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 corporation 1660-70; in the freeholders 1679-89

Number of voters:

24 in 1660-70; about 350 in 1679


8 Apr. 1661AMOS WALROND 
26 Nov. 1669JOHN FEARERS vice Walrond, deceased10
 Charles Boyle, Lord Clifford14
 CLIFFORD vice Ferrers, on petition, 26 Mar. 1670 
25 Feb. 1679THOMAS THYNNE I 
11 Aug. 1679THOMAS THYNNE I 
 John Swinfen175
28 Feb. 1681JOHN SWINFEN 
  Double return of Thynne and Turton 
31 Mar. 1685RICHARD HOWE 
11 Jan. 1689HON. HENRY SIDNEY 
8 May 1689HON. HENRY BOYLE vice Sidney, called to the Upper House 

Main Article

In this period identical returns were made for Tamworth by the sheriffs of both Staffordshire and Warwickshire. The corporation consisted of 24 capital burgesses and two bailiffs, who acted as returning officers. Of the two important property interests, the castle took no part in elections after the death of John Ferrers in 1680; but throughout the period the owner of Drayton Park usually controlled one seat. Lord Paget, a Staffordshire landowner, also had a small interest; he used it consistently on behalf of his steward John Swinfen.1

Richard Newdigate, the chief justice, and Thomas Fox, the town clerk of the borough, were returned to the Convention. Both had been in arms for Parliament. Ferrers offered a seat to Thomas Clarges, but it is not clear whether he went to the poll. Newdigate was soon removed from the bench, and there was no by-election. In 1661 Swinfen, another Parliamentarian, seems to have been a popular candidate, while Amos Walrond was the nominee of the dowager duchess of Somerset, who had inherited Drayton from her brother. They were ‘freely and indifferently elected’, presumably without a contest, since any third candidate could easily have proved Walrond’s incapacity as a deacon. Ferrers began to take steps to have him expelled the House in 1668, but he died in the following year. Although Swinfen assured the duchess that Ferrers had pre-engaged the electors she determined to put up her son-in-law, Lord Clifford. A writ for the election was ordered. on 19 Oct. 1669; but a month later Thomas Flynt, the recorder, was reprimanded for delaying its arrival, and Ferrers was called in to tell the House what he knew of the matter. At the election Ferrers urged the claims of the inhabitants at large, which was in accordance with Swinfen’s opinion; but according to Clifford, he agreed to poll the corporation and was defeated by four votes. Upon this Clifford left, and the freeholders were admitted and polled by the bailiffs, who were both tenants of the castle, and duly declared their landlord elected. The elections committee upheld Clifford’s petition, and the House agreed on a close division of 90 votes to 84, Swinfen acting as teller for the noes. Among the borough archives are some notes on elections, possibly made to support Ferrers’s case, since they argue that the franchise had always been broad. ‘All the pretence that can be made against the popular election is that sometimes when no opposition was made the 24 capital burgesses may have chosen the Member.’ Clifford’s contention was exactly the opposite: that ‘commonalty’ meant only capital burgesses, not inhabitants at large, since admitting the latter ‘would somewhat resemble anarchy’. In accepting Clifford the Commons voted implicitly in favour of the narrow franchise, but the issue remained unsettled.2

Thomas Thynne acquired Drayton by marriage shortly afterwards, and contested Tamworth in all three Exclusion elections, though he does not seem to have visited the constituency in person. Clifford moved up to represent Yorkshire, but Swinfen stood for re-election in February 1679. The recorder, Sir Andrew Hacket, had a majority of the corporation. ‘Though I had not one negative from the beginning’, Thynne wrote, ‘Mr Swinfen had so many that without some little skill he had failed of it.’ He was advised that the ‘commonalty’ would support him, if he should ‘adventure on that way’. Thynne also favoured the wide franchise, and after some very moderate expenditure they joined forces, and Hacket desisted. ‘By temporizing at first and persuasion afterwards we contrived it so that ... at the election we had no opposition.’3

