Bridport (UK Parliament constituency)
Bridport was a parliamentary borough in Dorset, England, which elected two Members of Parliament (MP) to the House of Commons from 1295 until 1868, and then one member from 1868 until 1885, when the borough was abolished.
|Former Borough constituency|
for the House of Commons
|Number of members||two (1295-1868); one (1868-1885)|
|Replaced by||West Dorset|
Bridport was continuously represented in Parliament from the first. The medieval borough consisted of the parish of Bridport, a small port and market town, where the main economic interests were sailcloth and rope-making, as well as some fishing. (For some time in the 16th century, the town had a monopoly of making all cordage for the navy.) By 1831, the population of the borough was 4,242, and the town contained 678 houses.
The right to vote was at one period reserved to the town corporation (consisting of two bailiffs and 13 "capital burgesses"), but from 1628 it was exercised by all inhabitant householders paying scot and lot. This was a relatively liberal franchise for the period but nevertheless meant that only a fraction of the townsmen could vote: in 1806, the general election at which Bridport had the highest turnout in the last few years before the Reform Act, a total of 260 residents voted.
Bridport never reached the status of a pocket borough with an openly recognised "patron": the voters retained their freedom of choice and generally expected to extort a price for their votes, so much so that Oldfield recorded of one election in the early 19th century that "several candidates left them at the last election, in consequence of their demanding payment beforehand". Nevertheless, at various periods the borough came under the influence of local grandees and would usually return at least one of their nominees as MPs: the Russells (Dukes of Bedford) in the Elizabethan period and the Sturts in the latter half of the 18th century could normally rely on choosing one member. In 1572 the then Earl of Bedford made use of this influence to have his oldest son elected in defiance of the convention that the heirs of peers could not be members of the House of Commons; the only previous instance had been that of the Earl himself, who had remained an MP when he became heir to the Earldom in 1555. By vote of the House, the young Lord Russell was allowed to keep his seat for Bridport, and the precedent allowed other peers' heirs to sit from that point onwards.
Bridport retained both its seats under the Reform Act, the boundaries being extended to give it the requisite population - parts of the neighbouring parishes of Bradpole, Allington and Waldich, as well as Bridport Harbour, were brought in, increasing the population to about 6,000; in the election of 1832, the first after Reform, the registered electorate was 425. However, the constituency was too small to survive for long. One of its members was removed after election of 1868 by the Second Reform Act; and the borough was abolished altogether in 1885, the town being incorporated into the Western Dorset county division.
Members of Parliament
- Constituency created (1295)
|Parliament||First member||Second member|
|1386||John Hayward||John Tracy|
|1388 (Feb.)||John Hayward||John Tracy|
|1388 (Sep)||John Tracy||William Cordell|
|1390 (Jan)||John Tracy||John Hayward|
|1393||John Tracy||John Hayward|
|1394||John Tracy||Gilbert Draper|
|1395||John Roger||John Hayward|
|1397 (Jan)||John Palmer||John Crouk|
|1397 (Sep)||John Hayward||John Crouk|
|1399||John Hayward||John Tracy|
|1402||Simon atte Ford||Nicholas Tracy|
|1406||Henry Rauf||Roger Stikelane|
|1407||Henry Rauf||Walter Batcok|
|1410||Thomas Lovell||John Roger I|
|1413 (May)||William Mountfort II||John Roger I|
|1414 (Apr)||Simon atte Ford||John Stampe|
|1414 (Nov)||Simon atte Ford||Andrew Forshey|
|1417||Simon atte Ford||Edward Stikelane|
|1419||Walter Tracy||William Mountfort II|
|1420||Simon atte Ford||John Stampe|
|1421 (May)||Simon atte Ford||John Hore|
|1421 (Dec)||Simon atte Ford||William Pernham|
|1422||Simon atte Ford|
|1423||Simon atte Ford|
|1425||Simon atte Ford|
|1426||John Hore||Simon atte Ford|
|1529||William Chard||Richard Furloke|
|1545||John Lympany||Richard Watkins|
|1547||Sir Henry Gates||William Grimston|
|First Parliament of 1553||?||?|
|Second Parliament of 1553||Christopher Smith||William Pole|
|Parliament of 1554||Robert Neyl||Edward Prout|
|Parliament of 1554-1555||John Alferd||John Moyne or Moon|
|Parliament of 1555||Robert Fowkes||Thomas Chard|
|Parliament of 1558||John Hippisley||Thomas Welshe|
|Parliament of 1559||William Page||Robert Moon|
|Parliament of 1563-1567||John Hastings||Richard Inkpenne|
|Parliament of 1571||Thomas Parry||George Trenchard|
|Parliament of 1572-1581||Miles Sandys||Lord Russell (Summoned to the Lords)|
1581: Hugh Vaughan
|Parliament of 1584-1585||Dr Peter Turner||Morgan Moon|
|Parliament of 1586-1587|
