In medieval England each county sent two representative Knights of the Shire to join the nobility and aristocracy in parliament. From 1265, following Simon de Montfort's victory over Henry III's forces at the Battle of Lewes, each borough was also entitled to return to burgesses. They and the Knights were now to be elected. From the time of the Model Parliament on 1295 parliament was divided into two chambers: the hereditary House of Lords and the elected House of Commons.
At first it seems any free man was eligible to vote but from 1430 a residential qualification was introduced, restricting the franchise to 'forty shilling freeholders'—only those residents who inhabited property worth an annual rent of at least 40s (£2.00).1 This move, to deny voting rights to the lower orders, was gradually modified over the years to include annuitants, holders of rent charges and the clergy.
In 1837 the Brighton Polling District comprised Brighthelmston, East Aldrington, Fulking, Hangleton, Hove, Newtimber, Ovingdean, Patcham, Piecombe, Portslade, Poynings, Preston and West Blatchington.3
Under the Great Reform Act, Brighton was created a parliamentary borough in 1832 and began to return two MPs in its own right. However, it continued to participate in the East Sussex Knights of the Shire elections.