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cheltonian lifestyle The History Hour… by HannahWright


Thismonth, you can’t go anywhere without hearing about the unexpectedsnapGeneral Election. The constituencyofCheltenhamis expectedto be a two horse race betweenConservatives and Liberal Democrats yet again, and to date, the scores are neck and neck. Since the constituencywas createdin the Great ReformAct of 1832,General Elections have returned nine Conservative and nine LiberalMPs, plus one independent. Fromthe thirteenth century,The


Countywas representedby two ‘Knights of the Shire’whowould be calledto Parliament. Sometimes the presence of two representatives fromeachmajor townwas also required.Bristol andGloucesterwere classedas Parliamentary boroughs in 1295,Cirencester in 1572 and Tewkesbury in 1614. In thesepre-spa days,Cheltenhamwas still a very small settlement, and itwas not until the 1832 ReformAct that the town was granted its own representation. The first ReformAct createda


more evenly spreadsystemof representation, and67 new constituencies. The firstMP forCheltenhamwas a


Liberal,TheHon.Craven FitzHardingeBerkeley,who held the seat until 1847when hewas ousted byConservative, SirWilloughby Jones,with amajority of 108. However,within a yearBerkeleywas returnedafter a petition of objection on the grounds of bribery resultedin the election beingdeclared void by the Liberal-majority Parliament; and a


54 JUNE 2017 THECHELTONIAN


SirJamesAgg-Gardner


by-electionwas run.Within a few months, amidst similar accusations of bribery againstBerkeley, this result was also declared void.Asecondby- electionwas run in September 1848. Thiswaswon by a relation,Charles Berkeley,whowas put up as Liberal candidate. CravenBerkeleymade his come-


back in 1852 during a bitter head-to- headcampaignwith his old adversary Sir Jones.Cravendiedwithin three years, andCharlesBerkeley,whowas thenMP in Evesham, returned again as candidate.Hewon the seat easily but resignedwithin a year, prompting anotherby-election inwhich hewas succeededby his cousin Francis. TheBerkeley reignwas endedby a


Conservativewin in 1865.However, Charles Schreiber only stayedone termbefore travelling Europewith his wife in pursuit of rareporcelain and china for their extensive collection. Not long after this, JamesAgg


Gardner enteredParliament, and becameCheltenham’s longest


servingMP to date, clocking up 39 yearswith some intervening periods of Liberalwins,plus a period during which he stood down.He regained the seat in 1911 and held it until his death in 1928, andwas affectionately known as ‘Minister for the Interior’, for hiswork as chair of theCommons KitchenCommittee.Hewas also a lifelong supporter and advocate for women’s suffragewhich had a strong campaigningpresence in the town. The boundariesof the


Cheltenhamconstituency have changedmany times over the years, and it has grown considerably since its creation. In order to equalise the number of electorsper constituency, the currentproposals are for Cheltenhamto lose Springbank to Tewkesbury. The other significant change to the


political landscapewas the creation of regionalMembers of the European Parliament in 1979; roleswhichwill of coursebecome defunctwithin a few years if theUK leaves the EU.


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