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The social geography of Cork City elections, 1801–30

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 July 2016

Peter J. Jupp
School of Modern History, Queen’s University of Belfast
Stephen A. Royle
School of Geosciences, Queen’s University of Belfast


Although it has long been recognised that the politics of the larger Irish borough constituencies before the reform acts of 1832 turned on conflicts of opinion over serious issues, thorough analysis has been hampered by the paucity of one crucial type of evidence — the poll book. This necessary resource for candidates in the days of open voting, in which in their most complete form the names, addresses, qualifications, occupations and votes of the voters at a particular election are recorded, has survived in substantial numbers for English constituencies but rarely for those in Ireland. Cork City is an exception. Poll books for the seven contested elections in this constituency between 1812 and 1830 have survived, and these, together with the more commonplace statistical and written evidence which they enrich, provide ample material for a thorough analysis — in this case of voting behaviour. In this paper we provide a description of the general social and economic contexts of elections in Cork and focus upon the results of a variety of psephological tests to which the poll books have been subjected.

Research Article
Copyright © Irish Historical Studies Publications Ltd 1994

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1 For the sake of convenience we cite these sources and appropriate abbreviations now: The leading speeches delivered at the City of Cork election (Cork, 1812) (henceforth Cork elec, 1812); A full and correct report of the proceedings at the election for the City of Cork (Cork, 1818) (henceforth Cork elec, 1818); A full and accurate report of the proceedings at the election for the City of Cork (Cork, 1820) (henceforth Cork elec, 1820); City of Cork election [with] Lists of the freemen and freeholders alphabetically arranged who voted at the Cork election, December 1826 (Cork, 1826) (henceforth Cork elec, 1826); A full report of the proceedings at the election for the City of Cork, July 1829 (Cork, 1829) (henceforth Cork elec, 1829); The entire proceedings of the election for the City of Cork, March 1830 (Cork, 1830) (henceforth Cork elec, Mar. 1830); Proceedings of the election for the City of Cork, August 1830 (Cork, 1830) (henceforth Cork elec, Aug. 1830) All but one of these are bound together in one volume, Cork elections, 1812–1830, to be found in the Cork County Library (accession no. 230308); Cork elec, Mar. 1830 is in the City Library, Cork (N. 24891). In the cases of the Donoughmore and Lismore Castle MSS cited below, the transcripts referred to are invariably those of P. J. Jupp taken from the originals for the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland. The official and poll book results of contested Cork City elections, 1807–30, are presented in Table 1.

2 Parliamentary representation (boundary reports, Ireland), p. 39, H.C. 1831–2 (519), xliii.

3 Cork played an important role in provisioning the British navy during the 1793–1815 wars: see Sir Patrick O’Connor to Lord Howick, 29 June 1806 (Donoughmore MSS, D/33/10).

4 Devonshire’s personal interest was probably minimal in this period. In 1826 it was said that some of his Youghal freemen had votes in Cork, but that although he had a potential of 500–600 freeholders at Gillabbey, the property was not entirely in his possession: see James Denny to Col. W. S. Currey, 15 Oct. 1826 (Lismore Castle MSS, C/l/25). At the 1826 by-election and 1830 general election only 7 and 12 freeholders respectively from Gillabbey voted, in each case for the same candidates: see Cork elec., 1826 and Cork elec., Aug. 1830 under the lists of voters.

5 He evidently had property in the Liberties producing £820 p.a. by c. 1800 (Lord Shannons letters to his son, ed. Hewitt, Esther (Belfast, 1982), p. lvi).Google Scholar

6 In 1820 his estates at Carrigaline, to the south of the city, yielded £4,800 p.a. (ibid., pp xlviii, Ivi).

7 At Marston Bigott near Frome, Somerset.

8 In 1811 Mountifort Longfield succeeded to the estates of his cousin, Lord Longueville, which included property in the Liberties (ibid., p. Ivi, and Longfield to Peel, 20 Aug. 1816 (B. L., Add. MS 40218, f. 232)).

9 In 1812 William Bagwell claimed an interest of 150 votes in the city (Bagwell to Peel, 30 Oct. 1812 (B.L., Add. MS 40222, f. 308)).

10 Following the Catholic relief act of 1793, Catholics could vote in parliamentary elections as freemen, but in practice very few were admitted to that status. The largest number of Catholic freemen in Cork seems to have been 73: see d’Alton, Ian, Protestant society and politics in Cork, 1812–1844 (Cork, 1980), p. 99.Google Scholar

11 Ibid., pp 90–101.

12 At the 1812 election one of the candidates, Christopher Hely-Hutchinson, defined the ‘great commercial interest’ of the city as consisting of 25 families and their supporters. Analysis of the poll book reveals that 14 of these families delivered 44 votes to him and 23 and 12 to his opponents (Cork elec., 1812, p. 99, and the lists of voters, passim). Subsequent poll books show employees of individual merchants voting the same way.

