Oxfordshire

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:

about 3,0001

Elections

DateCandidateVotes
c. Apr. 1660THOMAS WENMAN, Visct. Wenman [I] 
 JAMES FIENNES 
20 Mar. 1661HENRY CAREY, Visct. Falkland [S] 
 SIR ANTHONY COPE, Bt. 
Apr./May 1663WILLIAM KNOLLYS vice Falkland, deceased 
 Sir William Walter, Bt. 
21 Dec. 1664SIR FRANCIS WENMAN, Bt. vice Knollys, deceased 
10 Nov. 1675SIR EDWARD NORREYS vice Cope, deceased 
26 Feb. 1679SIR EDWARD NORREYS 
 SIR JOHN COPE, Bt. 
 Sir John Doyley, Bt. 
 John Clarke 
13 Aug. 1679THOMAS HORDE 
 SIR JOHN COPE, Bt. 
 Sir Philip Harcourt 
23 Feb. 1681THOMAS HORDE 
 SIR PHILIP HARCOURT 
 Sir John Cope, Bt. 
 Sir Edward Norreys 
18 Mar. 1685ANTHONY CAREY, Visct. Falkland [S] 
 THOMAS TIPPING 
 Thomas Horde 
 Thomas Bard 
4 Jan. 1689SIR ROBERT JENKINSON, Bt.700
 SIR JOHN COPE, Bt.622
 Thomas Horde3602

Main Article

Apart from the elections of 1660 and 1661, about which evidence is lacking, all the general elections were contested, though the poll survives only for 1689. There was apparently no dominating aristocratic influence in the earlier part of the period. In 1660 the county returned two moderate Parliamentarians in James Fiennes (whom Anthony a Wood described as ‘an honest Cavalier and a quiet man’) and Lord Wenman. Both belonged to families influential in county politics in the first half of the 17th century, but they played little part in the Convention, and were replaced in 1661 by Lord Falkland and his associate Sir Anthony Cope. Both moved up from borough seats with the aid of impeccably Anglican and royalist backgrounds. On Falkland’s death a new writ was ordered on 14 Apr. 1663, but nothing is known about the by-election, except that William Knollys took his seat on or before 19 May, and that Sir William Walter petitioned. The hearing of the case was deferred on 18 June, and so far as is known never resumed. Both candidates had been Royalists and the election was presumably fought on personal lines. Knollys and Cope were replaced on their respective deaths by two moderate members of the country party, Sir Francis Wenman and Sir Edward Norreys.3

Wenman seems to have retired at the dissolution of the Cavalier Parliament. Shaftesbury credited the Hon. William Coventry with designs on the county seat, but there is no confirmation of this from any other source.

Norreys refused to canvass for the first election of 1679, but stood with Sir John Doyley against two outright exclusionists, Sir John Cope and John Clarke, a barrister of Aston Rowant. The country interest in Oxfordshire had reached its apogee, and Lord Norreys, Lord Treasurer Danby’s brother-in-law, who was managing the court interest in association with Bishop Fell, was hooted out of the streets of Oxford with cries of ‘No Treasurer! No Papist!’ It was said that ‘his own neighbours will come to the election of knights of the shire, and will give their votes against those he would set up’. About 3,000 freeholders are said to have polled, in a contest lasting two days, and Sir Edward Norreys was returned, ‘by which one may see the honourable reward of honesty’. Cope took the junior seat for the exclusionists. But in August Norreys probably withdrew before the poll, which was contested by three country candidates. Thomas Horde, a friend of Sir William Coventry, though unfairly described by Wood as ‘a most ill-natured man and of no religion’, finished top of the poll, while Cope defeated the Presbyterian, Sir Philip Harcourt. The same candidates stood again with Norreys in 1681, much to the annoyance of Shaftesbury, who sought, through Locke, to persuade Harcourt to give a clear field to the sitting Members. His advice was ineffective, and Harcourt had his revenge on Cope. The successful candidates, it was said, had ‘agreed together they would give no entertainment, and no entertainment was given’.4

As early as October 1681 it was reported that Walter’s son was beginning ‘to make an interest to be knight of the shire next Parliament’. Prideaux’s correspondent supposed that, ‘being a person of general good esteem in the county’, he would carry the election ‘without any great difficulty’. But he was not among the candidates in 1685, when Norreys, now Earl of Abingdon, made no attempt to nominate two outright court supporters. Falkland’s son, a placeman, joined interests with Thomas Tipping. The 2nd Earl of Clarendon wrote on 26 Feb.: ‘For my Lord Falkland, he will fully answer your expectations, being in truth as worthy a man as any you can choose. I wish you may be as well satisfied with Mr Tipping, but I will hope well of him.’ Horde, now partnered by Thomas Bard of Fritwell, a London Girdler and ‘a fanatic’, brought many supporters into the field, ‘but gave no entertainment, and because he would not pay for their night’s lodgings, they went home, and he lost it’. In the autumn of 1688 Lord Abingdon nominated as court candidate ‘Mr Bray’, presumably Reginald Bray of Great Barrington, although his principal estates lay in Gloucestershire. He was returned with Cope at the abortive election in December, but died of smallpox a few days later. Next month Horde bravely took the field again, but the Whig tide was on the ebb, and he was defeated on a low poll by the high Tory, Sir Robert Jenkinson, who was accompanied by Cope in the Convention.5

Authors: Leonard Naylor / Geoffrey Jaggar

Notes

  • 1. Wood's Life and Times (Oxf. Hist. Soc. xxi), 442.
  • 2. Hants. RO, 43M48/515
  • 3. A. Wood, Athenae Oxon. iii. 550.
  • 4. Jones, First Whigs, 40, 165-6; Wood’s Life and Times (Oxf. Hist. Soc. xxi), 442, 519, 544; BL, M636/32, Sir Ralph to John Verney, 17 Feb. 1679, Edmund to John Verney, 20 and 24 Feb. 1679; Bodl. Locke mss, C7/76.