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Old Sarum (UK Parliament constituency)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Old Sarum
Former Borough constituency
for the House of Commons
Number of membersTwo
Old Sarum in Wiltshire, an uninhabited hill which elected two Members of Parliament. Painting by John Constable, 1829.
Old Sarum in Wiltshire, an uninhabited hill which elected two Members of Parliament. Painting by John Constable, 1829.

Old Sarum was from 1295 to 1832 a parliamentary constituency of England (until 1707), of Great Britain (until 1800), and finally of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. It was a so-called rotten borough, with an extremely small electorate that was consequently vastly over-represented and could be used by a patron to gain undue influence. The constituency was on the site of what had been the original settlement of Salisbury, known as Old Sarum. The population and cathedral city had moved in the 14th century to New Sarum, at the foot of the Old Sarum hill. The constituency was abolished under the Reform Act 1832.


In 1295, during the reign of King Edward I, Old Sarum was given the right to send two members to the House of Commons of England even though the site had ceased to be a city with the dissolution of Old Sarum Cathedral in 1226. The seat of the Bishop had moved to New Salisbury – and the location of the new cathedral – in 1217/18. All that remained at Old Sarum was a small hamlet. But that was largely abandoned when Edward II ordered the castle's demolition in 1322. The remains of the old settlement were razed for its materials that were used to construct the new city and Salisbury Cathedral. Evidence of quarrying showed it continued well into the 14th century. Two hundred years later Henry VIII sold the former Royal Castle.

Despite having no significant population, the borough was organised with a burgage franchise, meaning that the inhabitants of designated houses (burgage tenements) had the right to vote. From at least the 17th century, Old Sarum had no resident voters, but the landowner retained the right to nominate tenants for each of the burgage plots, and they were not required to live there. For many years, the borough was owned by the Pitt family and was their pocket borough: one of its Members in the late 18th century was William Pitt the Elder. In 1802, the head of the family, Lord Camelford, sold the borough to the Earl of Caledon, who owned it until its abolition; the price was reported as £60,000, even though the land and manorial rights were worth £700 a year at most: an indication of the value of a pair of parliamentary seats. At its final election, in 1831, there were eleven voters, all of whom were landowners who lived elsewhere. This made Old Sarum the most notorious of the rotten boroughs, being described as "a wall with two niches". The Reform Act 1832 subsumed the Old Sarum area into an enlarged borough of Wilton.

In the last years, the spectacle of an Old Sarum election drew a small crowd to observe the ritual presentation of the two candidates and the hollow call for any further nominations.[citation needed] Stooks Smith quotes a contemporary description dating from the 1802 general election:

This election for the borough of Old Sarum was held in a temporary booth erected in a cornfield, under a tree which marked the former boundary of the old town, not a vestige of which has been standing in the memory of man, the several burgages which give the right of voting, being now without a dwelling for a human being. Mr Dean, the bailiff of the borough having read the precept for the election, and caused proclamation thereof, read the bribery act, and gone through all the legal ceremonies, the Rev. Dr Skinner rose and nominated Nicholas Vansittart, and Henry Alexander, Esq., from a thorough conviction that their public conduct would be such as would give satisfaction and do honour to their constituents. The other electors acquiescing in this nomination and no other candidates offering, the proclamation was thrice made for any gentleman disposed to do so, to come forward, the bailiff declared the above two gentlemen to be duly elected. There were five electors present at this election, (beside the bailiff of the borough who lives at Wimborne) viz, the Rev. Dr. Skinner, of the Close; the Rev. Mr. Burrough, of Abbot's Ann; William Dyke, Esq., of Syrencot; Mr. Massey and Mr. Brunsdon, both occupiers of land within the limits of the borough. The above account is thus particularly given to rectify several prevalent mistakes relative to this celebrated borough, and to show that the election is conducted in a manner every way consonant to the law of the land and the constitution of Parliament.[1]

Place of election

Elections in Old Sarum were conducted on a mobile hustings under a specific tree, which died in 1905, in what was known as the 'electing acre'.

Members of Parliament


Parliament First member Second member
1386 Walter Upton Bartholomew Avery[2]
1388 (Feb) John Avery I[2]
1388 (Sep)
1390 (Jan)
1390 (Nov)
1394 John Avery I John Chipplegh[2]
1395 Robert Page[2]
1397 (Jan)
1397 (Sep) John Avery I Robert Page[2]
1414 (Apr) Robert Long William Chesterton[2]
1414 (Nov)
1416 (Mar)
1416 (Oct)
1417 John Giles John Noble[2]
1421 (May) Henry Bradley John Ludwell[2]
1421 (Dec) John Fruysthorp
1423 John Everard[3]
1435 Henry Long
1442 Richard Long
1510–1523 No names known [4]
1529 Thomas Hilton William Lambert[4]
1536 ?
1539 ?
1542 ?
1545 William Hulcote John Bassett[4]
1547 John Young ? [4]
by Jan 1552 William Thomas[4]
1553 (Mar) James Brande William Wekys[4]
1553 (Oct) Sir Nicholas Throckmorton John Throckmorton[4]
1554 (Apr) Richard Clipper Edmund Twyneho[4]
1554 (Nov) John Tull Francis Killinghall[4]
1555 John Marshe William Chamber[4]
1558 Sir Henry Jones John Bateman[4]
1559 John Harington Henry Hart[5]
1562/3 Edward Herbert Henry Compton[5]
1571 John Young Edmund Ludlow[5]
1572 Hugh Powell John Frenche[5]
1584 Richard Topcliffe Roger Gifford[5]
1586 Edward Berkeley Richard Topcliffe[5]
1588/9 Roger Gifford Henry Baynton I[5]
1593 Anthony Ashley Edmund Fortescue[5]
1597 William Blaker Nicholas Hyde[5]
1601 Robert Turner Henry Hyde[5]
1604–1611 William Ravenscroft Edward Leache
1614 William Price
1621–1622 George Myne Thomas Brett
1624 Sir Robert Cotton Sir Arthur Ingram, sat for York
and repl. by
Michael Oldisworth
1625 Michael Oldisworth Sir John Stradling
1626 Sir Benjamin Rudyerd
1628 Christopher Keightley
1629–1640 No Parliaments summoned


