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County constituency
Bath shown within Avon (county), and Avon (county) shown within England
Created: 1295
MP: Don Foster
Party: Liberal Democrat
Type: House of Commons
County: Somerset
EP constituency: South West England

Bath is a constituency in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It is an ancient constituency which has been constantly represented in Parliament since boroughs were first summoned to send members in the 13th century. Perhaps its best-known representatives have been William Pitt the Elder (Prime Minister 1766-1768) and Chris Patten (Conservative Party chairman 1990–1992).




Current boundaries

The constituency includes the city of Bath, together with some outlying villages including Southstoke and Freshford. However, from the next General Election the Parliamentary constituency will come more into line with the city boundaries, and these villages will move into the North East Somerset (previously Wansdyke) constituency.

Boundary review

Following their review of the constituencies in the former county of Avon the Boundary Commission for England has recommended that the constituency contract back to the city of Bath; this will come into effect at the 2010 general election.

The electoral wards (of Bath and North East Somerset District) which will make up the revised Bath constituency are:

Historic boundaries

  • Before 1832: The parishes of St James (Bath), St Peter and St Paul (Bath), St Michael (Bath), and part of the parish of Walcot.
  • 1832-1867: As above, plus the parishes of Bathwick and Lyncombe & Widcombe, and a further part of the parish of Walcot.
  • 1867-1918: As above, plus part of the parish of Twerton.
  • 1918-1983: The county borough of Bath
  • 1983-1997: The City of Bath
  • Since 1997: The City of Bath, and the Bathampton, Batheaston, Bathford, Charlcombe and Freshford wards of the District of Wansdyke.


The unreformed constituency (before 1832)

Bath was one of the cities summoned to send members to the Model Parliament of 1295, and has been represented ever since. Like almost all English constituencies before the Great Reform Act of 1832, it originally returned two members to each Parliament.

The precise way in which its MPs were chosen in medieval times is unknown. It is recorded that "election was by the Mayor and three citizens being sent from thence to the county court who in the name of the whole community, and by the assent of the community, returned their representatives"; but what form the "assent of the community" took is unrecorded, even assuming it was not a complete dead letter. By the 17th century elections had become more competitive, and the means of election in Bath had been formalised to a franchise restricted to the Mayor, Aldermen and members of the Common Council (the City Corporation), a total of thirty voters. The freemen of the city challenged this state of affairs in 1661 and again in 1705 claiming the right to vote and petitioning against the election of the candidates chosen by the corporation, but on both occasions the House of Commons, which in those days was the final arbiter of such disputes, decided against them. The Commons resolution of 27 January 1708, "That the right of election of citizens to serve in Parliament for this city is in the mayor, aldermen and common-council only", settled the matter until 1832.

Bath was the biggest of the English boroughs where the right to vote was restricted to the corporation (at the time of the 1801 census it was one of the ten largest towns or cities in England by population), and almost unique in that the voters generally exercised their powers responsibly and independently. As was the case elsewhere, the Common Council was not popularly elected, all vacancies being filled by co-option by the remaining members, so that once any interest gained majority control it was easy to retain it. Most corporation boroughs quickly became pocket boroughs in this way, the nomination of their MPs being entirely under the influence of a "patron" who ensured that only his supporters became members of the corporation. But in Bath, the Common Council retained its independence in most periods, and took pride in electing suitable MPs who either had strong local connections or a national reputation. Nor was there any suggestion of bribery or other corruption, which often took the place of a patron's control in other "independent" constituencies. Pitt the Elder wrote to the corporation in 1761, on the occasion of his re-election as Bath's MP, to pay tribute to "a city ranked among the most ancient and most considerable in the kingdom, and justly famed for its integrity, independence, and zeal for the public good".

But even in Bath the voters expected their MPs to work for the constituency's advantage and procure favours for their constituents to a degree that would be considered utterly corrupt today. By exercising their efforts successfully in this direction, MPs could in return expect a degree of control over the voters that differed little from patronage in pocket boroughs except that its duration was limited. Thus the lawyer Robert Henley, MP from 1747 and Recorder of Bath from 1751, seems to have been assumed to have had control over both seats while he remained Bath's MP; yet when he was transferred to the House of Lords, Pitt replaced him on the understanding that he was independently chosen. Pitt himself then acquired a similar degree of influence: the Council vetoed Viscount Ligonier's suggestion that he should be succeeded by his nephew when he was elevated the Lords in 1763, but instead allowed Pitt to nominate a candidate to be his new colleague, and voted overwhelmingly for him when he was opposed by a local man. But Pitt's influence also waned when he fell out with the Council over the Treaty of Paris.

