Election fever

Ashburton....'a sort of political Lilliput'.
Western Times 30 July 1859 p2 col3


1298 Titela, William (Willielmus Titela)...Burgess returned for Ashburton - Parliament at York, Whitsuntide, 25 May, 26 Ed 1, page 67, no.10

Tonkere, Robert le (Robertus le Tonkere), Manucaptor* for Willielmus Titela, Burgess retd. for Ashburton

Pope, John (Johannes Pope)...Burgess returned for Ashburton - Parliament at York, Whitsuntide, 25 May, 26 Ed 1, page 67, no. 10

Cola, Gilbert (Gilbertus Cola), Manucaptor for Johannes Pope, Burgess returned for Ashburton.

The Parliamentary Writs and Writs of Military Summons, collected and edited by Francis Palgrave, vol 1, 1827

* I'm not at all sure what this is, as definitions all seem to be connected with people released on bail from custody. Someone who guaranteed the appearance of the burgess at the parliament??

1407 Richard Hurston and Walter Denys

History of Parliament Online http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1386-1421/constituencies/ashburton - accessed 14-08-2019

'Having made two returns to parliament 26 Edward I and 8 Henry IV intermitted making any more returns, til new summons were directed to be sent to it by order of the house of commons. It is not incorporated.'
An Enquiry into the Foundation of the English Constitution, Samuel Squire, London, 1753, p404

1640 'Upon a report from the committee of privileges, Nov 26, 1640, the Commons resolved, "That the towns of Ashburton and Honiton ought to be restored to their antient rights and privileges of sending burgesses to parliament, and that writs should issue accordingly" .'
Commons' Journals, quoted in The Parliementary History of England, vol II, London, 1807, p607

For a history of Ashburton politics, see http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/ , particularly the article by Terry Jenkins. Search 'Ashburton' from the home page


Before the Reform Acts Ashburton was represented in parliament by 2 MPs.

Ashburton was a borough constituency, ie mostly urban, as opposed to a county constituency, which is predominantly rural.

9 Ann. Ashburton election.
'A petition of Richard Reynell and George Courtney, Esquires, was read; setting forth that at the last election of burgesses, to serve in this parliament for Ashburton, in Devonshire, the petitioners, Richard Tuckfield and Richard Lloyd, Esquires, stood candidates; where Mr Lloyd and Mr Tuckfield, by threats, treats, bribery, and other undue practices, prevailed upon several electors to poll for them; and thereby they procured themselves to be returned by the portreeve of the said borough, who behaved himself very partially in their favour, in prejudice of the petitioners, who had a majority of legal electors, that voted, and would have voted, for them; but the portreeve refused to poll divers of them; and praying the consideration of the House in the premises, and such speedy relief as shall be thought meet.

Ordered, that the said petition be referred to the consideration of the committee of privileges and elections; and that they do examine the matter thereof, and report the same, with their opinion therein, to the House.....'
Journals of the House of Commons, vol 16, 1803, p409

1716 'The choice of Members of Parliament is in the inhabitants being house-keepers, who, at a poll taken six or seven years ago, were an hundred ninety six. The returning officer is the Portreve, annually chosen at the Lord's court, this place being no corporation.'

Notitia Parliamentaria, or an history of the counties, cities and boroughs in England and Wales, Browne Willis Esq., vol II, London, 1716 p355



                                           An election dinner 1796*

November 1796 Walter Palk Esq. .. to James Lloyd

Entertainment of sundry votes the day before election and morning of election                        £ 18 5s 8d

Dinner                                          £ 36 10s

Beer porter cyder and pop              £   4 5s

Wine -

612 bottles red port @3/6              £107 2s

14 bottles sherry @ 4/-                  £   2 16s

12 bottles Madeira @ 6/-                £   3 12s

2 bottles claret @ 6/-                     £      12s

Spirits -

12 bottles brandy @ 6/-                 £   3 12s

7 ditto rum @ 6/-                          £   2   2s

15 ditto gin @ 6/-                          £   4 10s

Fruite                                           £   1 10s

Sugar                                           £   1 15s

Tea and coffee                              £   4

Cards                                           £      10s 6d


Porter and cyder                            £   3

Pipes and tobacco                                  10s 6d

Store shut up half past 6 o'clock after wich the following liquor was consumed -

Grog and punch                            £   3  12s 6d

55 bottles of port wine                   £   9  11s 6d

Negus                                          £  12   2s

3 bottles brandy                            £       18s

Hay and corn                                £    1  15s

Total                                            £219   1s 2d

Deduct                                         £    5  19s 6d

                                                   £213   1s 8d

"Paid 13th February 1797 the contents by cheque on bank £213 1s 6d      James Lloyd" 

Quoted by the Rev J B Pearson D.D.

Transactions of the Devonshire Association vol. 28 (1896) p 227

Viewed through https://archive.org/. Accessed 13-11-2013

*Probably at the London Inn. James Lloyde was the landlord when the inn was sold in 1801 .

The Exeter Flying Post 13 August 1801 p2 col3

'1816. Number of voters. This is of very little consequence, from the majority of the freeholds, which give a right of suffrage, being the joint property of Lord Clinton and Sir Lawrence Palke; and as the freeholds are only divided at their discretion...the number of voters is virtually only two, although they have been reckoned by Willis and others to be 200.'
The Representative History of Great Britain and Ireland, being a history of the House of Commons, T H B Oldfield, London 1816, p328


In 1818 a well-built dwelling house at the east end of 'that much admired town of Ashburton'  was put up for auction. It had gardens with fruit trees, servants' quarters, cellars, wash-house, drying loft etc. etc. - everything a 'genteel family' could need. An additional selling point was that purchase of the property entitled the owner to vote for Members of Parliament for the borough, as well as for the county of Devon.
Exeter Flying Post 15 Oct 1818 p1 col5


However, only a very few people had the vote:

'This borough is again to be amused with the farce of an Election.........'

The people of Ashburton......have no more to do with the election than an inhabitant of Kamschatka'

Western Times 26th February 1831 p2 col 3


....At the late election, which was the only one contested since 1761...
Parliamentary papers, House of Commons and Command, 1832, vol38, part1.


Lord John Russell, 1st Earl Russell, helped to write the 1832 Reform Bill, which increased the number of eligible voters.

In March 1831 a meeting was held in Exeter by those in favour of Lord Russell's bill. Edward Divett said that Dr T (= Dr Tucker) knew very well how the Borough system worked, because he had the 'misfortune to be connected to the Borough of Ashburton'. Mr Divett claimed that Dr T 'has not been there lately', to which Dr Tucker interjected 'Yes I have'.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 19 March 1831 p2 col2

As the threat loomed of Ashburton losing at least one of its two Members of Parliament, a group of citizens wrote to Lord Melbourne pleading to retain them. Their argument was: (1) That the census of 1821 had only counted houses within the parish of Ashburton, and not within the wider Borough, which encompassed the manors of Halsanger and Halwell.
(2) That the total of houses within the parish was incorrect.
(3) That a recent valuation showed that far more than 300 houses were valued at £10 a year and upward (which would confer voting rights).
(4) That the influence of Ashburton was felt far beyond its boundaries.
and (5) That the importance of Ashburton and its trade could not in any case only be measured by the number of inhabitants.
The 'memorial' of the title means a petition.