Year First member First party Second member Second party
April 1640 Sir William Howard Edward Herbert Royalist
November 1640 Hon. Robert Cecil Parliamentarian Edward Herbert Royalist
1641 Sir William Savile Royalist
September 1642 Savile disabled from sitting – seat vacant
1646 Roger Kirkham
1647 Sir Richard Lucy
December 1648 Cecil not recorded as sitting after Pride's Purge
1653 Old Sarum was unrepresented in the Barebones Parliament and the First and Second Parliaments of the Protectorate
January 1659 Richard Hill William Ludlow
May 1659 Old Sarum was not represented in the restored Rump
April 1660 Seymour Bowman John Norden
1661 Edward Nicholas John Denham
1669 Sir Eliab Harvey
February 1679 Eliab Harvey John Young
August 1679 The Lord Coleraine Sir Eliab Harvey
1681 Sir Thomas Mompesson
January 1689 John Young Thomas Pitt
March 1689 William Harvey John Hawles
1690 Sir Thomas Mompesson
1695 Thomas Pitt
1698 Charles Mompesson
1705 Robert Pitt
1708 William Harvey
1710 Thomas Pitt[6]
1713 Robert Pitt
1716 Sir William Strickland, Bt Whig
March 1722 Thomas Pitt
November 1722 George Morton Pitt
1724 John Pitt
1726 George Pitt
1727 Thomas Pitt of Boconnoc[7] The Earl of Londonderry
March 1728 Matthew St Quintin
May 1728 Thomas Harrison
1734 Thomas Pitt of Boconnoc[7] Robert Nedham
1735 William Pitt
1741 George Lyttelton[7]
1742 James Grenville
May 1747 Edward Willes
July 1747 Thomas Pitt of Boconnoc[7] Sir William Irby, Bt
December 1747 Earl of Middlesex[8] The Viscount Doneraile
January 1751 Paul Jodrell
November 1751 Simon Fanshawe
1754 Viscount Pulteney Thomas Pitt of Boconnoc
1755 Sir William Calvert
March 1761 Thomas Pitt of Boconnoc Howell Gwynne
December 1761 Thomas Pitt (the younger)
1768 William Gerard Hamilton John Craufurd
1774 Pinckney Wilkinson Thomas Pitt (the younger)
January 1784 The Hon. John Villiers
March 1784 George Hardinge
1790 John Sullivan
1796 The Earl of Mornington
1797 Charles Williams-Wynn
1799 Sir George Yonge
1801 Rev. John Horne Tooke Radical
1802 Nicholas Vansittart Tory Henry Alexander Tory
1806 The Lord Blayney
1807 Josias Du Pré Porcher Tory
1812 James Alexander Tory
1818 Arthur Johnston Crawford Tory
1820 Josias du Pré Alexander Tory
1828 Stratford Canning Tory
1830 Josias du Pré Alexander Tory


The last reported contested election in Old Sarum occurred at a by-election in November 1751, after the death of Paul Jodrell. The proprietor at the time, Thomas Pitt, had sold the privilege of choosing the Members to the Pelham Government for £2,000 and a pension of £1,000 a year, but the administration's choice of Simon Fanshawe was opposed by James Pitt (younger brother of George Pitt, Member for Dorset) and by John Thorold. The number of votes for each candidate was not recorded.

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ Smith, Stooks, History of the General Election of 1802, p. 149
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "History of Parliament". History of Parliament Trust. Retrieved 28 October 2011.
  3. ^ Members Constituencies Parliaments Surveys. "EVERARD, John II (?d.1445), of Salisbury, Wilts". History of Parliament Online. Retrieved 13 September 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "History of Parliament". History of Parliament Trust. Retrieved 28 October 2011.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "History of Parliament". History of Parliament Trust. Retrieved 28 October 2011.
  6. ^ Pitt's victory in the 1715 general election was the last contested election in Old Sarum.
  7. ^ a b c d Was also elected for Okehampton, which he chose to represent, and did not sit for Old Sarum
  8. ^ Was also elected for Bodmin, which he chose to represent, and did not sit for Old Sarum


This page was last edited on 10 December 2021, at 21:52
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