Lewes

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 inhabitants paying scot and lot

Number of voters:

about 150 in 1722

Elections

DateCandidate
c. Apr. 1660NIZEL RIVERS
 JOHN STAPLEY
23 Mar. 1661(SIR) JOHN STAPLEY
 SIR THOMAS WOODCOCK
13 Feb. 1679WILLIAM MORLEY I
 RICHARD BRIDGER
13 Aug. 1679THOMAS PELHAM
 RICHARD BRIDGER
2 Mar. 1681THOMAS PELHAM
 RICHARD BRIDGER
11 May 1685THOMAS PELHAM
 RICHARD BRIDGER
 (Sir) John Stapley
14 Jan. 1689THOMAS PELHAM
 RICHARD BRIDGER

Main Article

Lewes was an ancient borough by prescription. The returning officers were the two constables, appointed annually by a group of prominent inhabitants called ‘the Twelve’, after 1666 ‘the Jury’, but elections to Parliament were evidently arranged by the local landowners, and only one contest is recorded during the period. In 1660 John Stapley of Patcham, a royalist conspirator, was returned with Nizel Rivers, a member of a puritan family, whose brother James Rivers of Combe had represented the borough in the Short and Long Parliaments. Rivers was replaced in 1661 by Sir Thomas Woodcock, an army officer and former resident. Stapley’s circumstances became increasingly embarrassed as the Cavalier Parliament progressed, and Woodcock’s family was of little standing in the county; it is therefore unlikely that either was a candidate in 1679. In the first Exclusion Parliament Lewes was represented by Richard Bridger, who had acquired Combe, and William Morley of Glynde, son of the parliamentary colonel. Both were expected to support exclusion, but Morley died during the session. With the August election a more formidable interest appeared, in the shape of Thomas Pelham of Halland. His election cost his father Sir John Pelham a mere £40 15s.6d., and he and Bridger retained their seats for the rest of the period. They were adopted as candidates by the ‘dissenting party’ in September 1681, and no loyal addresses were presented from the borough. Stapley contested the general election of 1685 but his petition never reached the House. In 1688 James II’s agents reported ‘the election doubtful, the persons not named’, and Pelham and Bridger were unanimously elected to the Convention. Bridger boasted that each of his elections had cost him no more than a hogshead of cider.

Lewes Town Bk. (Suss. Rec. Soc. xlviii), p. xx; W. G. Hills, Parl. Hist. Lewes, 18-20; VCH Suss. vii. 84, 85; Add. 33148, f. 207; CSP Dom. 1680-1, p. 473; CJ, ix. 719; Duckett, Penal Laws (1883), 441; Suss. Arch. Colls.</