'A Memorial to the Right Honourable Lord Viscount Melbourne, Principal Secretary of State for the Home Department.
the humble Memorial of the Portreeve, Bailiff, Freeholders, and Inhabitants of the Borough of Ashburton in the County of Devon, sheweth
That by the census of 1821 the Population of the Parish of Ashburton, which is only a part of the Borough, was stated to be 3,403. The number of inhabited houses was 396, and of uninhabited houses 15; making a total of 411:
That by the Census of 1831, which was taken by the Overseers on the 30th May, and on the following days, in pursuance of the late Act of Parliament, the population of the parish of Ashburton is found to be 416_ :
That the difference between the Census of 1821 and 1831, as to the Population, amounts to 762, being an apparent increase of that number:
That by the Return of the persons recently made, it appears that there is an increase of 138 houses since the year 1821: That, in fact, only 52 have been built since that period; consequently 86 houses were omitted in the Return of 1821: That the Population of those 86 Houses, allowing eight persons to each house (which is the average of the Return for 1831), would amount to 688, which, being added to the 3,403 returned in 1821, would make the Population in that year to have been 4001, exclusively of those inhabitants within the manor of Halsanger omitted in the Census of 1821:
And further, with regard to the Population, your Memorialists confidently submit, that the Census of 1821 in this respect is most incorrect; and that, so far from any such increase since 1821 as that of 762 having taken place (as shown by the present Return), no actual increase whatever in the Population could under the circumstances of the town and neighbourhood have occurred.
In order to show that the Population of the Parish of Ashburton cannot have increased since 1821, your Memorialists rely on the following facts: - Since that year two extensive woollen manufactories have, on account of the old factories having been destroyed by fire, been built by sergemakers of Ashburton, in the adjoining parishes, but at a short distance from the Town; in consequence of which, a large number of the workmen employed in these factories, and who in 1821 resided in the parish of Ashburton, have, for the sake of convenience, removed with their entire families to the parishes in which these factories are situate. The removal of these work-people alone would occasion a decrease in the Population to a very considerable amount, and is in itself quite sufficient to counterbalance any supposed increase. In addition to this, in 1821, a tin and copper mine in Ashburton was in full work, and afforded employment to a large number of miners, who with their families then resided in the parish; but this mine some months since was stopped, and consequently the miners with their families have sought employment elsewhere. Your Memorialists also beg
respectfully to represent to you, that the Borough of Ashburton consists, not only of lands and tenements in the parish of Ashburton, but also fo the manors of Halsanger and Halwell; the former extending into the parish of Ilsington: that these manors form part and parcel of the Borough of Ashburton, as shown by the decision of the House of Commons in 1710 and 1714, and by the fact that the lord of the manor of Halsanger has, in right of this manor, always voted for Members for the Borough of Ashburton. Even by the defective Returns of 1821, and with all these omissions, the Population of Ashburton consisted in 1821 of 3403 inhabitants; whilst the Parish of Ilsington, into which that portion of the Borough consisting of the manor of Halsanger extends, contained a Population of 1122. Your Memorialists also beg to submit to you, that Ashburton contains many more than 300 houses, upon a recent valuation, of the annual value of Ten Pounds and upwards, and that the importance of Ashburton and of its trade must not be estimated merely by its Population, because the serge-manufacturers of this Town afford employment to far more than 1000 weavers and other labourers in the adjoining and in distant parishes; for the woollen manufactories of the West of England being worked entirely by water, and not by steam power, can only be erected in situations which offer this convenience, and are generally at some distance from each other. The manufacturing Population is consequently scattered over a greater extent of country, and not densely congregated, as in the North of England, in one particular town or district. Your Memorialists therefore submit, that the interests of Ashburton are not confined to the mere limits of the Borough, but extend their ramifications throughout a considerable tract of country, where the effects of its trade and manufacture are sensibly and beneficially felt.
Your Memorialists therefore beg to lay these facts before your Lordship, in the full confidence that you will be convinced that the Census of 1821, as respects the Borough of Ashburton, was most negligently taken; that the Population even of that part of the Borough which lies within the parish of Ashburton then exceeded 4,000.
Your Memorialists therefore pray, That Your Lordship will be pleased to remove Ashburton from Schedule (B.) pf the Reform Bill, and to allow it to continue to return Two Members to Parliament.
Henry Gervis, Portreeve.
Peter F. Sparke, Bailiff.
Richd Caunter
Robert Tucker
John Berry
John Caunter
Thos. Taprell
Joseph Adams.
John Pearse.
Thos. Ferris sen.
Henry Hals Scagell
W. Hurst.
W. Hurst jun.
Samuel Lamble, jun.
P. Foot.
Thos. Ferris, jun.
Wm Easterbrook.
Edward Aggett.
James Easterbrook,
Henry Gervis jun.
Edward Ryder
R. Luscomb.
Jos. Gubble
George Caunter
Thomas Searle.
John Winsor.
Charles Caunter
John French.
George Cutcliffe
Charles Baker, jun.
James Week.
Wm Barons.
Henry Caunter.
W. Hurst, younger.
Edwd Stentiford.
James Perrott.
Richard Tuckerman.
John Campion Matterfan.
Thomas Norris
Charles Harding
Thos. Rapsey
L. Evans.
Wm F. Honywill
Wm Honeywill.
Henry Eddy
W.Palk Mogridge.
Robt. Palk Mogridge
John Soper, M.D.
Richard Ford.
John Eales.
Peter Elliott.
Joseph Fitze.
John Murch.
Henry Mendles.
Geo. Caseley.
Charles Boone.
John Giles.
William Lloyd.
Parliamentary Papers 1740 - 1849, Returns relating to Parliamentary Representation, 1831, p187ff

The Representation of the People Act 1832, ( known as the first Reform Act or Great Reform Act) disenfranchised 56 boroughs in England and Wales. It reduced another 31 boroughs to only one MP - of which Ashburton was one. It also increased the number of people who could vote - but this still excluded most working men, and all women.

Later the Western Times alleged that Ashburton only escaped being totally disenfranchised because of the census of 1831, which was held at the time of a fair. As a result 'gipsies, showmen, rope dancers and vagabonds' were enumerated as residents.
Western Times 2 June 1849 p7 col4


                                            'Ashburton Riots ! '

(Headline in the Western Times)

In 1838 The Western Times reported on the case of The Queen v Henry Caunter, Gilbert Hearder Cole, John Knott and Richard Knapman, where the defendants were charged with riot and assault. It was alleged that they assaulted Robert Bowden and Richard Ford, using violence way beyond that which  'all men were ready to allow during election proceedings'.

The situation arose because a man called Yeo rented two farms, one from a Liberal, and the other from a Tory. Not wishing to get involved in politics, and refusing to promise his vote to one or the other, he finally took refuge in the Golden Lion Hotel. William Baron was landlord at the time.

A mob, allegedly incited by Mr Caunter and Mr Cole, arrived at the hotel to extricate Mr Yeo - stones were thrown through windows, the crowd attempted to smash down the door, and people were kicked and beaten.

The defendants were found not guilty.

Western Times 4 August 1838 p5 all columns, p6 col 1-3


In the same year Mr Mann, of Goodstone, had been renting some fields from Lady Carew. He was ordered to give them up, and was replaced by a tory tenant.
Western Times 27 October 1838 p3 col4

George Throwling, a mill wright, died in March 1839, aged 46. The announcement said that at the last Ashburton election he was the voter who had been forcibly taken from his home by tories and kept for several days. He had never recovered.
Western Times 9 March 1839, p3 col2

 In 1841 the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette reported that some Liberals in Ashburton, despairing of winning the election, had ordered their employees 'Not to spend a single penny' with any shopkeeper of opposing politics.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 5 June 1841 p3 col3

A month later the Western Times reported that the Tories had tried every method in their repertoire to convince a shoemaker to vote for them, from 'cajolery' to 'threats'. Finally a five pound note was discreetly passed to him, but he spent it on 400 3d loaves for the poor, which he distributed in the market place.

