Belfast (UK Parliament constituency)
Belfast was an Irish Borough constituency in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Comprising the city of Belfast, it elected one Member of Parliament (MP) from 1801 to 1832, and then two MPs from 1832 until the constituency was divided for the 1885 general election.
|Former Borough constituency|
for the House of Commons
|Replaced by||Belfast East, Belfast North, Belfast South and Belfast West|
|1801||1832||House of Commons of the United Kingdom||1|
|1832||1885||House of Commons of the United Kingdom||2|
Under the Act of Union 1800 the Parliament of Ireland was merged with the Parliament of Great Britain to form the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The 300 members of the Irish House of Commons were reduced to 100 Irish members of the United Kingdom House of Commons. As part of that process Belfast lost one of its seats.
There was no new election for the 1st Parliament of the United Kingdom. In Irish constituencies, where the number of seats were reduced from two to one, the MP to go to Westminster was selected by drawing lots.
Boundaries and boundary changesEdit
The map and other details relate to the modern area of Belfast, but are included in this article to give a general idea of the location of the historic constituency.
This constituency was the Parliamentary borough of Belfast in County Antrim. In 1832 and 1868 the boundaries of that borough were extended. The boundaries in 1832 were defined as follows: "From the Point on the South-east of the Town at which the Blackstaff River joins the River Lagan, up the Blackstaff River, to the Point at which the same is joined by a small Stream which washes the Wall of Mr Campbell's Cotton Works [near where Divis Street joins the Westlink]; thence up the said small Stream to the Point at which the same would be cut by a straight Line to be drawn from the Chimney of Mr Campbell's Cotton Works to an old Fort on the West of the Town, in a field belonging to Mr Elliott, near a Brickfield on the Left of the old Lodge Road [near Denmark Street]; thence in a straight Line to the said old Fort; thence in a straight Line to the South-western Angle of the Graveyard which is to the West of the Infantry Barracks; thence along the Southern Wall of the said Graveyard to the Point at which the same makes an Angle; thence in a straight Line to the South-western Angle of the Enclosure of the Infantry Barracks; thence along the Western Enclosure Wall of the Infantry Barracks to the Northern Extremity thereof; thence along a Ditch which is the Boundary of the Ordnance Land to the Point at which the same reaches the South-western Angle of the Enclosure of the Artillery Barracks; thence along the Western Enclosure Wall of the Artillery Barracks; and along a Ditch in continuation of the Direction thereof, to the Point at which such Ditch meets a Road [the New Lodge Road] which leads from the Ballynure Road into the old Carrickfergus Road; thence along the Road so leading into the old Carrickfergus Road to the Point at which the same joins the old Carrickfergus Road; thence, Northward, along the old Carrickfergus Road to the Point at which the same meets the Mile Water [near Mountcollyer Street]; thence down the Mile Water to the Point at which the same joins the River Lagan; thence along the River Lagan to the Point first described; also beyond the Lagan, the Townland of Ballymacarrett."
The Representation of the People (Ireland) Act 1868, provided that all that part of the Borough situate beyond the limits of the Parliamentary Borough as defined in 1832, but within the Municipal Limits, should form part of the Borough for all Purposes connected with the Election of a Member or Members to serve in Parliament for the Borough. See Belfast Borough Extension Act 1853 (16 & 17 Vict.) c. 129.
In the redistribution of 1885 Belfast was further expanded (including parts of County Down as well as County Antrim) and split into four single member divisions; Belfast East, Belfast North, Belfast South and Belfast West.
Electoral system and electorateEdit
Until 1832 the electorate were the members of Belfast Corporation (the local Council). This had long been resented by reformers as it made the constituency a pocket borough of the Marquess of Donegall.
In 1784 a petition was sent to the Parliament of Ireland.
"Your petitioners in the most humble and respectful manner, take leave to represent to your Hon House,
That Belfast is a large and populous town, containing above 15,000 inhabitants, carrying on a very extensive foreign commerce, as well as inland trade, and paying annually upwards of £80,000 towards the public revenue.
That this numerous body of people not being represented in your Hon House, are, contrary to the fundamental principle of the constitution, governed by laws to which they give no assent; for although the borough of Belfast sends two Members to parliament, yet those members are returned (under the immediate direction of a noble peer) by five or six Burgesses, in the appointment of whom your Petitioners have no share, and therefore the members so returned cannot in any sense, be deemed the Representatives of your Petitioners."
