Urban Governance and Elite Networks in Chester, c. 1750-1840
This thesis explores change and continuity in the structure of networks created around leading citizens who participated in the urban governance of Chester between 1750 and 1840. The aim of this study is to analyse the orthodoxy views, which have shaped the nature of debates on English towns in the long eighteenth century: firstly, Sidney and Beatrice Webb’s contention that municipal corporations were unable to address the challenges of urbanization effectively before Municipal Reform in 1835, because they could not collaborate with other governing institutions; secondly, the long-held belief that Municipal Reform, which involved institutional transformation of the corporations, marked a turning point in English urban governance.
Before Municipal Reform, the corporation of Chester, which enjoyed the patronage of one of the wealthiest aristocratic families in Britain, the Grosvenors, was the leading local authority. Complaints about their dominance fuelled political partisanship and divided the city’s inhabitants. At the same time, the corporation co-existed with different governing institutions, including long-standing authorities such as the cathedral chapter and new civic institutions for architectural, medical, and intellectual improvement. The nature of the relationships between the corporation and these other bodies – whether conflictual or cooperative – underpins this thesis.
This thesis involves an examination of connections and interactions between leading citizens who were represented in different governing institutions, including the membership of both the reformed and unreformed corporations. It will reveal the extent to which leading citizens collaborated in urban improvement, transcending institutional boundaries, and the extent to which leading citizens in the unreformed period were connected with those who dominated urban governance after 1835. This thesis will demonstrate that there was greater collaboration and dynamism in Chester’s urban governance before and after Municipal Reform than historians of incorporated towns have previously believed.
Supervisor(s)Rosemary Sweet; Angela Muir; Andy Hopper
Date of award2023-02-05
Author affiliationSchool of History, Politics, and International Relations
Awarding institutionUniversity of Leicester