A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 10, Banbury Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1972.
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What came in the 18th century to be regarded as the most important function of the corporation was the election of a member of the House of Commons. From 1554 to 1832 Banbury was one of only five single-member boroughs. (fn. 1) From the beginning Banbury's M.P. belonged to the local country gentry. In March 1554 the town was represented by Thomas Denton of Hillesden (Bucks.), one of the petitioners for the first charter, and he was succeeded by his brother John. (fn. 2) Sir Francis Walsingham was elected in 1562 but chose to sit instead for Lyme Regis (Dorset). (fn. 3) The 'unadulterated Puritan' Sir Anthony Cope of Hanwell was member for most of the reign of Elizabeth I, (fn. 4) and a Cope of Hanwell or a Fiennes of Broughton (or one of their relations) usually held the seat in the period up to 1660. No members were summoned from Banbury to the parliaments of 1653, 1654, and 1656 but Nathaniel Fiennes represented Banbury throughout the Long Parliament in 1659. (fn. 5) He was the last Fiennes to sit for the borough but the Cope interest survived longer: four of the family held the seat for short periods between 1660 and 1727. One of them, Sir Jonathan, (fn. 6) was a Tory despite his family's tradition.
Between 1661 and 1681 Banbury's M.P. was Sir John Holman of Weston Favell (Northants.), whose father owned Warkworth and Grimsbury (Northants.). (fn. 7) The borough first returned a Tory under James II when in 1685 Sir Dudley North 'the king's unofficial chancellor of the exchequer' (fn. 8) became the first of seven Norths to hold the seat in the period 1685–1818. He chose to serve for Banbury, where, 'on account of the young Lord Guilford's trust' he had a sure interest, (fn. 9) but it was not until much later that the Norths of Wroxton fully established their hold. Sir Dudley was obliged to retire at the Revolution in 1688 but was succeeded by another Tory, Sir Robert Dashwood.
The reigns of William III and Anne were periods of continuous struggle between the borough's Whigs and Tories, in which the latter, backed by the Norths and by the Dashwoods, lords of Wickham manor, usually won the day. (fn. 10) In 1698 the Whigs managed to return as member James Isaacson, a man without local connexions, and when he was unseated the following year for holding an office of profit under the Crown he was succeeded by another Whig, Sir John Cope of Hanwell. (fn. 11) There followed a disputed mayoral election after the death of a mayor during his year of office, and in 1700, despite an effort by Isaacson and Cope to settle matters by a petition to the Privy Council, (fn. 12) two rival mayors fought for the chair of state in Banbury church. (fn. 13) The following year the mayors made rival returns of candidates to parliament; the House of Commons finally decided in favour of Charles North, who held the seat at the next four elections. (fn. 14) The Whigs made unsuccessful attempts to widen the franchise, which at that time, and probably from the beginning, was restricted to the 18 aldermen and chief burgesses. (fn. 15)
Probably the Tory interest was damaged by the charter of 1718, since neither Norths nor Dashwoods were named as assistants, and Sir Jonathan Cope, who had Lord Guilford's support, was succeeded as M.P. in 1722 by Monnoux Cope, a Whig, who defeated a Court Whig favoured by Sir Francis Page. (fn. 16) In 1727 a North candidate again appeared and Francis North, later Earl of Guilford (d. 1790), 'bought the seat, and paid for it, for seven years'; (fn. 17) it is not known what he paid or how the money was spent. The mayor and aldermen had stated in 1722 that 'most corporations made a considerable advantage of their elections, and they knew no reason why they should not do it as well as their neighbours'. At that time they wanted to have their streets paved, the vicarage augmented, and a school built and they felt that their candidate 'should be at that expense, which in all might amount to five or six hundred pounds'. (fn. 18) When Francis North became Lord Guilford in 1729 he had not then enough 'interest' to get his candidate in, and Toby Chauncy of Edgcott (Northants.) beat the North candidate, Lord Wallingford, by one vote. (fn. 19) Chauncy may have won because Lord Wallingford took too little trouble in personally securing votes and because the corporation and many of the local gentry evidently had strong feelings about having a local man. (fn. 20) Chauncy died three years later and Lord Wallingford was successful at his second attempt. (fn. 21)