13 Sir Patrick O’Connor to Lord Howick, 29 June 1806 (Donoughmore MSS, D/33/10). It was later claimed that the Committee of Merchants only represented butter exporters (Report from the select committee on the butter trade of Ireland, p. 126, H.C. 1826 (406) v, 260).

14 Thome, R. G., The House of Commons, 1790–1820 (5 vols, London, 1986), ii, 638.Google Scholar

15 Good examples of the claims made by local election chiefs are by Longfield to Peel, 25 Aug.1816 (B.L., Add. MS 40218, f. 233) and by John Hely-Hutchinson, the future 2nd earl of Donoughmore, to his brother, the 1st earl, 8 July [1818] (Donoughmore MSS, D/42/68).

16 Cork elec, 1826, calculated from the poll book. The fifteen voted for Gerard Callaghan.

17 The clerical votes for the respective candidates were as follows:

18 Further information on the Catholic vote in Cork can be found in Jupp, Peter, ‘Urban politics in Ireland, 1801–31’ in Harkness, David and O’Dowd, Mary (eds), The town in Ireland: Historical Studies XIII, (Belfast, 1981), pp 116-17Google Scholar, and John Travers to 1st earl of Donoughmore and Francis Hely-Hutchinson, 18 Nov. 1810,15 Nov. 1811, and n.d. but papermarked 1810 (Donoughmore MSS, D/32/18, 23, 125). It is interesting that Lord Donoughmore believed Catholic proprietors were slack in registering freeholders at the 1812 election and that C. Hely-Hutchinson therefore derived ‘very little comparative strength from any actual votes procured by Catholic means’ (Donoughmore to Lord Fingall, 5 Nov. 1812 (ibid., D/33/32)).

19 A point underlined in Shannon’s letters, p. Ivi.

20 A11 but one of these accounts (that of 1812) were published by John Connor of either 35 Grand Parade or Tuckey Street; they show a bias in favour of the Hely-Hutchinsons when they were candidates.

21 ’Typical of the statements made was that of George Freke Evans in 1807, namely that his wish was ‘to serve my country in parliament as a Truly Independent Man, unconnected with any Party, uninfluenced by any desire of Place or Pension for myself or my connections’ (Evans to the electors of Cork City, 18 May 1807 (Donoughmore MSS, D/23)).

22 The statements to this effect can be be found in each of the seven published accounts of the elections.

23 In 1818 John Hely-Hutchinson, the future 2nd earl of Donoughmore, referred to those with ‘opposition feelings’ in the constituency (Hely-Hutchinson to his brother, the 1st earl of Donoughmore, received 29 June 1818 (Donoughmore MSS, D/42/62)).

24 Cork elec., Aug. 1830, pp 25–8, 31.

25 See, e.g. Cork elec., Mar. 1830, p. 15; Daniel Leahy to Lord Shannon, 29 June 1829 (P.R.O.N.I., Shannon MSS, D/2707/A3/1/53). We are indebted to Dr Allan Blackstock of the P.R.O.N.I. for the latter reference.

26 W. Fuge to Col. W. S. Currey, Wed. morning [1826], stated that John Hely-Hutchinson had lost many Protestant votes because of the interference of the Catholic clergy at the 1826 general election (Lismore Castle MSS, C/l/25); see also 2nd earl of Donoughmore to his nephew, John Hely-Hutchinson, 7 Mar. 1827, where he states that the exercise of Catholic power at the late elections had infuriated Cork Protestants and that in consequence they ‘appear to have rallied’ (Donoughmore MSS, G/7/6).

27 Drogheda News Letter, 23 May 1807; Cork elec., 1812, pp 6–7; Cork elec, 1818, p. 39; Thorne, , House of Commons, iv, 453-5.Google Scholar

28 Cork elec., 1812, p. 9; Thorne, House of Commons, iii, 487.

29 Cork elec., 1812, pp 13–14; Thorne1, , House of Commons, iv, 175-7.Google Scholar

30 Cork elec., 1826, pp 27–31; Thorne, , House of Commons, iii, 359-60.Google Scholar

31 Cork elec., 1829, p. 3; Cork elee, Mar. 1830, pp 11–13; Cork elee, Aug. 1830, p. 12.

32 Cork elec., 1818, p. 18.

33 Ibid., p. 41.

34 Cork elec., 1812, p. 60.

35 Cork elec., 1818, p. 4.

36 Cork: elec., 1812, pp 28, 46, 74, 99.

37 Cork elec., 1820, pp 8–9.

38 Cork elec., 1829, p. 5; Cork elec., Mar. 1830, pp 6–7.

39 Fuller biographies of Longfield, Colthurst, C. Hely-Hutchinson and G. Callaghan can be found in Thorne, , House of Commons, iii, 359-60, 487, iv, 175–7, 453–5Google Scholar. References quoted here supplement information provided there.

