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Abingdon (UK Parliament constituency)

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Abingdon (UK Parliament constituency)

Former County constituency
for the House of Commons
County Berkshire
Number of members One
Replaced by Wantage and Oxford West & Abingdon
Created from Berkshire and Abingdon
Number of members One
Type of constituency Borough 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.)


  • History 1
  • Boundaries 2
    • Northern or Abingdon Division of Berkshire, 1885 - 1918 2.1
    • Abingdon Division of Berkshire, 1918 - 1950 2.2
    • Abingdon County Constituency, 1950 - 1983 2.3
  • Members of Parliament 3
    • 1558-1640 3.1
    • 1640–1885 3.2
    • MPs 1885–1983 3.3
  • Elections 4
    • Elections in the 1900s 4.1
    • Elections in the 1910s 4.2
    • Elections in the 1920s 4.3
    • Elections in the 1930s 4.4
    • Elections in the 1940s 4.5
    • Elections in the 1950s 4.6
    • Elections in the 1960s 4.7
    • Elections in the 1970s 4.8
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7
  • Bibliography 8


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.[1]

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:[2]

Abingdon County Constituency, 1950 - 1983


  • Boundaries of Parliamentary Constituencies 1885-1972, compiled and edited by F. W. S. Craig (Political Reference Publications 1972)
  • British Parliamentary Election Results 1832-1885, compiled and edited by F.W.S. Craig (The Macmillan Press 1977)
  • British Parliamentary Election Results 1885-1918, compiled and edited by F.W.S. Craig (The Macmillan Press 1974)
  • British Parliamentary Election Results 1918-1949, compiled and edited by F.W.S. Craig (The Macmillan Press 1977)
  • D. Brunton & D. H. Pennington, Members of the Long Parliament (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1954)
  • Sir Lewis Namier and John Brooke, The House of Commons 1754-1790 (London: HMSO 1964)
  • J. E. Neale, The Elizabethan House of Commons (London: Jonathan Cape, 1949)
  • Robert H O'Byrne, The Representative History of Great Britain and Ireland, Part II - Berkshire (London: John Ollivier, 1848)
  • T. H. B. Oldfield, The Representative History of Great Britain and Ireland (London: Baldwin, Cradock & Joy, 1816)
  • Henry Pelling, Social Geography of British Elections 1885-1910 (London: Macmillan, 1967)
  • J Holladay Philbin, Parliamentary Representation 1832 - England and Wales (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1965)
  • Edward Porritt and Annie G Porritt, The Unreformed House of Commons (Cambridge University Press, 1903)
  • Henry Stooks Smith, The Parliaments of England (1st edition published in three volumes 1844-50; 2nd edition edited in one volume by F.W.S. Craig, Political Reference Publications, 1973)
  • Frederic A Youngs, jr, "Guide to the Local Administrative Units of England, Vol I" (London: Royal Historical Society, 1979)
  • Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs – Constituencies beginning with "A" (part 1)


  1. ^ Redistribution of Seats Act, 1885 c.23, Schedule 7
  2. ^ Representation of the People Act 1918 c.64, schedule 9
  3. ^ Representation of the People Act 1948, c. 65, Schedule 1
  4. ^ British parliamentary election results 1918-1949, Craig, F.W.S.
  5. ^ British parliamentary election results 1918-1949, Craig, F.W.S.
  6. ^ British parliamentary election results 1918-1949, Craig, F.W.S.
  7. ^ British parliamentary election results 1918-1949, Craig, F.W.S.
  8. ^ British parliamentary election results 1918-1949, Craig, F.W.S.
  9. ^ The Liberal Magazine, 1939


  1. ^ Medlycott's election was declared void on petition, and a new election was held
  2. ^ Southby was returned as elected by the Mayor, but on petition the Commons decided that Stonhouse and not Southby had received the most votes, and eventually declared Stonhouse duly elected
  3. ^ Harcourt was initially declared elected, but on petition alleging "that Sir Simon, by menaces and by other illegal practices of himself and his agents, procured several votes for him, and several were admitted to vote for him who had no right", the result was overturned and Hucks declared to have been duly elected
  4. ^ At the election of 1768, Morton was declared re-elected, but on petition the result was overturned and his opponent Bayly declared elected instead
  5. ^ On petition, Mayor's election was declared void, since as High Sheriff of Berkshire he was not eligible to be elected MP for a borough within the county. A new election was ordered, by which time Mayor had completed his term as sheriff and was re-elected.


