The cathedral city of Worcester experienced mixed economic fortunes during the eighteenth century. In the early decades of the eighteenth century, Worcester’s economy relied on the wool industry, exporting woollen broadcloth to London and Europe. Reverend Thomas Cox wrote of the city, ‘The people mostly subsist by woollen manufacture. The best broadcloth in England is made here.’ From 1690 to 1710, over half of the city’s freemen were clothiers, making their concerns central to parliamentary elections. However, a once-flourishing textile industry had vanished by 1750, leading to economic hardship. By the nineteenth century it led the country in the trade of hops, fine china, and gloves. By 1833, there were 94 glove manufactories in the city, making Worcester ‘the principal seat of the glove trade’.
The city of Worcester was governed by a corporation, which was comprised of the mayor (who also served as returning officer during elections), six aldermen, and groups of both 24 councilors and 48 capital citizens to decide on local business. They had the right to create both resident and non-resident freemen, giving them the right of election in the borough. The Earl of Coventry was a notable figure in Worcester, serving as recorder during elections and patron of the corporation candidates. As a cathedral city, the corporation was closely aligned with the bishop, cathedral chapter, and Lord Lieutenant of the county. In opposition to the corporation was an independent party, largely supported by a community of Dissenters. By the 1770s, elections were divided, splitting the community on candidates and issues supported by the Church on one hand and Dissenters on the other. Following the 1832 Reform Act, the cathedral precinct and city’s suburbs were added to the borough’s boundaries, increasing the geographic size of the borough from 320 acres to 1253.