Electoral Register Guide
Registers of parliamentary voters first began to be systematically kept as a result of the Reform Act of 1832. However, even under the new laws, very few people were actually entitled to vote. The following Acts gradually increased the numbers of people allowed to vote and are worth bearing in mind when searching the Electoral Registers.
The Reform Act of 1832 was sometimes known as the Great Reform Act, being the first major step towards equal representation. Men who owned or occupied property worth £10 or more were given the vote and Electoral Registers were introduced. This added about 217,000 voters to an electorate of 435,000 in England and Wales.
The Reform Act of 1867 extended the franchise further to householders of property rated at £5 or more in the boroughs and £12 or more in the counties, adding about 1 million voters.
The Franchise Act of 1884 established a uniform £5 voting qualification for both borough and county constituencies, thus raising the UK electorate from about 3 million to 5 million.
The Representation of the People Act of 1918 extended the householder franchise of 1884 which, though hailed at the time as democratic, gave the vote to only three out of every five adult males and no women. Women at last had the right to vote, albeit only those over 30, on the old occupancy basis. A simple six month residency qualification was introduced for men. This Act added more voters to the register than all its predecessors put together. There were now 13 million men and 8.5 million women eligible to vote.
The Representation of the People Act of 1928 completed the process of democracy, It lowered the voting age for women to 21 with the same six month residency qualification as for men. This added about 5 million voters to the register.
Robert Ensor, England 1870 - 1914. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968.
Llewellyn Woodward, The Age of Reform 1815 - 1870. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962.
Electoral Register User Guide
Electoral Registers are a useful resource for historians and can be used for many research purposes. Electoral Registers list the people eligible to vote in parliamentary and local government elections. The lists are organised by constituency and divided into polling districts.
Records held by Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives
We hold all Tower Hamlets registers dating from 1901 with the exception of: the First World War period of 1916 and 1917, the Second World War period of 1940 - 1944 and the Metropolitan Borough of Stepney in 1926.
- Between the years 1901 to 1915, the Electoral Registers cover Tower Hamlets as a whole, with the exception of Bethnal Green whose registers commence separately from 1901.
- Between the years 1918 to 1966, there is a division into three separate volumes for the Metroploitan Boroughs of Stepney, Bethnal Green and Poplar / Bow and Bromley respectively.
- Between the years 1964 to the present day, the Electoral Registers again cover Tower Hamlets as a whole.
- Modern Electoral Registers are divided into two types: The Full Register lists everyone who is entitled to vote and the Edited Register, available for general sales, omits details of anyone who does not wish to be included in the Full Register. We hold the Full Register which cannot be photocopied.
Volumes with a Streets Index
Without knowing the exact division a particular street is listed under, it can be time consuming to sift through a whole Electoral Register. A very useful streets index is provided for the following years:
- Tower Hamlets Registers: 1901 - 1915, the index is at the front of volume one
- Stepney Registers: 1955 - 1966
- Bow and Bromley / Poplar Registers: 1918 - 1919; 1928 - 1933; 1937 -1964
- Bethnal Green Registers: 1919 - 1939; 1950 - 1963
- All Tower Hamlets Registers after 1967
You can also now visit Ancestry Library Edition to view registers held by the London Metropolitan Archives for the period 1835 - 1965, searchable by name index.