Suffolk (UK Parliament constituency)

Suffolk was a county constituency of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which returned two Members of Parliament (MPs) to the House of Commons from 1290 until 1832, when it was split into two divisions.

Former County constituency
for the House of Commons
Number of memberstwo
Replaced byEast Suffolk and West Suffolk


Boundaries and franchiseEdit

The constituency consisted of the historic county of Suffolk. (Although Suffolk contained a number of boroughs, each of which elected two MPs in its own right, these were not excluded from the county constituency, and owning property within the borough could confer a vote at the county election.)

As in other county constituencies the franchise between 1430 and 1832 was defined by the Forty Shilling Freeholder Act, which gave the right to vote to every man who possessed freehold property within the county valued at £2 or more per year for the purposes of land tax; it was not necessary for the freeholder to occupy his land, nor even in later years to be resident in the county at all.

Except during the period of the Commonwealth, Suffolk had two MPs elected by the bloc vote method, under which each voter had two votes. (In the nominated Barebones Parliament, five members represented Suffolk; in the First and Second Parliaments of Oliver Cromwell's Protectorate, there was a general redistribution of seats and Suffolk elected ten members. The traditional arrangements were restored from 1659.)

Political characterEdit

Elections were held at a single polling place, Ipswich, and voters from the rest of the county had to travel to the county town to exercise their franchise, which made elections almost prohibitively expensive in a county as big as Suffolk. The inconvenience of holding the elections in Ipswich, situated in one corner of the county, is emphasised by the fact that for almost all other county purposes, including the Assizes, Suffolk was divided into two sections with proceedings held at Bury St Edmunds as well as Ipswich; the arrangement must certainly have worked to the benefit of candidates whose voting strength was in East Suffolk rather than West Suffolk. It was normal for voters to expect the candidates for whom they voted to meet their expenses in travelling to the poll, and to "entertain" them – in other words provide free food and alcoholic drink – when they arrived.

Peter Jupp includes in his collection of documents relating to elections round the turn of the 19th century a contemporary account of the Suffolk election of 1790, one of the rare contested elections, which well illustrates the arrangements for treating the voters on such occasions. A committee set up to support the candidacies of Sir Charles Bunbury and Sir John Rous, "for the better regulating of the expense of maintaining the freeholders upon the days of election" issued printed tickets with the names of public houses upon them, entitling the bearer to a fixed amount of provision and maintenance – black tickets worth five shillings for the day, and red tickets worth seven shillings and sixpence for a man and horse for the night. After the election, the innkeepers presented their bills for providing this hospitality, which amounted to £3,500 for a two-day election; and the Committee, much dissatisfied by the scale of these charges, declined to pay in full so that several of the publicans afterwards sued the two candidates.

Partly as a result of the expense, contested elections were rare in Suffolk (there were contests at four of the nine general elections between 1701 and 1727, but at only three of the twenty remaining before the Reform Act in 1832), and even when they took place were often only token contests. There was no dominant aristocratic interest in Suffolk, though it would probably have been impossible to defy the county's wealthier peers (such as the Duke of Grafton, Marquess Cornwallis and the Earl of Bristol) had they stood together, since no competing interest could hope to match them in an out-and-out spending contest.

In practice, the choice of members usually lay with the country squires, with matters generally settled more or less amicably by a test of strength at the county meeting with no need for the expense of a formal poll; when there was a contest, in 1784 (when three candidates stood for two seats), the weakest of the three quickly withdrew when it was clear after the first day of voting that he could not win. Nevertheless, the freeholders were not necessarily entirely deferential and manipulable by the gentry: Cannon cites the work of Professor J H Plumb, who showed in his study of Suffolk pollbooks from the reign of Queen Anne that the voters could act independently in a seriously contested election, while their humiliating rejection of their long-standing MP Thomas Sherlock Gooch in favour of a Reform Bill supporter at the tumultuous election of 1830 demonstrates similar intractability more than a century later.


By the time of the Great Reform Act in 1832, Suffolk had a population of approximately 300,000, It was assumed to have around 5,000 qualified voters, but since no full-blooded contest had taken place in living memory this could only be an estimate. (Before the Reform Act there was no permanent register of voters). The Great Reform Act raised Suffolk's entitlement from two to four county MPs, while abolishing three of its seven boroughs. The single county constituency was abolished, being split into two divisions, East Suffolk and West Suffolk. At the first election after Reform, with a somewhat extended franchise, the electorates of these two new divisions totalled about 7,500.

