his candidates at the 1831 election, even though both of his nominees were pro-Reform.
In 1831, the population of the borough was 2,742, but the Reform Act of the following year extended the boundaries to include the whole of three town parishes and ten other adjoining parishes, covering an area several miles across and bringing the population up to 8,518. This was a bigger population than the revised borough of Poole, across the county, which kept both its MPs. Nevertheless, the Act provided that Shaftesbury lost one of its two MPs. The electorate of the new constituency was 634, and the reformed franchise being more restrictive than that which had previously operated, it was only the provision that preserved the rights of existing voters for life that prevented the new electorate from being as small as the old one. Indeed, as these voters died off or moved away the electorate fell still further, and only 461 men were registered to vote by 1865.
The constituency was unaltered in the boundary changes of 1868, but was too small to survive the next reform, and was abolished with effect from the 1885 general election. Shaftesbury itself and most of the borough were placed in the new Dorset North county constituency, though the parish of Donhead St Mary was in Wiltshire and was therefore incorporated into the Wilton constituency.
This list is incomplete; you can help by adding missing items. (August 2008)
|Year of reign||Year||Location||MP1||MP2|
|Edward 1 from||1272|
|25||1296||Westminster||John Cockaine||Hugh Gappe|
|26||1297||York||Roger le Teynturer||Wm. Langecock|
|28||1299||London||Walter Snowden/Senden||John Vigerous|
|30||1301||London||Wm. Sesewood||Thos. Sharewood|
|33||1304||London||Laurence Pynge jun.||John de Wilton|
|34||1305||London||Wm. Aunkehill||John de Wilton|
|35||1306||Carlilse||Walter Sanden||Hamond le Lange|
|Edward 2 from||1307|
|1||1307||York||Robert de Monte Alto||Richard Normayne|
|5||1311||London||Walter Sanden||Hamond le Lange|
|6||1312||Westminster||Walter Sanden||Thos. Steerman/Shareham|
|7||1313||Westminster||John Hatche||John le Read|
|8||1314||Westminster||Walter Sanden/de Soudon||John Figerous/Vigerous|
|15||1321||York||John le Mal/Hull||John le Ston|
|16||1322||Westminster||Richard Kinemere/Kymer||John Cockayne/Cockaine|
|19||1325||Westminster||Roge Luff jun||Wm. Vigerous/Virugore|
|Edward 3 from||1327|
|1||1327||York||Richard Palmer||John de Hull|
|2||1328||North||Richard le Palmere||Richard de Kynemere|
|4||1330||Winchester||Richard de Kynemour||Wm. Vigerous|
|6||1332||Westminster||John Anketill||John Bray|
|7||1333||Westminster||Robt. Anctill||Walter Sondon|
|9||1335||Westminster||Peter Mankerneys||Walter Sondon|
|9||1335||York||John Anketill||John le Draper|
|10||1336||Nottingham||John Anketill||Wm. Sondon|
|11||1337||Westminster||Wm. Anketill||Thos. Platell & John Seled|
|12||1338||Westminster||Thos. Platell||Wm. Anketill|
|14||1340||Westminster||John Steerman||Thos. Platell|
|15||1341||Westminster||John de Wyke|
|15||1341||Westminster||Robt. Axtrll||John Steerman|
|17||1343||Westminster||Wm. le Mew||Thos. Platell|
|20||1346||Westminster||Thos. de Trent||John de Wyke|
|21||1347||Westminster||John de Wyke||John Steerman|
|22||1348||Westminster||Roger de Manyngford||Wm. Hackevill|
|22||1348||Westminster||John de Wyke||Walter de Thornhull|
|24||1350||Westminster||John Luff||John Piggon|
