As a bonus for Members, the Society has published online the Berkshire Poll Books and Electoral Registers. The information is also published as CDs in the shop.

Downloading a PDF is deemed acceptance of the Licence Agreement below- so please read it first.

Content has been transcribed, checked and indexed by Society members, and is also published on CD – Catalogue Number quoted in the relevant tab

Background to the information in the PDFs

Before the Great Reform Act of 1832 the franchise (those that were entitled to vote) was very limited (essentially just freeholders) and varied between the two County constituencies and the Borough constituencies (Windsor, Reading, Wallingford and Abingdon). After the 1832 Reform Act about three times as many people could vote but there will many who couldn’t. Later ‘Reform’ acts and Representation of the People Acts extended the franchise. For example, the 1918 act, famously extended the franchise to women.

Many electoral registers are now available on the commercial web sites.

  • LICENCE AGREEMENT
  • Poll Book 1727
  • Poll Book 1768
  • Poll Book 1796
  • Poll Book 1812
  • Poll Book 1818
  • Electoral Register 1832

This licence agreement is governed by the laws of England and Wales.

In downloading a transcript file, you do not acquire title or ownership of the data file or data contained therein. This licence grants you a limited, non-exclusive, non-transferable licence to use the data contained in the data file. You are prohibited from copying, reproducing or translating the data contained in the data file.

  1. This licence entitles use of the data contained in this data file.1
  2. The data may not be sold, rented or leased or used for any other form of remunerated gain.

The Berkshire Family History Society shall not be liable, under any circumstances, for consequential or other costs, even if they have been made aware of such losses. Such losses may include, but not be limited to, loss of revenue, time or data.

Berkshire Family History Society holds copyright on software, documentation and packaging. All rights are reserved. You may print portions of data for private research and study, or to include in your personal family history. If you wish to publish that personal family history for the benefit of others permission is hereby given to include no more than three images from a file, please credit the Berkshire Family History Society.

If you would like to include larger portions of the data, or to use any images in any other publication then please email:  or write to

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1 For a multiple user licence contact the Berkshire Family History Society.

CD Catalogue Number BRK0228  © 2008, 2015 The Trustees of the Berkshire Family History Society

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The data file presents a transcript of the poll book identifying the voters for the ‘Knights of the Shires’ in the General Election of 1727.

‘Knights of the Shires’ is a term applied to the Members of Parliament who sat for the County of Berkshire as opposed to those members representing boroughs or other places privileged to select their own MPs. In Berkshire there were two MPs for the Shire, two each for Windsor, Reading and Wallingford and one for Abingdon. The elections in the boroughs are not detailed in this poll book, although many residents of the above boroughs were entitled to vote for the Shire MPs and hence are listed.

Note: this is not a list of those entitled to vote, but a list of those who did vote. It includes details of who voted for whom — there was no secret ballot in those days.

Who could vote?

Voting rights in the Shire or County elections was limited to freeholders; consequently the electorate was small. Voters could vote for more than one candidate. In the Berkshire election two members were elected to parliament so each elector could, if they wished, choose two of the available candidates. Of course, voters could also qualify to vote again in one of the boroughs.

CD Catalogue Number BRK0229  © 2008, 2015 The Trustees of the Berkshire Family History Society

Click here to confirm acceptance of licence agreement, and download PDF

This data file presents a transcript of the poll book identifying the voters for the ‘Knights of the Shire’ in the General Election of 1768.

‘Knights of the Shire’ is a term applied to Members of Parliament who sat for the County of Berkshire as opposed to those members representing boroughs or other places privileged to select their own MPs. In Berkshire there were two MPs for the Shire, two each for Windsor, Reading and Wallingford, and one for Abingdon. The elections in the boroughs are not detailed in this poll book, although many residents of the above boroughs were entitled to vote for the Shire MPs and hence are listed.

Note: This is not a list of those entitled to vote, but a list of those who did vote. It includes details of who voted for whom — there was no secret ballot in the those days.

Who could vote?

Voting rights in the Shire or County elections was limited to freeholders; consequently the electorate was small. Voters could vote for more than one candidate. In the Berkshire election two members were elected to parliament so each elector could, if they wished, choose two of the available candidates. Of course, voters could also qualify to vote again in one of the boroughs.