See also

General Election 1979: Abingdon
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Independent R Pinder 381 0.50
Majority 22,291 29.07
Turnout 79.50
General Election October 1974: Abingdon
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Majority 10,637 15.53
Turnout 75.75
General Election February 1974: Abingdon
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Majority 13,743 18.51
Turnout 83.03
General Election 1970: Abingdon


Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Majority 13,073 19.65
Turnout 77.62

Elections in the 1970s

General Election 1966: Abingdon

Electorate 72,575

Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Majority 3,302 5.51
Turnout 59,899 82.53
General Election 1964: Abingdon


Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Majority 6,373 11.45
Turnout 80.56

Elections in the 1960s

General Election 1959: Abingdon
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Majority 10,972 21.28
Turnout 80.77
General Election 1955: Abingdon


Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Majority 8,634 16.85
Turnout 87.59
Abingdon by-election, 1953
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Majority 5,860
Turnout 75.9
General Election 1951: Abingdon


Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Majority 4,883 10.93
Turnout 79.96
General Election 1950: Abingdon
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Majority 3,862 8.71
Turnout 82.10

Elections in the 1950s

General Election 1945: Abingdon

Electorate 59,343

Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Independent CAM Freake 419 1.1
Majority 4,988 13.1
Turnout 64.1
  • Conservative: Sir Ralph Glyn
  • Liberal: Capt. A D Macdonald MC[9]
  • Labour: Frank W Bourne

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;

Elections in the 1940s

General Election 1935: Abingdon

Electorate 40,843

Party Candidate Votes % ±%
General Election 1931: Abingdon
Party Candidate Votes % ±%

Elections in the 1930s

General Election 1929[8]

Electorate 36,758

Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Majority 2,198 7.3
Turnout 80.8
General Election 1924[7]

Electorate 28,082

Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Majority 4,312 18.6
Turnout 82.9
General Election 1923[6]

Electorate 27,183

Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Majority 254 1.2 -1.4
Turnout 79.5 +2.4
General Election 1922[5]

Electorate 26,541

Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Majority 540 2.6 n/a
Turnout 77.1 n/a
Abingdon by-election, 1921[4]


Party Candidate Votes % ±%

Elections in the 1920s

  • Was publically endorsed by all Party Leaders in the Coalition Government.
General Election 1918

Electorate 26,280

Party Candidate Votes % ±%
General Election December 1910

Electorate 9,255

Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Majority 1,349 16.8 +4.6
General Election January 1910

Electorate 9,255

Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Majority 1,053 12.2 14.4
Turnout 93.0 +6.1

Elections in the 1910s

General Election 1906

Electorate 8,875

Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Majority 176 2.2 n/a
Turnout 86.9 n/a
Edward Strauss
General Election 1900: Abingdon
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Turnout 8698 N/A +1615

Elections in the 1900s

General Election 1895: Abingdon
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Majority 1045 14.75 +9.96
Turnout 7083 N/A +279
General Election 1892: Abingdon
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Majority 326 4.79 -29.36
Turnout 6804 N/A +991
General Election 1886: Abingdon
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Majority 1985 34.15 +16.74
Turnout 5813 N/A -1418
General Election 1885: Abingdon
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Majority 1259 17.41 N/A
Turnout 7231 N/A N/A
General Election 1880: Abingdon
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Majority 42 5.2
General Election 20 March 1784: Abingdon
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
By-Election 19 May 1783: Abingdon
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
  • Death of Howorth
By-Election 21 December 1782: Abingdon
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
  • Change is calculated from the previous general election.
  • Resignation of Mayor.
General Election 6 September 1780: Abingdon
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Tory John Mayor 137 71.35 +15.62
Whig Thomas Wooldridge 55 28.65 -15.62
Majority 82 42.71 +31.26
Turnout 192 N/A N/A
By-Election 11 March 1775: Abingdon
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Tory John Mayor Unopposed N/A N/A
  • Tory hold from previous general election; Tory gain from Whig, from change on petition.
  • Election declared void, 6 March 1775
General Election 7 October 1774: Abingdon
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Tory John Mayor 146 55.73 +5.33
Thomas Wooldridge 116 44.27 -5.33
Majority 30 11.45 +10.65
Turnout 262 N/A N/A
  • On petition Nathaniel Bayly seated in place of John Morton, 8 February 1770
General Election 17 March 1768: Abingdon
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Tory John Morton 126 50.40 N/A
Whig Nathaniel Bayly 124 49.60 N/A
Majority 2 0.80 N/A
Turnout 250 N/A N/A
By-Election 15 December 1762: Abingdon
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Tory John Morton Unopposed N/A N/A
General Election 25 March 1761: Abingdon
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
John Morton Unopposed N/A N/A
General Election 15 April 1754: Abingdon
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Tory John Morton 133 57.08 N/A
Non Partisan Henry Thrale 100 42.92 N/A
Majority 33 14.16 N/A
Turnout 233 N/A N/A

