West Ham: Parliamentary representation

A History of the County of Essex: Volume 6. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1973.

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'West Ham: Parliamentary representation', in A History of the County of Essex: Volume 6, (London, 1973) pp. 112. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/essex/vol6/p112 [accessed 25 April 2024]


Under the Redistribution of Seats Act, 1885, West Ham became a parliamentary borough with two divisions. (fn. 1) At the general election of that year each division returned a Liberal. West Ham (South) was won by Joseph Leicester, a trade unionist and temperance reformer. He was defeated in 1886 by a local Conservative, G. E. Banes, but in 1892 the seat was won by Keir Hardie as the first Independent Labour M.P. Banes regained it in 1895, held it in 1900, but lost it in 1906 to W. J. (Will) Thorne (Labour). Thorne's support rested on his long-standing membership of the borough council as well as his position as secretary of the trade union which he had founded to protect the interests of the Beckton gas workers. He retained the seat at the elections of 1910.

West Ham (North) was gained in 1886 by the Conservative barrister (Sir) Forrest Fulton, lost to a Liberal in 1892, but won by another Conservative in 1895 and 1900. C. F. G. Masterman regained the seat for the Liberals in 1906 and held it at both the elections in 1910, but in 1911 he was unseated on petition because of illegal acts by his agent. Another Liberal held the seat at the subsequent by-election.

The Representation of the People Act, 1918, divided the borough into four constituencies: Plaistow, Silvertown, Stratford, and Upton. At every subsequent election before 1950 the first two divisions were held by Labour. Will Thorne represented Plaistow until 1945, when he was succeeded by (Sir) Elwyn Jones. Silvertown was held from 1918 to 1940 by J. J. (Jack) Jones, a trade union colleague of Thorne, and also a veteran member of the borough council. The Stratford division returned a Conservative in 1918 but was gained by Labour in 1922 and never lost after that. Upton was won by the Conservatives in 1918, 1922, 1924, and 1931, and by Labour in 1923 and 1929. Labour regained it at a by-election in 1934 and held it in 1945.

Under the Representation of the People Act, 1948, West Ham was reduced to two divisions, north and south. Both of these were won by Labour at every subsequent election up to and including 1966.


  • 1. This section is based on: Fifty Years a Borough, 270–6; F. Sainsbury, West Ham, 80–4; and M.P.'s biographies in Who's Who. See also: Sheila Jones, 'Parliamentary Representation in West Ham (South), 1874–1914' (Balls Park Coll. Educ. thesis, 1969).