Bere Alston (UK Parliament constituency)

Bere Alston (UK Parliament Constituency)

Bere Alston (UK Parliament constituency)

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Bere Alston or Beeralston was a parliamentary borough in Devon, which elected two Members of Parliament (MPs) to the House of Commons from 1584 until 1832, when the constituency was abolished by the Great Reform Act as a rotten borough.


Bere Alston was first summoned to return MPs in 1584; like many of the boroughs over the county boundary in Cornwall that were enfranchised during the reign of Elizabeth I, it had never been of much size and was a rotten borough from the start. Indeed, its first return of members specifically states that they had been elected at the request of The Marquess of Winchester and Lord Mountjoy, the chief landowners in the borough, and its enfranchisement plainly designed to allow them to nominate MPs.

The borough consisted of most of the village of Bere Alston in the parish of Bere Ferris, 10 miles north of Plymouth. By the time of the Great Reform Act there were 112 houses within the borough boundaries, and 139 in the whole village. The population was not separately recorded in the census. It was customary for elections to be conducted under a great tree in the centre of the village; there was no equivalent of a town hall, and indeed no municipal corporation.

Bere Alston was a burgage borough, the right to vote resting with the freehold tenants of a number of specified properties within the town of which there appears to have been only 30. For much of the eighteenth century most, if not all, of these burgage properties were owned by the...
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