Bridport (UK Parliament constituency)

Former Borough constituency
for the House of Commons
Number of members two (1295-1868); one (1868-1885)

Bridport was a parliamentary borough in Dorset, England, which elected two Members of Parliament (MP) to the House of Commons from 1295 until 1868, and then one member from 1868 until 1885, when the borough was abolished.


Bridport was continuously represented in Parliament from the first. The medieval borough consisted of the parish of Bridport, a small port and market town, where the main economic interests were sailcloth and rope-making, as well as some fishing. (For some time in the 16th century, the town had a monopoly of making all cordage for the navy.) By 1831, the population of the borough was 4,242, and the town contained 678 houses.

The right to vote was at one period reserved to the town corporation (consisting of two bailiffs and 13 "capital burgesses"), but from 1628 it was exercised by all inhabitant householders paying scot and lot. This was a relatively liberal franchise for the period but nevertheless meant that only a fraction of the townsmen could vote: in 1806, the general election at which Bridport had the highest turnout in the last few years before the Reform Act, a total of 260 residents voted.

Bridport never reached the status of a pocket borough with an openly-recognised "patron": the voters retained their freedom of choice and generally expected to extort a price for their votes, so much so that Oldfield recorded of one election in the early 19th century that "several candidates left them at the last election, in consequence of their demanding payment beforehand". Nevertheless, at various periods the borough came under the influence of local grandees and would usually return at least one of their nominees as MPs: the Russells (Dukes of Bedford) in the Elizabethan period and the Sturts in the latter half of the 18th century could normally rely on choosing one member. In 1572 the then Earl of Bedford made use of this influence to have his oldest son elected in defiance of the convention that the heirs of peers could not be members of the House of Commons; the only previous instance had been that of the Earl himself, who had remained an MP when he became heir to the Earldom in 1555. By vote of the House, the young Lord Russell was allowed to keep his seat for Bridport, and the precedent allowed other peers' heirs to sit from that point onwards.

Bridport retained both its seats under the Reform Act, the boundaries being extended to give it the requisite population - parts of the neighbouring parishes of Bradpole, Allington and Waldich, as well as Bridport Harbour, were brought in, increasing the population to about 6,000; in the election of 1832, the first after Reform, the registered electorate was 425. However, the constituency was too small to survive for long. One of its members was removed after election of 1868 by the Second Reform Act; and the borough was abolished altogether in 1885, the town being incorporated into the Western Dorset county division.

Members of Parliament

MPs 1295–1640

This list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it.
ParliamentFirst memberSecond member
1386 John HaywardJohn Tracy[1]
1388 (Feb.)John HaywardJohn Tracy [1]
1388 (Sep)John Tracy William Cordell [1]
1390 (Jan)John Tracy John Hayward [1]
1390 (Nov)
1393John TracyJohn Hayward [1]
1394John TracyGilbert Draper [1]
1395 John Roger IJohn Hayward [1]
1397 (Jan)John PalmerJohn Crouk [1]
1397 (Sep)John HaywardJohn Crouk [1]
1399John HaywardJohn Tracy [1]
1402Simon atte FordNicholas Tracy [1]
1404 (Jan)
1404 (Oct)
1406Henry RaufRoger Stikelane [1]
1407Henry RaufWalter Batcok [1]
1410Thomas LovellJohn Roger I [1]
1413 (Feb)
1413 (May)William Mountfort IIJohn Roger I [1]
1414 (Apr)Simon atte FordJohn Stampe [1]
1414 (Nov)Simon atte FordAndrew Forshey [1]
1416 (Mar)
1416 (Oct)
1417Simon atte FordEdward Stikelane [1]
1419Walter TracyWilliam Mountfort II [1]
1420Simon atte FordJohn Stampe [1]
1421 (May)Simon atte FordJohn Hore [1]
1421 (Dec)Simon atte FordWilliam Pernham [1]
1422Simon atte Ford [2]
1423Simon atte Ford [2]
1425Simon atte Ford [2]
1426 John HoreSimon atte Ford[3]
1437 John Hore[3]
Second Parliament of 1553 Christopher Smith William Pole
Parliament of 1554 Robert Neyl Edward Prout
Parliament of 1554-1555 John Alferd John Moyne or Moon
Parliament of 1555 Robert Fowkes Thomas Chard
Parliament of 1558 John Hippisley Thomas Welshe
Parliament of 1559 William Page Robert Moon
Parliament of 1563-1567 John Hastings Richard Inkpenne
Parliament of 1571 Thomas Parry George Trenchard
Parliament of 1572-1581 Miles Sandys Lord Russell (Summoned to the Lords)
1581: Hugh Vaughan
Parliament of 1584-1585 Dr Peter Turner Morgan Moon
Parliament of 1586-1587
Parliament of 1588-1589 George Pawlet Gregory Sprint
Parliament of 1593 Christopher Lambert John Fortescue
Parliament of 1597-1598 Leweston Fitzjames Adrian Gilbert
Parliament of 1601 Sir Robert Napier Richard Warburton
Parliament of 1604-1611 Sir Robert Miller John Pitt
Addled Parliament (1614) Sir William Bampfield John Jeffrey
Parliament of 1621-1622 John Strode John Browne
Happy Parliament (1624-1625) William Muschamp Robert Browne
Useless Parliament (1625) Sir Lewis Dyve Sir John Strode
Parliament of 1625-1626 Sir Richard Strode
Parliament of 1628-1629 Thomas Pawlet Bampfield Chafin
No Parliament summoned 1629-1640