40 Cork elec., 1820, pp 71, 92; Lord Francis Leveson-Gower to Peel, 3 July 1829 (B.L., Add. MS 40337, f. 7).

41 Cork elec., 1826, pp 12–22; James Ellis Green to Col. W. S. Currey, 2 Oct. 1826; (Lismore Castle MSS, C/l/25); Thomas Seward to Currey, 11 Oct. 1826 (ibid.); Peel to Henry Goulburn, 29 Dec. 1826 (B.L., Add. MS 40332, f. 246); Leveson-Gower to Archdeacon Singleton, 16 Mar. 1830 (National Archives of Ireland (henceforth N.A.I.), M 738, ff 70–71).

42 Cork elec., 1829, pp 5–7; Leveson-Gower to Lord Kingston, 8 July 1829 (N.A.I., M 736, f. 216).

43 Cork elec., Mar. 1830, pp 9–11, 37–8, 58, 67–8; Leveson-Gower to Peel, 6 July 1829 (N.A.I., M 736, f. 209).

44 Cork elec., Mar. 1830, pp 12–13, 29, 60; Cork elec., Aug. 1830, pp 25–8; Daniel Callaghan to Col. Currey, 28 July 1830 (Lismore Castle MSS, C/1/26); Leveson-Gower to Daniel Callaghan, 27 July 1830 (N.A.I., M 738, f. 220); Leveson-Gower to Joseph Planta, 17 July 1830, enclosed in a letter to Peel of the same date (B.L., Add. MS 40338, ff 219–21).

45 Cork elec., Aug. 1830, pp 12–14, 25–8; George Cornewall to Col. Currey, 4 Aug. 1830 (Lismore Castle MSS, C/l/26).

46 Cork elec., Aug. 1830, pp 14–18, 25–8.

47 First report into municipal corporations in Ireland, p. 46, H.C. 1835 (23), xxvii, 52–3.

48 The total number of freemen was greater, but this was thought to be the maximum number that ‘could be brought to the poll in a protracted contest’ (Daniel Leahy to Lord Shannon, 29 June 1829 (P.R.O.N.I., Shannon MSS, D2707/A3/1/53)); see also Parliamentary representation, Ireland, pp 6–7, H.C. 1831–2 (435), xxxvi, 618–19. At the 1826 by-election, when it was said all the freemen cast a vote, 1,541 voted.

49 Parliamentary representation (boundary reports, Ireland), p. 37, H.C. 1831–2 (519), xliii. However, there is evidence that the proportion created by favour increased in the 1820s: see Persons registered as Freeholders … and admitted as freemen within the last eight years in Ireland, p. 4, H.C. 1829 (253), xxii, 28.

50 D’Alton, Protestant society, p. 129 states that residents outnumbered non-residents by 2 to 1, but contemporary sources record them as roughly even: see The number of freemen in each corporate town in Ireland, p. 3, H.C. 1829 (254), xxii, 263; Parliamentary representation (boundary reports, Ireland), p. 39, H.C. 1831–2 (519), xliii.

51 The reference to freemen in 1826 is from an analysis of data in Cork elec., 1826. D’Alton states that about one-third of the freemen were middle to upper gentry with 1,000 acres or more, but it is difficult to establish his source for the estimate (Protestant society, p. 129).

52 Daniel Leahy to Lord Shannon, 29 June 1829 (P.R.O.N.I., Shannon MSS, D/2707/A3/1/53).

53 Commons’ jn., lviii, 1105; Persons registered as freeholders … and admitted as freemen within the last eight years in Ireland, p. 3, H.C. 1829 (253), xxii, 27; Parliamentary representation (boundary reports, Ireland), p. 39, H.C. 1831–2 (519), xliii; Number of electors who polled at the contested elections in Ireland since 1805, pp 6–7, H.C. 1829 (208), xxii, 6–7.

54 The reference to freeholders in 1826 is from an analysis of data in Cork elee, 1826.

55 The post-reform electorate had a lower proportion of gentlemen and professionals and a higher proportion of labourers and farmers: see Hoppen, K. Theodore, Elections, politics and society in Ireland, 1832–85 (Oxford, 1984), p. 40.Google Scholar

56 A useful review of the historiography of the English electorate before 1832 can be found in O’Gorman, Frank, Voters, patrons and parties (Oxford, 1991), pp 111 Google Scholar; in the case of Ireland, O’Ferrall, Fergus takes a gloomy view of the electorate before 1826 in Catholic emancipation: Daniel O’Connell and the birth ofhish democracy, 1820–30 (Dublin, 1985), pp 117-20.Google Scholar

57 For example, at the 1826 by-election Robert, William and Joseph Leycester, merchants and bankers, and three of their employees, Robert Hardy, George Holland and William Williamson, all voted for G. Callaghan (Cork elec., 1826, pp 91–3, 97).

