Get Bedfordshire UK Parliament Constituency essential facts below. View Videos or join the Bedfordshire UK Parliament Constituency discussion. Add Bedfordshire UK Parliament Constituency to your PopFlock.com topic list for future reference or share this resource on social media.
The constituency consisted of the historic county of Bedfordshire. (Although Bedfordshire contained the borough of Bedford, which elected two MPs in its own right, this was 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.
At the time of the Great Reform Act in 1832, Bedfordshire had a population of approximately 95,000, but under 4,000 votes were cast at the election of 1826, and under 3,000 in election of 1830, even though each voter could cast two votes. Although local landowners could never control a county the size of Bedfordshire in the way they could own a pocket borough, titled magnates still exercised considerable influence over deferential county voters, and the Duke of Bedford was regarded as the hereditary "patron" of the constituency.
Elections were held at a single polling place, Bedford, and voters from the rest of the county had to travel to the county town to exercise their franchise. In many other counties this could make the cost of a contested election prohibitive, since it was normal for voters to expect the candidates for whom they voted to meet their expenses in travelling to the poll; but this was less of a factor in a small county like Bedfordshire, and contested elections were not uncommon.
Under the terms of the Great Reform Act of 1832, the county franchise was extended to occupiers of land worth £50 or more, as well as the forty-shilling freeholders, but Bedfordshire was otherwise left unchanged. Under the new rules, 3,966 were registered and entitled to vote at the general election of 1832. While Bedford remained the place of election, where nominations were taken and the result declared, polling also took place at Luton, Leighton Buzzard, Ampthill, Biggleswade and Sharnbrook.