CD Catalogue Number BRK0233   © 2006, 2015 The Trustees of the Berkshire Family History Society

Click here to confirm acceptance of licence agreement, and download PDF

This data file presents a transcript of the poll book identifying the voters for the ‘Knights of the Shire’ in the General Election of 1796.

‘Knights of the Shire’ is a term applied to Members of Parliament who sat for the County of Berkshire as opposed to those members representing boroughs or other places privileged to select their own MPs. In Berkshire there were two MPs for the Shire, two each for Windsor, Reading and Wallingford, and one for Abingdon. The elections in the boroughs are not detailed in this poll book, although many residents of the above boroughs were entitled to vote for the Shire MPs and hence are listed.

Note: This is not a list of those entitled to vote, but a list of those who did vote. It includes details of who voted for whom — there was no secret ballot in the those days.

Who could vote?

Voting rights in the Shire or County elections was limited to freeholders; consequently the electorate was small. Voters could vote for more than one candidate. In the Berkshire election two members were elected to parliament so each elector could, if they wished, choose two of the available candidates. Of course, voters could also qualify to vote again in one of the boroughs.

CD Catalogue Number BRK0228 © 2006, 2015 The Trustees of the Berkshire Family History Society

Click here to confirm acceptance of licence agreement, and download PDF

This data file presents a transcript of the poll book identifying the voters for the ‘Knights of the Shire’ in the General Election of 1812.

‘Knights of the Shire’ is a term applied to Members of Parliament who sat for the County of Berkshire as opposed to those members representing boroughs or other places privileged to select their own MPs. In Berkshire there were two MPs for the Shire, two each for Windsor, Reading and Wallingford, and one for Abingdon. The elections in the boroughs are not detailed in this poll book, although many residents of the above boroughs were entitled to vote for the Shire MPs and hence are listed.

Note: This is not a list of those entitled to vote, but a list of those who did vote. It includes details of who voted for whom — there was no secret ballot in the those days.

Who could vote?

Voting rights in the Shire or County elections was limited to freeholders; consequently the electorate was small. Voters could vote for more than one candidate. In the Berkshire election two members were elected to parliament so each elector could, if they wished, choose two of the available candidates. Of course, voters could also qualify to vote again in one of the boroughs.

CD Catalogue Number BRK0229  © 2006, 2015 The Trustees of the Berkshire Family History Society

Click here to confirm acceptance of licence agreement, and download PDF

This data file presents a transcript of the poll book identifying the voters for the ‘Knights of the Shire’ in the General Election of 1818.

‘Knights of the Shire’ is a term applied to Members of Parliament who sat for the County of Berkshire as opposed to those members representing boroughs or other places privileged to select their own MPs. In Berkshire there were two MPs for the Shire, two each for Windsor, Reading and Wallingford, and one for Abingdon. The elections in the boroughs are not detailed in this poll book, although many residents of the above boroughs were entitled to vote for the Shire MPs and hence are listed.

Note: This is not a list of those entitled to vote, but a list of those who did vote. It includes details of who voted for whom — there was no secret ballot in the those days.

Who could vote?

Voting rights in the Shire or County elections was limited to freeholders; consequently the electorate was small. Voters could vote for more than one candidate. In the Berkshire election two members were elected to parliament so each elector could, if they wished, choose two of the available candidates. Of course, voters could also qualify to vote again in one of the boroughs.

CD Catalogue Number BRK0223  © 2005, 2015  The Trustees of the Berkshire Family History Society

Click here to confirm acceptance of licence agreement, and download PDF

This document is a transcript of the first electoral register for the county of Berkshire. Electoral registers or rolls were a creation of the 1832 Representation of the People Act (Will IV c45), better known as the Great Reform Act. This parliamentary measure made changes to the qualifications for voting and to the constituencies into which the country was divided in order to select the membership of parliament.

The Great Reform Act

The Great Reform Act of 1832 was one of the most significant pieces of parliamentary legislation ever enacted. It is even said it prevented a revolution, though it could also be said it almost started one. For an excellent account of this turbulent periood read The Age of Reform, 1815-1870 by Sir Llewellyn Woodward, OUP (a volume of the excellent ‘Oxford History of England’).

