Walsall: Parliamentary history

Pages 225-226

A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 17, Offlow Hundred (Part). Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1976.

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Walsall became a parliamentary borough returning one member by the Reform Act of 1832. Walsall Wood and Shelfield were excluded from the constituency, the boundary of which was otherwise that of the parish. (fn. 1) In 1868 the boundary was extended to include those parts of Rushall which were added to the administrative borough in 1876 and 1890. (fn. 2) In 1955 the constituency was divided into two seats, Walsall North and Walsall South, and new areas were added. Brownhills urban district, including Walsall Wood, was transferred from Cannock constituency to Walsall North, and Aldridge urban district from Lichfield and Tamworth constituency to Walsall South. (fn. 3) Under an Order of 1970 Brownhills and Aldridge were detached from the Walsall constituencies to form the new constituency of Aldridge-Brownhills; Willenhall (in St. Peter's, Wolverhampton) was added to Walsall North, and Darlaston to Walsall South. (fn. 4) The Order took effect at the general election of February 1974.

Walsall's first member was C. S. Forster, a Tory and a local banker and former mayor. He held the seat until 1837, when it was captured by a Liberal who retired in 1841. In the by-election of February 1841 J. N. Gladstone, brother of W. E. Gladstone, gained the seat for the Conservatives. He narrowly defeated a candidate sponsored by the Anti-Corn Law League, which was intervening for the first time in a parliamentary election. In June, however, the league's candidate recovered the seat for the Liberals. (fn. 5) In 1847 there were two Liberal candidates, Charles Forster, son of C. S. Forster, and the Hon. E. R. Littleton (later Baron Hatherton). Forster's supporters alleged that if Littleton were elected Walsall would become a pocket borough. (fn. 6) Littleton nevertheless won the seat, which he held for five years. (fn. 7) In 1852 Forster was returned unopposed, and he remained member for Walsall until his death in 1891; he was created a baronet in 1874. (fn. 8) There were Liberal members from 1891 to 1892, 1893 to 1895, 1900 to 1910, and 1922 to 1924. Conservatives represented the town in the intervening years and from 1924 to 1929 when the first Labour member was returned. In 1931 J. A. Leckie, who stood as a National Liberal, gained the seat. On his death in 1938 another National Liberal was elected and served until 1945. (fn. 9) A Labour member held the borough from 1945 to 1955. When the constituency was divided he was elected member for Walsall North, while Walsall South was taken by a Conservative. Both members held their seats until 1974. (fn. 10) In the general elections of February and October that year Labour members were returned for both the Walsall seats and for the new Aldridge-Brownhills seat. (fn. 11)


  • 1. V.C.H. Staffs. i. 272; S. Lewis, Topog. Dict. Eng. (1835), v, plate lxxxiii.
  • 2. The Boundary Act, 1868, 31 & 32 Vic. c. 46, first sched.; above p. 217.
  • 3. The Parliamentary Constituencies (South East Staffs.) Order, 1955, S.I. 1955, no. 170.
  • 4. The Parliamentary Constituencies (England) Order 1970, S.I. 1970, no. 1674, pp. 1, 28, 66-7.
  • 5. Willmore, Walsall, 410-17; Homeshaw, Walsall, 157; N. McCord, The Anti-Corn Law League 1838-1846, 83, 85-6, 88-9, 95.
  • 6. Staffs. Advertiser, 24 and 31 July 1847; Willmore, Walsall, 410.
  • 7. Willmore, Walsall, 417-18.
  • 8. K. J. Dean, Town & Westminster (Walsall, 1972), 3; Willmore, Walsall, 418.
  • 9. Dean, Town & Westminster, 169, 247.
  • 10. Ibid. 253; Who's Who (1972), 810, 3381.
  • 11. The Times, 2 Mar., 12 Oct. 1974.