Even before the first Exclusion Parliament was dissolved Hacket announced his candidature to the bailiffs. Swinfen hesitated, but was persuaded by his master to stand. He wrote to Paget ‘most thankfully acknowledging my great obligation to your lordship, not only for the noble favour I received in your family the last Parliament, but also for your lordship’s free offer of the same for August next’. Thynne also considered standing down, and using his interest ‘to send up such as shall be true to the Government, and equally averse to anarchy and tyranny’. But he was persuaded by his political mentor, Lord Halifax ( Sir George Savile), to offer himself again, though with a different ally, since he and Swinfen had voted in opposite lobbies on the exclusion issue. A fortnight before the election he closed with Hacket, ‘a weak man but honest, and the town being inclined to him, I have agreed he shall be my partner’. At the poll members of the corporation voted first, a majority supporting Thynne and Hacket. The town clerk then declared these two legally elected, and left the court; but the bailiffs continued to poll other classes of voters, as had apparently been agreed on previously by the candidates. When the poll was closed at 9 o’clock that night Hacket and Swinfen accepted Thynne as elected, but disputed the second seat, demanding that the qualifications of all those who had voted should be checked. It being seen, however, that this would take a considerable time, only those to whom exception had already been taken were examined. Finally it was found that where one poll book gave the two an equal number of votes, the other gave Hacket a lead of one vote, ‘said to be the parson’s of the town’. Then Morgan Powell, one of the bailiffs, who was also Thynne’s steward at Drayton, insisted that since they had agreed to close the poll Hacket should be regarded as returned. Swinfen departed, disgruntled, with a copy of the poll. He petitioned, claiming a majority of the ratepayers, though no report was made on his case.4

Hacket was again first off the mark in 1681, followed closely by Swinfen. But the delay in announcing Thynne’s candidature allowed a local lawyer, John Turton of Orgreave, to make considerable headway among the ‘commonalty’ as a second exclusionist candidate. Thynne had the majority of the resident gentry, the corporation, and the ratepayers; but the freeholders at large, including non-residents, were evenly divided. At Powell’s suggestion those who were not assessed for scot and lot were excluded from the official poll, since they could not contribute to parliamentary wages. ‘If Mr Swinfen did think to take this course, we may believe he had a very great assurance that it was the right way.’ Thynne himself would have preferred to rely on the corporation franchise, but recognized that the previous Parliament ‘on the like occasion [had] declared, if not voted, that the most proper votes in boroughs are only such as pay scot and lot’. Hacket desisted, and there appears to have been no opposition to Swinfen. Among the rate-payers Thynne had a majority of 114 to 104; but an unofficial poll gave Turton a further hundred votes from ‘all who came’. The double return was left undecided in the brief Oxford Parliament.5

In December 1681 the corporation and ‘inhabitants’ sent a somewhat belated address approving the dissolution of Parliament, and in the following May the grand jury presented an address against the ‘Association’ to the corporation, which gave ‘unanimous consent’. In September 1683 the corporation sent an address abhorring the Rye House Plot. In November, when rumours of quo warranto proceedings were in the air, Hacket urged the corporation to surrender their charter, offering to pay £10 of the charges if guaranteed election for the next Parliament. The offer seems to have been rejected. On the accession of James II, the corporation was more prompt in sending a congratulatory address. Hacket, although doubtfully eligible as sheriff of Warwickshire, announced his candidature, and Sir Henry Gough was eager to stand, offering to spend £200 in opposing Turton and Swinfen, or, if freely chosen, to spend £100 in the town. Thynne, now Lord Weymouth, intended to nominate his brother-in-law Richard Howe for one seat, leaving the other for a local gentleman. Hacket brought the writ down on 11 Mar., but agreed to withold it until Weymouth’s intentions were known. He addressed a meeting of the corporation, to which a large number of the inhabitants had been invited, asking them to vote for Weymouth’s nominee and himself. But several meetings had already been held on Turton’s behalf, and the commonalty showed such dissatisfaction that Weymouth’s agent read them a lecture on their ingratitude to his master and family. Sir John Bowyer and William Leveson Gower then proposed Edward Littleton, but no generally acceptable candidate could be found. Hacket concluded by announcing that, if they could not agree, the lord lieutenant would ‘propose such as should be to all their liking’ at the assizes. After the meeting some of the commonalty made it clear that they would not oppose Howe; but they refused to countenance Hacket, who apparently again desisted. Turton also withdrew, and Howe and Gough were returned unopposed.6