Francis, Earl of Guilford (d. 1790), established the North patronage of the borough, managing the elections for his son Frederick, Lord North, who held the seat from 1754 until 1790. (fn. 22) The Norths possessed no property in the town until the late 18th century (fn. 23) nor were they outstandingly rich, but Lord North exercised government patronage in favour not only of members of the corporation and Banbury people but also of neighbouring country gentlemen, many of whom were assistants to the corporation and had a voice in the election of the mayor. (fn. 24) The corporation itself was infiltrated by North supporters whose interest in Banbury was mostly limited to its parliamentary representation. From 1736, when Francis Wise, chaplain and curate at Wroxton, was elected a chief burgess, it became common to choose non-resident members, local country gentlemen, parsons, and relatives of the Norths. (fn. 25) Lord North himself became a chief burgess in 1758, and alderman between 1761 and 1764, (fn. 26) and he remained on the council until he succeeded to the earldom in 1790. Although in 1764 only three of the council were non-resident, by 1790 at least half the aldermen and 2 out of 5 chief burgesses were of the rank of esquire or above or were parsons, and nearly all of those were nonresident. (fn. 27) In 1831 half the aldermen and 4 of the chief burgesses lived in the borough, but with the loss of the council's exclusive right to the franchise a number of non-residents resigned. Of the assistants at least 16 out of 29 (one vacancy) were non-resident in 1831, but in 1834 only 10 out of 30. (fn. 28)
The Norths also found it expedient to make liberal benefactions to the town: they rebuilt the almshouse in 1711, acted as trustees for Sprigge's charity, endowed the Blue Coat school, and gave a bell to the new church in 1820. (fn. 29) A good deal of entertaining also went on at their expense. (fn. 30) When Roger North witnessed the entertainment of the mayor and corporation at Wroxton in the 1680s he 'thought sack was the business and drunkenness the end' and finally 'dismissed them to their lodgings in ditches homeward bound'. (fn. 31) There is no direct evidence of bribery of individuals at election time but evidently presents of money were sometimes given to members of the corporation. (fn. 32) The family also paid the salaries of some of the borough officials. (fn. 33)
Though benevolent the Norths displayed a proprietary attitude towards the town: even in 1736, when the family's control of the corporation was not finally established, Lord North wrote to the mayor about a dispute over a vacancy in the common council, blaming both parties for 'preferring their private friendships or resentments to the common cause, the good of my interest'. (fn. 34) By 1784 Lord Guilford's influence over the borough was sufficiently strong to survive the great unpopularity incurred by Lord North in his coalition with C. J. Fox in the previous year. In February Lord North's enemies in the town, few of them influential, got up an address to the king congratulating him on the fall of the ministry. (fn. 35) The non-electors of the borough also held a mock election. (fn. 36) Although in the election proper a rival candidate agreed to stand, Lord North was again returned unopposed. (fn. 37) No elections were contested between 1759 and 1806 but there was considerable political activity in the town. The Banbury Constitutional Association, formed in 1792 to support the established order, put out pamphlets attacking the ideas generated by the French Revolution. In 1794, however, one of its members, G. C. Stringer, prematurely hailed the election of William Holbech of Farnborough (Warws.) as freedom from the 'servile yoke' of the Norths. (fn. 38) That election may have represented a rebuff to the Norths, for although Holbech was eventually returned unopposed Lord Guilford at one time put up a candidate, William Adam, there being no available candidate from the North family. It is possible Adam was resisted because he was neither a North nor a local man, but the Foxite views of the North M.P.s who represented Banbury in the late 18th and early 19th century may also have been unpopular. (fn. 39)
In 1806 the North candidate was defeated, either because of some temporary local quarrel or because the Earl of Guilford's views on Catholic emancipation were unpopular. (fn. 40) In 1808 when the borough came to heel Francis, Earl of Guilford (d. 1817), complained that the election had cost him £5,000. His brother-in-law, Sylvester, Lord Glenbervie, complained about the unexpected expense when his son F. S. N. Douglas was elected unopposed in 1812. (fn. 41) When Heneage Legge, Lord Guilford's relation, seeking re-election in 1820, announced that he could not afford the usual entertainments the nonelectors rioted. (fn. 42) In 1827 John, Marquess of Bute, who had married the eldest daughter of George Augustus, Earl of Guilford (d. 1802), succeeded Frederick, Earl of Guilford as High Steward and patron. He did not live at Wroxton and did not take such direct personal interest in Banbury as the Norths had done.
