Derbyshire (UK Parliament constituency)

Former County constituency
for the House of Commons
Number of members two
Replaced by North Derbyshire and South Derbyshire

Derbyshire is a former United Kingdom Parliamentary constituency. It was a constituency of the House of Commons of the Parliament of England then of the Parliament of Great Britain from 1707 to 1800 and of the Parliament of the United Kingdom from 1801 to 1832. It was represented by two Knights of the Shire.


Boundaries and franchise

The constituency, which first returned members to Parliament in 1290, consisted of the historic county of Derbyshire. (This included the borough of Derby; even though Derby elected two MPs in its own right, it was not excluded from the county constituency, and owning property within the borough could confer a vote at the county election.)

In medieval times, the MPs would have been elected at the county court, by the suitors to the court, which meant the tiny handful of the local nobility who were tenants in chief of the Crown. However, from 1430, the Forty Shilling Freeholder Act extended 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 briefly during the period of the Commonwealth, Derbyshire had two MPs elected by the bloc vote method, under which each voter had two votes. (In the First and Second Parliaments of Oliver Cromwell's Protectorate, there was a general redistribution of seats and Derbyshire elected four members; the traditional arrangements were restored from 1659.)


From Elizabethan times, elections in Derbyshire were dominated by the Cavendish family at Chatsworth, later Dukes of Devonshire. This influence was originally established by the formidable Bess of Hardwick, whose second husband was a Cavendish and who in 1572 manoeuvred to secure her son from that marriage a seat as MP for the county - a considerable honour for a young man from what was then a family of only minor importance. She had meanwhile married the 6th Earl of Shrewsbury, and her stepson, the future 7th Earl, was elected to the second seat for the county at the same time, despite being two-and-a-half years too young to take his seat. From this point onwards until the Reform Act, one of the two MPs was almost invariably a Cavendish or a Cavendish nominee, although the other seat was generally left to the other leading families of the county; the continuance of this dominance was all the more remarkable because Derbyshire did not have a rash of boroughs where the local gentry could find a seat when unable to secure election for Derbyshire - indeed, in the one borough that there was, Derby, the Dukes of Devonshire kept as tight hold on one of the two seats as they did in the county.

As in most counties of any size, contested elections were avoided whenever possible because of the expense. Elections were held at a single polling place, Derby, and voters from the rest of the county had to travel to the county town to exercise their franchise; candidates were expected to meet the expenses of their supporters in travelling to the poll and to entertain them lavishly with food and drink when they got there. There were only four general elections between 1700 and 1832 when Derbyshire's seats were contested: on every other occasion the various competing interests in the county managed to reach agreement on who should represent the county without taking the matter to a poll.

In the pre-industrial era, Derbyshire was a flourishing agricultural county, but it was one of the English counties most dramatically affected by industrialisation in the 18th and early 19th centuries, becoming noted in particular for the manufacture of heavy machinery and (during the Napoleonic Wars) of armaments. Its population grew swiftly (having reached 237,170 by 1831); but the electorate has been estimated at only 3,000 or 4,000 in the second half of the 18th century, and was probably not much higher by the time of the Reform Act. The Dukes of Devonshire were able to maintain much of their traditional influence, Cavendish members occupying one of the two seats as a Whig MP; but the county itself was predominantly Tory, and usually ensured that the other MP was returned in that interest.

Few of the industrial workers, of course, had the vote since they were not property owners, and in the early 19th century political unrest was common - most notably the "Pentrich Revolution" or "Derbyshire Rising" of 1817. Derbyshire soon became one of the most vocal centres of agitation for Parliamentary reform, and by 1830 this sentiment had spread to the voters as well. At the 1831 election their sitting Tory MP was summarily swept out of his seat for supporting a destructive amendment to the Reform Bill.

