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Reform Act 1832

The British Reform Act of 1832 (2 & 3 Will. 4, c.45; also referred to as as the Great Reform Act) introduced the first changes to electoral franchise legislation in almost one hundred and fifty years. It met strong opposition from the Tories, who had defeated earlier bills, and it required pressure on William IV and the resignation of Earl Grey's Whig government to pass.

The Act extended the franchise into the middle classes. Propertied male adults paying an annual rent of 10 or more (2 in the rural counties) could vote. The vote was also extended to those with copyhold tenure of 10 or more and leaseholders or tenants-at-will paying 50 in rent. These changes increased the electorate from 435,000 to 652,000 (1 in 7 males) and gave greater political influence to urban centres in the north while leaving the rural areas under aristocratic control. The Act also abolished 56 rotten boroughs and removed one MP from boroughs with fewer than 4,000 inhabitants.

However, Parliament was still under the thrall of the gentry and there was still great disparity between the size of constituencies. Despite the hopes of Lord John Russell that further reform would never be necessary, popular pressure led to greater changes.

Contents

Reduced franchises

Disenfranchisements and Rotten Boroughs

The following English Boroughs were disfranchised by this Act:

  • Aldborough , North Riding of Yorkshire
  • Aldeburgh , Suffolk
  • Amersham , Buckinghamshire
  • Appleby , Westmorland
  • Aylesbury , Buckinghamshire
  • Barnstaple , Devon
  • Bassetlaw , Nottinghamshire
  • Bedwyn , Wiltshire
  • Bere Alston , Devon
  • Beverley , East Riding of Yorkshire
  • Bishops Castle , Shropshire
  • Bletchingley , Surrey
  • Boroughbridge , North Riding of Yorkshire
  • Bossiney , Cornwall
  • Brackley , Northamptonshire
  • Bramber , Sussex
  • Callington , Cornwall
  • Camelford , Cornwall
  • Castle Rising , Norfolk
  • Corfe Castle , Dorset
  • Downton , Wiltshire
  • Dunwich , Suffolk
  • East Grinstead , Sussex
  • East Looe , Cornwall
  • Eye , Suffolk
  • Gatton , Surrey
  • Haslemere , Surrey
  • Hedon , East Riding of Yorkshire
  • Heytesbury , Wiltshire
  • Higham Ferrers , Northamptonshire
  • Hindon , Wiltshire
  • Lostwithiel , Cornwall
  • Ludgershall , Wiltshire
  • Marlow , Buckinghamshire
  • Milborneport , Somerset
  • Minehead , Somerset
  • Newport, Cornwall
  • Newport, Isle of Wight
  • Newton , Lancashire
  • Newtown , Isle of Wight
  • Okehampton , Devon
  • Old Sarum , Wiltshire
  • Orford , Suffolk
  • Petersfield , Hampshire
  • Plympton , Devon
  • Queenborough , Kent
  • Romney , Kent
  • Saltash , Cornwall
  • Seaford , Sussex
  • St Germans , Cornwall
  • St Mawes , Cornwall
  • St Michaels , Cornwall
  • Steyning , Sussex
  • Stockbridge , Hampshire
  • Tregony , Cornwall
  • West Looe , Cornwall
  • Wendover , Buckinghamshire
  • Weobley , Herefordshire
  • Whitchurch , Hampshire
  • Wooton Bassett , Wiltshire
  • Yarmouth , Isle of Wight

Halved franchises

The following Boroughs were reduced from 2 MPs to 1:

Weymouth and Melcombe Regis in Dorset were reduced from 4 MPs to 2.

New enfranchisements

The following Boroughs were enfranchised:

Boroughs given 1 MP

Boroughs given 2 MPs

Other changes

The Isle of Wight, having had its three small boroughs disenfranchised, was given its first single MP for the whole area.

Yorkshire, which had 4 MPs, was given 2 MPs for each of the 3 Ridings, East, North and West Riding.

Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Dorset, Herefordshire and Hertfordshire were now to have 3 MPs instead of 2.

County divisions

The following counties were divided into two districts, each with 2 MPs:

Scotland and Ireland

In Scotland, the counties each continued to elect 1 member each. Edinburgh and Glasgow now had 2 MPs; Aberdeen, Dundee, Greenock, Paisley and Perth 1 each. The remaining Burghs combined in districts to elect 18 MPs.

Ireland's representation remained unchanged.

See also

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