|28||1354||Westminster||John Piggon||John Luff|
|29||1355||Westminster||Robt. Fovent||John Sharnthorne|
|31||1357||Westminster||Walter Perie||Edwd. Barnabe|
|32||1358||Westminster||John Piggon||John Luff|
|33||1359||Westminster||John Wilton||Lawrence Pynge|
|34||1360||Westminster||Edmund. Barnabe||Thos. Aleron/Alton|
|34||1360||Westminster||John Piggon||Edmund. Barnabe|
|36||1362||Westminster||Wm. Smallbergh||John Moryn|
|37||1363||Westminster||Walter Henley||Alan Caunsted|
|43||1369||Westminster||Walter Henley||Edwd. Barnabe|
|47||1373||Westminster||Wm. Anketill||John Luff|
|Richard 2 from||1377|
|1||1377||Westminster||Walter Haule||Thos. Bache|
|2||1378||Westminster||Walter Haule||Thos. Bache|
|3||1379||Westminster||Walter Haulegh||Thos. Cammell|
|5||1381||Westminster||Walter Haulegh||Thos. Cammell|
|6||1382||Westminster||Walter Haulegh||Thos. Seaward|
|Parliament||First member||Second member|
|1386||Edward Leante||Richard Payn |
|1388 (Feb)||Thomas Cammell||Thomas Seward |
|1388 (Sep)||Hugh Croxhale||Roger Pyjon |
|1390 (Jan)||Thomas Cammell||Robert Fovent |
|1391||Thomas Cammell||John Whiting |
|1393||Thomas Cammell||Walter Biere |
|1394||Thomas Cammell||Robert Biere |
|1395||John Whiting||Walter Biere |
|1397 (Jan)||John Hordere||Walter Biere |
|1397 (Sep)||Hugh Croxhale||Walter Biere |
|1399||Thomas Cammell||Walter Biere |
|1402||Thomas Cammell||Walter Biere |
|1406||Robert Frye II||John Scarburgh |
|1407||John Bole||John Bremle |
|1410||John Bole||Walter Biere |
|1413 (May)||John Bole||Walter Biere |
|1414 (Apr)||Thomas Haselmere||John Pyjon |
|1414 (Nov)||Thomas Hat||Walter Biere |
|1417||Robert Frye||Walter Biere |
|1419||Robert Squibbe||John Clerk |
|1420||Robert Squibbe||John Bole |
|1421 (May)||Robert Squibbe||John Clerk |
|1421 (Dec)||Robert Squibbe||John Hody |
|1510–1523||No names known |
|1529||William More||John Mathew |
|1545||William More||Robert Grove |
|1547||John Arundell||Henry Ashley |
|1553 (Nov)||John Gapputh||John Fuell |
|1554 (Apr)||John Denham |
|Parliament of 1554 (Nov)||John Plympton |
|Parliament of 1555||Matthew Arundell||John Foster |
|Parliament of 1558||William Grove||Hugh Hawker |
|Parliament of 1559||Sir John Zouche||Henry Coker |
|Parliament of 1563–1567||Henry Iden||William Jordyn |
|Parliament of 1571||John Long||Thomas Morgan |
|Parliament of 1572–1581||Robert Grove||Charles Vaughan |
|Parliament of 1584–1585||Thomas Cavendish||Bartholomew Kempe |
|Parliament of 1586–1587||Francis Zouche||Gregory Sprint |
|Parliament of 1588–1589||Thomas Crompton||Michael Hicks |
|Parliament of 1593||Arthur Atye |
|Parliament of 1597–1598||John Budden||John Davies |
|Parliament of 1601||Arthur Messenger||John Budden|
|Parliament of 1604–1611||Robert Hopton|
|Addled Parliament (1614)||Henry Croke|| Sir Miles Sandys sat for Cambridge University|
In his place Sir Simeon Steward
|Parliament of 1621–1622|| William Beecher Expelled from the House|
In his place Percy Herbert
| Thomas Sheppard Expelled from the House|
In his place Ralph Hopton
|Happy Parliament (1624–1625)||William Whitaker||John Thoroughgood|
|Useless Parliament (1625)|
|Parliament of 1625–1626||William Whitaker||Samuel Turner|
|Parliament of 1628–1629||John Thoroughgood||Sir John Croke|
|No Parliament summoned 1629–1640|
|Year||First member||First party||Second member||Second party|
