A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 6 Part 2, Bramber Rape (North-Western Part) Including Horsham. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1986.
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Between 1295 and c. 1600 Horsham sent members to roughly one parliament in two, the frequency increasing gradually over the period. (fn. 1) Two members were returned thereafter until 1832, and one between 1832 and 1885. (fn. 2) The franchise belonged to holders of burgage tenements, though its precise definition was the subject of controversy in the 18th century. (fn. 3) Already by the 17th century the number of voters was being increased by the splitting of burgages, (fn. 4) which continued into the 19th century, (fn. 5) and which was made easier by the lax holding of the borough courts in the 18th, through which the true composition of the burgess roll was obscured. (fn. 6) There were 68 voters by 1686, (fn. 7) and 74 by 1783. (fn. 8)
Both members in 1295 were burgesses, (fn. 9) as were also apparently many who sat in the 14th and 15th centuries, for instance representatives of the Butler, French, and Godfrey families. (fn. 10) By the mid 15th century, however, local gentry or protégés of the duke of Norfolk, lord of the borough, had come to supplant them. (fn. 11) Several Norfolk protégés sat in the 16th and earlier 17th centuries, (fn. 12) and one member in 1589 was a protégé of Lord Burghley. (fn. 13) The Norfolk connexion was broken in 1624, after which date local gentry families dominated Horsham's representation, notably the Middletons, the Eversfields, and the Ingrams. (fn. 14)
In the first fifteen years of the 18th century there were frequent allegations of corruption or malpractice. (fn. 15) By 1713 bogus sales of burgages were being made to confer voting rights, (fn. 16) and soon afterwards the Tory Charles Eversfield of Denne (d. 1749) began buying up burgages to consolidate his influence. (fn. 17) As borough steward Eversfield was able too to control the appointment of the bailiffs, who were also the returning officers. (fn. 18) The winning Eversfield candidates in 1715 were unseated on petition by the Whig Ingram family of Hills house, (fn. 19) but thereafter the two interests came to an agreement to nominate one bailiff and one member each in future. (fn. 20) After Charles Eversfield sold his burgages to Henry Ingram, Lord Irwin, c. 1738 (fn. 21) the Ingrams were able to select both members; thereafter they controlled the appointment of both bailiffs, and also paid for the holding of the annual bailiffs, and constables' feasts, which in effect were electoral treats. (fn. 22)
In 1786, however, on his succession to the title, Charles Howard, duke of Norfolk, a former M.P. himself, resolved to re-establish his family's electoral interest in the borough, (fn. 23) by buying up burgages, taking over the bailiffs' and constables' feasts, (fn. 24) paying for repairs to burgage houses, (fn. 25) and regaining control of the court leet which appointed the bailiffs. In 1788, as a result, two ducal supporters were chosen as bailiffs. (fn. 26) The 1790 election was won by the duke's candidates, but lost on appeal, (fn. 27) and ducal nominees were not again successful until 1806. (fn. 28) Lord Palmerston, the future prime minister, and the law reformer Sir Samuel Romilly sat briefly for the borough in 1806 and 1807 respectively. (fn. 29) In 1810-11, however, after the death of Lady Irwin, the duke bought the Ingram family's interest, (fn. 30) thus gaining sole control of the borough. (fn. 31) Henry Charles Howard, earl of Surrey, was elected in 1829 as the first Roman Catholic to sit in the House of Commons. (fn. 32)
By the Reform Act, 1832, Horsham lost one member, and so that the borough should qualify for retaining the other, its boundary for electoral purposes was extended to include the whole parish. The seven surviving burgesses were allowed to retain their votes, (fn. 33) the last of them, Pilfold Medwin, continuing to claim his until his death in 1880. (fn. 34) Bribery and corruption of all kinds flourished after 1832 more than before. (fn. 35) During the mid 19th century Horsham members included R. H. Hurst (d. 1857) and his son and namesake (d. 1905), both of Horsham Park, Sir W. R. Seymour Fitzgerald of Holbrook, and Sir Henry Aubrey-Fletcher, Bt., who held land at Southwater. (fn. 36) Candidates who held land outside the parish were usually unsuccessful. (fn. 37) From 257 in 1832 the number of voters had risen by 1875 to 1,007. (fn. 38) In 1885 the Horsham borough constituency became part of the Horsham division of the county. (fn. 39)