Dartmouth (UK Parliament constituency)

Dartmouth, also sometimes called Clifton, Dartmouth and Hardness, was a parliamentary borough in Devon which elected two Members of Parliament (MPs) to the House of Commons in 1298 and to the Commons of England, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom from 1351 until 1832, and then one member from 1832 until 1868, when the borough was disfranchised.

Former Borough constituency
for the House of Commons
Number of memberstwo (1351–1832); one (1832–1868)
Replaced bySouth Devon


Clifton, Dartmouth and Hardness were three towns clustered round the mouth of the River Dart in southern Devon; all three are within the modern town of Dartmouth. The borough as first represented in 1298 seems to have included only the town of Dartmouth, but at the next return of members in 1350–1351 it also included Clifton; Hardness is first mentioned in 1553, though may have been included earlier. The boundaries by the 19th century included the whole of Dartmouth St Petrox and St Saviour parishes, and part of Townstall parish.

Dartmouth by the end of the 18th century was a prosperous small port, depending mainly on fishing but also with some shipbuilding interests; but the bulk of the inhabitants had little voice in the choice of its Members of Parliament. After a decision by Parliament that followed a disputed election in 1689, the right to vote in Dartmouth rested with the Corporation, which appointed its own successors, and with the freemen of the borough, who were made by the Corporation. This amounted to a total of 71 voters in 1832, although only 53 of these were resident; virtually all were officers of the custom house or other government employees.

This franchise meant that once control was gained of the borough it was easy to retain indefinitely. Around the turn of the 18th century, the Herne family had almost total control, but in the mid-to-late 18th and early 19th century, control had passed to the government and Dartmouth was considered a safe seat for the party in power, returning one member at the nomination of the Treasury and one of the Admiralty. (Even this control had its limits however – Namier and Brooke quote letters to show that when a vacancy arose in 1757, the government had to abandon their original intention of nominating a soldier, and instead acceded to the corporation's demand for a naval candidate.) The Holdsworth family managed the government's interests in the borough, and generally had first refusal on one of the seats. Indeed, the Holdsworths were sufficiently influential to defy the government on occasion, as in 1780 when Arthur Holdsworth arranged the re-election of the popular but opposition-supporting naval hero Lord Howe to one seat while taking the other for himself – no government candidates stood against them, and both Howe and Holdsworth voted with the opposition in the new Parliament.

At the time of the Great Reform Act, the 1831 census showed that there were 611 houses in the borough but a population of 4,447. Dartmouth was allowed to keep one of its two MPs, and the boundaries were extended slightly to include the whole of Townstall parish and part of Stoke Fleming, bringing the population up to 4,662.

The constituency was abolished at the next boundary revision, which came into effect at the general election of 1868, after which the towns were part of the Southern Devon county division.

Members of Parliament


ParliamentFirst memberSecond member
1368Richard Whitelegh [1]
1371John Pasford[2]
1377Thomas Raymond[3]
1386Richard WhiteleghRobert More[4]
1388 (Feb)William BurlestoneJohn Lacche[4]
1388 (Sep)William BastRoger Scoce[4]
1390 (Jan)John HawleyThomas Asshenden I[4]
1390 (Nov)
1391John WilliamJohn Brasuter[4]
1393John EllemedeJohn Hawley[4]
1394William DamietJohn Hawley[4]
1395John BosomEdmund Arnold[4]
1397 (Jan)John BosomWilliam Glover[4]
1397 (Sep)
1402John Hawley (the elder)Ralph North[4]
1404 (Jan)
1404 (Oct)
1406John FoxleyJohn White[4]
1407Henry BremelerJohn Pille[4]
1410John Hawley (the younger)Edmund Arnold[4]
1411John HawleyJohn Corp[4]
1413 (Feb)
1413 (May)John HawleyJohn Corp[4]
1414 (Apr)
1414 (Nov)John HawleyEdmund Arnold[4]
1415/6 (Mar)Edmund ArnoldWalter Wodeland[4]
1416 (Oct)
1420Thomas Asshenden IIWalter Wodeland[4]
1421 (May)John HawleyThomas Hankyn[4]
1421 (Dec)John BurleyHenry Sadeler[4]
1510–1523No names known[5]
1529John TrevanionWilliam Holland,
repl. 1534 by Nicholas Langmede[5]
1539John RidgewayWilliam Holland[5]
1542John AnthonyWilliam Holland[5]
1545Nicholas BaconJohn Ridgeway[5]
1547Sir Peter CarewRichard Duke[5]
1553 (Mar)Nicholas Adams alias BodruganGilbert Roupe[5]
1553 (Oct) Michael Adams Michael Roope
Parliament of 1554 Nicholas Adams Edmund Sture
Parliament of 1554–1555 John Petre Nicholas Enis
Parliament of 1555 Sir John St Leger James Courtenay
Parliament of 1558 Gregory Huckmore Thomas Gurney
Parliament of 1559 Thomas Southcote Edward Yarde
Parliament of 1563–1567 Sir John More John Lovell
Parliament of 1571 John Vaughan Thomas Gurney
Parliament of 1572–1581 William Cardinal Thomas Gurney died
and repl. 1576 by William Lyster
Parliament of 1584–1585 Hugh Vaughan Thomas Ridgeway
Parliament of 1586–1587 Robert Peter George Cary
Parliament of 1588–1589 Robert Papworth Richard Drewe
Parliament of 1593 Nicholas Hayman Thomas Holland
Parliament of 1597–1598 John Osborne [6](?)[7] William Bastard [6]
Parliament of 1601 John Traherne William Bastard
Parliament of 1604–1611 Thomas Holland Thomas Gurney
Addled Parliament (1614)
Parliament of 1621–1622 Robert Matthew William Nyell
Happy Parliament (1624–1625) Richard Matthew William Plumley
Useless Parliament (1625) Roger Matthew John Upton
Parliament of 1625–1626
Parliament of 1628–1629
No Parliament summoned 1629–1640