|April 1640||William Whitaker||Parliamentarian||Edward Hyde ||Royalist|
|January 1644||Turner disabled from sitting – seat vacant|
|February 1651||Fry expelled – seat vacant|
|1653||Shaftesbury was unrepresented in the Barebones Parliament and the First and Second Parliaments of the Protectorate|
|January 1659||Henry Whitaker||James Baker|
|May 1659||John Bingham||One seat vacant|
|April 1660||Thomas Grove||James Baker|
|1661||Henry Whitaker||John Lowe|
|1679||Sir Matthew Andrews|
|1685||Sir Henry Butler||John Bowles|
|1689||Sir Matthew Andrews||Edward Nicholas|
|1701||Sir John Cropley|
|January 1715||Samuel Rush |
|May 1715||William Benson ||Whig|
|1719||Sir Edward des Bouverie|
|1734||Jacob Banks||Philip Bennet |
|1741||Peter Walter||Charles Ewer|
|1742||George Pitt ||Tory|
|June 1747||Cuthbert Ellison|
|December 1747||William Beckford|
|1754 ||Hon. James Brudenell||Sir Thomas Clavering||Whig|
|1761 ||Sir Gilbert Heathcote||Whig||Samuel Touchet||Whig|
|1768 ||William Chaffin Grove||(Sir) Ralph Payne|
|1771 ||Francis Sykes|
|1774 ||Thomas Rumbold|
|1775 ||Seat declared vacant pending by-election||Hans Winthrop Mortimer ||Independent|
|1776 ||George Rous|
|1780 ||Sir Thomas Rumbold ||(Sir) Francis Sykes |
|1781 ||Hans Winthrop Mortimer||Independent|
|1784 ||Adam Drummond|
|1786 ||John Drummond|
|1790||Charles Duncombe||Tory ||William Grant||Tory |
|1802||Edward Loveden Loveden||Robert Hurst|
|1806||Captain Sir Home Riggs Popham|
|1807||Whig ||Thomas Wallace||Whig |
|1812||Richard Bateman-Robson||Whig ||Hudson Gurney||Whig |
|1813 ||Charles Wetherell||Tory ||Edward Kerrison||Tory |
|1818||John Bacon Sawrey Morritt||Henry John Shepherd|
|1820||Edward Harbord||Abraham Moore|
|1821||Ralph Leycester||Whig |
|1822||Lord Robert Grosvenor||Whig|
|1826||Edward Davies Davenport||Whig |
|1830||Edward Penrhyn||Whig ||William Stratford Dugdale||Tory |
|1831||William Leader Maberly||Whig |
|1832||Representation reduced to one member|
|1832||John Sayer Poulter||Whig   |
|1838 ||George Mathew||Conservative |
|1841||Lord Howard of Effingham||Whig   |
|1845||Richard Brinsley Sheridan||Whig    |
|1852||Hon. Henry Portman||Whig |
|1880||Hon. Sidney Glyn||Liberal|
|Tory||William Stratford Dugdale||145||33.3|
|Radical||Sir Francis Charles Knowles, 3rd Baronet||121||27.8|
|Registered electors||c. 350|
|Tory gain from Whig|
Dugdale resigned, causing a by-election.
|Whig||William Leader Maberly||Unopposed|
|Whig gain from Tory|
|Whig||William Leader Maberly||168||28.2||+8.8|
|Radical||Sir Francis Charles Knowles, 3rd Baronet||133||22.4||−5.4|
|Turnout||c. 298||c. 85.0||c. +7.9|
|Registered electors||c. 350|
|Whig gain from Tory||Swing||+7.6|
|Whig||John Sayer Poulter||318||60.2||+32.0|
|Whig||John Sayer Poulter||237||61.6||+1.4|
|Conservative||William Best ||148||38.4||New|
|Whig||John Sayer Poulter||224||50.6||−11.0|
Howard succeeded to the peerage, becoming 2nd Earl of Effingham, causing a by-election.
|Whig||Richard Brinsley Sheridan||Unopposed|
|Whig||Richard Brinsley Sheridan||213||54.8||+2.8|
Glyn succeeded to the peerage, becoming Lord Wolverton and causing a by-election.
|Liberal||Henry Danby Seymour ||534||47.0||N/A|
|Conservative gain from Liberal||Swing||N/A|
|Liberal||Henry Danby Seymour ||562||48.7||N/A|
|Conservative gain from Liberal||Swing||N/A|
|Liberal gain from Conservative||Swing||+2.6|
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