Calne: Parliamentary representation

A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 17, Calne. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2002.

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, 'Calne: Parliamentary representation', in A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 17, Calne, (London, 2002) pp. 100-101. British History Online [accessed 21 May 2024].

. "Calne: Parliamentary representation", in A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 17, Calne, (London, 2002) 100-101. British History Online, accessed May 21, 2024,

. "Calne: Parliamentary representation", A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 17, Calne, (London, 2002). 100-101. British History Online. Web. 21 May 2024,


Calne borough chose two members of the parliament which met in 1295 and of two later parliaments which met in Edward I's reign; it chose none in the period 1298-1302 when three parliaments met, and one member in 1306. The borough chose two members in 1307 and was not represented again until 1361, when it again chose two members. It chose two members both in 1362 and 1378, and between 1378 and 1425 is known to have been represented, each time by two members, at about half the parliaments held. From 1425 to 1832 the borough sent two members to nearly all parliaments. (fn. 1) The bailiff of the lord of Calne manor was the returning officer in the 13th and 14th centuries, and probably directed elections in the 15th century. In the 16th century and later the precept for the election of members was sent by the sheriff to the two guild stewards, who supervised elections. (fn. 2)

From the 16th century, and probably from the 13th, only the burgesses, including the stewards, had the right to choose members of parliament. In 1565 there were 17 burgesses, (fn. 3) and between then and 1685 usually no more than c. 20. New burgesses were chosen by the existing ones. In 1685 one charter restricted the number of burgesses to 13, including the steward, and a second increased it to 31, including the steward, and gave a majority to gentlemen living outside the town; an election was held in 1685 on the franchise imposed by the second charter. Despite the charters, in 1685 the court at Ogbourne St. George admitted 25 new burgesses, presumably residents of the town who opposed the Crown's attempt to control elections in the borough, but a challenge to the result of the election in that year failed. From 1689 the franchise was apparently exercised by the burgesses as it had been until 1685, (fn. 4) and between 1691 and 1724 a renewed attempt to increase the number eligible to vote came from within the town. The court at Ogbourne St. George began to admit as burgesses, besides those chosen by the burgesses themselves, all who used the borough's common pastures at Calne and presented themselves at the court to be sworn; c. 60 burgesses voted at parliamentary elections in 1715 and 1722, both of which were contested. In 1724 the House of Commons restricted the right to vote to burgesses chosen by the old method, and from then to 1830 there were usually 25 or fewer voters. (fn. 5) Inhabitants of the town again tried to increase the number eligible to vote by proposing candidates at an election in 1830, giving them a majority of the votes cast, and contesting the return of the candidates voted for by the burgesses; their attempt failed. (fn. 6)

The M.P.s for Calne in 1295, and most of those elected in the late 14th century and early 15th, apparently lived in or near the town or were members of locally prominent families. (fn. 7) In the 16th and 17th centuries most of those who sat for the borough were apparently either prosperous inhabitants or local landowners and their nominees. (fn. 8) The first group included clothiers. William Allen, who attended six parliaments between 1553 and 1572, was a clothier and until 1552 the lord of Blackland manor, (fn. 9) and William Swaddon, who was elected in 1603, was a member of a local family of clothiers. (fn. 10) Local landowners who were M.P.s included Sir John Mervyn, the lord of Compton Bassett manor, who was elected in 1554, (fn. 11) and Walter Norborne, elected in 1640, and his son Walter, elected in 1679 and 1681, each of whom was lord of Hilmarton manor. (fn. 12) From the mid 16th century both the lord of Calne manor and the lessee of the Prebendal estate and members of their families stood for election. Sir Lionel Duckett bought Calne manor in 1572, between then and 1685 Ducketts were successful at eight elections, and Thomas Edwards, who held the manor in his wife's right, was elected in 1593 and 1597. (fn. 13) Members of the Lowe family were lessees of the Prebendal estate, and Lowes were successful at seven elections between 1597 and 1661. (fn. 14) Occasionally men apparently without strong local connexion were elected: they included John Pym, who was elected in 1614, 1621, and 1624. (fn. 15) Between 1685 and 1724, the period in which the franchise was altered and challenged, the borough continued to elect the same classes of men. (fn. 16) Henry Chivers (d. 1720), elected five times between 1689 and 1702, was of a family of Calne clothiers and owned land in the parish, (fn. 17) Henry Blake (d. 1731), elected thrice between 1695 and 1701, held Pinhills estate, (fn. 18) and George Hungerford (d. 1697), elected in 1695, and Walter Hungerford (d. 1754), elected in 1701, 1734, and 1741, were the sons of Sir George Hungerford, whom Walter succeeded as lord of Studley manor. (fn. 19) George Duckett was elected thrice between 1705 and 1722, (fn. 20) and other members included Sir Orlando Bridgeman, Bt., elected in 1715, the lessee and later the owner of Bowood park. (fn. 21) The results of elections were disputed in 1701 and 1710. (fn. 22) William Petty, earl of Shelburne, bought Calne manor in 1763 and the lease of the Prebendal estate in 1765, and from then to 1832 he and his successors as owners of Bowood House had a controlling influence over parliamentary elections at Calne. (fn. 23) Apart from that in 1830 (fn. 24) elections were uncontested, and few M.P.s had local connexions. Those elected included, in 1768, 1774, and 1780, John Dunning, solicitor-general 1768-70 and a prominent opponent of government policy towards the American colonies, (fn. 25) and, twice in 1830, the historian T. B. Macaulay. (fn. 26) In 1831 the guild stewards of Calne petitioned for parliamentary reform. (fn. 27)