But the Duke of Devonshire, a supporter of Reform even though it entailed the loss of his own pocket boroughs around the country, was able to retain the voters' support, telling a county meeting in 1832:

The members of the aristocracy have sometimes been considered in an unfavourable light by the people. For much of this they are indebted to the manner in which the present constitution of Parliament has enabled them to interfere and dictate in the representation... Let them stand on their own merits; and I have no fear that the people of England will be unjust to the aristocracy of England, united by mutual kind feelings and good offices, and not by close boroughs and mock representation.
- Speech recorded in the Duke of Devonshire's diary, quoted in Brock

This seems to have sufficiently satisfied the Derbyshire voters that they allowed the Dukes to continue to "interfere and dictate in the representation" to the extent that they continued electing Cavendishes (in the Northern division after the county was divided by the Reform Act) well into the 20th century.


The constituency was abolished in 1832 by the Great Reform Act, which divided the county into two new two-member divisions, Northern Derbyshire and Southern Derbyshire.

Members of Parliament


ParliamentFirst memberSecond member
1295 Henry de KnivetonGiles de Meynell
1297 Robert DethickThomas Foljambe
1298 Henry de BrailsfordHenry FitzHerbert
1300 Geffry de GresleyRobert de Frechville
1300 Ralf de FrechvilleGeffry de Gresley
1301 Ralf de FrechvilleGeffry de Gresley
1302 Thomas FoljambeRobert de Touks
1305 Henry FoljambeWilliam Faunel
1306 Robert DethickGiles de Meynell
1308 Ralph FrechvilleWilliam Faunel
1309 Thomas Foljambe
1311 William FaunelThomas Foljambe
1312 William RessolWilliam Faunel
1313 Ralph Frechville
1315 Ralph FrechvilleThomas Foljambe
1315 Robert StauntonJohn Twyford
1316 John BeaufayRobert Staunton
1317 Robert StauntonJohn Deynecourt
1319 John de TwyfordRalf de Cromwell
1319 John DeynecourtJohn de Twyford
1324 Hugh de MeynellNicholas de Longford
1325 Ralf de ResebyWilliam Rosell
1326 William RosellJohn de Beaufay
1327 Thomas de StantonWilliam Michell
1327 William de SampertonSimon de Cestre
1327 William MichellRobert Ingram de Etewell
1328 John de BeaufayWilliam Michell
1328 Robert de MeynellJohn de Beaufay
1330 Edm. de ApplebyJohn de Verdon
1330 Hugh de MeynellRobert de Meynell
1331 Hugh FitzHugh de MeynellRoger de Okeover
1332 Robert de MeynellWilliam Michell
1332 Hugh de MeynellRobert de Meynell
1332 Robert de MeynellPeter de Wakebrigg
1333 William de SapertonSimon de Chester
1333 Robert de MeynellPeter de Wakebrigg
1334 Robert de IngramJohn de Hambury
1334 William de SapertonSimon de Chester
1335 Henry de KnivetonJohn Cockeyn
1336 Peter de WakebriggHugh de Muskham
1337 William MichellThomas? Adam
1337 Giles de MeynellRobert Franceys
1337 Giles de MeynellJohn Cockeyn
1338 Giles de MeynellRobert Franceys
1338 John CockeynGodfrey Foljambe
1338 John DeyncourtsJohn de Twyford
1339 John CokeynThomas Adam
1339 John CockeynRobert de Chester
1340 Sir Godfrey FoljambeJohn Cockayn
1340 Robert IngramRobert Gresley
1340 Robert Ingram
1340 Robert TouksJohn Beausey
1341 John CockeynRobert of Ireland
1343 Thomas AdamRobert Asheburn
1344 John CockeynJohn Foucher
1346 Giles de MeynellRoger de Emerton
1346 William de AshewellJohn de Chellaston
1347 Roger de EnytonRobert de Ashbourn
1348 John de RochfordJohn de Chellaston
1348 Roger de EnyntonRobert de Ashbourn
1350 John CockeynJohn Foucher
1351 John CockeynJohn Foucher
1352 Roger de PadleyWilliam de Chester
1352 Robert de Twyford
1353 Robert Franceys
1354 Henry de BraylesfordRobert Franceys
1355 Thomas AdamJohn Beck
1357 Robert FranceysThomas Adam
1357 William de WakebriggMi. de Breideston
1357 Robert FranceysThomas Adam
1358 William de WakebriggRoger Michell
1360 Robert FranceysJohn Foucher
1360 Henry de BraylesfordJohn Cockayn
1361 Henry de BraylesfordJohn Cockayn
1362 John CockaynRobert Franceys
1363 Edmund de Appleby
1364 Sir Godfrey FoljambeHenry de Braylesford
1365Robert de TwyfordRalph de Stathom
1368 Robert de TwyfordJohn Foucher
1369 Sir Godfrey FoljambeRobert de Twyford
1371 Sir Godfrey FoljambeJohn Foucher
1371 Sir Godfrey FoljambeJohn Foucher
1372 Alured de SulneyJohn Franceys
1373 William BokepnysRalph de Stathom
1377 Edmund de ApplebyRalph de Stathom
1377 John de la Pole de HertingdonE. Foucher
1378 Alured SulweySir Robert Twyford
1379 Oliver de BartonRalph de Stathom
1379 Alured SulweyJohn Curson de Ketilston
1380 Sir Thomas MarchingtonHenry de Braylesford
1381 Oliver de BartonWilliam de Sallowe
1382 T. (Robert?) de TwyfordSir Thomas Marchington
1382 Sir Thomas MarchingtonSir Philip Okeover
1383 Thomas de WernesleyJohn Curson
1383 Sir Thomas MarchingtonRalph de Braylesford
1384 John CursonRalph de Braylesford
1384 Robert FranceysWilliam de Adderly
1386 Sir Thomas Wensley of WensleySir William Dethick of Dethick
1388 (Feb) Robert FranceysWilliam de Adderly
1388 (Sep) Sir Nicholas Montgomery of Marston MontgomeryRobert Franceys
1390 (Jan) Sir Thomas Wensley of WensleySir Nicholas Montgomery of Marston Montgomery
1390 (Nov) William AdderlyThomas Foljambe
1391 Sir Philip OkeoverThomas Foljambe
1393 John DabrichecourtNicholas Gousill,jnr
1394 Sir Thomas Wensley of WensleyJohn de la Pole
1395 Sir John CokaynePeter de Melbourne
1397 (Jan) Sir William Dethick of DethickRoger de Bradburn
1397 (Sep) John DabrichecourtWilliam Meynell
1399 Walter BlountJohn Curson