In such circumstances it is hardly surprising that there were no contested elections, for the United Kingdom Parliament, in the constituency until reform took place.
In 1832 the electorate was consideraby extended by the Irish part of the Reform Act 1832. Boroughs in Ireland were given a uniform franchise for the first time. The vote was given to occupiers of land valued at least £10 and resident freemen by birth or servitude (descent from or apprenticeship to an existing freeman of the borough) or who were admitted before March 1831.
Members of ParliamentEdit
- (1) Lord Arthur Chichester and James Emerson Tennent changed party allegiance in 1834 (from Liberal to Conservative).
- (2) Lord John Ludford Chichester changed party allegiance by 1847 (part of Peelite faction).
After 1832, when registration of voters was introduced, a turnout figure is given for contested elections. In two-member elections (when the exact number of voters is unknowmn) this is calculated by dividing the number of votes by two. To the extent that voters did not use both their votes this will be an underestimate of turnout. If the electorate figure is unknown the last known electorate figure is used to provide an estimate of turnout.
Where a party had more than one candidate in one or both of a pair of successive elections change is calculated for each individual candidate, otherwise change is based on the party vote.
Elections in the 1800sEdit
|Tory gain from new seat||Swing||N/A|
Elections in the 1810sEdit
- Death of May
- Appointment of May as Collector of Customs in Belfast Port
Elections in the 1820sEdit
Elections in the 1830sEdit
|Whig gain from Tory||Swing||N/A|
|Liberal||James Emerson Tennent||723||25.8||N/A|
|Liberal||Robert James Tennent||625||22.3||N/A|
|Liberal||William Sharman Crawford||616||22.0||N/A|
Note: 1,420 electors voted. J. Emerson Tennent and presumably Chichester ceased to support Lord Grey in 1834 (see Emerson Tennent's article in The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography).
|Conservative||James Emerson Tennent||773||35.0||+9.2|
Note: 1,407 electors voted. Stooks Smith suggests there were 1,451 registered electors. Walker gives the electorate figure as above.
- Death of McCance
|Liberal||Robert James Tennent||82||33.6||+33.6|
|Conservative gain from Liberal||Swing||N/A|
Note: Stooks Smith suggests there were 1,508 registered electors. Walker gives the electorate figure as above. Stooks Smith also indicates that 'Mr Tennent resigned in consequence of a decision of the Assessors'.
|Conservative||James Emerson Tennent||901||24.8||+24.8|
Note: 1,839 electors voted. Stooks Smith suggests there were 1,926 registered electors. Walker gives the electorate figure as above.
- 8 March 1838: On petition Gibson and the Earl of Belfast were unseated and Emerson Tennent and Dunbar declared elected
Elections in the 1840sEdit
|Conservative||James Emerson Tennent||927||26.8|
|Conservative||William Gillilan Johnson||913||26.4|
|Whig||David Robert Ross||792||22.9|
|Conservative gain from Whig||Swing|
|Conservative gain from Whig||Swing|
Note: 1,740 electors voted. Stooks Smith suggests there were 1,937 registered electors. Walker gives the electorate figure as above.
- On petition Emerson Tennent and Johnson unseated and new writ issued
|Whig||David Robert Ross||886||39.5||−7.2|
|Conservative||James Emerson Tennent||859||38.3||+11.5|
|Conservative||Hamilton Francis Chichester||500||22.3||−4.1|
|Turnout||1,123 (est)||26.5 (est)||−14.5|
|Whig gain from Conservative||Swing||−7.3|
Note: Stooks Smith comments that 'a compromise was entered into by which one of each party was to be returned'.