YearFirst memberFirst partySecond memberSecond party
April 1640 Andrew Voysey John Upton[8]
November 1640 Roger MatthewRoyalist
1641 Samuel BrowneParliamentarian
February 1644 Matthew disabled from sitting – seat vacant
1646 Thomas Boone
December 1648 Browne excluded in Pride's Purge – seat vacant
1653 Dartmouth was unrepresented in the Barebones Parliament
1654 Thomas Boone Dartmouth had only one seat in the First and
Second Parliaments of the Protectorate
1656 Edward Hopkins
January 1659 Thomas Boone Colonel John Clarke
May 1659 Not represented in the restored Rump
1660 John Frederick John Hale
1661 William Harbord Thomas Southcote
1664 Thomas Kendall
1667 Walter Yonge
1670 William Gould (1640–1671) of Floyer Hayes, Exeter
1673 Josiah Child
February 1679 Sir Nathaniel Herne John Upton
August 1679 Edward Yarde
1685 Roger Pomeroy Arthur Farwell
January 1689 Charles Boone William Hayne
September 1689 George Booth[9]
November 1689 Sir Joseph Herne
1698 Frederick Herne
1699 ?[10]
1701 Nathaniel Herne
1713 Sir William Drake
1714 John Fownes
1715 Joseph Herne John Fownes (junior)
1722 George Treby III Thomas Martyn
1727 George Treby II Whig Walter Carey Whig
1742 Lord Archibald Hamilton
1747 John Jeffreys Whig
1757 Captain the Hon. Richard Howe[11]
1766 Richard Hopkins
1780 Arthur Holdsworth
1782 Charles Brett Rockingham Whig
1784 Richard Hopkins
1787 Edmund Bastard
1790 John Charles Villiers
1802 Arthur Howe Holdsworth
1812 Edmund Pollexfen Bastard Tory
1816 John Bastard
1820 Charles Milner Ricketts
1822 James Hamilton Stanhope
1825 Sir John Hutton Cooper
1829 Arthur Howe Holdsworth
1832 Representation reduced to one member


1832 (Sir) John Seale[12] Whig[13][14]
1844 Joseph Somes Conservative
1845 George Moffatt Radical[15][16][17]
1852 Sir Thomas Herbert Conservative
1857 James Caird Peelite[18][19]
April 1859 Edward Wyndham Harrington Schenley[20] Liberal
August 1859 John Dunn Conservative
1860 John Hardy Conservative
1868 Constituency abolished

Election results

Elections in the 1840s

General election 1841: Dartmouth[21]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Whig John Henry Seale Unopposed
Registered electors 276
Whig hold

Seale's death caused a by-election.

By-election, 27 December 1844: Dartmouth[21]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Conservative Joseph Somes 125 51.4 N/A
Radical George Moffatt 118 48.6 N/A
Majority 7 2.9 N/A
Turnout 243 86.2 N/A
Registered electors 282
Conservative gain from Whig Swing N/A

Somes' death caused a by-election.

By-election, 3 July 1845: Dartmouth[21]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Radical George Moffatt 125 53.0 N/A
Conservative Henry Thoby Prinsep 111 47.0 N/A
Majority 14 5.9 N/A
Turnout 236 83.7 N/A
Registered electors 282
Radical gain from Whig Swing N/A
General election 1847: Dartmouth[21]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Radical George Moffatt Unopposed
Registered electors 376
Radical gain from Whig