Western Times 10 July 1841 p2 col6  


November 14th 1846

William Rolstone Whiteway objected to John Hannaford being retained on the list of voters for Ashburton

John Hannaford, appellant, William Rolstone Whiteway respondent

From English Reports, http://www.commonlii.org/uk/cases/EngR     

William R Whiteway, a land agent, maltster and seedsman, is shown as living in Kingsbridge Lane in the 1851 census.

John Hannaford may have been the farmer of 50 acres living at Higher(?) Barn Farm in 1851

1851 census HO107, Piece 1871, Folio 334, p42
1851 census HO107, Piece 1871, Folio 353, p28

1850 'The number of voters is now about 200'

History, gazetteer and directory of Devonshire, William White 1850, p462        


In 1847 a correspondent writing to the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette said that he was 'forcibly struck' when passing through the town by writing on several doors and walls. The graffiti read, 'The Rotten Borough of Ashburton.'
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 25 December 1847 p6 col3

1857 The Western Times thought it 'disgraceful' that linhays (farm buildings) were being built in Ashburton solely for the purpose of giving people a property qualification, to enable them to vote.

Western Times 17 January 1857 p6 col5

                                       The Election procedure

Later that year a report in the same paper describes the re-election of Mr Moffatt as Member of Parliament. The election took place in the crowded Chapel of St Lawrence, where Mr Moffatt arrived to great cheering, which lasted until he had taken his seat on the platform. The portreeve, Mr S Tozer, presided, and he began by reading out the portion of a parliamentary act that dealt with bribery at elections. He then asked if anyone would like to propose a candidate to represent the borough in parliament. The Rev N Parkyn then proposed Mr Moffatt in a speech punctuated by cheers and applause from the audience. Mr Heal seconded the motion.

The portreeve then asked if anyone wished to propose any other candidate. 'There being no answer, he declared Mr Moffatt duly elected'.

Western Times 4 April 1857 p11 col1


1859 A committee looked into alleged bribery and corruption at a recent election. One witness, Robert Francis, a solicitor from Newton Abbot, described Thomas Widger being brought in to vote. Mr Atkinson and Mr Bovey held him up, as he swayed about. Mr Francis insisted that Mr Atkinson and Mr Bovey left the polling area, at which point Mr Widger sank into a chair. The returning officer asked whom he voted for, and he replied that he voted for Mr Astell.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 30 July 1859 p9 cols4,5


It seems that barristers, called Revising Barristers, oversaw the lists of who was entitled to vote. In 1843 Mssrs. Farrant and Lucena were about to visit Ashburton to perform this task. Their fees - £10 per day (each?) - were considered costly.

Western Times 30 September 1843 p3 col5

November 16th, 1859 Robert Tucker objected to Thomas Pope Smerdon being retained on the list of voters for Ashburton

Thomas Pope Smerdon, appellant, Robert Tucker, respondent

From English Reports, http://www.commonlii.org/uk/cases/EngR               

 In 1864 50 voters were struck off the electors' list for Ashburton, for not 'answering' the call: this involved attending a court for registration. The majority of these, said the North Devon Journal, came from those 'that can best be spared - the Tories'.

Tories struck off the list because of objections by the Liberals: 35

Liberals struck off the list because of objections by the Tories: 16

North Devon Journal 13 October 1864 p8 col4


Right: An election poster encouraging people to vote for Mr Jardine (see below). It asks what the present Member has done for the Borough - 'We have tried him for the last six years.....'

This suggests that this is the election of 1865. Although this was after the First Reform Act, it was before the Second, and the number of 'The Working Classes' who could vote was still very limited.

Photograph courtesy Ashburton Museum

Above (from my own collection): This map from a disbound book (title unknown) shows the parliamentary boundary  1832 (in blue) and the proposed parliamentary boundary for 1868 (in red), both of which equal the parish boundary in yellow.

Another page from the same book gives the following report:

'The population in 1861 was 3062, showing a decrease of 1103 since 1831.

The number of inhabited houses in 1861 was 574.

The number of electors on the register of 1865-66 was -

£10 occupiers     353

Ancient right qualifications 3

Total 356.

Double entries 6

Actual number 350.

The total number of male occupiers in 1866 was 756, of whom 511 were at a rental below £10

The borough boundaries are identical with those of the parish. Ashburton is not a municipal borough, and is neither under the Local Government Act, nor a Town Improvement Act 

The population,  computed in 1866 at 2892, has remained nearly stationary, and there appears no reason to suppose that it will materially increase.

The borough comprises an area of 6966 acres.

the Commissioners do not recommend any extension of the boundaries of this borough'.

Ashburton finally lost its remaining MP with The Representation of the People (Scotland) Act 1868 (31 & 32 Vict. c. 48) It's last MP was Robert Jardine, nephew of William above.

In 1868 Devon was divided into 3 divisions: North, South and East Devon. Each returned 2 MPs - Ashburton was part of the East Division. In addition, Exeter returned 2 members as a city, Plymouth, Devonport, Barnstaple and Tiverton returned 2 members each as Parliamentary Boroughs, and in the same capacity Tavistock returned 1.

In 1871 East Division covered 160, 788 persons, of whom 73,950 were males. Of these, 10,199 were electors.

At this time Sir Lawrence Palk and Sir J H Kennaway represented East Division.

White's History  Gazetteer and Directory of Devon 1878 - 79, p21

With the Franchise Act of 1884 8 new divisions replaced the former 3. Ashburton, Barnstaple, Honiton, South Molton, Tavistock, Tiverton, Torquay and Totnes each returned 1 MP. Exeter, Plymouth and Devonport also returned 1 MP each, whilst Barnstaple, Tavistock and Tiverton were disenfranchised.

Electoral registers - sources in the Devon Record Office Exeter (now the Devon Heritage Centre): historical background.

There was a small attendance at the Board School 'Owing to polling for East Devon election'. (10 April 1880)
Log book of Ashburton Board School 6020C/EFL1, held in the Devon Heritage Centre (formerly the Record Office)

Mr W J Harris, Conservative candidate for the Ashburton Division, campaigned in various towns during November 1885. He had visited Ashburton on the previous Thursday, where  'the proceedings were of a disorderly character from the commencement.....'
Exeter Flying Post 4 November 1885 p2 col6

In 1892 Eli Routley, a labourer, was charged at the petty sessions with assaulting the Hon. R. Dawson. There had been a political meeting of Mr. Collins' supporters in the Town Hall, and warned that a mob was outside many had left by a back entrance to go to the London Hotel. It was when leaving the hotel that the Hon. R. Dawson was struck by an object thrown into his carriage. 
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 20 August 1892 p3 col3 

'Bonchurch' cast a shoe just before reaching Ashburton. The blacksmith to whom I repaired would not tell me for whom he intended to vote.
'It will be all right, sir', he added, as the sparks kept flying from the anvil, and somehow I don't fancy the Gladstonian candidate for that division would secure my friend's vote. 
Evelyn Burnaby, A Ride from Land's End to John O'Groats, London 1893, p18

                              Ashburton MPs and their dates of office
Richard Reynell ? 16th century.
Several members of the Reynell family served Ashburton as Members of Parliament. According to John Burke (not always reliable) Richard Reynell of East Ogwell was MP for Ashburton and sheriff of Devon.
He died in 1585.
John Burke, A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry, vol IV, London, 1838, p429

Although from Ogwell, the Reynells certainly had an interest in land in Ashburton in the 1600s and 1700s. The South West Heritage Trust holds various documents, for example, a bargain and sale between John Glanville and Thomas Reynell, 31st December 1602.
Abstract of Richard Reynell's titles to lands left in Thomas Reynell's will in 1695. The lands are in Ashburton, East Ogwell, Highweek, Teignmouth and Denbury, 1694-1707.
A lease on a tenement in East Street and a close at Langa Ditch in 1708 was between Richard Reynells of Ogwells and Samuell Tancocke the elder of Ashburton, clothier.
Ref 4652M/T/2/9 Devon Heritage Centre https://devon-cat.swheritage.org.uk/records/4652M/T/2/9
Ref 4652M/F/2/6 Devon Heritage Centre https://devon-cat.swheritage.org.uk/records/4652M/F/2/6
Ref 2914A/PO/136 Devon Heritage Centre https://devon-cat.swheritage.org.uk/records/2914A/PO/136

Sir John Northcote

'Sir John Northcote of Hayne, in the parish of Newton St Cyres, in the County of Devon..... was one of those country gentlemen who.....played a not inconsiderable part in the great events of the seventeenth century....