In 1830 Lord Bute secured the election of his cousin Henry Villiers Stuart, (fn. 43) who, in a speech in the Commons, spoke for the Reform Bill, but said that he would vote against it on the grounds that his constituents opposed it, (fn. 44) which outraged the Banbury Reformers. (fn. 45) When Lord Bute chose Col. Henry Hely Hutchinson as his candidate for the 1831 election the Reformers both in and out of the corporation tried to persuade Hutchinson to withdraw (fn. 46) because he would not unconditionally support the Reform Bill before he knew its provisions. (fn. 47) It may be that the corporation members felt, after Stuart's speech, that a more committed and independent candidate would better persuade the town of their good intentions. Hutchinson did not withdraw, and the Reformers brought forward John Easthope, newspaper proprietor, stockbroker, and later radical M.P. for Leicester. (fn. 48) In the subsequent campaign great stress was laid on the need to free Banbury from the domination of Wroxton, (fn. 49) and on the role of William IV as a reformer fighting despotism. On polling day (2 May 1831) Hutchinson was set upon, barriers were erected at the entrances to the town to keep out non-resident members of the corporation, or as a precaution lest troops should be called in, (fn. 50) and only two Hutchinson supporters (both non-resident) dared to vote. Easthope received six votes (all resident), but of the other 10 electors (of whom 5 were resident) all would have favoured Hutchinson. (fn. 51)
Although the mayor, Thomas Brayne, and other Reformers were forced off the corporation, (fn. 52) Banbury continued to support Reform, and when the Bill was finally given royal assent on 7 June 1832 plans were made for a great procession of the trades. (fn. 53) For some time the Reformers' committee had known that Easthope was to retire, (fn. 54) and the news evidently leaked out, for the day after the passage of the Bill Lord Bute's agent persuaded Henry Pye of near-by Chacombe Priory (Northants.), to stand as Easthope's successor, apparently as a Reformer. (fn. 55) The Reformers, caught unawares, failed to persuade Easthope to reconsider, and began a hasty search for 'some gentleman whose name is eminent and his Whig politics notorious'. (fn. 56) They were introduced by Joseph Parkes to Henry William Tancred, a barrister, (fn. 57) who was adopted by the committee of the Banbury Reform Association on 20 June 1832, having pledged himself to the repeal of the Septennial Acts, the malt tax, and other taxes, the ending of unmerited sinecures and pensions, and the abolition of slavery. (fn. 58) Pye's campaign was backed by the Conservative interest, but tried to show that he was a friend of Reform and, on such issues as slavery, more to be trusted than Tancred. The claim, however, that no poor man appealed in vain at his house, and his strong support of the agricultural interest were more Conservative in spirit. (fn. 59) The Reformers were strongly attacked as the faction of the factory-owner and banker, Cobb, (fn. 60) an attack which was to be one of the staple ingredients of Conservative propaganda for the next quarter of a century. They paid great attention to canvassing and to the registration of electors on the new roll, (fn. 61) which after the Reform Act covered a constituency coextensive with the ancient parish. (fn. 62)
On 10 December, after a long and, on at least one occasion, violent contest, (fn. 63) Pye retired on the grounds of lack of support, and Tancred was returned unopposed the following day. (fn. 64) The election marked the end of the influence of local aristocrats in Banbury politics and from then until the town lost its separate representation the leading families of Banbury itself were dominant. During that period two members held the seat for long spells, Henry William Tancred for 26 years and Bernhard Samuelson for 20, but the town's politics were far from peaceful. In the late 1850s especially, Banbury was renowned as 'a hornets' nest'. (fn. 65) No general election between 1832 and 1885 was entirely uncontested although in 1832 and 1852 no poll was necessary. In three elections, 1841, 1859, and 1865, three candidates went to the hustings.
