Supriya Ghosh (Editor)

Abingdon (UK Parliament constituency)

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County  Berkshire
Type of constituency  Borough constituency
Replaced by  Wantage
Created from  Berkshire and Abingdon
Number of members  1
Abingdon (UK Parliament constituency)

Abingdon was a constituency of the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom (and its predecessor institutions for England and Great Britain), electing one Member of Parliament (MP) from 1558 until 1983. (It was one of the few English constituencies in the unreformed House of Commons to elect only one Member of Parliament (MP) by the first past the post system of election.)



Abingdon was one of three English parliamentary boroughs enfranchised by Queen Mary I as anomalous single-member constituencies, and held its first Parliamentary election in 1558. The borough consisted of part of two parishes in the market town of Abingdon, then the county town of Berkshire. The right to vote was exercised by all inhabitant householders paying scot and lot and not receiving alms; the highest recorded number of votes to be cast before 1832 was 253, at the general election of 1806.

Abingdon's voters seem always to have maintained their independence, and the constituency never came under the influence of a "patron" who assumed the right to choose the MP. Nevertheless, this did not always guarantee a pure election, and Porritt records that Abingdon offers the earliest case he was able to trace of a candidate trying to bribe voters with the promise of official office, later one of the most widespread abuses in English elections. In 1698, the defeated candidate, William Hucks, petitioned against the election of Sir Simon Harcourt, but during the hearing of the case it emerged that Hucks had promised that should he be elected an MP he would be made a Commissioner of the Excise, in which case he would use that power to appoint several of the voters to well-paid excise posts. The petition was dismissed and Hucks was committed to the custody of the sergeant-at-arms. (But ten years later, defeated again by Harcourt at the election of 1708, Hucks petitioned once more, on grounds of intimidation and other illegal practices, and this time Harcourt was ejected from his seat and Hucks declared to have been duly elected. Harcourt complained that the decision was a partisan one - which would have been by no means unusual at the period - "insisting to the last that he was the legal member, by a clear majority, by the most fair estimation".)

In 1831, the population of the borough was approximately 5,300, and contained 1,192 houses. This was sufficient for Abingdon to retain its MP under the Great Reform Act. (Indeed, it would have been big enough to retain two MPs had it had them, but there was no question of its representation being increased.) Its boundaries were unaltered, and under the reformed franchise 300 of the residents were qualified to vote.

In 1885 the borough constituency was abolished and the town was moved into a new county, The Northern or Abingdon Division of Berkshire. This constituency consisted of the northern part of the historic county, and as well as Abingdon included the towns of Wantage and Wallingford; it was predominantly agricultural at first, although its character changed during the 20th century with the growth of light industry round Abingdon, and it was generally a safe Conservative seat. This constituency survived essentially intact, with only minor boundary changes, until the 1983 general election, by which time it was simply called Abingdon County Constituency.

Changes in administrative boundaries during the 1970s moved most of the northern part of the historic county of Berkshire, including Abingdon, into the county of Oxfordshire. These changes were reflected in the constituency boundary changes introduced in 1983, and the Abingdon constituency was divided; most of its electors were placed in the new Wantage constituency and a significant minority including electors in the town of Abingdon were placed in the Oxford West and Abingdon constituency.

Northern or Abingdon Division of Berkshire, 1885 - 1918

The constituency was defined as consisting of: The Abingdon, Faringdon, Wallingford, and Wantage petty sessional divisions of Berkshire, the municipal borough of Wallingford and the parts of the boroughs of Abingdon and Oxford in Berkshire.

Abingdon Division of Berkshire, 1918 - 1950

The constituency's boundaries were adjusted in 1918, and it was redefined in terms of the administrative county of Berkshire and the county districts created by the Local Government Acts of 1888 and 1894 as follows:

  • The rural districts of Abingdon (the civil parishes of Abingdon St Helen Without, Appleford, Appleton-with-Eaton, Besselsleigh, Cumnor, Draycot Moor, Drayton, Frilford, Fyfield, Garford, Kingston Bagpuize, Lyford, Marcham, Milton, North Hinksey, Radley, South Hinksey, Steventon, Sunningwell, Sutton Courtenay, Sutton Wick, Tubney, Wootton, and Wytham), Wallingford (the civil parishes of Aston Tirrold, Aston Upthorpe, Brightwell-cum-Sotwell, Cholsey, Didcot, East Hagbourne, Little Wittenham, Long Wittenham, Moulsford, North Moreton, South Moreton, and West Hagbourne), and Wantage, the part of the rural district of Bradfield which consists of the civil parishes of Ashampstead, Basildon, Frilsham, Streatley, and Yattendon;
  • The part of the rural district of Faringdon which is within the administrative county of Berks (the civil parishes of Ashbury, Baulking, Bourton, Buckland, Buscot, Charney Bassett, Coleshill, Compton Beauchamp, Eaton Hastings, Fernham, Great Coxwell, Great Faringdon, Hatford, Hinton Waldrist, Kingston Lisle, Little Coxwell, Littleworth, Longcot, Longworth, Pusey, Shellingford, Stanford in the Vale, Uffington, Watchfield, and Woolstone);
  • The municipal boroughs of Abingdon and Wallingford;
  • The urban district of Wantage.
  • Abingdon County Constituency, 1950 - 1983

    The Representation of the People Act 1948 reorganised parliamentary constituencies, and Abingdon County Constituency was altered slightly. The official definition of the constituency was:

  • The boroughs of Abingdon and Wallingford;
  • the urban district of Wantage;
  • the rural districts of Abingdon, Faringdon, Wallingford and Wantage.
  • The constituency was not altered by the Parliamentary Constituencies (England) Order 1970, and continued unchanged until 1983.

    MPs 1885–1983

    After the abolition of the parliamentary borough of Abingdon, a new county division of Berkshire was created.


    Sources 1754-1784: Namier and Brooke; (parties) Stooks Smith. Positive swing is from Whig to Tory. Sources 1885-1900: House of Commons 1901.

  • Seat vacated on appointment of Morton as Chief Justice of Chester
  • On petition Nathaniel Bayly seated in place of John Morton, 8 February 1770
  • Tory hold from previous general election; Tory gain from Whig, from change on petition.
  • Election declared void, 6 March 1775
  • Change is calculated from the previous general election.
  • Resignation of Mayor.
  • Death of Howorth
  • Elections in the 1910s

  • endorsed by Coalition Government
  • Elections in the 1940s

    A General election was due to take place before the end of 1940, but was postponed due to the Second World War. By 1939, the following candidates had been selected to contest this constituency;

  • Conservative: Sir Ralph Glyn
  • Liberal: Capt. A D Macdonald MC
  • Labour: Frank W Bourne
  • References

    Abingdon (UK Parliament constituency) Wikipedia