His name appears in the list of Justices of the Peace for Devon in the year 1633 and also as an officer in John Bampfield's regiment of "trained soldiers". He took his seat in the Long Parliament as member for Ashburton in November 1640, his colleague being Sir Edmund Powel. In the Short Parliament of the preceding April Ashburton did not return any members. That privilege, which had been suspended for many years, was restored to the borough in the first month of the Long Parliament. But the right seems to have been questioned...

Sir Simonds D'Ewes, ever ready to instruct an ungrateful generation, tells us that he showed the House "The reason why they did forbear to send was their poverty, not being able to maintain their burgesses, but now, gentlemen being generally chosen, boroughs desire their ancient privileges." '

Notebook of Sir John Northcote, sometime MP for Ashburton and afterwards for the county of Devon containing memoranda of the proceedings in the House of Commons during the first session of the Long Parliament 1640.

Transcribed and edited by A H A Hamilton London 1877 pp xvii,xviii. Available as a free download from https://archive.org- Accessed 8-6-2014

Above right: Detail of Sir John Northcote effigy at the base of monument he erected to his father John at Newton St Cyres Church, Devon.
Photo by (Lobsterthermidor (talk) 17:20, 8 May 2013 (UTC)) (own photo) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Thomas Reynell
Ashburton 1658-9
From a list of speakers in the parliaments in 1656 and 1658-9, with the places for which they served in any of the parliaments of the interregnum
Diary of Thomas Burton esq., member of the parliaments of Oliver and Richard Cromwell 1656-59, vol IV London, 1828, p495

Represented Ashburton 1659, 1679, 1681, 1689.
http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1660-1690/member/reynell-thomas-1625-98 - accessed 9-08-2019

Richard Reynell
Brother of Thomas Reynell, who stood down so that  he could represent Ashburton in 1690.

Richard Reynell
Eldest surviving son of Thomas Reynell.
Represented Ashburton 1702-1708 and 1711-1734
- Accessed 9-08-2019

According to the The House of Commons 1690-1715, he was a moderate Tory, first representing Ashburton 'at about the time he came of age.'
Eveline Cruickshanks, David Hayton, Stuart Handley, The House of Commons 1690-1715, Cambridge 2002, vol 5, p268

Richard VI Duke

1652 - 1733

Was MP for Ashburton 4 times: 1679, 1695, 1698, 1701

John Ferris, Biography of Duke, Richard, of Otterton, Devon, published in The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B D Henning, 1983

Sir Thomas Leare

A List of the House of Commons in the First Parliament summoned by Queen Anne, October 20, 1702

Ashburton, Sir Thomas Leare, Richard Reynell
The History and Proceedings of The House of Commons of England from the Year 1660, Tome V, London, 1742, p104

Roger Tuckfield

Richard Reynolds (= Richard Reynell, above?)

London Gazette Issue 6045 24 March 1722, p4 


Sir William Yonge

Roger Tuckfield

London Gazette Issue 7295 4 May 1734, p3

William Yonge and John Harris gave a bell to Ashburton parish church, inscribed, 'The gift of the Right Honourable Sir William Yonge, Baronet and Knight of the Bath, and of John Harris of Hayne Esquire. 1740.'
https://www.parishofcentralexeter.co.uk/the-great-bell - accessed 14-08-2019

John Arscott, returned to serve in the Parliament summoned to meet June 25th 1741

The Gentlemen's magazine, vol 11, London, 1741 p311

John Harris

John Arscott

London Gazette Issue 8309 10 March 1743, p8


'George, the 3rd Viscount Midleton, born 3 October 1730, and named after his Majesty...was chosen to the British parliament in 1754 for Ashburton in Devon.

The Peerage of Ireland, John Lodge, revised Mervyn Archdall, vol 5, Dublin, 1789 p170


The Hon Thomas Walpole

John Harris

London Gazette Issue 10099 25 April 1761, p1 

Members elected for the present Parliament.

Lawrence Sullivan*, a merchant in London

Charles Boon, a proprietor of Crawley's iron forges.

The Gentleman's Magazine, January 1768, p273

*See the entry for John Sullivan, below.


Robert Palk

Charles Boone

London Gazette Issue 11510 15 November 1774, p2

Sir Robert Palk

Robert Mackreth

London Gazette Issue 12787 16 September 1786, p 441

Robert Palk

'Robert Palk came of yeoman stock established at Ashburton, Devon. The family homestead was Lower Headborough, the first farm out of Ashburton on the road to Buckland-in-the-moor, and within half a mile of the town. In 1679 Walter Palk of Ashburton, left the reversion of his lands to his nephew Walter, son of Thomas Palk. This second Walter was succeeded by his eldest son Walter... [who] married Frances Abraham* at Buckland-in-the-moor.'
Robert, born 1717, was one of their children.
Report on the Palk manuscripts in the possession of Mrs Bannatyne of Haldon, Devon, London 1922, available through https://archive.org

*Frances Abraham, the daughter of Thomas and Frances, was baptised at Woodland 21st March 1688 (we should say 1689)
Woodland parish records

Above: Robert Palk, by Thomas Beach (1738-1806) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Extract from the will of Walter Palke: '5th November 1677. Walter Palke, of the towne of Ashburton, yeoman.To my sister Dionis Townsend, £10, and her life in all my lands lying in Ashburton, after the death of my wife Agnes. To my "cousin" Margaret, daughter of Dionis Townsend, Joan and John Townsend, £10 to the first and 50s each to the two last. To my cousin Walter, the son of Thomas Palke, deceased, reversion of the lands aforesaid, charged with 20s a year to my cousin Dionis; residue to Agnes my wife, who is sole executrix. Witnesses Thomas Palke, Agnes, William and Mary Hannaford. Proved 19th December 1679.
The inventory of the effects of the deceased mentions, inter aliis the value of his wearing apparel, £1; money in his purse, 13s 6d; one pair of looms, 10s; ten pewter dishes, 16s. The total of the personal effects amounted to £65 7s 6d.'
Devonshire Parishes, Charles Worthy, vol 2,Exeter and London, 1889, p327

'At his seat at Haldon House, Devon, in his 81st year, Sir Robert Palk, bart., for many years MP for Ashburton, in that county, and created a baronet March 25th, 1782. He was appointed governor of Madras 1761. He married Anne, daughter of Mr Vansittart of Shottisbrook, Berks, by whom he had Anne, married 1786 to Sir Bourchier Wray...his is succeeded by his only son, Lawrence P. esq*., who was chosen, at the last general election, one of the members for Devonshire, as he had before represented Ashburton.'

The Gentleman's Magazine, 1798, vol 68, London, p445   
*See below
For more on Robert Palk, see the section Ashburton and the East India Company.

