Voting in Bosbury

13th Century

From the 13th Century, two knights were elected from each county by the county courts. Soon after, they were joined by two representatives from the boroughs.

This was not obligatory, as representation in Parliament was originally considered a burden rather than a blessing. Not every local community was willing to pay for MPs to go to Westminster.

Herefordshire county elections were held at Hereford Castle.


The Houses of Parliament was divided into two houses, the House of Lords (clergy and nobility, unelected) and the House of Commons (knights and burgesses, elected). Its duties consisted largely of ratifying taxes for the Crown.


In this year, Kynard de la Bere and Sir Thomas de la Barre were voted members of Parliament for Herefordshire and in 1414 Sir John Skydemore and Thomas Holgot. John Russell III was returned on 6 occasions before 1421 and in 1423 he was elected Speaker of the House of Commons. Most MPs were landowners and the chief landowners in Bosbury would have been registered to vote.


Under Henry VIII, male owners of freehold land worth at least 40 shillings a year or a freehold property could vote in county elections. Herefordshire has two Members of Parliament at this time.


The Great Reform Act cleaned up corruption in the voting system. Every man paying more than £10 a year in rates or rent could now vote.

However, this only applied to the boroughs. The 40-Shilling freehold (and a host of other possible qualifications) still applied in the counties.

The Act raises the number of voters by 38 per cent. 720,784 can now vote, in a population of over 10,000,000 of voting age.


The Second Reform Act extended the franchise to all male householders in boroughs and this enables over two and a half million men to vote.

People cannot vote if they claimed Poor Relief in the qualifying period.

1872 Ballot Act

The secret ballot was introduced. Before this, the entire community would be watching to see how people voted on polling day.


The Third Reform Act equalised voting restrictions between counties and boroughs. Over 50 per cent of adult men could now vote totaling around 7 million. Most British men over 21 could vote, if they have lived in the same place for a year.

1918, February

The Representation of the People Act gave the vote to all men over 21 and women over the age of 30 with certain property restrictions. It also reduced the time that voters must live in the same place from one year to six months. Now over 21 million people could vote including over eight million women.

1918, 21 November

A Bill is passed allowing women to be Members of Parliament.


The Equal Franchise Act lowers the voting age for women to 21.


The voting age for both men and women is lowered to 18. This takes effect from 1970.

Sources: The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1386-1421 ed. J.S.Roskill, L.Clark, C.Rawcliffe, 1993 reproduced on by the Institute of Historical Research, accessed April 2015.

B S Sharples, 2015

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