ParliamentFirst memberSecond member
1400 Thomas GresleyPeter de la Pole
1402 Sir John CokayneRoger Leche
1403 Nicholas de LongfordJohn Curson
1404 Sir John CokayneRoger Bradburn
1405 Roger LecheRoger Bradshaw
1406 Robert de StrelleyThomas Okeover
1411 Sir Nicholas Montgomery of Marston MontgomeryRobert Franceys
1413 Roger LecheThomas Chaworth
1414 (Apr) Philip LecheNicolas Montgomery
1414 (Nov) Roger LecheThomas Gresley
1416 (Mar) Nicolas MontgomeryJohn de la Pole
1417 Thomas de GresleyJohn de la Pole
1419 Sir John CokayneHugh Erdeswyck
1420 Thomas BlountHenry Booth
1420 John de StrelleyJohn de Okeover
1421 (Dec) Nicholas GosellThomas Okeover
1422 Sir Richard VernonSir John Cokayne
1423 Henry BoothJohn Curson
1424 Henry BoothThomas Makworth
1426 Sir Richard VernonJohn de la Pole
1427 Sir John CokayneHenry Booth
1429 John CursonGerard Meynell
1430 Sir John CokayneThomas Makworth
1432 Richard Vernon
1433 Sir Richard Vernon
1434 John CursonGerard Meynell
1436 Fulk VernonRobert Franceys
1441 John CursonWilliam Vernon
1446 Walter BlountNicholas FitzHerbert
1448 John SacherevelWalter Blount
1449 William VernonJohn Sacherevel
1450 William VernonWalter Blount
1452 Walter BlountNicholas FitzHerbert
1454 Walter BlountRobert Bailey
1460 Sir John GreisleyWalter Blount
1468 William BlountWilliam Vernon
1473 Nicholas LongfordJames Blount
1478 John GresleyHenry Vernon
1479–1499 Records lost


