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18 August, 2010

George Henry Williamson (b 1845): Briefly MP for Worcester

George Henry Williamson was (in 1906) briefly elected Conservative and Unionist MP for Worcester before being disqualified.

It was suggested that members of his team had bribed voters to vote Conservative. After a petition by the Liberal Party the result was declared void.

The report of the election court to the Speaker of the House of Commons (Hansard 14th June 1906) said:

… we determined that the said George Henry Williamson, being the Member whose Election and Return were complained of in the said Petition was not duly elected and returned, and that the said Election was void.  …

  1. That no corrupt or illegal practice was proved to have been committed by or with the knowledge and consent of any Candidate at the said Election.
  2. That the persons whose names appear in the First Schedule hereto were proved to have been guilty of the corrupt practices of bribery and treating.
  3. That there is reason to believe that corrupt practices have extensively prevailed at the said Election.
  4. That the said George Henry Williamson was guilty by his agents of the corrupt practice of bribery.
  5. That Certificates of Indemnity have been furnished to the persons proved guilty of bribery or treating whose names appear in the Second Schedule hereto.
  6. That the corrupt practices which, as there is reason to believe, extensively prevailed at the said Election were treating and the distribution of small sums, varying in amount from sixpence to two shillings and sixpence, as bribes amongst the poorer class of voters.

As a result there was a Royal Commission set up to look into the scandal and the reports of the commission filled many columns of the Times over many weeks.  The Royal Commission of 1906 came to the conclusion that:

  • the constituency ‘on the whole was not corrupt’ as only 60 people were reported as receiving money and the total sum involved was under £8 but,
  • at the same time, ‘there exists in Worcester a class of voters, numbering almost 500…. who are prepared to sell their votes for drink or money’ and
  • that, in the Parliamentary election of 1906, ‘corrupt practices on an organized system extensively prevailed….’ 1

The House of Commons refused to approve the writ for the by-election on a number of occasions – the reasoning seeming to be that the electorate was as corrupt as the political parties. (The Liberal Government may also have felt that it was not in its interest to have the by-election.)  Attempts in the House of Commons to call the by-election failed on 17 December 1906 and 14 February 1907, but it was eventually called on 31 January 1908.

My Grandmother used to say that her father was “nearly an MP”*.  He was a leading businessman in Worcester, his father having founded the Providence Tinplate Works, and was Mayor of Worcester in 1893.  He later lived in Wimbledon, but died in Bournemouth in 1918 age 73.

* He did in fact take his seat, which would imply that he took the oath and became an MP. Hansard reports him speaking once – proposing that “The question be now put”, the question being an amendment (proposed by Winston Spencer Churchill) to water down a motion by Mr Byles:

That this House expresses its disapproval of the conduct of Lord Milner, as High Commissioner of South Africa and Governor of the Transvaal, in authorising the flogging of Chinese labourers in breach of the law, in violation of treaty obligations, and without the knowledge or sanction of His Majesty’s Secretary of State for the Colonies.

The speaker declined to put the question until two others had proposed that it be put; G H Williamson then voted against the amendment to the original motion. (Hansard 21st March 1906)

1 Report of the Royal Commission, paraphrased in Mylechreest, D., 2007, A Singular Liberal:
Richard Robert Fairbairn and Worcester Politics 1899-1941
(online at University of Worcester) and in Humphreys, J.H., 1911, Proportional Representation A Study in Methods of Election (online at pdfbooks.co.za)


  1. […] Election, when he was disqualified following allegations concerning bribing the electorate (see separate story). The Fate of Williamson and Sons of Worcester (click for full […]

    Pingback by The Williamsons and Worcester « Faulder Family Genealogy — 30 August, 2010 @ 9:57 pm

  2. My neighbour in Worcester has the original petition in her possession I belive. Please contact me if you are interested in finding out more.

    Comment by Rob Clayton — 9 January, 2012 @ 3:35 pm

  3. David, have you heard anything about George Henry having fought on (I think) the Confederate side in the American Civil War [1861–1865]? I believe he ran off as a very young man (a minor I presume) to America to fight…. I think this is perfectly true although I’ve not seen any supporting evidence as yet.
    I also believe that one of my mother’s nephews, son of her brother Dick, did quite a bit of work on the Williamson family genealogy and discovered that the Williamsons originated in Scotland – I seem to remember Fort William being mentionned though I’m not 100% sure. Unfortunately he died a few years ago and his research is, I think lost.

    Comment by Helen Kingham — 23 February, 2012 @ 7:35 pm

  4. Re the ACL (American Civil War 1861-1865). I suppose it is possible – but I would be surprised about fighting on the Confederate side.
    The 1861 England and Wales Census shows a “nephew” Thomas Williamson (a tinplate worker) residing at Worcester (England) with his uncle William Blizzard Williamson (the elder). He is shown as being born in 1845 in New Jersey (Union not Confedorate Territory). Possibly Thomas persuaded George Henry (also born 1845, but in London) to travel to the United States? If so, he was certainly back by the 1871 Census.

    I think I need to do a bit of research (see The Williamsons in the United States) in this area.

    Comment by David — 23 February, 2012 @ 9:27 pm

  5. He lived in my family home in Worcester as shown on the 1881 census….I don’t suppose you have any pictures from that time??

    Comment by Justin — 10 November, 2014 @ 4:35 pm

  6. I am afraid not – but Worcester Museums may have some photos or newspapers which may have something.

    Can you be more specific about the address (email me if you do not want the full address to be public)? The Census gives “Lark Hill” as a location but no house name. Lark Hill nowadays seems to be almost a “back-street” off Lark Hill Road (running approximately NNW-SSE) giving access to the backs of 4 large buildings – numbered from 38, that I am guessing are each pairs of houses whose main access would have been originally by foot from the path/driveway to the West South West of the buildings. Or are we talking about the separate house right at the bottom (South) end of Lark Hill, which looks as if it can also be accessed by the driveway off London Road (just after the railway bridge and labelled Heron Lodge)? Or alternatively is it the house at the top of Lark Hill Road on the Left – which backs on to Perry Wood Walk/Close – which was the access to what was the Williamson’s / Metal Box Perry Wood Works?

    Comment by David — 10 November, 2014 @ 9:15 pm

  7. […] is also a family story (see comment on another post) about George Henry Williamson having fought on possibly the Confederate side in the American Civil […]

    Pingback by William Blizard Williamson of Cork « Faulder Family Genealogy — 8 January, 2017 @ 9:19 pm

  8. […] Worcester Town Council. Both his sons went on to become mayors of Worcester, and George Henry was “almost an MP“. […]

    Pingback by Obituary: William Blizard Williamson (the elder) of Worcester « Faulder Family Genealogy — 16 February, 2017 @ 10:30 am

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