Elections in the 1850s

General election 1852: Dartmouth[21]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Conservative Thomas Herbert 146 52.0 N/A
Whig William Schaw Lindsay[22][23] 135 48.0 N/A
Majority 11 3.9 N/A
Turnout 281 93.0 N/A
Registered electors 302
Conservative gain from Radical Swing N/A
General election 1857: Dartmouth[21]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Peelite James Caird 127 57.5 +5.5
Whig Charles Seale-Hayne[24][25] 94 42.5 5.5
Majority 33 14.9 +11.0
Turnout 221 82.2 10.8
Registered electors 269
Peelite gain from Conservative Swing +5.5
General election 1859: Dartmouth[21]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal Edward Wyndham Harrington Schenley 123 51.5 6.0
Conservative Thomas Herbert 116 48.5 N/A
Majority 7 2.9 12.0
Turnout 239 93.0 +10.8
Registered electors 257
Liberal hold Swing N/A

The election was declared void on petition due to bribery and corruption, causing a by-election.[26]

By-election, 8 August 1859: Dartmouth[21]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Conservative John Dunn Unopposed
Conservative gain from Liberal

Elections in the 1860s

Dunn's death caused a by-election.

By-election, 3 November 1860: Dartmouth[21]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Conservative John Hardy 112 50.5 +2.0
Liberal Charles Seale-Hayne[27] 110 49.5 2.0
Majority 2 0.9 N/A
Turnout 222 90.2 2.8
Registered electors 246
Conservative gain from Liberal Swing +2.0
General election 1865: Dartmouth[21]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Conservative John Hardy Unopposed
Registered electors 282
Conservative gain from Liberal


  1. "WHITELEGH, Richard, of Osborn Newton in Churchstow, Devon". History of Parliament Online. Retrieved 10 May 2013.
  2. http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1386-1421/member/pasford-%28pafford%29-john
  3. http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1386-1421/member/raymond-thomas-1418
  4. "History of Parliament". History of Parliament Trust. Retrieved 12 November 2011.
  5. "History of Parliament". History of Parliament Trust. Retrieved 12 November 2011.
  6. "Dartmouth". History of Parliament Online. Retrieved 11 October 2016.
  7. Browne Willis gives Lambert's name with a query against it, and does not list a second member
  8. Died September 1641
  9. Booth was originally declared elected, but on petition the House of Commons decided that some of his voters had not validly been made Freemen, and were therefore ineligible to vote; Booth's opponent, Herne, was consequently declared elected in his place. (House of Commons Journal, 28 November 1689 )
  10. Sir Joseph Herne died 26 February 1699. There is apparently no record of a writ for a by-election being issued, and the seat may have remained vacant for the remainder of the Parliament
  11. Succeeded as the 4th Viscount Howe (in the Peerage of Ireland, July 1758. Rear Admiral 1770, Vice Admiral 1775, Admiral 1782
  12. Created a baronet, July 1838
  13. Stooks Smith, Henry. (1973) [1844-1850]. Craig, F. W. S. (ed.). The Parliaments of England (2nd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. pp. 66–68. ISBN 0-900178-13-2.
  14. Churton, Edward (1838). The Assembled Commons or Parliamentary Biographer: 1838. p. 203. Retrieved 1 November 2018 via Google Books.
  15. Steele, E. D. (1991). "At home". Palmerston and Liberalism: 1855–1865. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 84. ISBN 0521400457. Retrieved 7 April 2018.
  16. "The New House of Commons". Hull Packet. 9 July 1852. p. 5. Retrieved 7 April 2018 via British Newspaper Archive.
  17. Saunders, Robert (2016). "Peelites, Protectionists and Popular Toryism". Democracy and the Vote in British Politics, 1848–1867: The Making of the Second Reform Act. Abingdon: Routledge. p. 63. ISBN 978-1-4094-1794-1. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
  18. Leadam, Isaac Saunders (1901). "Caird, James" . In Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography (1st supplement). 52. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  19. "Election Intelligence". Caledonian Mercury. 21 March 1857. p. 2. Retrieved 6 May 2018 via British Newspaper Archive.
  20. On petition, Schenley's election was declared void and a writ for a by-election issued
  21. Craig, F. W. S. (1989) [1977]. British parliamentary election results 1832–1885 (2nd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. ISBN 0-900178-26-4.
  22. "Dartmouth". Western Times. 10 July 1852. p. 6. Retrieved 6 May 2018 via British Newspaper Archive.
  23. "Election Intelligence". Morning Chronicle. 3 July 1852. p. 2. Retrieved 6 May 2018 via British Newspaper Archive.
  24. "Dartmouth". Western Times. 18 April 1857. p. 3. Retrieved 6 May 2018 via British Newspaper Archive.
  25. "Dartmouth". Royal Cornwall Gazette. 3 April 1857. p. 5. Retrieved 6 May 2018 via British Newspaper Archive.
  26. "Election Petitions". Western Times. 30 July 1859. pp. 2–3. Retrieved 6 May 2018 via British Newspaper Archive.
  27. "Political". Brighton Guardian. 17 October 1860. p. 2. Retrieved 25 March 2018 via British Newspaper Archive.


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