In the final years before the Reform Act, however, local magnates seem to have been allowed to exercise more influence in Bath. Oldfield, writing early in the 19th century, stated that at that time the Marquess of Bath nominated one member and John Palmer the other; both were former MPs for the City (the Marquess having sat under the title Viscount Weymouth), but neither was still in the Commons - each had a family member sitting in their stead as MP for Bath. Palmer had succeeded another former MP, Earl Camden (the former John Jeffreys Pratt), who had held one of the nominations before 1802. At the time of the Reform Act, the Marquess of Bath was still being listed as influencing one of the seats, though the second was considered independent once more.

The reformed constituency (1832-1918)

The Great Reform Act opened up the franchise, imposing uniform provisions across all boroughs and allowing all resident (male) householders whose houses were valued at least £10 a year. This multiplied Bath's electorate by a factor of almost 100 (there were 2,853 voters registered at the first reformed election, in December 1832), and created a competitive and generally marginal constituency which swung between Whig and Conservative control. The constituency boundaries were also slightly extended, but only to take in those areas where the city proper had grown outside its previous limits. Bath's most notable MP during this period was probably the Conservative social reformer Lord Ashley, better remembered under his eventual title of 7th Earl of Shaftesbury for the Factory Acts, the first of which came into effect while he was MP for Bath.

The franchise was further reformed in 1867 and 1885, but there were only minor boundary changes. Bath was probably lucky to retain its double-representation in the 1885 reforms, its electorate of under 7,000 being very near the lower limit. The continued Liberal strength was unusual for a prosperous and predominantly middle-class town, and the seats could never be considered safe for the Conservatives.

The modern single-member constituency (since 1918)

Bath's representation was reduced to a single member in 1918. The Conservatives held the seat continuously until 1992 except in the 1923 Parliament, and until the War generally won comfortably. The Liberals retained their strength so that the non-Conservative vote was split, and Labour could not rise above third place until the landslide of 1945, when the Conservative James Pitman only narrowly squeezed home. For the next thirty years Bath verged on being a Conservative-Labour marginal, and Labour came within 800 votes of taking the seat in 1966.

The Liberal revival in the 1970s pushed Labour back into third place, helped by the adoption of a nationally-known candidate, Christopher Mayhew, who had defected from the Labour Party. The formation of the SDP-Liberal Alliance made Bath a realistic target. The SDP came just 1500 votes from winning in 1987 under Malcolm Dean. In 1992, Conservative Chris Patten was ousted by Liberal Democrat Don Foster in a narrow defeat which was widely blamed on Patten's being forced to concentrate during the election on his national responsibilities as Conservative Party Chairman rather than nursing his own constituency.

The boundary changes implemented in 1997 expanded the constituency beyond the city for the first time, to include five village wards from the neighbouring Wansdyke district, encompassing about 7,000 voters. This change was considered slightly beneficial to the Conservatives. Nevertheless, Foster more than doubled his majority, and increased it again in 2001, although 2005 saw a fall.

Members of Parliament

The current Member of Parliament is Don Foster of the Liberal Democrats, who was elected in the 1992 general election. He famously succeeded Chris Patten, the then Conservative Party chairman. Patten's party had held the seat for several decades, fending off close calls and challenges by Labour, the SDP and the Liberal Democrats since before the 1960s.

William Pitt the Elder was briefly Prime Minister from 30 July 1766 while a Bath MP. However on 4 August 1766 he was given a peerage, the Earl of Chatham, so that he could also be Lord Privy Seal, and ceased to be an MP.

