Chipping Wycombe

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 Qualified Electors:

over 300 in 1673; 41 in 1685

Elections

DateCandidate
28 Mar. 16601EDMUND PETTY
 RICHARD BROWNE II
 THOMAS SCOTT
  Double return of Browne and Scott. BROWNE declared elected, 5 May 1660
20 Mar. 1661SIR EDMUND PYE, Bt.
 SIR JOHN BORLASE, 1st Bt.
15 Feb. 1673SIR JOHN BORLASE, 2nd Bt. vice Borlase, deceased
 Sir William Egerton
1 Nov. 1673ROBERT SAWYER vice Pye, deceased
8 Feb. 1679SIR JOHN BORLASE, 2nd Bt.
 THOMAS LEWES
13 Aug. 1679SIR JOHN BORLASE, 2nd Bt.
 THOMAS LEWES
7 Feb. 1681SIR JOHN BORLASE, 2nd Bt.
 THOMAS LEWES
16 Mar. 1685SIR DENNIS HAMPSON, Bt.
 EDWARD BALDWIN
 Thomas Lewes
 William Serjeant
7 Jan. 1689THOMAS LEWES
 WILLIAM JEPHSON
 Hon. Goodwin Wharton

Main Article

Though the right of election was in the whole body of freemen, the franchise was, in effect, controlled by the common council, that is the mayor, bailiffs and aldermen, 15 in number, who had usurped the right to create freemen, granted by charter to the entire freeman body. But two gentry families particularly, Pye of Bradenham and Borlase of Bockmer, exercised a natural interest.2

Dissent was a powerful factor in the borough, and Puritan influence strong in the corporation There was no opposition in 1660 to the recorder, Edmund Petty, but the regicide Thomas Scott, who had been elected in the previous year, was opposed by Richard Browne II, whose father, a leading Presbyterian Royalist, had sat for the borough as a recruiter in the Long Parliament. Scott was much hated as a republican spy, and no efforts were lacking to ensure his defeat, including the production of an alleged bastard during the election campaign. There was a double return of Scott and Browne, but the House accepted that the latter had a majority of the qualified voters, and ordered the mayor, Richard Lucas, into custody for a false return. Lord Wharton expected Petty to be re-elected, but two local royalist gentlemen, Sir John Borlase and Sir Edmund Pye, were returned in 1661. Although the new charter of 1663 required all officials to take the oath of allegiance and supremacy, and the appointment of the town clerk and recorder was subject to royal approval, within a few years the dissenters regained control. Although the charter explicitly forbade the appointment of a high steward, in 1668 the corporation chose the 2nd Earl of Bridgwater, an opponent of the Cabal. But he did not deign to take up the office until Borlase’s death in 1672 provided an opportunity for his younger son, Sir William Egerton, to enter Parliament. With the House in recess, there was time for sufficient freemen to be created to assure a majority. But Borlase’s son, the second baronet, also coveted the seat, and Bridgwater’s plans were foiled by the sudden death of the mayor. His successor was removed by order-in-council as disqualified under the new charter, and in the confusion ‘the fanatic party’ chose Lucas, who ‘usurped the ensigns of mayoralty’, and, despite threats of a quo warranto, enrolled 100 new freemen. It was also alleged that he brought forward the date of the election, to Egerton’s disadvantage. On the poll Borlase had a majority of over 40, but Egerton alleged that only 23 of his opponents were ‘ancient and true burgesses’, and prevailed on Alderman Gibbons, who had been chosen mayor by the rival party, to make a double return. Borlase’s indenture, however, was impressively attested by no less than 134 signatures, and had the support of both bailiffs, eight aldermen and 165 ‘burgesses’, including Pye’s son-in-law, John Lovelace; and the House upheld it without a division. On Pye’s death, Robert Sawyer, an ambitious lawyer of local origin, was returned, probably without a contest. His indenture was signed by Sir John Borlase and over 100 others. Nevertheless, some inhabitants petitioned that his election constituted an infringement of the liberties of the borough. Their petition was probably a protest against the control of the freeman roll by the common council, but it was not reported.3

Wycombe was represented in the Exclusion Parliaments by two country candidates, Borlase and Thomas Lewes, the son of a London merchant, who had bought West Wycombe manor in 1670. All three elections were ‘with unanimous consent and assent’. But in 1682-3 the corporation sent loyal addresses abhorring the ‘Association’ and the Rye House Plot, and were prevailed upon to surrender their charter. Its successor, besides the usual proviso for the removal of officials by the crown, reduced the electorate to a maximum of 41, and replaced all but four of the corporation. Edward Baldwin, the recorder, who was one of the survivors, was returned to James II’s Parliament with one of the new aldermen, Sir Dennis Hampson. Borlase had transferred himself to Marlow; nevertheless there was a contest, though the petition of Lewes and William Serjeant, a local country gentleman, was never reported. In February 1688 the council was purged of six aldermen and both bailiffs, and the recorder. Baldwin’s successor, Sir James Etheridge, believed that he would certainly have been elected ‘had not the Dutch invasion diverted his Majesty’s intention’ from calling a second Parliament. But neither he nor any other Tory ventured to stand in 1689. William Jephson and Goodwin Wharton stood on the Wharton interest, but the latter applied in vain for the support of Borlase and Lovelace, and was defeated by Lewes.4

Authors: Leonard Naylor / Geoffrey Jaggar

Notes

  • 1. Cal. Cl. SP, iv. 626.
  • 2. L. J. Ashford, Hist. Wycombe, 155-6.
  • 3. Cal. Cl. SP, iv. 626; CJ, viii. 13, 18; ix. 253-4, 269, 291; CSP Dom. 1663-4, p. 321; 1672-3, pp. 576-7; J. Parker, Wycombe, 77-91; Ashford, 155-6, 161; Dering, 140-1; BL, M636/25, Edmund to Sir Ralph Verney, 10 Feb. 16