The Act is often lauded as the most important step Great Britain topok towards true democracy. Certainly it was a major political event removing several sources of political corruption and enfranchising many who had previously been denied the vote. However, the steps taken were not, in themselves, great:

  • the franchise was increased and standardised, but voters were still only a very small minority of the population;
  • constituencies were reorganised on a far fairer basis, but still varied enormously in size;
  • and privileged places such as Oxford and Cambridge Universities continued to return MPs.

In boroughs the situation before 1832 was very confuse; voting rights varied from place to place, some boroughs had MPs and some didn’t. The ‘rotten’ boroughs were places that had been important in historical times and hence elected an MP or two — but were, by 1832, often only villages. This was very good news for the few remaining electos who could sell their votes to the highest bidder. Pocket boroughs were those where a single man, usually the owner of the ‘borough’, effectively appointed the MP; for instance Old Sarum in Wiltshire had declined to a hamlet of three houses but, in the person of the Earl of Caledon, ‘elected’ two MPs to parliament. Meanwhile major new towns and cities such as Manchester had no MP at all. It was in moving towards a fair rationalisation of this area that the 1832 Act had the greatest impact. But there was still a long way to go, around 40 pocket boroughs survived reform and there were still massive variations in the sizes of constituencies – Wallingford in Berkshire retained an MP elected by fewer than 420 voters while Liverpool’s MP had an electorate of over 10,000.

Perhaps the most significant effect of the 1832 Act was that reform was shown to be possible, and that the disastrous consequences of expanding the franchise, predicted by some, failed to materialise. However, disappointment with the Act led to the Chartist movement and further civil unrest. Following the collapse of the Chartist movement in 1848 Parliament slowly came to realise that further reform was necessary and a sequence of further Acts from 1867 steadily satisfied all but one of the Chartist’s demands. [Even general eledctions.] Eventually further reforms extended the electoate even further than the Chartists had envisaged, to women and to younger voters.

Changes to the Franchise

The principal change for those interested in identifying individuals is the decision to create a register of those eligible to vote – the electoral registers. Prior to 1832 there are many lists of electors in the form of Poll Books. However, these are lists of those who voted, and those who didn't vote are rarely included, even if they did have voting rights.

Another problem with Poll Books is that they were only published after a vote had been taken. It was very common for the competing parties to avoid the cost of an election by agreeing a share out of seats thus negating the need for an expensive election campaign (the candidates had to pay all the costs). Even the 1832 Act made it clear that the candidates were responsible for the costs of erecting polling stations.

Previously voting rights in the Shire or County elections had been limited to freeholders, a rare breed in those times. The increased franchised qualifications were made uniform across the country, but still varied depending upon whether the constituency was a Borough or County area. The effect in Berkshire was to almost treble the electorate. Those eligible to vote were still very much a minority, but the first steps had been made.

Not all voters lived in the county — a freeholding in Berkshire could qualify a landowner from Yorkshire to vote. Some names in this transcript will appear in several places — ownership of land in three villages means three registrations. A surviving 1832 Poll Book for part of the county, printed after the election, which lists the persons in the electoral roll and adds information as to their voting, shows that persons registered in more than one place voted only once and that the place where they did vote is shown alongside their names in places where they were registered but did not go to vote. Another aspect of the Poll Book is the extremely high turnout, well over 90% of those eligible to vote did so, a far cry from modern trends in voting.

Borough and County

Four of Berkshire’s boroughs returned their own MPs: Abingdon, Reading, Wallingford and Windsor. The 1832 Act removed one of Wallingford’s two seats, Abingdon kept its single seat, while Reading and Windsor retained two seats each. In addition, a further three MPs were returned for the County or Shire (one more than before the Act). This Electoral Roll for Berkshire refers to the County or Shire consituency, but does include many voters in the above boroughs who had rights to vote in the County election (see below). No 1832 Electoral Rolls appear to survive for the Borough electorates, but Poll Books are available for Abindon (in diffcult to decipher handwriting) and Wallingford (printed and including a list of those who did not vote). These detail who voted for whom; as does a surviving Poll Book for the County District 2 (Reading and surrounding places). All are held by the Berkshire Record Office.