The leaders of the Reform Party may be identified from a bill issued in April 1831 attacking Hutchinson: the signatories were Thomas Gardner, a retired grocer and a Baptist, John Munton, a solicitor, William Spurrett, a seed merchant and a Unitarian, Thomas Tims, a solicitor, Timothy Rhodes Cobb, a partner in Cobbs' Bank and his family's girth-weaving business and a Unitarian, and Samuel Beesley, proprietor of the original Banbury Cake Shop, a Friend, and secretary of the Banbury Anti-Slavery Society. (fn. 66) This group, together with their relatives and a number of others who came to prominence in the Reform crisis, of whom Francis Francillon, a solicitor, William Potts, a Unitarian printer who later published the Banbury Guardian, and Richard Goffe, a Baptist hatter, were some of the most important, were to provide the nucleus of the Reforming party in Banbury which dominated borough politics until the retirement of Henry Tancred in 1858. Some remained active in the Liberal cause for much longer. In the early stages this group enjoyed the support of many who were later its opponents, including such men as Alfred Beesley, the historian, whose literary talents were employed during the campaign, and Richard Edmunds, a seedsman and Wesleyan local preacher. There seems little doubt that, as Reform propaganda claimed, 'the moral and intellectual power of the town' had been successfully raised against the Wroxton interest. (fn. 67)
The success of the Reform movement altered the structure of society in Banbury in the mid-1830s for the Reformers swept to an overwhelming victory in the first elections for the new corporation in 1835, (fn. 68) and gained control of the magisterial bench. (fn. 69) The strength of the Reformers was not primarily in openly political organizations, but in the wide range of educational, charitable, and recreational activities for which its members provided leadership. (fn. 70) The social cohesion thus achieved brought a political strength far greater than anything which could have been gained merely from the somewhat spasmodic activities of the Banbury Reform Association. (fn. 71) The same men became leading figures in the Mechanics' Institute (founded in 1835), (fn. 72) the Temperance Society (1835), (fn. 73) and the British Schools Society (1840), all of which provided alternatives to traditional patterns of behaviour in the town. The Conservatives' strength lay in the Church of England and in the Agricultural Association. The political division in the town, sometimes extremely bitter, was a division within the middle class, and neither the articulate working class, active in Chartism and to some extent in the Temperance movement, nor the slum-dwellers of Neithrop played much part, although the Conservatives at times appealed to them over the heads of Banbury's Liberal leaders. (fn. 74)
In the general election of 1835 the Conservatives brought forward a weak candidate, Edward Lloyd Williams, who polled only 43 votes against Tancred's 203. (fn. 75) Tancred's position was slightly threatened in 1837 when Henry Tawney, partner in the Banbury bank of Gillett and Tawney, managed to poll 75 votes against Tancred's 181, after a campaign devoted largely to disputes over the new Poor Law. (fn. 76) The Conservatives were heartened and immediately formed the Banbury Conservative Association, while the Reformers reconstructed their Association. (fn. 77)
Tancred's reputation with the radical element was injured in the next few years by his voting record in the Commons: although he was 'a Whig and something more' (fn. 78) on issues such as the extension of the franchise he sided with the government on the new Poor Law and the imposition of coercion in Ireland, and was equivocal on the abolition of slavery. (fn. 79) Separate Radical participation in Banbury politics began with the emergence of the local Chartists in 1838: the Banbury Working Men's Association, founded in that year, seems to have been responsible for inviting Henry Vincent to deliver a series of lectures in Banbury, which were enthusiastically received. (fn. 80) By March 1839 the