Rotten and pocket boroughs
A rotten or pocket borough, also known as a nomination borough or proprietorial borough, was a
For centuries, constituencies electing members to the House of Commons did not change to reflect population shifts, and in some places the number of electors became so few that they could be bribed or otherwise influenced by a single wealthy patron. In the early 19th century, reformists scornfully called these boroughs "rotten boroughs" or "pocket boroughs", or more formally "nomination boroughs", because their democratic processes were rotten and their MP(s) were elected by the whim of the patron, thus "in his pocket"; the actual votes of the electors were a mere formality; all or most of them voted as the patron instructed them, with or without bribery. As voting was by show of hands at a single polling station at a single time, none dared to vote contrary to the instructions of the patron. Often only one candidate would be nominated (or two for a two-seat constituency), so that the election was uncontested.
Thus an MP might represent only a few constituents, while at the same time many new towns, which had grown due to increased trade and industry, were entirely unrepresented, or inadequately represented. For example, before 1832 the town of
Many of these ancient boroughs elected two MPs. By the time of the
By the early 19th century moves were made towards reform, with eventual success when the