|Parliament of 1588-1589||George Pawlet||Gregory Sprint|
|Parliament of 1593||Christopher Lambert||John Fortescue|
|Parliament of 1597-1598||Leweston Fitzjames||Adrian Gilbert|
|Parliament of 1601||Sir Robert Napier||Richard Warburton|
|Parliament of 1604-1611||Sir Robert Miller||John Pitt|
|Addled Parliament (1614)||Sir William Bampfield||John Jeffrey|
|Parliament of 1621-1622||John Strode||John Browne|
|Happy Parliament (1624-1625)||William Muschamp||Robert Browne|
|Useless Parliament (1625)||Sir Lewis Dyve||Sir John Strode|
|Parliament of 1625-1626||Sir Richard Strode|
|Parliament of 1628-1629||Thomas Pawlet||Bampfield Chafin|
|No Parliament summoned 1629-1640|
|Year||First member||First party||Second member||Second party|
|April 1640||Thomas Trenchard||Sir John Meller|
|November 1640||Roger Hill||Parliamentarian||Giles Strangways||Royalist|
|January 1644||Strangways disabled from sitting - seat vacant|
|December 1648||Ceeley excluded in Pride's Purge - seat vacant|
|1653||Bridport was unrepresented in the Barebones Parliament and the First and Second Parliaments of the Protectorate|
|January 1659||Edward Cheek||John Lee|
|May 1659||Roger Hill||One seat vacant|
|April 1660||John Drake||Henry Henley|
|1661||Humphrey Bishop||John Strangways|
|February 1677||George Bowerman|
|February 1677||Wadham Strangways|
|February 1679||John Every|
|August 1679||Sir Robert Henley, Bt||William Bragge|
|1685||Hugh Hodges||Thomas Chafe|
|1689||Richard Brodrepp||John Manley|
|1690||John Michell||Sir Stephen Evance|
|1713||John Hoskins Gifford|
|February 1715||John Strangways|
|May 1715||Peter Walter|
|1719||Sir Dewey Bulkeley|
|1727||William Bowles||James Pelham|
|May 1747||James Grenville|
|July 1747||John Frederick Pinney|
|1761||Sir Gerard Napier, Bt|
|1774||Hon. Lucius Cary|
|1780||Thomas Scott||Whig||Richard Beckford|
|1802||Sir Evan Nepean, Bt||Tory|
|1807||Sir Samuel Hood, Bt||Tory|
|1812||William Best||Whig||Sir Horace St Paul, Bt||Tory|
|March 1820||James Scott||Whig||Christopher Spurrier||Whig|
|June 1820||Sir Horace St Paul, Bt||Tory|
|June 1841||Thomas Alexander Mitchell||Radical|
|September 1841 by-election||Alexander Baillie-Cochrane||Conservative|
|1846 by-election||John Romilly||Whig|
|1852||John Patrick Murrough||Radical|
|1868||Representation reduced to one member|
Elections in the 1830s
|Tory||Horace St Paul||Unopposed|
|Tory||Horace St Paul||Unopposed|
|Tory||Richard William Astell||182||27.1||N/A|
|Whig gain from Tory||Swing||N/A|
|Conservative gain from Whig||Swing||+3.4|
|Radical gain from Conservative||Swing||+7.3|
Elections in the 1840s
|Radical||Thomas Alexander Mitchell||282||34.0||+2.1|
Warburton resigned by accepting the office of Steward of the Chiltern Hundreds, causing a by-election.
|Conservative gain from Radical|
|Conservative gain from Radical||Swing||N/A|
After scrutiny, Baillie-Cochrane's election was declared void and Romilly was declared elected on 28 April 1846.
|Radical||Thomas Alexander Mitchell||267||34.4||−36.2|
|Whig||Edward Richard Petre||222||28.6||N/A|
|Conservative||Robert Montgomery Martin||11||1.4||N/A|
|Turnout||388 (est)||58.5 (est)||−32.3|
|Conservative gain from Radical||Swing||+21.2|
Elections in the 1850s
|Radical||Thomas Alexander Mitchell||366||45.4||+28.2|
|Radical||John Patrick Murrough||249||30.9||+13.7|
|Turnout||403 (est)||76.9 (est)||+18.4|
|Radical gain from Conservative||Swing||+10.2|
|Radical||Thomas Alexander Mitchell||330||45.3||−0.1|
|Conservative||William Unwin Heygate||109||15.0||−8.7|
|Turnout||365 (est)||76.4 (est)||−0.5|
|Whig gain from Radical||Swing||N/A|
|Liberal||Thomas Alexander Mitchell||334||42.1||−3.2|
|Conservative||Henry Hyde Nugent Bankes||170||21.4||+6.4|
|Turnout||397 (est)||79.2 (est)||+2.8|
Elections in the 1860s
|Liberal||Thomas Alexander Mitchell||Unopposed|
The seat was reduced to one member.
|Liberal||Thomas Alexander Mitchell||Unopposed|
Elections in the 1870s
|Liberal||Thomas Alexander Mitchell||Unopposed|
Mitchell's death caused a by-election.
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- Sir Lewis Dyve petitioned against the result. Cobbett records Dyve as MP from 1640, and the Dictionary of National Biography has Hill filling the vacancy in 1645; however Brunton & Pennington list Hill as the MP from 1640. The House of Commons Journals show Dyve was a petitioner rather than MP, and that Hill was an MP by 1643 at the latest
- Strangeways was initially declared elected, but on petition it was found that some unqualified voters had been admitted while other qualified voters had had their votes refused, and Walter was declared duly elected in Strangways' place
- Bowles was re-elected in 1741 but was also elected for Bewdley, which he chose to represent, and did not sit again for Bridport
- Pelham was also elected for Newark, which he chose to represent, and never sat for Bridport
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