MPs 1640–1868

YearFirst memberFirst partySecond memberSecond party
April 1640 Thomas Trenchard Sir John Meller
November 1640 Roger Hill [4]Parliamentarian Giles StrangwaysRoyalist
January 1644 Strangways disabled from sitting - seat vacant
1645 Thomas Ceeley
December 1648 Ceeley excluded in Pride's Purge - seat vacant
1653 Bridport was unrepresented in the Barebones Parliament and the First and Second Parliaments of the Protectorate
January 1659 Edward Cheek John Lee
May 1659 Roger Hill One seat vacant
April 1660 John Drake Henry Henley
1661 Humphrey Bishop John Strangways
February 1677 George Bowerman
February 1677 Wadham Strangways
February 1679 John Every
August 1679 Sir Robert Henley, Bt William Bragge
1681 John Michell
1685 Hugh Hodges Thomas Chafe
1689 Richard Brodrepp John Manley
1690 John Michell Sir Stephen Evance
1695 Nicholas Carey
1697 Peter Battiscombe
1698 Alexander Pitfield
1701 William Gulston
1702 Richard Bingham
1705 Thomas Strangways
1708 William Coventry
1713 John Hoskins Gifford
February 1715 John Strangways [5]
May 1715 Peter Walter
1719 Sir Dewey Bulkeley
1727 William Bowles [6] James Pelham [7]
1730 John Jewkes
1734 Solomon Ashley
1741 George Richards
1742 Viscount Deerhurst Tory
1744 Viscount Deerhurst Tory
1746 Thomas Grenville
May 1747 James Grenville
July 1747 John Frederick Pinney
1754 Thomas Coventry
1761 Sir Gerard Napier, Bt
1765 Benjamin Way
1768 Sambrooke Freeman
1774 Hon. Lucius Cary
1780 Thomas Scott Richard Beckford
1784 Charles Sturt
1790 James Watson
1795 George Barclay
1802 Sir Evan Nepean, Bt
1807 Sir Samuel Hood, Bt
1812 William Best Tory Sir Horace St Paul, Bt
1817 Henry Sturt
March 1820 James Scott Christopher Spurrier
June 1820 Sir Horace St Paul, Bt
1826 Henry Warburton Radical
1832 John Romilly Whig
1835 Horace Twiss Conservative
1837 Swynfen Jervis Whig
June 1841 Thomas Alexander Mitchell Whig
September 1841 by-election Alexander Baillie-Cochrane Conservative
1846 by-election [8] John Romilly Whig
1847 Alexander Baillie-Cochrane Conservative
1852 John Patrick Murrough Whig
1857 Kirkman Daniel Hodgson Whig
1859 Liberal Liberal
1868 Representation reduced to one member

MPs 1868–1885

1868 Thomas Alexander Mitchell Liberal
1875 by-election Pandeli Ralli Liberal
1880 Charles Warton Conservative
1885 Constituency abolished


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 "Bridport". History of Parliament online. Retrieved 2012-10-27.
  2. 1 2 3 "FORD, Simon atte, of Bridport, Dorset.". History of Parliament Online. Retrieved 2012-10-27.
  3. 1 2
  4. Sir Lewis Dyve petitioned against the result. Cobbett records Dyve as MP from 1640, and the Dictionary of National Biography has Hill filling the vacancy in 1645; however Brunton & Pennington list Hill as the MP from 1640. The House of Commons Journals show Dyve was a petitioner rather than MP, and that Hill was an MP by 1643 at the latest
  5. Strangeways was initially declared elected, but on petition it was found that some unqualified voters had been admitted while other qualified voters had had their votes refused, and Walter was declared duly elected in Strangways' place
  6. Bowles was re-elected in 1741 but was also elected for Bewdley, which he chose to represent, and did not sit again for Bridport
  7. Pelham was also elected for Newark, which he chose to represent, and never sat for Bridport
  8. Cochrane resigned to seek re-election as a supporter of free trade, and a by-election was held on 7 March 1846. Cochrane was initially declared re-elected by a majority of 1 vote, but on petition his election was declared void and after scrutiny of the votes Romilly was declared duly elected.

Election results

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