Kent

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:

under 7,000 in 1660

Elections

DateCandidateVotes
c. Apr. 1660SIR EDWARD DERING, Bt. 
 SIR JOHN TUFTON, Bt. 
 [Ralph] Weldon 
 [John] Boys 
18 Mar. 1661SIR THOMAS PEYTON, Bt. 
 SIR JOHN TUFTON, Bt. 
 Sir Roger Twysden, Bt. 
24 Feb. 1679SIR VERE FANE 
 EDWARD DERING 
 Sir William Twysden, Bt. 
8 Sept. 1679SIR VERE FANE3560
 EDWARD DERING2106
 Sir William Twysden, Bt.1452
21 Feb. 1681SIR VERE FANE 
 EDWARD DERING 
16 Mar. 1685SIR WILLIAM TWYSDEN, Bt. 
 (SIR) JOHN KNATCHBULL 
12 Jan. 1689SIR VERE FANE 
 (SIR) JOHN KNATCHBULL 

Main Article

There was no one dominant family in Kent; during this period the gentry observed the conven tion of returning one Member from the eastern part of the county and the other from the western part. In 1660 at a meeting of the gentry, under the leadership of the Earl of Winchilsea at the Star in Maidstone, ‘all the Royalists and moderate men in the county’ agreed upon Sir Edward Dering and Sir John Tufton, although the former was scarcely qualified under the ordinance. But any doubts about the election were settled by the republican nomination of Colonel Ralph Weldon and John Boys of Betteshanger, the former handicapped by his father’s record as chairman of the county committee, the latter by his own as sequestrator. Their allegations that ‘those who adhered to the King do still retain a spirit of revenge’ found few hearers, and Dering later recorded that

at the day of the election we had it by so vast a disparity (they being not one thousand and our party judged to be 6,000) that it was yielded without polling and all over in two hours’ time.

In 1661 the Cavalier Sir Thomas Peyton was chosen unanimously. Tufton, who had come through the Civil War and Interregnum unscathed, was opposed by another distinguished royalist sufferer in the person of Sir Roger Twysden, but was returned ‘after a very small dispute’.1

Both the elections in 1679 were hotly contested. Sir Vere Fane and Dering’s son stood as exclusionists, but the latter was opposed by Twysden’s son. During the February poll, with Dering in the lead, his father offered Twysden their support in a future election if he would retire. Twysden suggested that they should draw lots. Dering agreed, on condition that the two Whigs should first draw against each other, and the loser draw against Twysden; but this was unacceptable. The poll was adjourned, but on the next day Twysden conceded.2

Before the next election Peyton campaigned vigorously in east Kent against Dering but to no avail. The freeholders gathered on Pennenden Heath.

After some hours spent upon the said heath, the election was yielded by the consent of all parties to Sir Vere Fane. After which it was agreed by Sir William Twysden and the rest of the gentry present that for avoiding the trouble of a poll there should be two gentlemen on each side and the high sheriff to be umpire to determine the election upon a view between those two. Whereupon both parties drew up several times and it seemed to appear that the number on Colonel Dering’s side was far greater, there being also above forty of the clergy of that county who appeared for him and were drawn up in a body by a worthy knight. However, some gentlemen on the other party, being not well satisfied, demanded the poll, which continued until almost nine o’clock at the county court upon the heath, and was from thence adjourned by consent to the Town Hall in Maidstone on Tuesday morning, where the poll continued till three o’clock in the afternoon the next day, at which time it was agreed to be shut up, and the several numbers were cast up, whereby it appeared that Colonel Dering had the advantage of voices by some hundreds, upon which he was immediately declared to be duly elected.

The sitting Members were re-elected in 1681 ‘without trouble and without expense and without opposition’. But after the dissolution of the Oxford Parliament Sir Edward Dering noted that: since of the last five legal elections for our county our family hath succeeded in four ... I think it is now time to set down in quiet and leave other gentlemen to take their turn, few having in our county the honour to be chosen twice knight of the shire and no young man, that I know of, during his father’s life, but only my son.3

No Whig candidates appeared in 1685, though Dering, who had succeeded to the baronetcy in the previous year, was reported to be making interest for Hon. Lewis Watson. Twysden and another Tory, Sir John Knatchbull, backed by the local customs officials, were returned without a contest. James II had more favourable answers from the Kentish magistracy over the repeal of the Penal Laws and Test Act than in any other county, but his electoral agents recognized that this could not be translated into popular support. They reported in September 1688 that Knatchbull and Twysden would be re-elected:

They are moderate, and will consent to repeal the Penal Laws, but reserved as to the Test. ’Tis not probable their interest can be opposed, and that if any others should stand they may be more doubtful.

Although Dering seems to have become a Whig collaborator,