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Colin Blanshard Withers'

THE ELECTORAL ROLLS

OF THE

EAST RIDING OF YORKSHIRE

1834


INTRODUCTION:

The 1841 census is the first census for which national returns are available. Prior to this date there are people listings, parish by parish, but normally only for the heads of household, and these are usually male. Electoral Rolls began in 1832, following the passing of Earl Grey's Reform Act (2Will.IV c.45), which is very useful to the genealogist, as these Rolls can take searches back a further nine years prior to the first national census returns.

While visiting Beverley RO I ordered up the 1832 Electoral Rolls for the East Riding. These and the 1833 Rolls were on dozens of loose paper sheets, but the 1834 Rolls were printed. The printed Electoral Rolls are arranged by Divisions, then generally by parish, then by surname of the respective electors.

The Rolls give the following information: Christian and Surname (of the persons entitled to Vote); Place of Abode; Nature of Qualification; Description of the Property by Name, or by the Name of the Tenant, or by the Street in the Parish where situate.

This last piece of information can be valuable indeed. Only a small percentage of people were entitled to vote, as the qualification for voting was property based. However, although your ancestor may not have been entitled to vote, being only a non-qualifying tenant rather than a freeholder, his name could show up as the occupier (tenant) of a freeholder's property.

Electoral Rolls are a fascinating resource, and become more informative and encompass more of the population in subsequent years, as the franchise widened by successive Acts. For a full listing of extant rolls see: Electoral Registers since 1832; and Burgess Rolls , by Jeremy Gibson and Colin Rogers, FFHS, 2nd Edition, 1990, ISBN 1 872094 10 4.

Colin Blanshard Withers, July 2000

THE 1832 REFORM ACT:

For the 60 years between 1770 and 1830 the Tories dominated the British parliament. However, in June 1830 Earl Grey made an impassioned speech for parliamentary reform. The Duke of Wellington, prime minister and leader of the Tories, rebuffed the call by replying that "the existing system of representation was as near perfection as possible". Pamphlets then swept the country with the news, and the Whigs were depicted as the champions of electoral reform, and the Tories as its opponents.

On the 15th November, 1830, Wellington's government was defeated in a confidence vote in the House of Commons. The King, William IV, asked Earl Grey to form a new government. Grey's first act was to form a cabinet committee to produce a plan for parliamentary reform. Details of the proposals were published on the 3rd February, 1831, and the bill was eventually passed by the House of Commons with a majority of 136. However, the bill was defeated in the Tory-controlled House of Lords by a majority of forty-one.

This defeat prompted Earl Grey to call for a general election. The Whigs swept to power with an increased majority in the House of Commons. A second Reform bill was again defeated in the House of Lords. When the news broke, riots took place in several towns. In Bristol the Mansion House was set on fire, and in Nottingham the Castle was burnt down.

The House of Lords again defeated the bill when it was re-introduced in 1832, and Grey appealed to the King for help. William agreed to Grey's demands to create a large body of new Whig peers. However, this may have been a bluff, as when the House of Lords heard the news, they immediately agreed to pass the Reform Act. On the 7th June the Bill passed the Royal Seal and crowds rejoiced in the streets of Britain.

So what was all the fuss about? Why did the electoral system need reform? Was it simply a case of extending the franchise, or was there fundamental flaws in the existing franchise? The answer is `yes' to both questions.

The following Table from an 1831 Electoral Report clearly illustrates the need for Reform:

WHICH NOW SEND MEMBERS TO PARLIAMENT.
COUNTY, CITY, BOROUGH or TOWNPOPULATION TAXESNumber of MEMBERSTOTAL POPULATION
of each County, City, Borough or TownPaid by each County, City, Borough or TownNow returned by each County, City, Borough or Townof the county
   239.181
WILTS--------County177,70431,9442
Bedwin--------Borough855982
Caine----------Borough2,6406552
Chippenham---Borough1,6207112
Cricklade------Borough28,4456,5522
Devizes--------Borough4,5621,7462
Downton------Borough8302702
Heytesbury----Borough1,3942582
Old Sarum----Borough---122
Salisbury------Borough9.8765,3652
Old Sarum was one of a number of so-called Rotten Boroughs, which had tiny populations (and in the case of Old Sarum an apparent population of nil, although it begs the question of just who paid the tax of 12!), but which nevertheless sent 2 members to parliament, compared with the 2 members returned by the 177,704 voters for the rest of the County!

The main reforms in the bill were:

Abolished

Introduced

Franchise Qualification
The borough franchise was regularised. The right of voting was vested in all householders paying a yearly rental of 10 and, subject to one year residence qualification, 10 lodgers (if they were sharing a house and the landlord was not in occupation).

In the counties, the franchise was granted to:

Borough freeholders could vote in the counties if their freehold was between 40 shillings and 10, or if it was over 10 and occupied by a tenant.

Despite the reforms many people believed the Bill didn't go far enough, as only one in seven adult males had the vote. Many constituencies still had disproportionate populations, with 35 constituencies having less than 300 electors, compared with Liverpool, for example, which had a constituency of over 11,000.

But it was a start...........

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The above copyright data was taken from the book
The Electoral Rolls of the East Riding of Yorkshire 1834
and was presented to Genuki by the author and transcriber:
Colin Blanshard Withers.


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