At the close of 1687 a writ of quo warranto was at last issued. On 9 Mar. 1688 the corporation, advised by Weymouth and Hacket, decided by twelve votes to five to resist; but a month later they resolved on surrender. In July a new charter was issued, and the government of the town was placed in the hands of a mayor and 12 aldermen. The new mayor was Powell, who had left Weymouth’s service and been presented to James II during the royal progress. He proposed as court candidates the new recorder Joseph Girdler and Turton; but the latter initially failed to secure royal approval. The Thynne interest was dismayed to learn that Gough had been closeted with Powell, though he assured them that he had ‘no other design in standing than to keep out worse men’. Despite Powell’s threats more than 60 of the townspeople, including Gough, attended a buck roast organized by Weymouth’s new steward. After the loyal toast, the health of the ‘ancient borough of Tamworth’ was proposed, those present being reminded that they all had votes, ‘and as much right of election as any of the aldermen’. This was followed by toasts to the sitting Members. Powell’s next choice for court candidate was reported to be the Tory Sir Francis Lawley, though he stopped Littleton’s mother from canvassing the Tamworth shopkeepers for Gough by threatening to send her elderly husband, Sir Edward Littleton, to Westminster. In September 1688 the royal electoral agents reported:

They propose to choose Mr Turton, a lawyer, and Col. Guy, kinsman to Mr Secretary [Henry] Guy, in case they find he will come to his Majesty’s interest. Mr Swinfen and Mr Howe, named in your Majesty’s list; the one is superannuated and the other not right.

Col. Richard Guy, a kinsman of Powell’s, was a Barbados planter ‘of a generous tenderness in matters of religion’. He was recommended to the corporation by the philanthropist Thomas Guy and undertook to pay Turton’s expenses as well as his own.

Weymouth’s steward reported that Gough was still protesting his loyalty to Howe;

but with him or without him we will endeavour to preserve what we have. If we can do that I am sure we have enough to carry it, could we but have a fair election; but I much fear my crafty Welsh predecessor will play us a knave’s trick. He has declared that elect who they will, he will return Guy and Turton.

It is not clear why Howe did not stand in 1689, but perhaps Weymouth sought to gain favour with the new regime by nominating William III’s closest English friend, Henry Sidney, who was returned with Gough. When Sidney was raised to the peerage Clifford’s son, Henry Boyle, took his place.7

Authors: A. M. Mimardière / Basil Duke Henning


  • 1. C. R. Palmer, Tamworth, 106; Shaw, Staffs. i. 420.
  • 2. Stowe 185, f. 147; D. G. Stuart, ‘Parl. Hist. Tamworth’ (London Univ. M.A. thesis, 1958), 30-31, 38, 40; HMC Bath, iv. 265, 268; Ward thesis, 256, 265; CJ, ix. 147.
  • 3. Add. 29910, ff. 81, 86, 87, 90; Ward thesis, 268; Jones, First Whigs, 47.
  • 4. Ward thesis, 260, 264, 269; Add. 29910, ff. 110, 117, 130; Stuart, 41-42; Staffs. Parl. Hist. (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc.), ii. 145.
  • 5. Bath mss, Thynne pprs. 21, ff. 168, 175, 176, 182, 198, 200; 27, ff. 19, 21-22, 23; 28, ff. 32, 33, 35, 37, 39, 41, 50; Stuart thesis, 43-44.
  • 6. Thynne pprs. 22, ff. 62, 89, 90-91, 92; 27, ff. 80, 82, 227. London Gazette, 22 Dec. 1681, 1 June 1682, 27 Sept. 1683.
  • 7. Ward thesis, 257-8; Palmer, 142-5; Stuart thesis, 45-46; CSP Dom. 1687-9, pp. 211, 236; Thynne pprs. 23, ff. 233-4, 235; 28, ff. 228-37; Duckett, Penal Laws (1883), 252-3.