List of MPs 1295-1640

List of MPs 1640-1918

Year First member First party Second member Second party
November 1640 William Bassett Royalist Alexander Popham Parliamentarian
February 1642 Bassett disabled from sitting - seat vacant
1645 James Ashe
1653 Bath was unrepresented in the Barebones Parliament
1654 Alexander Popham [1] Bath had only one seat in the First and
Second Parliaments of the Protectorate
1656 James Ashe
January 1659 John Harrington
May 1659 One seat vacant
March 1660 Alexander Popham William Prynne
November 1669 Sir Francis Popham
November 1669 Sir William Bassett
1675 Sir George Speke
1679 Sir Walter Long
1681 The Viscount Fitzhardinge Sir William Bassett
1690 Joseph Langton
1693 William Blathwayt Whig
1695 Sir Thomas Estcourt
1698 Alexander Popham
1707 Samuel Trotman
1710 John Codrington
1720 Robert Gay
1722 General George Wade [2]
1727 Robert Gay
1734 John Codrington
1741 Philip Bennet
1747 Robert Henley
1748 General Sir John Ligonier [3]
1757 William Pitt the Elder Whig
1763 Major-General Sir John Sebright
1766 John Smith
1774 Abel Moysey
1775 Lieutenant-General Sir John Sebright
1780 Hon. John Jeffreys Pratt [4]
1790 Viscount Weymouth
1794 Sir Richard Pepper Arden
1796 Lord John Thynne
1801 John Palmer
1808 Charles Palmer
1826 Earl of Brecknock
1830 Charles Palmer Whig
1832 John Arthur Roebuck Whig
1837 The Viscount Powerscourt Conservative William Heald Ludlow Bruges Conservative
1841 Viscount Duncan Whig John Arthur Roebuck Whig
1847 Lord Ashley Conservative
1851 George Treweeke Scobell Whig
1852 Thomas Phinn Whig
1855 (Sir) William Tite Whig
1857 Sir Arthur Hallam Elton Whig
1859 Liberal Arthur Edwin Way Conservative
1865 James Macnaghten McGarel-Hogg Conservative
1868 Donald Dalrymple Liberal
May 1873 Viscount Chelsea Conservative
June 1873 Viscount Grey de Wilton Conservative
October 1873 (Sir) Arthur Divett Hayter Liberal
February 1874 Nathaniel Bousfield Conservative
1880 Edmond Wodehouse Liberal
1885 Robert Stickney Blaine Conservative
1886 Liberal Unionist Colonel Robert Laurie Conservative
1892 Colonel (Sir) Charles Wyndham Murray Conservative
1906 Donald Maclean Liberal George Peabody Gooch Liberal
1910 Lord Alexander Thynne Conservative Sir Charles Hunter Conservative
October 1918 Charles Talbot Foxcroft Conservative
1918 Representation reduced to one Member

List of MPs since 1918

Election Member Party
1918 Charles Talbot Foxcroft Conservative
1923 Frank Raffety Liberal
1924 Charles Talbot Foxcroft Conservative
1929 by-election Hon. Charles Baillie-Hamilton Conservative
1931 Loel Guinness Conservative
1945 Sir James Pitman Conservative
1964 Sir Edward Brown Conservative
1979 Chris Patten Conservative
1992 Don Foster Liberal Democrat


Elections in the 2010s

Next UK general election
Prospective Parliamentary candidates for the next UK general election [5]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Labour Hattie Ajderian
Liberal Democrat Don Foster
Green Eric Lucas
Conservative Fabian Richter
English Democrats Sara Box

Elections in the 2000s

General election of 2005

The 2005 general election saw two more candidates stand than in 2001, both of whom were independent. All parties apart from the Liberal Democrats ran different candidates.

General Election 2005: Bath
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal Democrat Don Foster 20,101 43.9 −6.6
Conservative Sian Dawson 15,463 33.7 +4.6
Labour Harriet Ajderian 6,773 14.8 −0.9
Green Eric Lucas 2,494 5.4 +2.2
UKIP Richard Crowder 770 1.7 +0.2
Independent Patrick Cobbe 177 0.4 N/A
Independent Graham Walker 58 0.1 N/A
Majority 4638 10.1 −11.3
Turnout 45,836 68.6 +3.7
Liberal Democrat hold Swing −5.6
General election of 2001
General Election 2001: Bath
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal Democrat Don Foster 23,372 50.5 +2.0
Conservative Ashley Fox 13,478 29.1 -2.1
Labour Marilyn Hawkings 7,269 15.7 -0.7
Green Michael Boulton 1,469 3.2 +2.1
UKIP Andrew Tettenborn 708 1.5 +0.9
Majority 9,894 21.4 +4.1
Turnout 64.9 -11.3
Liberal Democrat hold Swing

