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burgages

burgages were forms of tenure. In the royal burghs of Scotland, they were properties held from the crown for rent and with the obligation of performing watch and ward. In England, they were properties in certain boroughs held freehold: in parliamentary boroughs they could carry the right to vote, which gave them a value far in excess of their economic worth. Before the Great Reform Act of 1832 there were 29 burgage boroughs. Since it was not difficult for patrons to buy up a majority of burgage properties, many burgage boroughs, particularly in Wiltshire and Yorkshire, were soon closed up and saw few elections: Thirsk was not contested between 1673 and 1832. The burgage boroughs had many idiosyncrasies. At Droitwich the properties were dried-up salt-pans; at Downton some of them were at the bottom of a stream into which the property had long since fallen; Old Sarum had only seven voters. In the 18th cent. patrons controlled the voters by issuing snatch-papers—title deeds to the property to be produced at the hustings to prove freehold, but at once taken away for safe keeping. In 1832 thirteen burgage boroughs lost both their seats and another nine lost one seat. See also boroughs.

J. A. Cannon

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