The Election

The introduction in the file includes a poster singing the praises of Robert Palmer one of the candidates and sitting MP since 1821. As can be seen from his list of ‘accomplishments’, Palmer, a Tory, was doing his best to show that he was in favour of reform and to distance himself from the general view of his party, He could obviously sense the mood of the electorate. The Tories’ resistance to the Reform Act which had led to a constitutional crisis was rejected by the 1832 electorate with a resounding victory for the Whigs. At the time this must have seemed a disaster of unparalleled magnitude to the Tories. In fact it pushed forward a giant step towards the party politics we know today. Robert Peel became the new Tory leader and soon dropped the tarnished name in favour of ‘The Conservative Party’ following his Tamworth Manifesto of 1834.

In Berkshire there were four candidates for the three available seats, two Tories and two Whigs. Voters could vote for three candidates. In a very close election Palmer topped the poll with 2,942 votes. Second was a Whig, Robert Throckmorton with 2,774 votes followed by the third successful candidate, another Whig, John Walter with 2,479 votes. The unsuccessful candidate was the second Tory, Philip Pusey with 2,440 votes.

In the next election of 1835 Throckmorton did not stand and so Palmer, Walter and Pusey were elected unopposed and no vote was required, similar cirucmstances meant that no vote was required in 1841 or 1847 but 1837 saw a landslide with three Conservative candidates elected, each polling almost double the vote of the sole Liberal candidate.

Voting Qualifications

In order to qualify for a vote and hence inclusion in this 1832 register a person had to be:

A male aged 21 or over and able to satisfy at least one of the following criteria:

  1. a holder of real property (copyhold or leasehold) worth at least £10
  2. an occupier as tenant of land or tenements paying rent of £50 or more per annum
  3. someone qualified to vote under the previous system and still in possession of the property that gave that entitlement

In Borough elections the difference was in the nature of property holding; (a) and (b) above where replaced by a single qualification requirement; to own or rent a property of £10 or more annual value. There was one additional requirement — the voter had to live within seven miles of the Borough.

Borough freeholders could vote in the counties if their freehold was between 40 shillings and £10, or if it was over £10 and occupied by a tenant.

There were aso a number of reasons for excluding a person from voting:

  • those whose name is, for whatever reason, not on the register
  • aliens, peers, lunatics, policement, postmasters
  • election agents and others paid to help at elections
  • those in receipt of public alms
  • commissioners and collectors of government revenues
  • anyone convicted of bribery at a public election (for 5 years following the conviction)
  • anyone serving a prison sentence

The Electoral Register

The Electoral Register is a list of those qualified to vote in the constituency. The existence of an Electoral Register does not imply that an election took place that year, though this was the case in 1832.

From 1832 the Electoral Registers were kept up to date on an annual basis. Registers for Berkshire held by the Berkshire Record Office are sparse for the very early years, 1832 is followed by 1839 (plus a small portion from 1834). However from 1839 very few years are missing.

Organisation of the Electoral Register

In 1832 the principal local governance sub-divisions within Berkshire were the Hundreds. The 1832 registers is printed, in general, alphabetically by Hundred, Place and Name. However, there are a few instances where the alphabetical ordering is not perfect.

Please go to the data file to view the list of hundreds, the places and their hundreds and how the data file can best be used.

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Berkshire Family History Society works to meet the needs of those researching their ancestry across the UK and overseas – as well as those looking for former relatives in historic Berkshire.  You do not need to be a member to benefit.

The society offers:

  • Research Zone in central Reading that is free to use and open to all

  • Free access at The Centre for Heritage and Family History to online resources like FindMyPast, the 1939 Register, The Genealogist, the British Newspaper Archive and Ancestry (the worldwide edition)

  • Regular free help and advice sessions

  • Meetings in Abingdon, BracknellNewbury, Reading, Windsor and Woodley — open to everyone

  • Online discussion list for members  informed answers to research queries and advice from experienced researchers

  • Members’ Area with data and other information not readily accessible elsewhere

  • Indexes and transcriptions of Berkshire’s historic records on CD — parish registers, probate documents, monumental inscriptions, maps, First World War history and more

  • Quarterly magazine, the Berkshire Family Historian, for members

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