- Resignation of Emerson Tennent
|Whig||Robert James Tennent||929||39.3||−7.4|
|Turnout||1,183 (est)||12.2 (est)||−28.8|
|Whig gain from Conservative||Swing||+2.3|
|Peelite gain from Conservative||Swing||N/A|
Elections in the 1850sEdit
|Whig||Robert James Tennent||904||26.9||−12.4|
|Turnout||2,130 (est.)||79.0 (est.)||+66.8|
|Conservative gain from Peelite||Swing||N/A|
|Conservative gain from Whig||Swing||N/A|
|Whig||John Robinson McClean||995||19.2||N/A|
|Whig||John Francis Ferguson||733||14.1||N/A|
- Appointment of Cairns as Solicitor-General
|Conservative||' Hugh Cairns'||Unopposed|
Elections in the 1860sEdit
- Resignation of Davison
|Conservative||'Samuel Gibson Getty'||Unopposed|
|Conservative||Samuel Gibson Getty||1,728||38.1||N/A|
|Turnout||2,766 (est.)||81.0 (est.)||N/A|
- Appointment of Cairns as Attorney-General
- Appointment of Cairns as Lord Justice of Appeal in Chancery (of England and Wales)
|Turnout||9,750 (est.)||80.1 (est.)||−0.9|
|Liberal gain from Conservative||Swing||−3.3|
Elections in the 1870sEdit
|Ind. Conservative||John Rea||506||2.4||N/A|
|Turnout||12,896 (est.)||80.7 (est.)||+0.6|
|Conservative gain from Liberal||Swing||+1.8|
- Appointment of Johnston as Inspector of Fisheries
|Ind. Conservative||Robert Seeds||4,895||37.3||N/A|
Elections in the 1880sEdit
|Ind. Conservative||Robert Seeds||6,119||22.6||N/A|
|Liberal||John Shaw Brown||5,122||18.9||−0.4|
|Turnout||19,149 (est.)||90.4 (est.)||+9.7|
- Constituency divided in the 1885 redistribution
- Parliamentary Boundaries (Ireland) Act, 1832, Schedule, paragraph 4
- Section 9
- Stooks Smith, Henry (1842). The Register of Parliamentary Contested Elections: Containing the Uncontested Elections Since 1830. London: Simpkin, Marshall, & Co. p. 216. Retrieved 19 August 2019 – via Google Books.
- "Mayo Constitution". 10 January 1833. p. 3. Retrieved 19 August 2019 – via British Newspaper Archive.
- "Leeds Intelligencer". 27 December 1832. p. 2. Retrieved 19 August 2019 – via British Newspaper Archive.
- Boase, George Clement (1898). . In Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. 56. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
- Churton, Edward (1838). The Assembled Commons or Parliamentary Biographer. pp. 98, 99. Retrieved 19 August 2019 – via Google Books.
- "Belfast Election". Drogheda Journal, or Meath & Louth Advertiser. 8 August 1837. p. 4. Retrieved 19 August 2019 – via British Newspaper Archive.
- "Belfast Election". Sussex Advertiser. 23 August 1842. p. 1. Retrieved 19 August 2019 – via British Newspaper Archive.
- "Irish Members Returned". Tipperary Vindicator. 14 August 1847. p. 3. Retrieved 15 September 2018 – via British Newspaper Archive.
- "The Irish Members". Dublin Weekly Nation. 14 August 1847. p. 4. Retrieved 15 September 2018 – via British Newspaper Archive.
- Walker, B. M., ed. (1978). Parliamentary Election Results in Ireland, 1801-1922. Dublin: Royal Irish Academy. ISBN 0901714127.
- "Irish Elections". Freeman's Journal. 21 March 1857. p. 3. Retrieved 15 September 2018 – via British Newspaper Archive.
- "Belfast Election". Derry Journal. 6 February 1874. pp. 2–3. Retrieved 27 December 2017 – via British Newspaper Archive.
- "Belfast Election". Falkirk Herald. 4 April 1878. p. 3. Retrieved 27 December 2017 – via British Newspaper Archive.
- "Dr Seeds". Northern Whig. 20 March 1880. p. 4. Retrieved 27 December 2017 – via British Newspaper Archive.
- The Parliaments of England by Henry Stooks Smith (1st edition published in three volumes 1844-50), 2nd edition edited (in one volume) by F. W. S. Craig (Political Reference Publications 1973)
- Parliamentary Election Results in Ireland, 1801-1922, edited by B. M. Walker (Royal Irish Academy 1978)
- Peter Robinson, the former MP for the constituency, provided details on his web-site of the Parliamentary boundaries and electoral history of Belfast since the Union and provided brief biographies of Belfast MPs. The report of the Boundary Commission (Ireland) (Cd 8830, 1917), which is referred to on that website, is available online here.
- Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs – Constituencies beginning with "B" (part 2)