Members of ParliamentEdit


Parliament First member Second member
1376 Sir Richard Waldegrave
1377 (Oct) Sir Richard Waldegrave
1378 Sir Richard Waldegrave
1381 Sir Richard Waldegrave
1382 (May) Sir Richard Waldegrave
1382 (Oct) Sir Richard Waldegrave
1383 (Feb) Sir Richard Waldegrave
1383 (Oct) Sir Richard Waldegrave
1386 Sir Richard Waldegrave Sir William Wingfield[1]
1388 (Feb) Sir Richard Waldegrave Sir William Burgate[1]
1388 (Sep) Sir Richard Waldegrave Sir William Burgate[1]
1390 (Jan) Sir Richard Waldegrave Sir William Wingfield[1]
1390 (Nov) Sir William Wingfield Sir William Burgate[1]
1391 Sir Roger Drury Sir William Bardwell[1]
1393 Sir William Elmham Sir William Argentine[1]
1394 Sir William Elmham Robert Bukton[1]
1395 Sir William Argentine Sir William Burgate[1]
1397 (Jan) Sir William Elmham Robert Bukton[1]
1397 (Sep) Sir William Bardwell Robert Bukton[1]
1399 Sir William Argentine Sir John Heveningham[1]
1401 Sir Roger Drury Robert Bukton[1]
1402 Ralph Ramsey Gilbert Debenham[1]
1404 (Jan) Sir John Strange Sir John Ingoldisthorpe[1]
1404 (Oct) Sir Andrew Butler Sir John Strange[1]
1406 Sir John Strange Sir William Bardwell[1]
1407 Sir Roger Drury John Lancaster[1]
1410 Sir Andrew Butler John Lancaster[1]
1411 John Spencer John Lancaster[1]
1413 (Feb)
1413 (May) John Spencer John Lancaster[1]
1414 (Apr) Sir William Phelip Sir Robert Corbet[1]
1414 (Nov) Sir William Phelip Sir Robert Corbet[1]
1416 (Mar)
1416 (Oct)
1417 Sir John Braham William Rookwood[1]
1419 William Hanningfield William Rookwood[1]
1420 Richard Sterysacre Thomas Hethe[1]
1421 (May) Sir Andrew Butler William Rookwood[1]
1421 (Dec) James Andrew William Rookwood[1]
1422 John Wodehouse John Howard[2]
1427 Sir Robert Wingfield
1431 Sir Robert Wingfield Sir Thomas Tuddenham
1432-1436 Sir Robert Wingfield
Nov 1450 Sir Roger Chamberlain Sir Edmund Mulsho
1491 Sir Robert Drury
1495 Sir Robert Drury
1510 Sir Robert Drury ?[3]
1512 ?
1515 ?
1523 ?
1529 Sir Anthony Wingfield Sir Thomas Wentworth I[3]
1536 Sir Anthony Wingfield
1539 Sir Anthony Wingfield Sir Arthur Hopton[3]
1542 ?Sir Anthony Wingfield Sir Arthur Hopton[3]
1545 Sir William Waldegrave Anthony Rous[3]
1547 Sir Anthony Wingfield Thomas Wentworth, ennobled
and repl. by 23 Jan 1552 by
Sir Thomas Cornwallis[3]
1553 (Mar) Sir William Drury Sir Henry Bedingfield[3]
1553 (Oct) Sir William Drury Sir Henry Jerningham[3]
1554 (Apr) Sir William Drury Sir Henry Jerningham[3]
1554 (Nov) Sir William Drury Sir Henry Jerningham[3]
1555 Sir Henry Jerningham Sir William Drury[3]
1558 Thomas Cornwallis Sir William Cordell[3]
1558/9 Sir Owen Hopton William Cavendish I[4]
1562/3 Sir Robert Wingfield William Waldegrave[4]
1571 (Mar) Sir Owen Hopton[5] Thomas Seckford[4]
1572 (Sir) Nicholas Bacon Sir Robert Wingfield[4]
1584 Sir William Drury Sir Robert Jermyn[4]
1586 (Oct) Sir Robert Jermyn Sir John Heigham[6]
1588/9 Anthony Wingfield Arthur Hopton[4]
1593 Edward Bacon Sir Clement Heigham[4]
1597 (Sep) Sir Thomas Waldegrave Henry Warner[4]
1601 Sir Henry Glemham Calthrop Parker[4]
1604–1611 Sir John Heigham Sir Robert Drury
1614 Sir Thomas Jermyn Sir Robert Gardener
1621–1622 Robert Crane Thomas Clench
1624 Sir William Spring of Pakenham Sir Roger North
1625 Sir Edmund Bacon, 2nd Baronet Thomas Cornwallis
1626 Robert Naunton[7] Sir Robert Crane
1628 Sir William Spring of Pakenham Sir Nathaniel Barnardiston
1629–1640 No Parliament convened