58 In 1818 the Catholic voters were advised to cast their second votes in accordance with the wishes of their landlords and employers (Cork elec., 1818, pp 43, 66).

59 John Hely-Hutchinson, the future 2nd earl of Donoughmore, to Francis Hely-Hutchinson, endorsed 20 Oct. 1826 (Donoughmore MSS, F/13/158). In 1818 Colthurst was said to have spent £14,000 and in 1820 G. Callaghan £7,000 (John Hely-Hutchinson to his brother, the 1st earl, answered 14 July [1818] (ibid., D/42/71); 2nd earl to Francis Hely-Hutchinson, 21 Sept. 1826 (ibid., F/13/155)).

60 Cork elec., Aug. 1830, pp 37, 64.

61 2nd earl of Donoughmore to Francis Hely-Hutchinson, 28 Nov. 1826 (Donoughmore MSS,F/13/159).

62 See above, note 58.

63 John Hely-Hutchinson the future 2nd earl of Donoughmore, to his brother, the 1 st earl, 16 June [1818] (Donoughmore MSS, D/42/53); 2nd earl of Donoughmore to Francis Hely-Hutchinson, 28 Nov. 1826 (ibid., F/13/159).

64 D’Alton, Protestant society, esp. ch. 4.

65 Jupp, ‘Urban polities’, pp 114–20; idem, ‘Ireland’ in Thorne, House of Commons, i, 102.

66 This is a point made in Jupp, ‘Urban polities’, pp 114–15. Since that paper was published further evidence has come to light which strengthens the point. In 1812, for example, few Catholic voters were registered by Catholic proprietors (1st earl of Donoughmore to Lord Fingall, 5 Nov. 1812 (Donoughmore MSS, D/33/32)).

67 2nd earl of Donoughmore to Francis Hely-Hutchinson, 6 Jan. 1827 (Donoughmore MSS.F/13/162).

68 The reasons for all three objections can be found in Table 1.

69 See Table 1.

70 The sources used were the Cork Directory, 1809–1810 (Cork, 1810) (Cork City Library); Cork Directory, 1820–1822 (n.p., n.d.) (ibid.); Pigot and Company’s City of Dublin and Hibernian Provincial Directory (London, 1824) (ibid.); Gentlemen and Citizens’ Corrected Cork Almanac (Cork, 1821) (Cork Archives Institute); Finny’s Royal Cork Almanac (Cork, 1831) (ibid.); Valuations, Holy Trinity parish (Cork, 1831) (ibid.); First report from the select committee on fictitious votes, Ireland, with the minutes of evidence and appendix, H.C. 1837–8 (259), xiii, pt 1, 1–338; Conlon, M. V., ‘The census of the parish of St Mary Shandon, Cork (circa 1830)’ in Cork Hist. Soc. Jn., xlix (1944), pp 1018 Google Scholar; Berry, H. F., ‘The streets and lanes of Cork’ in Cork Hist. Soc. Jn., iii (1894), pp 100-19.Google Scholar

71 The result of the x2 analysis is tested against a standard table of critical values. A 0.001 significance value indicates that the distribution tested would occur by chance only once in a thousand times; 0.01, once in a hundred times; and so on. Significance values greater than 0.05 are not normally considered as statistically reliable, though a value of 0.1 (the lowest score recorded on the standard tables) may be seen as indicative of a relationship.

72 Fahy, A. M., ‘The social geography of nineteenth-century Cork’ (unpublished M.A. thesis, University College, Cork, 1981)Google Scholar; idem, ‘The spatial differentiation of commercial and residential differentiations in Cork city, 1787–1863’ in Ir. Geography, xvii (1984), pp 14–26; idem, ‘Residence, workplace and patterns of change, Cork 1787–1863’ in Paul Butel and L. M. Cullen (eds), Cities and merchants (Dublin, 1986), pp 41–52.

73 Fahy, ‘Social geography’.

74 First report from the select committee on fictitious votes, Ireland, p. 320, H.C. 1837–8 (259), xiii, pt 1,324.

75 The streets could be assigned to a parish principally through the listings in Berry, ‘Streets and lanes of Cork’.

76 Holy Trinity valuation (Cork Archives Institute).

77 This contrast between the values of houses on the main streets and those on the courts and lanes behind was found in the central districts of other Irish cities at this time: see, e.g., Royle, S. A., ‘The socio-spatial structure of Belfast in 1837: evidence from the first valuation’ in Ir. Geography, xxiv (1991), pp 19.Google Scholar

78 First report from the select committee on fictitious votes, Ireland, pp 301–34, H.C. 1837–8 (259), xiii, pt 1, 305–38.

79 Conlon, ‘Census of St Mary Shandon’.