25th June 1885

Redistribution of Seats Act

The 19th century saw a great deal of parliamentary and electoral reform in Great Britain and Ireland. At the start of the century, Parliament was made up of very rich landowners or their representatives. Only a small section of society was permitted to vote in parliamentary elections.

In 1832 the First or Great Reform Act extended parliamentary power to the middle classes, removed rotten boroughs (boroughs with a very small electorate) and created constituencies for the new industrial towns and cities. The 1867 Second Reform Act extended suffrage (the right to vote in elections) to some members of the working classes.

Suffrage was further extended in 1884 by the Third Reform Act to those men who paid more than £10 in rent per annum or who owned land worth more than £10. This was followed by the Redistribution of Seats Act, which redrew constituency boundaries to make electoral districts equal. Although Parliament was now more representative, 40% of men and all women did not have the right to vote.

Parliament, Voting Rights, Industry
Engraving of Lord Castlereagh, Anglo-Irish peer, statesman and landowner.
Deputy Keeper of Records, PRONI D2966/129/1