Robert Mackreth

'WHITE'S. A celebrated Club-house, Nos. 37 and 38, ST. JAMES'S STREET, over against Crockford's; originally White's Chocolate House, under which name it was established circ. 1698 on the west side of the present street, five doors from the bottom. The first White's was destroyed by fire, April 28th, 1733, at which time the house was kept by a person of the name of Arthur.  ... Arthur died in June, 1761, and was succeeded by Robert Mackreth, who married Mary Arthur, the only child of the former proprietor.'

Peter Cunningham, Hand-Book of London, 1850

'WHITES, 38 St. James's Street, near Piccadilly, originated in a chocolate house, founded by one White, in 1698-1700, and converted into a private gaming-club about 1720. "White's Chocolate House, near St. James's Palace, was the famous gaming-house, where most of the nobility had meetings and a society" (vide Cole's Mss.). It retained its evil reputation until a comparatively recent period.
Its 650 members are chiefly of the Tory party. Their annual subscription is 11l. 11s. Entrance fee, 11l. 11s.'

Cruchley's London in 1865 : A Handbook for Strangers, 1865

Both the above entires are quoted on http://www.victorianlondon.org/entertainment/whitesclub.htm - Accessed 18-12-2015
Above: Illustration from The History of White's
See details below

Mary Arthur was engaged to Robert Macreth at the time of her father's death. He is mentioned in Robert Arthur's will, where he is described as a vintner.

'It was a few years later that the quondam waiter at White's became the Member of Parliament for Castle Rising.' Nominated by Lord Oxford, a member of White's, Orford 'had borrowed money of Mackreth, who after leaving White's had devoted his talents to usury...'
The History of White's, Hon Algernon Burke, London 1892, p117ff

Robert Mackreth married Mary Arthur 22 October 1861, at St James', Westminster, London. Mary's father was named as Robert Arthur.

'A petition of John Tonkin, of the borough of Ashburton, in the county of Devon, gentleman, John Winsor, of Ashburton aforesaid, clothier, Joseph Leman, of Ashburton aforesaid, yeoman...Benjamin Elliot, of Ashburton aforesaid, yeoman, Peter Woodley, of Ashburton aforesaid, clerk, James Woodley, of Ashburton aforesaid, yeoman, John Smerdon, of Ashburton aforesaid, gentleman...was delivered at the table and read, setting forth that at a court held in the said borough of Ashburton, on Monday the 5th day of April 1784 by William Winsor and Joseph Sunter, portreeves and returning officers of the said borough for the purpose of electing two members to serve in Parliament for the said borough.Nicholas Tripe of Ashburton, surgeon, then and there put in nomination Sir Robert Palk, baronet, and Robert Mackreth, esquire as candidates to represent the said borough in Parliament, and that the petitioner, John Tonkin, being an elector of the said borough, thereupon stated some objections...'
Journals of the House of Commons, May 18th 1784 to December 1st 1785, reprinted 1803, vol 40, p47

1793 May 13. This day Rob. Macreth Esq., member for Ashburton in Devonshire, was brought up to receive the sentence of the court of the King's Bench, for having sent a challenge to Sir John Scott, the attorney-general; when the court, after commenting on the heinousness of the offence of duelling, aggravated by the circumstance of provoking a public character to such conduct, sentenced Mr Mackreth to six weeks imprisonment, and to pay a fine of 100l.

The Britannic Magazine, vol1, London, 1793, p30

Lawrence Palk

Son of Robert Palk (see above)

Deaths. In Bruton-Street, Lady Mary Palk, wife of Lawrence P esq., MP for Ashburton, co. Devon. A fortnight before her delivery (which happened on the 15th of last month) this beautiful woman dreamed that she should not survive child-birth, and locked herself up and denied herself all company, while she employed her time settling her affairs. When she was delivered, the joy of surviving, and having the satisfaction of seeing the infant alive, carried her mind into the opposite extreme, and she died in consequence.

The Gentleman's Magazine, 1791, vol 61, London, p285

1792 By special licence, at the Earl of Lisburne's, in Harley Street, Lawrence Palk esq., MP for Ashburton, and only son of Sir Robert P. bart. to Lady Eliz. Vaughan, his Lordship's eldest daughter.

The Gentleman's Magazine, 1792, vol 62, London, p479 


Lawrence Palk

Sir Robert Mackreth

London Gazette Issue 13909 5 July 1796, p644 

Above: Lower Headborough Farm
My own photograph 2014

Mr Walter Palk Nov 1796 - Dec 1811

The Palk family were established at Lower Headborough Farm, Ashburton. Walter was born in 1742, the son of another Walter* and his first wife Thomasine Withecombe (sometimes spelled Widdicombe). He took the place of Lawrence Palk as representative for Ashburton, when the former decided to represent Devon County, and served in four successive Parliaments.

He died in February 1819 at Marley House.

Exeter Flying Post 25 February 1819 p4 col2

* The brother of Robert Palk, above

Report on the Palk manuscripts in the possession of Mrs Bannatyne of Haldon, Devon, London 1922, available through https://archive.org

'He was utterly anonymous in the House, where he is not known to have spoken'

London Gazette Issue 13954 22 November 1796, p4

'The name of this gentleman first appears in the records of parliament in the list of those who voted for inquiring into, and rescuing the Prince of Wales from, certain embarrassments which prevented His Royal Highness from resuming his former splendour.'
Memoirs of Eminent English Statesmen, published by Thomas Tegg, London, 1805, p417

Sir Hugh Inglis July 1802 - Oct 1806

Born 1744, died August 1820.

Became chairman of the East India Company. Colonel of the 2nd Regiment of the Royal East India Volunteers. 'A man of singular excellence, and of uniform consistency of conduct in all the relations of life'.

The New Monthly Magazine, Volume 14 p592

For more on Hugh Inglis, see Ashburton and the East India Company

Mr Gilbert Elliot Murray Kynynmound, 2nd Earl of Minto, Oct 1806 -May 1807

Born 1782, died July 1859

Right: 'Admit the Bearer to the gallery of the House of Lords this 12th day of June 1840. Minto.'
From my own collection


Lord William Charles Augustus Cavendish Bentinck, May 1807 - Nov 1812

Born 1780, died April 1826.

A great great grandfather of Queen Elizabeth II, Bentinck was the third son of Prime Minister William Cavendish Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland, and Lady Dorothy. He was known as Lord Charles.

In a letter from the Earl of Cholmondeley to Col McMahon on October 5th 1812, the Earl was much vexed to hear (from Lord Yarmouth) that 'Government....was not sure of Lord Clintons boroughs. I lost no time in sending to beg Lord Charles Bentinck would go down to Ashburton from me.......

I am authorized to say I was pretty sure of Ashburton by a letter from my lawyer dated Exeter Oct 1st saying there would have been very little doubt of my success if I had sent Lord C___ Bentinck down in time'

The letters of King George IV, 1812 -1830, Ed A Aspinall, vol 2-3, p171

In October 1812 Bentinck wrote to the secretary of the Prince Regent:  'On an income of eighteen hundred a year it is impossible I can either buy a borough or contest an election......The expense of my last election which was upwards of six hundred pounds has so involved me that added to other expenses I have incurred counting on my salary I must be ABSOLUTELY RUINED if I lose my situation in his Royal Highness’s family'.*

* He was at this point Treasurer of the Household

Geo. IV Letters, i. 171, 173.


Bentinck's mistress was Lady Anne Abdy, with whom he eloped in September 1815. Sir William Abdy sued for divorce, claiming £30,000 in damages. He won £7000, but this was never paid by Bentinck. The house of Lords debated Abdy's Divorce Bill in June 1816:

'The Earl of Lauderdale moved the insertion of a clause to make a provision of 500l (£500) per annum for Lady Abdy for life, the fortune she brought her husband having been 10,000l.

The Lord Chancellor could not consent to 500l, and thought 400l, under the circumstances, would be enough.