Year First member First party Second member Second party
April 1640 Sir Nathaniel Barnardiston Parliamentarian Sir Philip Parker Parliamentarian
December 1648 Barnardiston not recorded as sitting after Pride's Purge Parker excluded in Pride's Purge – seat vacant
1653 Barebones Parliament (5 nominated members): Jacob Caley, Francis Brewster, Robert Dunkon, John Clarke,
Edward Plumstead
1654 First Protectorate Parliament (10 members): Sir William Spring, Bt, Sir Thomas Barnardiston, Bt,
Sir T Bedingfield, William Bloys, John Gurdon, William Gibbes, John Brandling, Alexander Bence,
John Sicklemore, Thomas Bacon
1656 Second Protectorate Parliament (10 members): Sir Thomas Barnardiston, Bt, Henry Felton, Henry North,
Edmund Harvey, Edward Le Neve, John Sicklemore, William Bloys, William Gibbes, Robert Brewster, Daniel Wall
January 1659 Henry Felton Sir Thomas Barnardiston, Bt
May 1659 Not represented in the restored Rump
April 1660 Henry Felton Sir Henry North, Bt
1673 Sir Samuel Barnardiston, Bt Whig
February 1679 Sir Gervase Elwes, Bt
September 1679 Sir William Spring, Bt Whig
1685 Sir Robert Broke, Bt Sir Henry North, Bt
1689 Sir John Cordell, Bt Sir John Rous, Bt
1690 Sir Gervase Elwes, Bt Sir Samuel Barnardiston, Bt Whig
1698 The Earl of Dysart Tory
1702 Sir Dudley Cullum, Bt
1705 Sir Robert Davers, Bt
1707 Leicester Martin
1708 Sir Thomas Hanmer, Bt
1722 Sir William Barker, Bt
1727 Sir Jermyn Davers, Bt
1732 Sir Robert Kemp, Bt
1735 Sir Cordell Firebrace, Bt Tory
1743 John Affleck Tory
1759 Rowland Holt Tory
1761 Sir Charles Bunbury, Bt[8]
1768 Sir John Rous, Bt
1771 Rowland Holt
1780 Sir John Rous, Bt
1784 Joshua Grigby
1790 Sir Charles Bunbury, Bt
1796 Viscount Brome
1806 Thomas Gooch
1812 Sir William Rowley, Bt
1830 Sir Henry Bunbury, Bt Charles Tyrell
1832 Suffolk split into two divisions: see East Suffolk and West Suffolk


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab "History of Parliament". Retrieved 16 September 2011.
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "History of Parliament". Retrieved 16 September 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i "History of Parliament". Retrieved 16 September 2011.
  5. ^ Craig, John. "Hopton, Owen". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/47136. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  6. ^ Craig, John. "Heigham, John". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/47135. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  7. ^ Schreiber, Roy E. "Naunton, Robert". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/19812. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  8. ^ Succeeded to baronetcy, June 1764


  • Knights Of The Shire In Parliament For The County Of Suffolk.
  • D Brunton & D H Pennington, Members of the Long Parliament (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1954)
  • John Cannon, Parliamentary Representation 1832 – England and Wales (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973)
  • Cobbett's Parliamentary history of England, from the Norman Conquest in 1066 to the year 1803 (London: Thomas Hansard, 1808) [1]
  • F W S Craig, British Parliamentary Election Results 1832–1885 (2nd edition, Aldershot: Parliamentary Research Services, 1989)
  • Peter Jupp, British and Irish Elections 1784–1831 (Newton Abbott: David & Charles, 1973)
  • Lewis Namier & John Brooke, The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1754–1790 (London: HMSO, 1964)
  • J E Neale, The Elizabethan House of Commons (London: Jonathan Cape, 1949)
  • J Holladay Philbin, Parliamentary Reform 1640–1832 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1965)
  • Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs – Constituencies beginning with "S" (part 6)