Find your ancestors in London, Lambeth Electoral Registers 1832-1886

What can these records tell me?

The original records vary across time but in most instances you should be able to discover the following information about your ancestor:

  • Name
  • Address
  • The specific district or ward in which they were registered to vote
  • Qualification to vote (means by which entitled)

Where an electoral roll is arranged by address, it will also be possible to see who in neighbouring properties was entitled to vote.

Discover more about these records

The London Borough of Lambeth, immediately south of the Thames, was historically part of the county of Surrey. Lambeth Archive holds electoral registers for the three civil parishes of Lambeth, Newington and Camberwell. For local government purposes, from 1855 these were also known as vestries and from 1889 (after our period) they were separated once and for all from Surrey and became part of the County of London.

Electoral registers as we know them were first introduced in 1832 with the Representation of the People Act 1832. From that point, in English boroughs the franchise was extended to both the £10 householder (who occupied property, either as owner or tenant, worth £10 per year) and to lodgers (as long as the value of the occupied property divided by the total number of lodgers exceeded £10 per year). In all cases, the householder had to have been in possession of the property for 12 months – and to be male. The Representation of the People Act 1867 extended the borough franchise to all householders subject to a one-year residential qualification and the payment of rates, and to lodgers occupying lodgings worth £10 per year, subject also to one year’s residence.

Lambeth Parliamentary Borough was in existence from 1832 to 1885, and contained the parishes of St Mary Lambeth, St Mary Newington and St Giles Camberwell. For electoral purposes, the parishes were divided into polling districts and wards, the names and definitions of which evolved over time.

After 1885 and the end of our period, Lambeth Parliamentary Borough was subdivided into the divisions of Brixton, Kennington, North Lambeth and Norwood. Newington Parliamentary Borough was created in the same year, divided into the divisions of Walworth and West Newington, and likewise Camberwell Parliamentary Borough, containing the divisions of Dulwich, North Camberwell and Peckham.

Although the administrative history is therefore a little complicated, broadly speaking the same geographical area is involved for the period covered by these records and the researcher does not necessarily need to be completely familiar with the detail of specific arrangements. However, it is important to note that the electorate – those with suffrage, or the right to vote – changed over time as well, so that by the end of the period covered it was significantly larger than at the start. Care does need to be taken, therefore, in interpreting results. Is a person missing because they were not resident in the borough at that time, or because they were not enfranchised? The most noticeable absence is, of course, that of women. The Municipal Franchise Act 1869 allowed unmarried female ratepayers to vote in local government elections and you may see a few women in the electoral registers after this date.

Some of the original electoral rolls are, for the earliest years, handwritten and these have been transcribed. However, those rolls which were printed have been machine-read using optical character recognition (OCR) and the text then interpreted and parsed into structured and formatted data. OCR is never perfect and can be affected by, for example, the quality of the microfilming used in digitisation, speckling (“noise”) on the page, font variability and so on. However, we are confident that most individuals in the registers can be searched for successfully.