ParliamentFirst memberSecond member
1510–1523No Names Known[1]
1529Sir Roger Mynors William Coffin[1]
1539Francis Leke John Port[1]
1542? Sir George Vernon[1]
1545Richard Blackwell Vincent Mundy[1]
1547Sir William Bassett Thomas Powtrell[1]
1553 (Mar) Sir Thomas Cockayne Sir Humphrey Bradburn[1]
1553 (Oct) Sir John Port Richard Blackwell[1]
1554 (Apr) Francis CurzonThomas Powtrell[1]
1554 (Nov) Sir Peter Freschville Henry Vernon[1]
1555 Sir Humphrey Bradburn Vincent Mundy[1]
1558John Zouche Godfrey Foljambe[1]
1558–1559 Nicholas LongfordThomas Kniveton[2]
1562–1563 Sir William St Loe, died
and replaced in 1566 by
George Hastings
Robert Wennersley[2]
1571 Francis CursonRobert Wennersley[2]
1572–1584 Gilbert TalbotHenry Cavendish
1585–1587 Henry TalbotHenry Cavendish[2]
1588-1592 John ZouchHenry Cavendish[2]
1593–1596 George MannersHenry Cavendish[2]
1597–1600 Thomas GresleyJohn Harpur[2]
1601 Francis Leeke Sir Peter Fretchville[2]
1605–1611 Sir John HarpurWilliam Kniveton[2]
1614 Sir William Cavendish Henry Howard
1621 Sir William Cavendish Sir Peter Fretchville
1624 Sir William Cavendish John Stanhope
1625 Sir William Cavendish John Stanhope
1626 Sir William Cavendish John Manners
1628 Sir Edward Leeke John Frescheville
1629–1640No Parliaments summoned


YearFirst memberFirst partySecond memberSecond party
April 1640 Sir John Curzon, 1st Baronet John Manners
November 1640 Sir John Curzon, 1st Baronet Parliamentarian Sir John Coke Parliamentarian
December 1648 Curzon excluded in Pride's Purge; Coke went abroad and died in 1650
1653 Gervase Bennet Nathaniel Barton


YearFirst memberSecond memberThird memberFourth member
1654 Nathaniel Barton Thomas Sanders Edward Gell John Gell
1656 Sir Samuel Sleigh German Pole


YearFirst memberFirst partySecond memberSecond party
January 1659 John Gell Thomas Sanders
May 1659 Not represented in the restored Rump
April 1660 Viscount Mansfield John Ferrers
1661 Lord Cavendish John Frescheville
1665 John Milward
1670 William Sacheverell
1685 Sir Robert Coke, 2nd Bt. Sir Gilbert Clarke
January 1689 Sir John Gell, 2nd Bt.
April 1689 Sir Philip Gell, 3rd Bt. Whig
1690 Henry Gilbert
1695 Marquess of Hartington Whig
1698 Thomas Coke
January 1701 Lord Roos
December 1701 Thomas Coke Sir John Curzon, 3rd Bt. Tory
1710 Godfrey Clarke
1727 Sir Nathaniel Curzon, 4th Bt. Tory
1734 Lord Charles Cavendish Whig
1741 Marquess of Hartington Whig
1751 Lord Frederick Cavendish Whig
1754 Lord George Cavendish Whig Sir Nathaniel Curzon, 5th Bt. Tory
1761 Sir Henry Harpur, 6th Bt. Tory
1768 Godfrey Bagnall Clarke Tory
1775 Hon. Nathaniel Curzon Tory
1780 Lord Richard Cavendish Whig
1781 Lord George Cavendish Whig
1784 Edward Miller Mundy Tory
1794 Lord John Cavendish Whig
1797 Lord George Cavendish Whig
1822 Francis Mundy Tory
1831 Hon. George Venables-Vernon Whig
1832Constituency abolished: see Northern Derbyshire, Southern Derbyshire


This list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it.
General Election 1734: Derbyshire
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Whig Lord Charles Cavendish 697 74.1
Tory Sir Nathaniel Curzon, 4th Baronet 134 14.2
Henry Harpur 110 11.7

See also


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