Banbury Chartists were sending subscriptions to the General Convention of the Industrious Classes, (fn. 81) and they soon attracted the sympathy of Barnes Austin, a wealthy brewer and sponsor of a Calvinistic Baptist congregation. In August 1839 the Chartists were holding regular meetings in a schoolroom on the west side of South Bar where Austin's congregation had met until their chapel was built in 1834. (fn. 82) In June 1841 Vincent became a candidate for the Banbury seat. (fn. 83) The Conservatives found a strong candidate in Hugh Holbech of Farnborough Hall (Warws.). Although Vincent's campaign, largely devoted to disputes with Tancred as to which was the true Reformer. (fn. 84) clearly won the support of a large body of non-electors, (fn. 85) it probably helped the Conservatives. (fn. 86) The Liberals tried to associate Vincent with the Physical Force Chartists. Tancred won 124 votes, Holbech 100, and Vincent 51. (fn. 87)
Chartism continued to be a force in Banbury politics after Vincent's defeat in 1841, but it quickly lost Barnes Austin's support. A meeting held in honour of Vincent at Austin's malt-house after the election suggests that Austin and his Calvinistic Baptist friends were very much trying to attract the middle-class, (fn. 88) but thereafter the working-class basis of Banbury Chartism is evident: the delegates sent to the General Council in July 1842 included two weavers, two tailors, two cordwainers, a shoemaker, a baker, a watchmaker, a labourer, a locksmith, a coal dealer, and a blacking manufacturer. (fn. 89)
Banbury Chartism was considerably influenced by the earlier Temperance movement. Teetotalism attracted members of the working-class into public affairs, and a number of working men who became active in Banbury Temperance Society went on to become Chartists, most of them breaking their connexions with Temperance. Such men were also drawn into other radical activities, particularly the opposition to church rates. (fn. 90) In March 1842 there were 40 members of the National Charter Association in the town, and 50 of the Association's membership cards were issued in the quarter ending 30 September 1842. (fn. 91) A branch of the Chartist Land Company was established in Banbury in 1846, but as the company foundered contributions fell off and by the autumn of 1849 had ceased altogether. (fn. 92) Probably by this time the Chartists were no longer meeting together, although the term 'Chartist' continued to be applied to Radical candidates in town council elections without being repudiated, (fn. 93) and there were certainly connexions between Chartism and the dissenting Radicals who were a powerful force in Banbury politics in the late 1850s. (fn. 94)
During the period of Sir Robert Peel's Conservative government of 1841–6 religious issues were dominant in Banbury politics. The Liberal leaders were Free Traders and supporters of the Anti-Corn Law League, but after a stormy League meeting in September 1841 in which the Chartists created disturbances, (fn. 95) the Reformers decided not to bring the League's agitators into the town 'to avoid upsetting the farmers'. (fn. 96) The best attended political meetings of the period were those in protest against the educational clauses of the 1843 Factory Bill, and against the increase of the government grant to the Roman Catholic priests' college at Maynooth (Kildare) in 1845. (fn. 97) Tancred refused to attack the Maynooth grant, and it was on the grounds that he had supported the endowment of popery that he was opposed in the Conservative interest in the 1847 general election by James MacGregor, a Liverpool banker and chairman of the South Eastern Railway. (fn. 98) The Chartists agreed to give their votes to Tancred in return for a statement that he would support the main points of their programme, including universal suffrage. (fn. 99) Despite a long and noisy campaign (fn. 100) the reuniting of the Liberal vote gave Tancred an easy victory, with 226 votes against MacGregor's 164, (fn. 101) and his conversion to Chartist principles seems to have been genuine, if temporary, for in July 1849 he voted for the implementation of the Six Points of the Charter. (fn. 102)