Under the Reform Act of 1832 the borough lost one seat and the franchise was extended from the burgesses to all parishioners of Calne qualified to vote. (fn. 28) The influence of successive marquesses of Lansdowne, the owners of Bowood House, remained strong, and members of their family were M.P.s for Calne 1833-6, 1837-56, and 1868-85. (fn. 29) The last was Edmond Petty-Fitzmaurice (cr. Baron Fitzmaurice 1906, d. 1935), a radical who was chairman of Wiltshire county council 1896-1906. (fn. 30) Calne lost its remaining seat in 1885, when it became part of the Chippenham division of the county. (fn. 31)


  • 1. W.A.M. xlvii. 177-257.
  • 2. Hist. Parl., Commons, 1386-1421, i. 688-9; 1509-58, i. 218; 1660-90, i. 438.
  • 3. Ibid. 1509-58, i. 218.
  • 4. Ibid. 1660-90, i. 438; Calne Guild Stewards' Bk. (W.R.S. vii), pp. xiii, xv; cf. above, local govt. (boro. govt.).
  • 5. Hist. Parl., Commons, 1715-54, i. 343; W.R.O., G 18/1/17; Bowood Mun., Lab 3/3/5, Calne elections from 1705; for the number of voters, cf. Hist. Parl., Commons, 1754-90, i. 408; 1790-1820, ii. 413; Marsh, Hist. Calne, 41.
  • 6. Marsh, Hist. Calne, 41; Lond. Gaz. 3 Dec. 1830, pp. 2539-40.
  • 7. Marsh, Hist. Calne, 41-2; Hist. Parl., Commons, 1386- 1421, i. 489-90.
  • 8. Hist. Parl., Commons, 1509-58, i. 218-19; 1558-1603, i. 269; 1660-90, i. 438.
  • 9. Ibid. 1509-58, i. 311; above, Blackland, manor.
  • 10. W.A.M. xlvii. 215; K. H. Rogers, Wilts. and Som. Woollen Mills, 82, 87.
  • 11. Hist. Parl., Commons, 1509-58, i. 218; below, Compton Bassett, manors (Compton Bassett).
  • 12. Hist. Parl., Commons, 1660-90, iii. 146; V.C.H. Wilts. ix. 53.
  • 13. Hist. Parl., Commons, 1558-1603, i. 269; 1660-90, i. 438; W.A.M. xlvii. 216, 220; above, manors (Calne); below, Calstone Wellington, manors (Calstone).
  • 14. Hist. Parl., Commons, 1558-1603, i. 269; 1660-90, i. 438; W.A.M. xlvii. 217-19.
  • 15. D.N.B.
  • 16. W.A.M. xlvii. 226-33.
  • 17. Hist. Parl., Commons, 1660-90, ii. 60; above, manors (Quemerford; Stock); econ. hist. (Quemerford: mills, trade, and ind.).
  • 18. W.A.M. xlvii. 227-8; above, manors (Pinhills).
  • 19. Hist. Parl., Commons, 1660-90, ii. 616; 1715-54, ii. 162; above, manors (Studley).
  • 20. W.A.M. xlvii. 230, 233; Hist. Parl., Commons, 1715- 54, i. 624.
  • 21. Hist. Parl., Commons, 1715-54, i. 486; W.A.M. xli. 504; below, Bowood, estates (Bowood).
  • 22. W.A.M. xlvii. 228-9, 231, 263.
  • 23. Ibid. xlii. 28; Hist. Parl., Commons, 1754-90, i. 408; 1790-1820, ii. 413-14; V.C.H. Wilts. v. 211; above, manors (Calne); below, Calstone Wellington, manors (Calstone).
  • 24. Above, this section.
  • 25. Hist. Parl., Commons, 1754-90, ii. 367-8; D.N.B.
  • 26. D.N.B.
  • 27. V.C.H. Wilts. v. 299.
  • 28. Ibid. 301; Marsh, Hist. Calne, 51.
  • 29. V.C.H. Wilts. v. 303; below, Bowood, estates (Bowood).
  • 30. V.C.H. Wilts. v. 265; W.A.M. xlvii. 294-5.
  • 31. V.C.H. Wilts. v. 311-12.