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Gatton
Borough constituency
House House of Commons
Elects Two MPs
Created 1450 (1450)
Abolished 1832 (1832)

Gatton was a parliamentary borough in Surrey, one of the most notorious of all the rotten boroughs. It elected two Members of Parliament (MPs) to the House of Commons from 1450 until 1832, when the constituency was abolished by the Great Reform Act. Around the time of the Reform Act it was often held up by reformers as the epitome of what was wrong with the unreformed system.

Contents

History

The borough consisted of part of the parish of Gatton, near Reigate, between London and Brighton. It included the manor and estate of Gatton Park. Gatton was no more than a village, with a population in 1831 of 146, and 23 houses of which as few as six may have been within the borough.

The right to vote was extended to all freeholders and inhabitants paying scot and lot; but this apparently wide franchise was normally meaningless in tiny Gatton - there were only 7 qualified voters in 1831, and at some periods the number had fallen as low as two. This position had existed long before the 19th century: Gatton was one of the first of the English boroughs to come under the total dominance of a "patron": back in the reign of Henry VIII, when Gatton's representation was only a century old, Sir Roger Copley described himself as "its burgess and only inhabitant". In these circumstances, the local landowners had no difficulty in maintaining absolute control, and for most of the 16th century it was the Copleys who held this power. However, the Copleys were Roman Catholics, and this caused difficulties in the later Elizabethan period: the head of the family, Thomas Copley, went into voluntary exile abroad, and when his wife and child returned to England after his death she was quickly caught harbouring a Catholic priest. The Sheriff and Deputy Lieutenants of Surrey were directed by the Privy Council to ensure that Gatton made its choice free from any influence by Mrs Copley, the sheriff's precept for the election was directed not to the Lord of the Manor but to the parish constable, and it seems that between 1584 and 1621 the humble villagers of Gatton may have genuinely elected their MPs in their own right.

In the 1750s, Sir James Colebrooke (Lord of the Manor of Gatton) nominated for one seat and the Rev John Tattersall (Lord of the Manor of Upper Gatton) the other. In 1774, Sir William Mayne (later Lord Newhaven) bought both manors and therefore control of both seats; from 1786 onwards they changed hands several times more, ending in the hands of Sir Mark Wood by the turn of the century. The borough was sold again in 1830, at a reported price of £180,000, even at a time when it was fairly obvious that its days might be numbered; in the same year, while the ownership of the borough was under the administration of a broker, one of its seats in the new Parliament was sold for £1,200.

It was of course utterly pointless for any candidate opposed to the Lords of the Manor to stand, and contested elections were almost unknown in Gatton. Nevertheless, there was a by-election in 1816, at which Mark Wood, junior defeated one Jennings by one vote to nil. The circumstances, uniquely ludicrous even by the standards of the age, were recorded by Henry Stooks Smith in The Parliaments of England from 1715 to 1847:

"Mr Jennings was Sir Mark Wood's butler. There were only three voters, Sir Mark, his son, and Jennings. The son was away and Jennings and his master quarrelled upon which Jennings refused to second the son and proposed himself. To get a seconder for the son, Sir Mark had to second Jennings, and it was ultimately arranged, and the vote of Sir Mark alone given. This was the only contest within memory."

Gatton's representation was abolished by the Reform Act in 1832.

Members of Parliament

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1572-1640

  • 1533: Sir Thomas Copley
  • 1554: William Wootton
  • 1554-1567: Thomas Copley
  • 1572: Roland Maylard
  • 1584-1585: Thomas Bishopp
  • 1584: Francis Bacon (Elected for more than one constituency, chose not to sit for Gatton)
  • 1584-1587: Edward Browne
  • 1586-1587: Serjeant John Puckering
  • 1604-1611: Sir Thomas Gresham
  • 1604-1611: Sir Nicholas Saunders
  • 1621-1622: Sir Thomas Gresham
  • 1621-1622: Sir Thomas Bludder
  • 1625: Thomas Crewe

1640-1832

Year First member First party Second member Second party
November 1640 Sir Samuel Owfield Parliamentarian Double return for second seat, not resolved until 1641
November 1641 Thomas Sandys Parliamentarian
1644 Owfield died - seat left vacant
1645 William Owfield
December 1648 Sandys and Owfield excluded in Pride's Purge - both seats vacant
1653 Gatton was unrepresented in the Barebones Parliament and the First and Second Parliaments of the Protectorate
January 1659 Edward Bishe Thomas Turgis
May 1659 Not represented in the restored Rump
April 1660 Sir Edmund Bowyer Thomas Turgis
1661 William Owfield
1664 Sir Nicholas Carew
1685 Sir John Thompson
1696 George Evelyn
1698 Hon. Maurice Thompson
1702 Thomas Onslow
1705 Sir George Newland Paul Docminique
1710 William Newland
1735 Charles Docminique
1738 Professor George Newland
1745 Paul Humphrey
1749 Rear Admiral Charles Knowles
1751 (Sir) James Colebrooke [1]
1752 William Bateman
1754 Thomas Brand
1761 Lieutenant-Colonel Edward Harvey
1768 Hon. John Damer Joseph Martin
October 1774 Sir William Mayne [2] Robert Scott[3]
December 1774 Robert Mayne William Adam
1780 The Lord Newhaven
1782 Maurice Lloyd
1787 James Fraser
1790 John Nesbitt William Currie
May 1796 John Petrie Sir Gilbert Heathcote [4]
November 1796 John Heathcote
1799 (Sir) Walter Stirling [5]
1800 James Du Pre
1802 Sir Mark Wood James Dashwood
1803 Philip Dundas
1805 William Garrow
1806 James Athol Wood
1807 George Bellas-Greenough
1812 William Congreve
1816 Mark Wood, junior Tory
1818 Abel Rous Dottin John Fleming
1820 Jesse Watts-Russell Thomas Divett
1826 William Scott Michael George Prendergast
1830 Joseph Neeld
1830 John Villiers Shelley John Thomas Hope Tory
1831 Viscount Pollington Anthony John Ashley
1832 Constituency abolished

Notes

  1. ^ Created a baronet, October 1759
  2. ^ Mayne was also elected for Canterbury, which he chose to represent, and did not sit for Gatton in this Parliament
  3. ^ Scott was also elected for Wootton Basset, which he chose to represent, and never sat for Gatton
  4. ^ Heathcote was also elected for Lincolnshire, which he chose to represent, and never sat for Gatton
  5. ^ Created a baronet, December 1800

References

  • Robert Beatson, A Chronological Register of Both Houses of Parliament (London: Longman, Hurst, Res & Orme, 1807) [1]
  • Michael Brock, "The Great Reform Act" (London: Hutchinson, 1973) *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]
  • Lewis Namier, The Structure of Politics at the Accession of George III (2nd edition - London: St Martin's Press, 1961)
  • 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)
  • J Holladay Philbin, Parliamentary Representation 1832 - England and Wales (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1965)
  • Edward Porritt and Annie G Porritt, The Unreformed House of Commons (Cambridge University Press, 1903)
  • Henry Stooks Smith, The Parliaments of England from 1715 to 1847 (2nd edition, edited by FWS Craig - Chichester: Parliamentary Reference Publications, 1973)
  • Leigh Rayment's Peerage Page

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