Herefordshire

County

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

Background Information

Number of voters:

over 2,100 in 1708

Elections

DateCandidate
18 Apr. 1660EDWARD HARLEY
 WILLIAM POWELL
 Thomas Prise
20 Mar. 1661JAMES SCUDAMORE
 THOMAS PRISE
23 Sept. 1668SIR JOHN KYRLE, Bt. vice Scudamore, deceased
 Thomas Whitney
26 Feb. 1679JOHN SCUDAMORE, Visct. Scudamore
 SIR HERBERT CROFT, Bt.
10 Sept. 1679JOHN SCUDAMORE, Visct. Scudamore
 (SIR) EDWARD HARLEY
23 Feb. 1681JOHN SCUDAMORE, Visct. Scudamore
 (SIR) EDWARD HARLEY
18 Mar. 1685SIR JOHN MORGAN, Bt.
 SIR JOHN HOSKYNS, Bt.
15 Jan. 1689SIR JOHN MORGAN, Bt.
 (SIR) EDWARD HARLEY

Main Article

Even as early as the general election of 1660, the traditional interests in Herefordshire had regained control, though candidatures were to some extent deterred by the ban on Cavaliers and their sons. The first Lord Scudamore, the elder statesman of the county, accordingly nominated Sir John Kyrle as one who had never been of either side, while Sir Henry Lingen and the ultra-royalists pitched on Thomas Prise, ‘who is incapable of being chosen by the qualifications, incompetent both in respect of years, estates, etc.’ Their principal aim was to exclude Edward Harley, and this caused consternation in the royalist shadow government in London, which had welcomed Harley’s eleventh-hour conversion and correctly evaluated his personal influence in the county and beyond. On 14 Apr. Sir Philip Warwick wrote to Lord Scudamore:

This may be a business of a nature unfit for strangers to your country to intervene in ... [but] I have great and late cause to know his Majesty with good esteem and kindness looks both upon this gentleman and the major, his brother.

Sir Orlando Bridgman and Sir Geoffrey Palmer, the chief legal officers designate of the restored regime, added the weight of their support, and letters were sent also to Robert Harley I, who acted as his brother’s election agent, perhaps from some of Edward Harley’s colleagues on the Council of State. Meanwhile Kyrle seems to have stood down in favour of William Powell, also a neutral during the Civil War, but with family connexions that were royalist rather than parliamentarian, unlike, Kyrle’s and he was returned with Harley.1

By 1661, the ultras had the bit between their teeth, and Harley retreated to Radnor. The sheriff, who was Scudamore’s nephew, revived the practice of a preliminary meeting of the gentry to seek agreement on two nominations to present to the freeholders. Scudamore nominated Prise and his own son James, who were returned unopposed. On the death of James Scudamore in 1668, Kyrle was again proposed, this time by Harley, who seems to have worked in harmony with Lord Scudamore. But a section of the gentry put forward Thomas Whitney. A proposal to refer the matter to the lord lieutenant, the Marquess of Worcester (Henry Somerset) was given short shrift by Harley.

In this affair, wherein the common birthright of every freeman in the country is concerned, such a reference to any great person might prove to us and ours a dangerous precedent. Therefore I desired it might not be further mentioned.

