Canterbury

Borough

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the freemen

Number of voters:

over 700 in 1688

Elections

DateCandidate
Mar. 1660SIR ANTHONY AUCHER
 HENEAGE FINCH
28 Mar. 1661FRANCIS LOVELACE
 SIR EDWARD MASTER
21 Apr. 1664THOMAS HARDRES vice Lovelace, deceased
24 Feb. 1679EDWARD HALES II
 WILLIAM JACOB
7 Aug. 1679(SIR) THOMAS HARDRES
 EDWARD HALES II
17 Feb. 1681HON. LEWIS WATSON
 VINCENT DENNE
12 Mar. 1685SIR WILLIAM HONEYWOOD, Bt.
 HENRY LEE
10 Jan. 1689SIR WILLIAM HONEYWOOD, Bt.
 HENRY LEE

Main Article

No one interest was dominant at Canterbury, though the dissenters, nourished by the foreign churches in the city, increased in importance during the period. Of the 11 Members returned, only Heneage Finch, who belonged to a leading Kentish family, and Lewis Watson, who had married a local heiress, did not reside in or near the constituency. At the general election of 1660 Finch, whose royalist sympathies were unconcealed, was returned with Sir Anthony Aucher, who had been in arms for the King in both wars, ‘with a very universal consent of that city’. The wife of General George Monck exclaimed indignantly: ‘We should have a fine Parliament indeed, if such men were chosen’, and it was rumoured that the Council of State would imprison the ‘Cavalilly boys’ for defiance of the Long Parliament ordinance, which ‘served as an example to the whole kingdom’. Finch, as befitted the leader of the House, was returned for his university at the next election, and there is no evidence that Aucher ever stood again. With five aldermen and five councilmen removed by the King’s command, Francis Lovelace, the recorder, and Sir Edward Master, one of a family long associated with the city, were returned to the Cavalier Parliament. Both were of royalist background, as was Thomas Hardres, Lovelace’s successor both as recorder and MP. The corporation was further drastically purged by the commissioners, who removed three aldermen, five councilmen, and the town clerk; but a proposal to renew the charter came to nothing, and the nonconformists took advantage of the Declaration of Indulgence to work themselves back into power. They had probably regained control by 1675, when they attempted to remove Hardres from his recordership in favour of Paul Barret; but this was overruled by the Commons as an infraction of parliamentary privilege. Master retired at the dissolution of the Cavalier Parliament, and was succeeded by Edward Hales, the heir to one of the great Kentish estates, whose own seat lay just outside the city. Hardres’s replacement by William Jacob, a Canterbury physician, may have been less voluntary. Hales, marked ‘doubtful’ on Shaftesbury’s list, eventually voted against exclusion; but Jacob ‘declared his mind’ against the Duke of York and voted for the bill. In the second Exclusion Parliament he gave way to Hardres, but Hales retained his seat despite some loss of support. The court success was of brief duration, however; in 1681 Watson, an exclusionist, was returned with Vincent Denne, a Member of the second Protectorate Parliament and doubtless of the same opinion on the topic of the hour.1

The corporation of Canterbury could not be persuaded to approve the King’s reasons for dissolving Parliament in 1681, though an address was procured from the militia officers ‘with the gentlemen and other loyal inhabitants’. The Government was told by the high Tory William Rooke that the nonconformists

are now the majority of the aldermen and common council, admitting none to be liverymen or sheriffs but their own party, all juries and constables being of the same stamp. It may be very easily judged what burgesses may be expected from this and all other corporations, so qualified.

It was suggested that ‘there is a present opportunity of new modelling them’, and, perhaps aware of their danger, the corporation did send a loyal address under their common seal in June 1682. But it was pointed out that it was against all ‘Associations’, the mayor and others declaring that the ‘Association’ found in Shaftesbury’s closet was ‘a sham put on the people’, and that by the ‘lawful succession’ they meant Monmouth. It was not until 1684, however, that quo warranto proceedings were initiated, and on 22 May the corporation resolved to surrender the charter on conditions, much to the King’s dissatisfaction. A warrant for a new charter had been issued on 11 May, naming the Earl of Thanet (Hon. Thomas Tufton) as recorder, but it was not delivered till 12 Nov. Before the 1685 election the lord lieutenant, the Earl of Winchilsea, declared his confidence that Canterbury would ‘make loyal Members their representatives’, and two of the new Tory aldermen, Sir William Honeywood and Henry Lee, were duly returned to James II’s Parliament. But the corporation did not long remain amenable; Aucher’s election as mayor in 1686 was disallowed by the Privy Council, perhaps at his own request, and the same fate befell Lee in January 1688. At the same time Honeywood and four other aldermen, one of the sheriffs, and ten common councilmen were removed, and in the following month they were followed by Lord Thanet, three aldermen, and nine of the common council. Kingsford, the new mayor, was compelled to hand over the keys to the city to a force of dragoons, and when Winchilsea’s successor, the Roman Catholic Lord Teynham, was called on to assess electoral prospects he could only state that ‘the most prevailing interest’ lay with Honeywood and Lee, while Aucher and Rooke enjoyed ‘a good interest’. His report continued:

Sir John Darell and Thomas Hales of Owletts have the interest of the present mayor and the dissenters, and by them are judged the likeliest persons to oppose with success Sir William Honeywood and Mr Lee.

Since the late regulation Mr Watson and Sir James Oxenden have appeared in this city, by the persuasion (as it is judged) of Sir William Honeywood and Mr Lee, whose interests it is presumed will join, either for the one, or the other, as they shall find it convenient.It is offered to consideration, first that here are between seven and eight hundred freemen, and therefore that such of those gentlemen as will spend most money amongst them, when it comes to an election, will be most likely to carry it. It is presumed that Sir John Darell and Mr Hales are likely to be more free in expense than Sir Anthony Aucher or Sir William Rooke will judge convenient for them to be, but I humbly conceive, that Sir William Honeywood and Mr Lee will be more largely zealous in their disbursements, and will find it the more easy, by reason of their constant hospitality in the city.

To promote therefore as much as may be the King’s service in this election, the most secure means (if there can be any) will be to supply what may be wanting, either by the inability, or free inclination to disburse for this service, and then to join the interests, that is, if Sir John Darell and Mr Hales are to stand, to have Sir Anthony Aucher’s and Sir William Rooke’s interests joined with theirs, and so on the contrary.

An address from the corporation of 4 May promised their utmost endeavours to promote the election of Members pledged to repeal the Penal Laws, and in the same month Aucher and nine others were removed from the corporation. A report from the King’s electoral agents in September was more hopeful. Although Honeywood and Lee were still in the field,

the dissenting interest and moderate churchmen will elect John Kingsford, the mayor, and Edward Crawford, the recorder, who are both right. ... There is a very good interest made for the mayor and recorder, and their election would be certain in case the precept be delivered to Mr Edward Hurst, and he goes down with it and takes care of the election and letters writ ... signifying that it is his Majesty’s desire that the said mayor and recorder, who have been bred and always inhabitant in the town, should stand for burgesses.

If the King were to require the chapterhouse of the cathedral to be handed over to the nonconformists for their services, ‘it would also have a great influence upon the election’. But a professional soldier stationed in the neighbourhood wrote to