The Earl of Lauderdale agreed to insert 400l instead of 500l.

The Earl of Limerick said that Sir William Abdy thought 300l enough.....'

The Parliamentary Debates from the year 1803 to the present time, T C Hansard, vol 34, London 1816, p 1017

Mr John Sullivan, Feb 1811 - Aug 1818

Born 1749, died 1849

'The Right Honourable John Sullivan of Ritchin's Park, Berks (MP for Ashburton, a Commissioner for the affairs of India, and brother-in-law by marriage to the Earl of Buckinghamshire) is brother to Sir Benjamin. A third brother was Richard-Joseph, who early in life was sent to Asia with his brother John, under the auspices of Laurence Sullivan, esq., FSA Chairman of the East India Company and MP first for Taunton, and afterwards for Ashburton.

Literary Anecdotes of the 18th Century, William Bowyer, John Nichols, vol IX, London 1815, p51


Mr Richard Preston, Oct 1812 - June 1818

'Richard Preston Esq. was born at Ashburton, in Devonshire, and bred in the office of an attorney in that town. When out of his clerkship, he attended closely to business, and particularly to conveyancing, in which he shewed much dexterity and knowledge. Having obtained some valuable old law books and manuscripts, he compiled from them a large volume "On the law of contingencies and other settlements".

This he shewed to Judge Buller, who advised him to publish it by subscription and remove to London. He did so, and dedicated his book to the judge, through whose interest he came into considerable business. By close application he soon realised a handsome fortune......

When he had acquired a sufficient fortune he studied, and was called to the bar. He was also elected MP for his native town.....

While in Parliament he was active. spoke frequently, and shewed himself at once a man of business and intellect.'

A new biographical dictionary of 3000 contemporary public characters, 2nd ed., vol 3 part 1, London, printed for George B Whittacker, 1825, p183                         

Mr John Singleton Copley, Baron Lyndhurst, June 1818 - June 1826

Born 1772 Boston, Massachusetts, died 1863

He was appointed serjeant-at-law in 1813
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Copley,_1st_Baron_Lyndhurst - accessed 12-06-2022 



'Serjeant Copley, Solicitor-General. The father of this man is a portrait painter of very respectable talent. He acquired a considerable sum of money by exhibiting some paintings in a large tent in the Green Park. The Solicitor-General is a man of some ability and nobody thinks more highly of it than himself. His situation is a very valuable one. The amount of its emoluments must be considerably more than 3000l a year. He is a member for the rotten borough of Ashburton.'
A Peeo at the Origin, of Some of the King's Pretended Friends and the Queen's Real Enemies, London 1820, p15,16

'In the attack upon the character of the late queen*, Sir John Copley, of course, took a prominent part.'
*Caroline of Brunswick, wife of George IV
George Byrom Whittacker, A New Biographical Dictionary of 3000 Cotemporary Public Characters, Vol1 part 2, London, 1825 p410

Mr. Creevy to Miss Ord:

'I think the only thing I have to tell you of our dear Queen* is Argyll's description of her reception of Lyndhurst on the levee day. She had shown her usual pretty manner to those who preceded Lyndhurst; but when his turn arrived, she drew up as if she had seen a snake, and Lyndhurst turn’d as red as fire and afterwards looked as fierce as a fiend.'
*Queen Victoria
The Creevy Papers, ch XIV 1837-38 p 323

The Earl of Essex to Mr Creevy:

So the Duchess of St Albans is dead, and Lyndhurst married at Paris to Lewis Goldsmith's daughter. There are two great people amply provided for !'
Ibid p 324

Above: Lord Lyndhurst and his signature

From my own collection

Left: Lord Lyndhurst, from Leisure Hour, London 1864, opp p 296

 Sir Lawrence Vaughan Palk, June 1818 - May 1831

Born 1793, died May 1860

Ashburton 1818. Sir Laurence Palk, (whose property is situated here) and Mr Serjeant Copley, are the members; both the former ones being changed.

The Late Elections, printed for Pinnock and Maunder, London 1818, p4

He 'represented conservative opinion', and lived abroad for some years because of 'pecuniary difficulties'

Western Times 26 May 1860 p6 col2


At this period, Sir Lawrence Vaughan Palk and Lord Clinton owned the majority of the property in the borough - on which the voting franchise depended. The Western Times maintained that 'these two gentlemen' supported each other.

Western Times 20 November 1830 p2 col1

The Palk family represented Ashburton from 1767, but 'the political conduct of Sir L Palk had long excited their indignation...'. His voting against the Reform Bill finally led to his defeat.

Morning Chronicle 19 May 1831 p3 col1


By 1843 he had sold his property in the parish to James Matheson, the current MP.

Western Times 5 August 1843 p5 col3

Mr William Sturges Bourne, June 1826 - July 1830

Born 1769, died February 1845

'The personal appearance of Mr Sturges was unprepossessing, and his manner in public neither dignified nor impressive; but, being thoroughly familiar with the affairs of government, and capable of producing, as occasion required, the varied information which long official experience usually imparts, he acquired slowly but securely the favourable opinion of the House of Commons; and his speeches - always respectable both for facts and reasoning - were heard sometimes with approbation, invariably with attention'.

Obituary, The Gentleman's Magazine, 1845, part 1, p 434


Mr Charles Arbuthnot, July 1830 - Feb 1831

Born 1767, died Aug 1850


Mr William Stephen Poyntz, Feb 1831 - January 1835

'Has three daughters, Francis Selina, married to Lord Clinton...'

The Assembled Commons 1836, London 1836, p146


Col Robert Torrens, May 1831 - Jan 1833

Born 1780, died 1864

A political economist, editor of the Traveller and the Globe. Wrote 'An essay on the external corn trade' (1815) and 'An essay on the reduction of wealth' (1821). He was much in favour of colonising Southern Australia, and wrote a book on the subject. Torrens Island is named after him. 

Concise Dictionary of National Biography, OUP 1921.



Mr Charles Lushington, Jan 1835 - June 1841, a Whig reformer

Born 1785 died 1866

'In the service of the East India Company in Bengal 1800-1827'

Concise Dictionary of National Biography, OUP 1921.


'What could induce you, a professed member of the church to become an ally of dissent.....it soon occurred to me that you had some other reason for writing your pamphlet......In a letter to a friend I expressed it as my firm opinion, that you were endeavouring to ingratiate yourself with the dissenters, for the purpose of securing their assistance in obtaining a seat in Parliament. And lo!three or four days afterwards the Patriot newspaper...brought me the intimation of your having gone down to Ashburton to canvass the electors of that borough.'

'If the electors of Ashburton do not at once call upon you to resign the trust which they have so unfortunately committed to you....their characters and conduct can be viewed in no very enviable light by their free, enlightened, and upright countrymen.'

A letter to Charles Lushington Esq., MP in reply to a remonstrance addressed by him to the Lord Bishop of London, the Rev M A Gathercole London,1835, p2 and 66


In May 1841 news reached Ashburton that Charles Lushington was resigning as their Member of Parliament.

Western Times 22 May 1841 p3 col5


Mr William Jardine, Jun 1841 - February 1843

Born 1784, died February 1843

The new candidate, Mr. William Jardine, was described as a wealthy merchant, largely involved in trade with China*. 

Western Times 22 May 1841 p3 col5

*Of Jardine, Matheson & Co. a business involved in banking, shipping, insurance and ‎opium

The Jardine Matheson archive is held at Cambridge University Library, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives. See http://janus.lib.cam.ac.uk

Sir James Matheson, Mar 1843 - July 1847

Born 17 November 1796, died France 31 December 1878

One of the founders of Jardine, Matheson & Co.