Nothing more is known of this election except that Kyrle was successful.2

On the death of Lord Scudamore in 1671, Harley succeeded to his position in the county, and, ably seconded by William Gregory, raised the organization of the country party to a remarkable level of efficiency. In expectation of an early general election, candidates were nominated in December 1675 for both county and borough seats. Prise, who was heavily indebted, and Kyrle, who had proved an inactive Member, were to be replaced by Harley and the young Lord Scudamore. Scudamore accepted, but an attempt to gain over the bishop by promising him a seat at Leominster for his son (Sir Herbert Croft) backfired. ‘He told them he was far from being for them, and that he must and would be against them.’ Bishop Croft was a territorial magnate in Herefordshire in his own right, and in the first Exclusion Parliament his son represented the county with Lord Scudamore, while Harley had to be satisfied with his Radnor seat. But in the autumn of 1679 Scudamore and Harley joined forces and were returned unopposed. Croft even promised Harley his assistance, for the gentry were determined to avoid ‘the ill consequences and fatal misfortunes which have befallen this county by the high contests which have happened about the election of Members in several foregoing Parliaments’. A counter-attack from the court interest at the summer assizes of 1680 failed; although Herbert Aubrey was chosen foreman of the grand jury, he failed to persuade them to present an address abhorring tumultuous petitioning. It was on this occasion, with party excitement running high, that Jeremiah Bubb and John Dutton Colt all but came to blows. On 16 Feb. 1681, Lord Worcester wrote to Secretary Jenkins: ‘Herefordshire is like to do this time as it did last, by the extraordinary diligence of the Members of the last Parliament’. Again there was no contest: Scudamore, in spite of his distaste for the vindictive treatment of his follower Bubb, accepted Harley as a partner, and they shared a modest election bill of just over £100. But with the dissolution of the Oxford Parliament, the unanimity of the country party in Herefordshire was broken. Before Members could disperse, a meeting was held in Scudamore’s lodgings, at which Shaftesbury himself, it was alleged, called for armed resistance. Scudamore rejected unconstitutional measures, and the court party began to entertain hopes of him. On 28 July, some of the gentry met at Holme Lacy, and ‘offered Lord Scudamore their first votes as knight of the shire, if he undertook not to join with anyone’. According to Harley’s information, he ‘gave not a satisfactory answer’; but in any case the shame of his wife’s elopement with Thomas Coningsby in the following month removed him from politics. As the Tory reaction gathered strength, loyal addresses were presented by Sir John Morgan and Sir John Hoskyns, and informations were preferred against the local Whig leaders.3

On the death of Charles II, Harley prepared to contest the county again. As he was no longer on speaking terms with Scudamore it was some time before he learnt through a third party that his former ally ‘would serve the country if elected, but he would not contest nor be at the charges of any poll’. A canvass undertaken on Harley’s behalf produced disappointing results: ‘in most places he had civil excuses of pre-engagement’. By 12 Mar. 1685, Harley’s chief concern was how to withdraw gracefully, and it is probable that the Tory candidates, Morgan and Hoskyns, were returned unopposed.4

In July 1688, Sunderland approved Hoskyns, (Sir) John Barneby and a certain Robert Kidley ‘or any two of them’ as court candidates. It had been hoped to win Harley over with the offer of a seat on the Privy Council. Harley refused, but his efforts to revive his partnership with Scudamore proved fruitless. Gregory feared that Croft might stand on an independent interest, but in the event Morgan and Harley, who had both taken up arms for William of Orange, were elected unopposed, the returning officer certifying that five days’ notice had been given to the freeholders.5

Author: John. P. Ferris

Notes

  • 1. HMC Portland, iii. 220; Add. 11051, f. 229; Cal. Cl. Sp, iv. 672.
  • 2. Add. 11044, f. 251v; 11051, f. 233.
  • 3. CSP Dom. 1675-6, pp. 460-1; 1680-1, pp. 171, 369; 1682, p. 291; Jan.-June 1683, p. 95; Duncumb, Herefs. iii. 212; HMC Portland, iii. 363, 369; Add. 29910, f. 141; BL Loan 29/140, Sir Edward to Robert Harley, 30 July 1680, 29/183, f. 87, Reed to Harley, 28 July 1681; f. 90v, Sir Edward to Robert Harley, 2 Aug. 1681.
  • 4. BL Loan 29/140, Sir Edward to Robert Harley, 12 Mar. 1685.
  • 5. Bodl. Carte 130, f. 24; HMC Portland, iii. 417; BL Loan 29/184, f. 123, Colt to Harley, 14 Jan. 1689.

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