Norfolk: Voting Registers



The Government of England and Wales had from at least 1430 a parliament of elected members (MPs) who were sometimes referred to as Knights of the Shire. Each county returned two members and each Borough also returned 2 burgesses. This was slowly changed and is described in the elections of MPs section later. By-elections are caused by the death/resignation of one of the current MPs. Many early elections were uncontested and so large year gaps appear between published poll books.

Other local officials including Aldermen and Sheriff's were also elected (these two usually by Freemen) and some of these registers survive.

Examples of Voting Registers are poll books and election registers.

  • Poll books are lists of those who voted in elections, so they do not include everyone entitled to vote. They were printed after each election and were usually alphabetical by hundred and then by parishes that go to make up that hundred. In each place voters are listed alphabetically. Some include an index but this normally lists all the voters' names begining with A,B... etc. together in the order they appear in the book. Occupations also appear in some. In addition Occupiers names start to also appear in some books from 1768.
  • Election registers are lists of all those entitled to a vote and were compiled annually from 1832 and are reasonably plentiful. They have not all been listed.

Each of the areas (either County, City or Borough) contains a chronological list of all known voting registers up to 1871 which enables one to see who people voted for. The Ballot Act of 1872 brought in the secret ballot and so since this time only registers of electors are available showing who was entitled to vote. Some of these are by street, some alphabetical by voters' names.

Norfolk County elections.

These elections cover the whole county and contain voters names. Most towns or villages in the county appear as a place of freehold or residence of at least one voter. Note that any freehold in the county, except those in Norwich, gave the holder the right to vote in county elections. Hence residents of Norwich (who voted) always have a freehold outside the City against their names.

  • Norfolk Poll Books and later election Registers - Full list of elections from 1700 to 1871 including searchable transcriptions and others online. The table below gives examples of the coverage where "O" = online, "E"= exists.
Date -
Voters Names
(Approx. No.)
Place of
Place of
(Non Voters)
  1714 Cross-groveY   (2925+)YYNNO
  1734Y   (6236) YYNNO
  1768 - ChaseY   (5382) YYNNO
  1768 - CrouseY   (5382) YYY   (2957)NO
  1802 - StevensonY   (6773) YYY   (2343) NCH/KL/
  1802 - BaconY   (6773) YYNYN

City of Norwich and Boroughs in Norfolk

Castle Rising and Thetford returned MPs but there is no record of their registers.

  • Castle Rising
    • This was a Borough from 1558 to 1832 which contained the four parishes of Castle Rising, North Wootton, Roydon All Saints (near King's Lynn) and South Wootton. See Wikipedia and "UK Parliament constituency" page for more details.
    • Note that Freeholders and residents of the "Borough of Castle Rising" voted in county elections.
    • See also any societies on the Castle Rising parish page.
  • Borough of Great Yarmouth
    • Note that Freeholders and residents of Great Yarmouth voted in county elections.
  • Borough of Kings Lynn
    • Note that Freeholders and residents of Kings Lynn voted in county elections.
  • City of Norwich
    • Note that residents of Norwich only voted in county elections if they held a freehold outside the city.
  • Borough of Thetford
    • Note that Freeholders and residents of Thetford voted in county elections.

Norfolk residents voting in Other Counties.

Many people were entitled to vote in out of county elections but lived in Norfolk. A large number of these held freeholds in the adjacent counties of Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire and Suffolk (which are the only ones considered here) but some were further afield. Follow the links for details of poll books and relevant entry transcription.

CountyDateNo. VotersDateNo. VotersDateNo. Voters
  Cambridgeshire1722  68+1780105+1802----

Distant Voters in Norfolk elections.

Many people were entitled to vote in the county elections but lived outside Norfolk. They start to appear in the Norfolk poll books from 1714 onwards but had to travel to the polls in Norwich. The table shows the approximate number of voters including the three largest contingents for a selection of dates which are online.

  1714 Cross-grove3011113115
  1768 - Chase61101  659231
  1802 - Stevenson69  33  763223

Other useful references.

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Copyright © Mike Bristow.
September 2014