After Tancred was returned unopposed in 1852 (fn. 103) Liberal unity in Banbury was fragmented by disputes over national issues between 'old' Liberals and Radicals, and between Liberal Churchmen and Dissenters over the financing of the town cemetery in 1852–7, (fn. 104) which raised the political temperature and brought to prominence a group of militant Dissenters under the Baptist minister W. T. Henderson, who in 1853 had brought the fight against church rates to a successful conclusion. (fn. 105) The Banbury Advertiser was an influential supporter of Henderson and the Radicals, (fn. 106) who, largely through disgust with Tancred's support of Palmerstonian foreign policy, in 1857 supported their own candidate, Edward Yate, an Islington landowner, (fn. 107) hastily secured and generally considered a poor choice. (fn. 108) He apparently enjoyed considerable support among non-electors, (fn. 109) but received only 58 votes against Tancred's 216. (fn. 110)
Tancred was forced to retire in 1858 because of serious ill-health (fn. 111) and at the by-election held in February 1859 (fn. 112) John Hardy, a landowner of Dunstall (Staffs.), stood in the Conservative interest (fn. 113) and Bernhard Samuelson, owner of the Britannia Works in Banbury, stood as the candidate of the group which had supported Tancred; he was considerably more radical in his views than the latter, seeming 'to go the whole hog of Chartism with the exception of electoral districts'. (fn. 114) A small number of the less radical Liberals backed Gillery Pigott, a barrister who later became M.P. for Reading. (fn. 115) The militant Dissenters prevailed upon the Bright-ite editor of The Nonconformist, Edward Miall, to stand for them, (fn. 116) but they no longer enjoyed the support of the Banbury Advertiser which came out emphatically for Samuelson on account of his radicalism. (fn. 117) Pigott retired before nomination day (fn. 118) and the result was almost a tie between Hardy and Samuelson, resolved only by the last minute polling in Samuelson's favour of William Thompson, superintendent of police, who was claimed by the Conservatives to be disqualified. Samuelson thus received 177 votes, Hardy 176, and Miall, 118. (fn. 119)
For the general election of 1859, eleven weeks later, the Conservatives brought forward William Ferneley Allen, a City of London alderman, and the one time supporters of Miall brought forward Sir Charles Douglas, an illegitimate son of the Earl of Ripon. (fn. 120) Before the election, however, the Conservative candidate withdrew for reasons that are wholly obscure, but possibly there was a sort of agreement with Samuelson, (fn. 121) who certainly claimed after Allen retired that he could now solicit Conservative votes. (fn. 122) The Conservatives' sense of outrage against Samuelson for his questionable victory in the by-election and perhaps their wish to break the hold of the old Liberal Party, (fn. 123) were enough to give a resounding victory to Douglas, whose policies were almost identical with Samuelson's, it being generally agreed that the two candidates simply represented factions within local society. (fn. 124) Douglas's 235 votes came from 106 Liberals, 107 Conservatives, and 22 uncommitted voters, while Samuelson's minority of 199 was made up of 190 Liberals and 9 Conservatives. (fn. 125) This was a most unpopular result, and there was a good deal of violence, (fn. 126) much of it from foundrymen employed by Samuelson (fn. 127) who was in many ways an enlightened employer although no friend to trade unions. (fn. 128)
Douglas acted in accord with the wishes of his supporters among Banbury's dissenting Radicals by becoming the parliamentary whip of the Liberation Society. (fn. 129) Not surprisingly the Conservatives were unable to support him in the 1865 election and put forward Charles Bell. (fn. 130) Samuelson's Liberals had meanwhile built up an efficient electoral machine, (fn. 131) and in the poll Samuelson received 206 votes, Bell 165, and Douglas 160. (fn. 132) Charles Bell unsuccessfully alleged that Samuelson's alien birth made the election invalid. (fn. 133)
