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Newton/Abbey, United Kingdom

Newton / Abbey
United Kingdom

Newton is a parliamentary borough of Lancashire, England. From 1559-1706 Newton was represented by two members of Parliament in the House of Commons as well as 1707-1800 in the Parliament of Great Britain, 1801-1832 in the Parliament of the United Kingdom, and 1885-1983 by one member as a county constituency. Newton has been labelled a rotten borough from its beginnings as “barely more than a village and entirely dominated by the local landowner that is first return of members described it bluntly as ‘the borough of Sir Thomas Langton, knight, baron of Newton within his Fee of Markerfylde'”. This was abolished by 1831 when the population reached 2,139 with 285 houses and the right to vote was exercised by all freeholders of property in the borough valued at 40 shillings or more. In practice however, the townsmen of Newton never had a say in choosing their representatives – as the owners of the majority of the qualifying freeholds – exercised total control. During most of the Elizabethan Period, Langton allowed the Duchy of Lancaster to nominate many of the members which may have been a quid pro quo for Newton’s being enfranchised. Later patrons could regard its parliamentary seats as their personal property. Langton’s heir sold the manor to the Fleetwood family in 1594 which included the right of ‘the nomination, election, and appointment’ of the 2 burgesses representing the borough in Parliament which is an infamous example, and first recorded instance, of the right to elect MPs being bought and sold. Eventually passed on to the Leghs who own it to this day. With the Great Reform Act of 1832, Newton was already the most notorious of all England’s pocket boroughs, and it became one of the 56 boroughs to be disenfranchised.

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