Higham Ferrers (UK Parliament constituency)

Higham Ferrers was a parliamentary borough in Northamptonshire, which was represented in the House of Commons from 1558 until 1832, when it was abolished by the Great Reform Act. It was one of the very small number of English boroughs in that period which was entitled to elect only one rather than two Members of Parliament.

Higham Ferrers
Former Borough constituency
for the House of Commons
Number of membersOne


The borough consisted of the parish of Higham Ferrers, a small market town in the east of Northamptonshire. In 1831, the population of the borough was 965, and it contained 169 houses; a further two houses were in the town but outside the boundaries of the borough.

Higham Ferrers was incorporated as a municipal borough in 1556 and was first summoned to elect a representative to the Parliament of 1557–1558. The right to vote was exercised by the Mayor, aldermen, burgesses (members of the town corporation), and freemen, provided they were householders in the borough and not receiving alms; in 1831 this comprised a total of 33 voters. Since the corporation elected its own successors and had the right to create freemen (which was sparingly used), this ensured that the power was self-perpetuating and usually entirely under the influence of the local landowner or "patron".

In the first few years of its existence, during the early Elizabethan period, Higham Ferrers seems to have been entirely under the sway of the Duchy of Lancaster, electing Duchy officers as its MPs, but later in the same reign the influence of the local landed families became more evident, in particular the Hattons and the Montagus of Boughton. From the start of the 18th century, however, the Watson-Wentworth family, later Marquesses of Rockingham, owned the borough and exercised an unchallenged right to nominate its MP; on the death of the 2nd Marquess in 1784, the patronage passed to his nephew and heir, the Earl Fitzwilliam, who still retained it at the time of the Reform Act.

Higham Ferrers was abolished as a constituency by the Reform Act, those of its inhabitants who were qualified subsequently voting in the Northern division of the county.

Members of ParliamentEdit


Parliament Member
1558 Ralph Lane[1]
1559 (Jan) John Purvey[2]
1562/3 John Purvey[2]
1571 Christopher Hatton[2]
1572 Edmund Downing[2]
1584 (Nov) Humphrey Mildmay[2]
1586 (Sep) Humphrey Mildmay[2]
1588 (Oct) Richard Swale[2]
1593 Henry Montagu[2]
1597 Henry Montagu[2]
1601 (Sep) Henry Montagu[2]
1604–1611 Sir Goddard Pemberton
1614 Rowland St John
1620–1625 Sir Charles Montagu
1626 Sir Thomas Dacres
1626 (Feb) Sir George Sondes
1628 Sir George Sondes
1629–1640 No Parliaments summoned


Year Member Party
November 1640 Sir Christopher Hatton Royalist
September 1642 Hatton disabled from sitting – seat vacant
1645 Edward Harby
1653 Higham Ferrers was unrepresented in the Barebones Parliament
and the First and Second Parliaments of the Protectorate
January 1659 James Nutley
May 1659 Edward Harby
April 1660 Sir Thomas Dacres
1661 Lewis Palmer
1679 Sir Rice Rudd
1685 Sir Lewis Palmer
January 1689 Sir Rice Rudd[3]
February 1689 Hon. Lewis Watson
July 1689 Thomas Andrew
1698 Thomas Ekins
1702 Thomas Pemberton
1703 Thomas Watson-Wentworth[4]
1714 Charles Leigh
1722 Thomas Watson-Wentworth
1724 John Finch
May 1741 Henry Finch[5]
December 1741 Henry Seymour Conway Whig
1747 John Hill
1753 Hon. John Yorke
1768 Frederick Montagu
June 1790 Viscount Duncannon[6]
December 1790 John Lee
1793 Serjeant James Adair Whig
1798 Stephen Thurston Adey Whig
1801 Francis Ferrand Foljambe Whig
1807 William Windham Whig
1810 Viscount Duncannon Whig
1812 William Plumer Whig
1822 Viscount Normanby Whig
1826 Major-General Frederick Cavendish Ponsonby Whig
1830 Viscount Howick Whig
April 1831 Viscount Milton Whig
July 1831 Charles Pepys Whig
October 1831 John Ponsonby Whig
1832 Constituency abolished


  1. ^ "History of Parliament". Retrieved 2 October 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "History of Parliament". Retrieved 2 October 2011.
  3. ^ Rudd was also elected for Carmarthenshire, which he chose to represent, and did not sit again for Higham Ferrers
  4. ^ Wentworth was re-elected in 1714, but had also been elected for Malton, which he chose to represent, and did not sit for Higham Ferrers in this Parliament
  5. ^ Finch was also elected for Malton, which he chose to represent, and never sat for Higham Ferrers
  6. ^ Duncannon was also elected for Knaresborough, which he chose to represent, and never sat for Higham Ferrers


  • Robert Beatson, A Chronological Register of Both Houses of Parliament (London: Longman, Hurst, Res & Orme, 1807) [1]
  • D Brunton & D H Pennington, Members of the Long Parliament (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1954)
  • Cobbett's Parliamentary history of England, from the Norman Conquest in 1066 to the year 1803 (London: Thomas Hansard, 1808) [2]
  • J. E. Neale, The Elizabethan House of Commons (London: Jonathan Cape, 1949)
  • T. H. B. Oldfield, The Representative History of Great Britain and Ireland (London: Baldwin, Cradock & Joy, 1816)
  • Edward Porritt and Annie G Porritt, The Unreformed House of Commons (Cambridge University Press, 1903)
  • J Holladay Philbin, Parliamentary Representation 1832 – England and Wales (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1965)
  • Henry Stooks Smith, The Parliaments of England from 1715 to 1847 (2nd edition, edited by FWS Craig – Chichester: Parliamentary Reference Publications, 1973)
  • Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs – Constituencies beginning with "H" (part 3)