Reform Act 1832

Referred to the British Reform Act of 1832, as Great Reform Act, was a law with which the division into constituencies for the election of the British Parliament was amended for the first time in nearly 150 years.

  • 3.1 boroughs with a deputy
  • 3.2 Boroughs with two deputies
  • 3.3 Other Changes


Become necessary, were the changes mainly through the phenomenon of Rotten boroughs ( " rotten boroughs " ) - constituencies whose electorate was dropped so significantly by the census suffrage over the years that the few remaining votes in Parliament were far overweight. Special public outrage excited the examples Gatton and Old Sarum, with seven or eleven remaining voters.

The Tories, who had similar reform projects previously blocked, fought also this template. After the first reading on 14 March 1831, personal influence of King William IV, the resignation of the Whig government of Earl Grey and new elections were required until the law finally in the third reading in the House of Commons on June 7, 1832 a majority of one vote has been accepted.

For historical reasons, had some English boroughs the right to send a deputy to parliament, while each of the remainder of each county was a single constituency. Over the years, a few boroughs were quite been added or removed. But the Reform Act allowed for the first time ever a fundamental change of constituency boundaries. Many cities that had emerged only during the industrialization and not represented in Parliament, were given the right to elect their own representatives. In contrast, many rotten boroughs lost their seat

With the new law was also the number of eligible voters from 435,000 to 652,000 increased ( about one seventh of the male population ). Could benefit particularly wealthy city dwellers who paid an annual rent of more than £ 10. Thus the political weight is shifted from rural, aristocratic dominated south to the new cities in the north. There were 58 rotten boroughs dissolved and boroughs with fewer than 4,000 inhabitants had to give up one of their two seats.

In Scotland, there were few changes. Six smaller counties were divided into three constituencies. Edinburgh and Glasgow now had two MPs, Aberdeen, Dundee, Greenock, Paisley and Perth each one. In Ireland, there was no change at all.

But even with the new law was the influence of the gentry of the English landed gentry, still very high. Prime Minister John Russell had hoped that further reforms would no longer be necessary, but public pressure led to further major changes such as the Reform Act 1867.

Reduced representation

Repealed rotten boroughs

The following constituencies were resolved by this law and integrated into the surrounding counties:

  • Fowey, Cornwall
  • Gatton, Surrey
  • Bedwin, Wiltshire
  • Haslemere, Surrey
  • Hedon, East Riding of Yorkshire
  • Heytesbury, Wiltshire
  • Higham Ferrers, Northamptonshire
  • Hindon, Wiltshire
  • Ilchester, Somerset
  • Lostwithiel, Cornwall
  • Ludgershall, Wiltshire
  • Milborne Port, Somerset
  • Minehead, Somerset
  • New Romney, Kent
  • Newport, Cornwall
  • Newton, Lancashire
  • Newtown, Isle of Wight
  • Okehampton, Devon
  • Old Sarum, Wiltshire
  • Orford, Suffolk
  • Plympton, Devon
  • Queenborough, Kent
  • Saltash, Cornwall
  • Seaford, Sussex
  • St Germans, Cornwall
  • St Mawes, Cornwall
  • St Michael's, Cornwall
  • Steyning, Sussex
  • Stockbridge, Hampshire
  • Tregony, Cornwall
  • West Looe, Cornwall
  • Wendover, Buckinghamshire
  • Weobley, Herefordshire
  • Whitchurch, Hampshire
  • Winchelsea, Sussex
  • Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire
  • Yarmouth, Isle of Wight

Divided Constituencies

The following boroughs sent only a deputy instead of the previous two:

  • Andover, Hampshire
  • Ashburton, Devon
  • Berwick -upon- Tweed, Northumberland
  • Bridgwater, Somerset
  • Christchurch, Dorset
  • Dartmouth, Devon
  • Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire
  • Grimsby, Lincolnshire
  • Helston, Cornwall
  • Honiton, Devon
  • Hythe, Kent
  • Lancaster, Lancashire
  • Launceston, Cornwall
  • Liskeard, Cornwall
  • Lyme Regis, Dorset
  • Malmesbury, Wiltshire
  • Midhurst, Sussex
  • Monmouth, Monmouthshire
  • Morpeth, Northumberland
  • Northallerton, North Riding of Yorkshire
  • Peterborough, Northamptonshire
  • Rye, Sussex
  • Shaftesbury, Dorset
  • St Ives, Cornwall
  • Thirsk, North Riding of Yorkshire
  • Wallingford, Oxfordshire
  • Wareham, Dorset
  • Wiltshire, Wiltshire
  • Wilton, Wiltshire
  • Woodstock, Oxfordshire

Weymouth and Melcombe Regis in Dorset had previously jointly elected four MPs, this was reduced to two.

New constituencies

The following boroughs were newly represented:

Boroughs with a deputy

Boroughs with two deputies

  • Manchester, Lancashire
  • Marylebone, Middlesex
  • Retford, Nottinghamshire
  • Sheffield, West Riding of Yorkshire
  • Stoke -on-Trent, Staffordshire
  • Stroud, Gloucestershire
  • Sunderland, County Durham
  • Tower Hamlets, Middlesex
  • Wolverhampton, Staffordshire

Other changes

The Isle of Wight, which had previously three small boroughs, each with a deputy who posted only a single deputy.

Yorkshire, which sent four deputies previously received two deputies for each of the three Ridings: East Riding, North Riding and West Riding.

The number of seats for Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Dorset, Herefordshire and Hertfordshire has been increased from two to three.

Division of the county

The following counties were divided into two constituencies with two members:

  • Kent
  • Lancashire
  • Leicestershire
  • Lincolnshire
  • Norfolk
  • Northamptonshire
  • Northumberland
  • Nottinghamshire
  • Shropshire
  • Somerset
  • Staffordshire
  • Suffolk
  • Surrey
  • Sussex
  • Warwickshire
  • Wiltshire
  • Worcestershire

Links / literature

  • The Reform Act of 1832 The essential parts of the legal text, with a comment from Norman Gash: The Age of Peel. Edward Arnold, London 1973
  • Robert Chambers: THE REFORM ACT OF 1831-2: OLD SARUM ( The Book Of Days, March 14th ) Describes the contemporary discussions
  • British History (19th century)
  • Legal source ( United Kingdom)
  • 1832
  • Suffrage