The London and Middlesex electoral registers recently released on Ancestry.co.uk have attracted quite a lot of attention, so this seemed like a good time to bring out this map. It is an electoral map of Middlesex in 1845, showing the polling places, indicated by a cross, and those boroughs entitled to elect two members of parliament, indicated by a black circle. The MPS elected by the boroughs were in addition to the members elected by the whole county.
This was after the Reform Act of 1832, which reflected for the first time the notion that the number of MPs returned should have some correlation with the size of an area's population. There was still a long way to go, though; it was a step in the right direction, but we had moved from 'hardly anyone can vote' to 'a few people can vote'. You still had to be a) an adult male and b) the occupier of property over a certain value, to vote in parliamentary elections. There were different rules for local elections, and women could vote in these depending on the date and the place.
Another notable feature of elections until 1872 was that there was no secret ballot. Voting meant declaring publicly your choice of candidate, or candidates. From the candidate's point of view this had the advantage that if you bribed someone to vote for you, they couldn't double-cross you by voting for the other man and pocketing the money anyway. Sometimes you will find the record of votes cast recorded and published in poll books. These can be very revealing if you find one for an election where your ancestor voted.
Great Stanmore 1851: LMA MR/PEO/1851/4/3 (Image from Ancestry.co.uk)
Although very few people could vote in the earlier years, it can still be worth looking at the register for the place where your ancestors lived. I called my earlier post 'Who was Stanmore Groat?' because it was a mis-rendering of the name of the parish of Great Stanmore. It was a small place, and it isn't marked on this map, but it is close to Edgware, which is shown. Edgware is on the east side of the road and the two Stanmores, Great and Little, are on the west side. Great Stanmore's population in 1851 was 1180, but there were only 22 voters, and half of them didn't even live in Great Stanmore, they just held property there. If you look at the printed register it tells you quite a bit about the place, and you will see names of some occupiers who are not voters, so you shouldn't assume that these early electoral registers are of no interest to you because your ancestors were not among the voting classes.
You can find registers for a place by browsing the collection, and while the drop-down menu claims to be a list of boroughs, you will see that it also includes three counties; London, Middlesex and Surrey. Some of these interesting early registers are found under 'Middlesex' where they should be, but most are in 'London' which didn't exist as a county until 1889. Never mind. I may talk about the whole London/Middlesex thing sometime, if I can summon the strength.
While most of the registers are later in date, and from 1889 you are much more likely to find you ancestors in them, but please don't neglect the early ones. It is worth the effort of negotiating your way through Ancestry's characteristically eccentric means of classification to find them.
Tuesday, 17 January 2012
Mappy Monday - Middlesex electoral map 1845