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Bletchingley (UK Parliament constituency): Wikis


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Borough constituency
House House of Commons
Elects Two MPs
Created 1295 (1295)
Abolished 1832 (1832)

Bletchingley was a parliamentary borough in Surrey, which elected two Members of Parliament (MPs) to the House of Commons from 1295 until 1832, when the constituency was abolished by the Great Reform Act.



Bletchingley was one of the original boroughs enfranchised in the Model Parliament, and kept its status until the Reform Act. The borough consisted of the former market town of Bletchingley in Surrey, which by the 19th century had shrunk to a village. In 1831, the population of the borough was 513, and contained only 85 houses. It was a burgage borough, the right to vote being exercised by the owners or resident tenants of the 130 "burgage tenements" - no doubt at some point in history these were simply the inhabited houses of the town, but it was already an artificial franchise by the time it was disputed before the House of Commons in 1624, when it was settled that Bletchingley's burgage holders should keep the vote as they had "time out of mind"; by the 19th century of course, with more burgages in the borough than houses, the notion of its being a residential franchise was no more than a legal fiction.

Like other burgage boroughs, Bletchingley quickly fell into the hands of a single landowner who thereby had the safest of pocket boroughs. It was once the property of Henry VIII's rejected Queen, Anne of Cleves. From her it passed to Sir Thomas Cawarden, the Master of the Revels and from his heir to Lord Howard of Effingham, father of the future conqueror of the Spanish Armada, in about 1560. It then remained in Howard hands for more than half a century, one of several boroughs controlled by that powerful family.

However, the 1624 dispute occurred when the voters daringly defied Lady Howard, and it may not have been entirely secure for any single "patron" for the rest of the century. By 1700, there were two rival influences, the Evelyns of Godstone, who had succeeded in holding one of the seats for much of the preceding sixty years, and Sir Robert Clayton, a London banker who was said to be the wealthiest commoner in England, and who was now Lord of the Manor. Neither held a majority of the burgages, and there were still a fair number of independent voters. For some years, Evelyn and Clayton had to be content with choosing one MP each, and even then had to face some tightly contested votes, but after the accession of George I, Clayton's nephew and heir, William Clayton, managed to accumulate enough of the burgages in his own hands to squeeze out the Evelyn influence and eventually make his hold absolutely watertight. Since the importance of a man with the absolute power to nominate two Members of Parliament was not underestimated by 18th century governments, he quickly found himself dignified with a baronetcy.

The Claytons retained Bletchingley until 1779. In that year, short of money and with talk of parliamentary reform in the air, Sir Robert Clayton decided to realise the asset while it still had a value, and sold the reversion of his property at Bletchingley (which by now included all the burgages) to his cousin, John Kenrick, for £10,000. Once the prospect of parliamentary reform had receded, Clayton repented of his bargain and filed an action in Chancery against Kenrick, claiming that he had been "imposed upon" and had been paid quite an inadequate amount; but the court sympathised with Kenrick, and dismissed the action with costs.

Kenrick's son later sold the rights to Matthew Russell for £60,000 (proving fairly convincingly that Kenrick had, indeed, received it from Clayton for below its true market price!) and he, by making seats available to some of the rising stars of the Whig party, ensured that after centuries of mediocrity Bletchingley was represented in its final years by some distinguished members, including two future Prime Ministers - Hon. William Lamb (Prime Minister as Lord Melbourne) and Lord Palmerston.

Bletchingley was abolished as a separate constituency by the Reform Act, the town being included in the Eastern division of Surrey thereafter.

Members of Parliament




Year First member First party Second member Second party
November 1640 John Evelyn, senior Parliamentarian Edward Bysshe Parliamentarian
December 1648 Evelyn and Bysshe excluded in Pride's Purge - both seats vacant
1653 Bletchingley was unrepresented in the Barebones Parliament and the First and Second Parliaments of the Protectorate
January 1659 John Goodwin Edmund Hoskins
May 1659 Not represented in the restored Rump
April 1660 (Sir) John Evelyn [1] John Goodwin
1661 Sir William Hawarde Edward Bysshe
February 1679 George Evelyn Edward Harvey
October 1679 John Morris
1681 Sir William Goulston
1685 Ambrose Browne Sir Marmaduke Gresham
January 1689 Thomas Howard John Glyd
December 1689 Jeffrey Amherst
1690 Sir Robert Clayton Whig
1695 Maurice Thompson
1698 Hugh Hare Sir Robert Clayton Whig
1701 Sir Edward Gresham John Ward
July 1702 John Evelyn
December 1702 Sir Robert Clayton Whig
1705 George Evelyn
1708 Thomas Onslow
1715 (Sir) William Clayton [2]
1724 Henry Herbert
1727 Sir Orlando Bridgeman
1734 (Sir) Kenrick Clayton [3]
1745 William Clayton
1761 (Sir) Charles Whitworth [4]
1768 (Sir) Robert Clayton
1769 Frederick Standert
1780 John Kenrick
1783 John Nicholls
1787 (Sir) Robert Clayton
1790 Philip Francis
1796 Sir Lionel Copley [5] John Stein
1797 Benjamin Hobhouse
1802 James Milnes John Benn Walsh
1805 Nicholas Ridley-Colborne
1806 Josias du Pre Porcher William Kenrick
January 1807 John Alexander Bannerman
May 1807 Thomas Freeman-Heathcote
1809 Charles Cockerell
October 1812 Sir Charles Talbot
December 1812 Robert William Newman
1814 John Bolland
1818 Matthew Russell Whig George Tennyson Whig
February 1819 Sir William Curtis Tory
February 1819 Marquess of Titchfield Whig
1820 Edward Henry Edwardes
1822 Lord Francis Leveson-Gower Tory
1826 William Russell Whig Charles Tennyson Whig
1827 Hon. William Lamb Whig
1828 William Ewart Whig
1830 Robert William Mills Whig
February 1831 Sir William Horne Whig
April 1831 Hon. John Ponsonby Whig
July 1831 The Viscount Palmerston Whig Thomas Hyde Villiers Whig
1832 Constituency abolished


  1. ^ Created a baronet, May 1660
  2. ^ Created a baronet, January 1732
  3. ^ Succeeded to his baronetcy, December 1744
  4. ^ Knighted 1768
  5. ^ Copley was also elected for Tregony, which he chose to represent, and never sat for Bletchingley

Election results


  • Robert Beatson, A Chronological Register of Both Houses of Parliament (London: Longman, Hurst, Res & Orme, 1807) [1]
  • D Brunton & D H Pennington, Members of the Long Parliament (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1954)
  • Cobbett's Parliamentary history of England, from the Norman Conquest in 1066 to the year 1803 (London: Thomas Hansard, 1808) [2]
  • David W Hayton, Stuart Handley and Eveline Cruickshanks, The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002)
  • Maija Jansson (ed.), Proceedings in Parliament, 1614 (House of Commons) (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1988) [3]
  • Lewis Namier & John Brooke, The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1754-1790 (London: HMSO, 1964)
  • J E Neale, The Elizabethan House of Commons (London: Jonathan Cape, 1949)
  • T H B Oldfield, The Representative History of Great Britain and Ireland (London: Baldwin, Cradock & Joy, 1816)
  • J Holladay Philbin, Parliamentary Representation 1832 - England and Wales (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1965)
  • Henry Stooks Smith, The Parliaments of England from 1715 to 1847 (2nd edition, edited by FWS Craig - Chichester: Parliamentary Reference Publications, 1973)
  • Robert Walcott, English Politics in the Early Eighteenth Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1956)
  • Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs


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