Announcing his candidature for election in 1843, James Matheson stated that he was a reformer and advocate of  'civil, religious and commercial freedom'. He would be able, he claimed, to further the town's 'staple trade' (ie wool) through his business connections

Western Times 4 March 1843 p2 col5    

In 1845 the 'working classes' presented him with a snuff box, purchased by means of a penny subscription. The Western Times pointed out that the MP, one of the wealthiest individuals in the country, was delighted with his gift.   

Western Times 1 February 1845  p2 col4   

He vacated the Ashburton seat in 1847 on being returned for the combined counties of Ross and Cromartie.  In 1868 he retired into private life.

See http://www.hebrideanconnections.com for the description of Sir James' life on his monument in the Castle grounds of Stornoway.

Lieut-Col Thomas Matheson, July 1847 - July 1852

In 1849 a correspondent to the Western Times warned Col. Matheson of the electors' displeasure with him. He had voted with the Whigs, 'Quite contrary to what he promised at his election....'
Western Times 10 March 1849 p7 col3

His tomb in Lairg, Sutherland, Scotland says: 'Here rest in hope the remains of Lieut General Thomas Matheson, third son of Donald Matheson Esq of Shiness. Born at Shiness 28th Aug 1788 died at Achany 14th Feb 1873. He entered the Army in 1815 as 2nd Lieut of the 23rd Foot (Royal Welsh Fusiliers) in which regiment he served till promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 1845. He represented Ashburton in Parliament from 1847 to 1852. Distinguished through life by a high sense of honour and christian principles. He was ever true to the sympathies of kindered friendship and suffering of humanity'.

The top of the tomb is decorated with opium poppy heads

Mr George Moffat, July 1852 - April 1859


Born 1810, died February 1878

'A thoroughly sound liberal and free-trader'

Western Times 10 July 1852 p6 col6


The Exeter and Plymouth Gazette admitted that they were not supporters of Mr Moffat. On his address to the Ashburton constituents in 1855, they concluded that their columns were better filled with local news, rather than 'any elaborate report of his voluminous twaddle'.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 11 August 1855 p4 col1


Mr John H Astell, April 1859 - July 1865


On his election petitioners complained that 'bribery, treating and undue influence' had affected the vote. In particular, the debt of a voter named Leaman was allegedly paid by an agent of Mr Astell's, to prevent the voter being arrested.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 1859 p9 col1

Western Times 27 August 1859 p5 col2

The confirmation of his election led to a great Conservative banquet in the town, followed the next day by a ball in the Market Hall. On the final day of celebrations, 'the poor were feasted'.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 27 August 1859  p6 col1


Sir Robert Jardine, 1st Baronet of Castlemilk, July 1865 - Nov 1868

Born 1825, died February 1905


At the 1865 election the portreeve, Mr Luscombe, was so overawed by the proceedings that he 'trembled like an aspen leaf.

Wombwell's menagerie was In the town at the time, and horses were so frightened of the camels that several people were thrown from vehicles as a result. Newspapers speculated that the portreeve might also have been unsettled by seeing these animals

Western Times 14 July 1865 p7 col3

The Western Times claimed that Mr Jardine was 'one of the greatest benefactors the town has ever had'.

Western Times 10 December 1869 p8 col3

When he died, the Dundee Courier calculated that  he left real and personal estate worth approximately £2,000,000 gross.

Head of Jardine, Matheson & Co., he was also a director of the Caledonian Railway Company and of the Scottish Provident Institution, and a 'prominent patron of the turf'.

Dundee Courier 4 August 1905 p5 col6

Above: 'Spy' cartoon of Sir Robert Jardine

Leslie Ward [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

At the time of his death the Western Times noted that he was one of the Lords of the Manor (Lord Clinton being the other), and that he had provided the town with an 'excellent water supply' from his own lands.

Western Times 24th February 1905 p2 col5

Charles Seale-Hayne
Above and right: Front and reverse of election pamphlet from 1895.
With many thanks to Lerida Arnold
Charles Seale-Hayne, born in 1833, was the Member of Parliament for Mid-Division, Devon, between 1885 amd 1903.
He died in 1903, aged 70. He never married.
http://www.thepeerage.com/p57358.htm#i573573 - accessed 19-10-2020

Mr Seale-Hayne first stood for Parliament as the Radical candidate for Dartmouth, but he was unsuccessful both in 1857 and 1860. In 1885 there was a redistribution of parliamentary seats, and he stood for Mid Devon, and won by a majority of over 1,200 votes.
'Mr Seale-Hayne won his elections by three things - by his thoroughgoing Radicalism, the free expenditure of his money and the services of an enthusiastic and efficient agent.' He was 'always in the lobby with Mr Gladstone', who made him a Privy Councillor and also Paymaster-General.
He died in London on 22nd November 1903 after a stroke.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 23 November 1903, p3 col7

Charles Seale-Hayne was dubbed at one time as the 'Star of Devon', and the Mid-Devon Liberal Club sent a star shaped floral tribute to his funeral. Composed of hyacinths, lilies of the valley, chrysanthemums, azaleas, orchids and violets, 'Of Devon' was worked in gold wire at the top.
Western Times 28 November, p6 col1

In December 1903 it was announced that Mr Seale-Hayne had left a substantial amount of money in his will to establish a college of science, art and agriculture in Devon. A statement suggested that the money would be the residue of his estate, and could amount to £100,000 or £150,000
Western Times 2 December 1903, p2 col3

The foundation stone for the college, just outside Newton Abbot, was laid on November 28th, 1912
Western Times 29 November 1912, p5 col5

Lieut-Colonel Ernest Fitzroy Morrison-Bell

He represented the Ashburton constituency as a Liberal Unionist* twice: 17th January 1908 - 15th January 1910

3rd December 1910 - 14th December 1918.

Born 1871, died 1960.

He was Lieutenant-Colonel Reserve Officers in the  9th Lancers during the Boer War and WW I. He was Deputy Lieutenant for Gloucestershire, a J.P, and was awarded the OBE in 1919.

During the 1908 contest 'There was a great deal of rough horse-play....... and the Unionist candidate fairly won the hearts of many of his supporters by tackling a rowdy local footballer, shaking him and then tossing him out of the Conservative Club.'

The Tablet, 25 January 1908, p1

In 1917 he, together with his brother Major Arthur Morrison-Bell, were the only twins sitting in the House of Commons

The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer 1 December 1917 p6 col4

http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/people/lieut-colonel-ernest-morrison-bell/ - Accessed 23-3-2014

http://www.thepeerage.com/p2677.htm - Accessed 23-3-2014

*Liberal Unionists were Liberal MPs who split from the party in 1886. They formed an alliance with the Conservative Party in Parliament, and in 1909 became the Conservative and Unionist Party.

http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/Liberal-Unionist - Accessed 24-3-2014

See The Virtual museum 1910s for a supporter's badge for Ernest Morrison-Bell


                                              Votes for women 

In 1841 the women of Ashburton were said to take a considerable interest in politics. Nevertheless they objected, with many others, to wearing the orange and purple colours of the Liberal Party, declaring them 'too heavy'. The Western Times stated that the party did not expect women to think about the economy, the Corn question, or sugar duties, but because of their support the party should allow them to choose their own colours - in this case, rose and white.

Western Times 24 July 1841 p3 col2


1859. Evidence was given to a committee investigating allegations of bribery and undue influence in an election, where John H Astell had been returned as MP for Ashburton. Mr Whiteway was one of Mr Astell's agents, and at one stage Mrs Whiteway had treated a Mr Mugford and his wife to grog. She had promoted  Mr Astell's cause, and 'they all knew how very zealous ladies were - what good canvassers they made'.

