The Returning Officer

Wolves I

Wolverhampton formed part of the Staffordshire constituency before the Great Reform Act 1832 gave the town its own seat. In 1835 Charles Pelham Villiers was elected as one of its two Liberal MPs, being re-elected at 15 general elections (from 1885 for Wolverhampton South, from 1886 as a Liberal Unionist).

Elected under William IV, he was at his death both the oldest MP and the father of the house. Villiers had only four running mates during his tenure: Thomas Thornley (1835-59), Richard Bethell (1859-61), Thomas Weguelin (1861-80) and Henry Fowler (1880-1908). Fowler, the first Methodist to serve in the cabinet, was succeeded by George Thorne who had previously failed at Wolverhampton West (1895) and South (1898).

Thorne's by-election was marked by a vote cast by a Mrs Lois Dawson, mistakenly registered as Louis Dawson. As suffragette policy was to oppose the Liberals, she probably voted for Leo Amery, Thorne's Tory opponent.

This article first appeared in the 26 September 2011 issue of the New Statesman, The fifty people who matter