Elections in the 1990s

General Election 1997: Bath
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal Democrat Don Foster 26,169 48.5 -0.4
Conservative Alison McNair 16,850 31.2 -9.4
Labour Tim Bush 8,828 16.4 +8.6
Referendum Party Tony Cook 1,192 2.2 N/A
Green Richard Scrase 580 1.1 +0.3
UKIP Peter Sandell 315 0.6 N/A
Natural Law Nicholas Pullen 55 0.1 N/A
Majority 9,319 17.3 +10.2
Turnout 76.2 -9.3
Liberal Democrat hold Swing
General Election 1992: Bath
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal Democrat Don Foster 25,718 48.9
Conservative Chris Patten 21,950 41.8
Labour Pam Richards 4,102 7.8
Green Duncan McCanlis 433 0.8
Liberal May Barker 172 0.3
Anti-Federalist League Alan Sked 117 0.2
Independent Conservative John Rumming 79 0.2
Majority 3,768 7.1
Turnout 82.5
Liberal Democrat gain from Conservative Swing

Elections in the 1980s

General Election 1987: Bath
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative Chris Patten 23,515 45.4
Social Democrat J. M. Dean 22,103 42.7
Labour J. Smith 5,507 10.6
Green Derek Wall 687 1.3
Majority 1,412 2.7
Turnout 79.4
Conservative hold Swing
General Election 1983: Bath
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative Chris Patten 22,544 47.1
Social Democrat J. M. Dean 17,240 36.0
Labour A. J. Pott 7,259 15.2
Ecology D. Grimes 441 0.9
Progressive Liberal R. S. Wandle 319 0.7
World Government Gilbert Young 67 0.1
Majority 5,304 11.1
Turnout 74.4
Conservative hold Swing

Elections in the 1970s

General Election 1979: Bath
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative Chris Patten 23,025 46.4
Liberal Christopher Mayhew 13,913 28.0
Labour M. Baber 11,407 23.0
Ecology D. Grimes 1,082 2.2
National Front T. Mundy 206 0.4
Majority 9,112 18.4
Turnout 78.1
Conservative hold Swing
General Election October 1974: Bath
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative Edward Brown 18,470 37.7
Liberal Christopher Mayhew 16,348 33.4
Labour Malcolm Bishop 14,011 28.6
United Democratic J. Kemp 150 0.3
Majority 2,122 4.3
Turnout 78.6
Conservative hold Swing
General Election February 1974: Bath
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative Edward Brown 20,920 40.8
Liberal P. Downey 15,738 30.7
Labour Malcolm Bishop 14,396 27.9
Independent Conservative H. B. de Laterriere 204 0.4
World Government Gilbert Young 118 0.2
Majority 5,182 10.1
Turnout 83.0
Conservative hold Swing
General Election 1970: Bath
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative Edward Brown 22,344 49.0
Labour D. W. Young 16,493 36.1
Liberal R. H. Crowther 5,957 13.1
World Government Gilbert Young 840 1.8
Majority 5,851 12.8
Turnout 77.1
Conservative hold Swing

Elections in the 1960s

General Election 1966: Bath
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative Edward Brown 19,344 43.0
Labour F. S. Moorhouse 18,544 41.2
Liberal R. H. Crowther 7,095 15.8
Majority 800 1.8
Turnout 80.5
Conservative hold Swing
General Election 1964: Bath
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative Edward Brown 22,255 46.5
Labour F. S. Moorhouse 16,464 34.4
Liberal B. R. Pamplin 8,795 18.4
World Government Gilbert Young 318 0.7
Majority 5,791 12.1
Turnout 84.2
Conservative hold Swing

Elections in the 1940s

General Election 1945: Bath

Electorate 59,596, Turnout 77.6%, Voters 46,268

Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative James Pitman 20,196 43.6
Labour D Archibald 18,120 39.2
Liberal P Hopkins 7,952 17.2
Majority 2,076 4.5

See also


External links


  1. ^ Popham was also elected for Wiltshire
  2. ^ Field Marshal from 1743
  3. ^ Created Viscount Ligonier (in the Peerage of Ireland), December 1757
  4. ^ Styled Viscount Bayham from May 1786
  5. ^ Bath, UKPollingReport
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
vacant. Last was Buckingham in 1765
Constituency represented by the Prime Minister
Succeeded by
vacant. Next was Banbury in 1770

Coordinates: 51°22′51″N 2°21′37″W / 51.3809°N 2.3603°W / 51.3809; -2.3603


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