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


Election Member Party
1885 Philip Wroughton Conservative
1895 Archie Kirkman Loyd Conservative
1906 Edward Anthony Strauss Liberal
1910 (Jan) Harold Greenwood Henderson Conservative
1916 by-election Archie Kirkman Loyd Conservative
1918 John Tyson Wigan Coalition Conservative
1921 by-election Arthur Thomas Loyd Coalition Conservative
1922 Conservative
1923 Edward Albert Lessing Liberal
1924 Sir Ralph Glyn, 1st Bt. Conservative
1953 by-election Airey Neave Conservative
1979 Thomas Benyon Conservative
1983 Constituency abolished
of Abingdon, a new county division of Berkshire was created. parliamentary boroughAfter the abolition of the

MPs 1885–1983

Election Member Party
April 1640 Sir George Stonhouse, 3rd Baronet Royalist
January 1644 Stonhouse disabled to sit - seat vacant
1645 John Ball (Died 1648)
1649 Henry Neville
1653 Abingdon was unrepresented in the Barebones Parliament
1654 Thomas Holt
January 1659 Sir John Lenthall
May 1659 Henry Neville
April 1660 Sir George Stonhouse, 3rd Baronet
1675 Sir John Stonhouse, 2nd Bt
January 1689 Thomas Medlycott [n 1]
May 1689 John Southby [n 2]
January 1690 Sir John Stonhouse, 2nd Bt
February 1690 Sir Simon Harcourt Tory
1705 Grey Neville Whig
1708 Sir Simon Harcourt [n 3] Tory
1709 William Hucks
October 1710 Sir Simon Harcourt Tory
December 1710 James Jennings
1713 Hon. Simon Harcourt
1715 James Jennings
1722 Robert Hucks
1741 John Wright
1747 John Morton [n 4] Tory
1770 Nathaniel Bayly Whig
1774 John Mayor [n 5] Tory
1782 Henry Howorth
1783 Edward Loveden Loveden Whig
1796 Thomas Metcalfe Tory
1807 George Knapp Whig
1809 Henry Bowyer
1811 Sir George Bowyer, 6th Bt Whig
1818 John Maberly Whig
1832 Thomas Duffield Conservative
1844 by-election Sir Frederick Thesiger Conservative
July 1852 by-election James Caulfeild Liberal
December 1852 Lord Norreys Liberal
1854 by-election Joseph Haythorne Reed Liberal
1857 John Thomas Norris Liberal
1865 Hon. Charles Hugh Lindsay Conservative
1874 John Creemer Clarke Liberal
1885 Parliamentary borough abolished


Parliament Member
Parliament of 1558 Oliver Hyde
Parliament of 1559 Robert Byng
Parliament of 1563-1567 Oliver Hyde (Died during the Parliament)
Anthony Forster (Elected 1566)
Parliament of 1571 Anthony Forster
Parliament of 1572-1583 Anthony Forster (Died during the Parliament)
Richard Beake (Elected 1572)
Parliament of 1584-1585 Hon. Edward Norreys
Parliament of 1586-1587 Griffith Lloyd, chose to sit for Cardiganshire, replaced by Miles Sandys
Parliament of 1588-1589 Hon. Sir Edward Norreys
Parliament of 1593 William Braunche
Parliament of 1597-1598 Francis Little
Parliament of 1601 Robert Ryche
Parliament of 1604-1611 Sir Richard Lovelace
Addled Parliament (1614) Sir Robert Knollys
Parliament of 1621-1622 Robert Hyde
Happy Parliament (1624-1625) Sir Robert Knollys
Useless Parliament (1625) Sir Robert Knollys
Parliament of 1625-1626
Parliament of 1628-1629 Sir John Stonhouse, 2nd Bt.
No Parliament summoned 1629-1640
Robert Byng served as the Member of Parliament for Abingdon in the Parliament of 1559.


Members of Parliament

The constituency was not altered by the Parliamentary Constituencies (England) Order 1970, and continued unchanged until 1983.

  • The boroughs of Abingdon and Wallingford;
  • the urban district of Wantage;
  • the rural districts of Abingdon, Faringdon, Wallingford and Wantage


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