Western Times 30 July 1859 p2 col4


1908 The WSPU's* newspaper, Votes for Women, noted the principal forthcoming meetings in connection with the Mid-Devon by-election. On January 9th a women's meeting was to be held in the Town Hall at Ashburton at 3pm; and another meeting was scheduled in the Public Hall at 7pm.

The Liberal candidate was Mr. Chas. Roden Buxton, who, said the newspaper, did not consider women's suffrage to be of sufficient importance to include in his election address. 'Under such circumstances we do not think Mr. Buxton of sufficient importance to be sent to the House of Commons.'

Votes for Women, 9 January 1908 p lv

A meeting of the Suffragists was held in the Market Hall. Mrs. Pankhurst and Mrs. Martel were the speakers.

The Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 11 January 1908 p6 col4

*See below

For an account of the violence towards the two women at nearby Newton Abbot, see 'The suffragette; the history of the women's militant suffrage movement, 1905-1910', E. Sylvia Pankhurst, Sturgis and Walton 1911, p184ff

http://archive.org/stream/suffragettehisto00pankuoft/suffragettehisto00pankuoft_djvu.txt - Accessed 07-05-2015

Emmeline Pankhurst founded the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), which by 1913 had escalated its campaign for women's suffrage. A programme of damaging public and private property resulted in many being imprisoned.

In 1999 Time magazine listed Emmeline Pankhurst as one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century.

Above: Emmeline Pankhurst. Copyright by Matzene, Chicago. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In 1913 the prospective Liberal candidate was Mr Holman.

He told an assembly at Ashburton that he approved of the fact that  Mrs Pankhurst had just been released from prison. 'He suggested that the real remedy was deportation - (cheers).'

Western Times 15 April 1913 p2 col2

Less than two months after this speech Emily Wilding Davison, a committed member of the WSPU, ran out onto the racecourse during the Derby and attempted to grab the bridle of King George V's horse. The horse collided with her and she died from a fractured skull 4 days later.


1918 When the voters' list for the Urban District of Ashburton came out it showed that 708 men and 522 women could vote in parliamentary elections.  

Western Times 1 October 1918 p6 col3                                                                     

Voters lists were being revised in 1919. A 'well known lady novelist'* was sent a form to register, and replied thus: 'I enclose form filled in as requested. I may mention that I disapprove of women's suffrage, and should never descend to the level of man by voting, so I leave it to you to register me or not, as you think fit.' The claim went through.
Western Morning News 8 September 1919, p5 col7
*This may have been Beatrice Chase, real name Katharine Olive Parr, in which case she was actually from Venton, near Widecombe. Perhaps Venton came under Ashburton for voting registrations?


                                           The Tariff Reform League
Formed in 1903, the Tariff Reform League supported Joseph Chamberlain's scheme for preferential trade treaties within the British Empire. At its peak it included many local branches, including women's sections.
Originally a Liberal, Joseph Chamberlain had become leader of the new Liberal Unionists when

the party had split in the late 1800s. The issue of tariff reform then split the Conservative party.

- Accessed 18-08-2015
http://spartacus-educational.com/PRchamberlainJ.htm - Accessed 18-08-2015

At a meeting at the Constitutional Club in 1906, Capt Morrison Bell said, 'The Conservatives and Liberal-Unionists were agreed, the principle being Tariff Reform.'
Western Times 22 December 1906 p2 col5

See also item on Ernest Morrison-Bell above

Right: This photo was sent to Minnie Butler - an arrow (contemporary) marks where she is in the group.
On the back is written: 'Dear Minnie, This is the Tariff Reform Party that had their outing last week can you recognize Minnie amongst them. We did not have our outing after all last Sat. We could not get enough to make a party so it is put off until a later date. Frank Lowil had his brother & family from Swindon down on Sat so we all went down the river, and we had a good ducking. I had to get under the sail cloth out of the rain. I hope to come with you on Sat. I can take 4 photos at once now so I will get you all right this time for certain. With love from Fleet xxxx'
From my own collection.

In 1911 there were 4,500 members of the Women's Unionist and Tariff Reform Association in the Division.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 28 January 1911 p6 col5

Mrs Mitchell of East Street, Ashburton, died in 1912 she was described as an 'enthusiastic member of the local branch of the Women's Unionist and Tariff Reform League'.
Western Times 26 December 1912 p2 col7


                                                         Politics in the 1920s 


'The General Election brought a welcome diversion, a relief from the monotony of life and a holiday from school as the school building was used as a polling station. Feelings ran high, so public meetings were held in the Town Hall, where the candidate would address the electorate. Those meetings were extremely well attended, as the only other source of political information was to be found in the newspapers: radio and television were unheard of in the twenties. Ashburton was in the Totnes Constituency and two candidates, Conservative and Liberal were the contenders. The police were in evidence at the meetings and such was the ill feeling between those of different persuasions  that it sometimes led to blows. The candidate and his supporters were harassed  and often tempers flared, especially when a bold man from the rear of the hall demanded to know when there was to be a Labour contender. This was like a red rag to ta bull and people rose in a fury - 'Labour in Ashburton ! Whatever next !' Many an aspiring candidate learned his craft in the village halls where he was heckled and jeered at by his audience.These meetings were almost a public entertainment, the more eloquent the speaker the greater the appreciation. All the family was caught up in election fever and children found their loyalties strangely divided - how could your best friend be a Conservative when your family were staunch Liberals ? Neighbours who had a warm relationship in normal times were cold and even hostile during the run up to an election: this was a period when politics played an important part in the life of ordinary people. Universal franchise did not arrive until 1930 and the vote was something to be thought about, and the right to go to the polls was valued.

It was a privilege to be able to vote, now there was suffrage for women over 30 and memories of Mrs Pankhurst, the suffragette, were still fresh in women's minds. I well remember ('I mind tell' in local parlance) accompanying my mother to stand in North St. for an event that petrified me. The crowd waited apprehensively, then punctually at 7.30pm  a charabanc came over the bridge in Kingsbridge Lane and came to a stop across North St. A man stood up and introduced a would be Labour contestant for our constituency, and then a woman appeared and delivered a dramatic and moving speech, interrupted by people from the crowd to whom at the time Labour was anathema. There was some shouting from members of the audience but there were no serious incidents, and the conveyance drove off to influence another group.                   

There were, however, some ex-servicemen who had served in the recent war, an event never very far from those who had gone to fight for King and Country. Now they were feeling much discontent, with low wages and unemployment  and a cruel method of means testing that left men embittered and disillusioned. Groups of these unfortunates gathered at 'Bottom town' and stood at the junction of North and East Street or outside Lloyd's Bank. Their wives were left at home to eke out a meal from their meagre pittance to feed husband and children. It says much for these poor souls that when the more affluent in tihe town organized jumble sales and concerts for the people in the North country, the distressed areas as they were known, they rallied around and supported these events enthusiastically and spent what little they could spare.

The day of the election was the climax to the weeks of preparations. It was an occasion, where people wore their best clothes. It was also competitive  - who was going to be the first man to vote ? It was very much a man's world in those days, few married women worked, so in most households the husband was the sole wage earner and usually exerted his influence over his family.

The polling station was well run and people voted in the presence of a police officer. Results were usually announced from the balcony of the Globe Hotel in Newton Abbot, although it was the Totnes constituency. Because it covered a large rural area the results weren't  usually known until the late afternoon of the following day. When the poll was declared the new Member of Parliament arrived in triumph at his party's headquarters to celebrate, escorted by a retinue of cars, sounding hooters and decorated with party colours. Such is the nature of human beings, that most of the town would appear to give him an enthusiastic welcome, animosity forgotten for the next five years. Life would then return to normal and all harsh words forgotten. These were the last years of the table thumping orators in local village halls.'


Many thanks to Hazel Bray for the above account.