Westbury first sent representatives to Parliament
in 1448, the last but one of the Wiltshire boroughs
to do so. (fn. 93) Thenceforth two representatives were
summoned regularly until 1832 when the number
was reduced to one. (fn. 94) The borough was finally disfranchised in 1885. (fn. 95) The franchise was by burgage
Before the 17th century the representation of the
borough seems to have been determined by no
obvious influence and followed no particular pattern.
It was thus slightly easier for a stranger to be
returned than was the case in most of the other
Wiltshire boroughs. (fn. 96) At Westbury the first signs of
domination by a single influence appear during
the first quarter of the 17th century. In this period
Sir James Ley (cr. Earl of Marlborough 1626)
acquired all 10 estates in which the burgages were
situated, (fn. 97) and in the seven Parliaments, for which
returns survive between 1597 and 1627, Westbury
was represented either by Sir James or his brother,
Matthew, or his son, Henry. (fn. 98) For approximately
the next 50 years the borough was represented by
members of various local families, and no particular
influence is apparent, but after 1681 James, Lord
Norris (cr. Earl of Abingdon 1682), who acquired
the capital manor that year, began to establish his
control. (fn. 99)
Burgage tenements in Westbury could be held in
fee, for lives, or 99 years, determinable on lives, or
by copy of court roll, and the payment of an annual
rent of 4d. or 2d. (fn. 1) By 1715 the 2nd Earl of Abingdon
(d. 1743) had acquired 50 out of the 61 burgages, (fn. 2)
and although the family's control was challenged
throughout the middle years of the century, by
1784 it was complete, (fn. 3) and the 4th earl on his death
in 1799 held all but two of the burgages. (fn. 4) This
control passed in 1810 to Sir Manasseh Massey
Lopes when he bought the manor from the 5th
earl (d. 1854). (fn. 5) For this Sir Manasseh had to pay
over £75,000, and, according to Oldfield, was
obliged to rebuild most of the burgages since
residence was a necessary qualification for those
who were made freeholders for an hour to enable
them to play their part in elections. (fn. 6) Before his
death in 1831 Sir Manasseh had all the burgages
in hand. (fn. 7)
Besides establishing control by the systematic
acquisition of burgages, the lord of the manor, or
his agent, could, at any rate from the 18th century
onwards, exercise an influence over the General
Council which was the machinery for returning
the members to Parliament. (fn. 8)
V.C.H. Wilts. v. 73.
V.C.H. Wilts. v. 121.
||See p. 139.
Rtn. of Members of Parliament, 1213-1702.
V.C.H. Wilts. v. 215. For a more detailed account of
Westbury's 18th-century parliamentary history, see J. A.
Canon, 'Wilts. Boroughs 1754-90', D. Phil. Thesis,
Bristol Univ. 1958.
||T.H.B. Oldfield, Rep. Hist. v. 145.
V.C.H. Wilts. v. 215.
||J. A. Canon, 'Wilts. Boroughs 1754-90', D. Phil.
Thesis, Bristol Univ. 1958, 293.
V.C.H. Wilts. v. 215, and see p. 150.
||Oldfield, Rep. Hist. v. 145.
Rep. Com. Munic. Corps. H.C. 116, p. 1377 (1835),
||See p. 186.