A branch of the Reform League was established in Banbury in 1865, (fn. 134) and there was a large demonstration in favour of Reform in November 1866 strongly supported by the working-class of Neithrop, Cherwell, and Grimsbury, (fn. 135) and by the plush-weavers. (fn. 136) The Reform Act of 1867 increased the number of voters in Banbury from 584 in 1865 to 1,524 in 1868. (fn. 137) For the 1868 election the anti-Samuelson Liberals, who ceased to support Douglas after he was converted to Roman Catholicism, put forward William Mewburn, a wealthy Wesleyan stockbroker and owner of Wickham Park. (fn. 138) Mewburn's support came from essentially the same people who had backed Douglas and Miall in 1859, (fn. 139) but whereas the religious emphasis had once been Baptist it was now very distinctively Wesleyan. (fn. 140) Mewburn's programme was almost identical with Samuelson's, (fn. 141) and both men sought Gladstone's blessing on their campaigns. (fn. 142) There was a keen struggle for the new working-class vote, (fn. 143) and a Working Men's Conservative Association was formed even before the Conservatives had a candidate. (fn. 144) The support of members of the Banbury Temperance Society was thrown solidly behind Mewburn, (fn. 145) presumably because of his religious position, but his views on temperance were no more clear cut than Samuelson's. (fn. 146) As in 1865 Samuelson's electoral machine proved highly efficient, (fn. 147) and Mewburn's committee persuaded him to withdraw to save the town the 'demoralising influence of a contested election'. (fn. 148) The Conservatives, who previously had seemed content to be able to decide the issue between the Liberals, (fn. 149) produced a candidate, George Stratton, a Leicestershire landowner, only four days before the nomination day. (fn. 150) Of the 65 electors who can be identified as supporters of Mewburn, 37 voted for Stratton, 26 remained neutral, and only two supported Samuelson. Samuelson won the election easily with 772 votes, against Stratton's 397. (fn. 151)
In 1874 the sudden dissolution of parliament allowed only a few days for the election campaign, (fn. 152) most of which Samuelson spent in hurrying back from his yacht on the Mediterranean. (fn. 153) The Conservative candidate Josiah Wilkinson, a director of the Great Eastern Railway, made much of the dangers of Radicalism. (fn. 154) The divisions among Banbury Liberals over education, the Permissive Bill, and disestablishment, exacerbated by nonconformist opposition to Samuelson over the 1870 Education Act, and by disputes over the Contagious Diseases Acts and compulsory vaccination, (fn. 155) resulted in a reduction of the Liberal vote to 760 votes, while the Conservative vote rose to 676. (fn. 156)
The poor result helped to reunite the Liberals, and the Banbury United Liberal Association was formed in 1874 from several bodies including the Working Men's Liberal Association. (fn. 157) The president was an old Tancredite, Robert Field, and the committee included members of the working-men's organizations which had supported Samuelson, and men who had acted for Miall, Douglas, and Mewburn. (fn. 158) Economic distress and Disraeli's foreign policy strengthened Liberal unity and in the election of 1880, the last for the parliamentary borough of Banbury, the Liberals were almost unanimously behind Samuelson. The election was one of the stormiest held in Banbury: the Conservative candidate, the eccentric Thomas Gibson Bowles, later M.P. for King's Lynn, delivered extremist attacks on Liberal 'Little Englanders', (fn. 159) and drank large quantities of beer on the platform though temperance was a minor election issue. (fn. 160) Bowles won only 583 votes against Samuelson's 1,018, (fn. 161) and accused his opponent of using bribery and 'Russian gold'. (fn. 162)
Under the Redistribution Act of 1885 Banbury became part of the North Oxfordshire constituency. Samuelson gained the new seat in 1885, and held it for a further ten years, but on his retirement it was gained by a Conservative. (fn. 163)