Tavistock

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 at large 1660; in the freeholders of inheritance 1661-81, 1689; in the 'free burgesses' 1685

Number of voters:

85 in 1661

Elections

DateCandidate
5 Apr. 1660HON. WILLIAM RUSSELL
 GEORGE HOWARD
 ELIZEUS CRYMES
  Double return of Howard and Crymes. HOWARD seated, 27 Apr. 1660
5 Apr. 1661SIR JOHN DAVIE, 2nd Bt.
 GEORGE HOWARD
 HON. WILLIAM RUSSELL
  Double return of Howard and Russell. HOWARD seated, 16 May 1661
 RUSSELL vice Davie, on petition, 17 Dec. 1661
26 Mar. 1673SIR FRANCIS DRAKE, 3rd Bt. vice Howard, deceased
13 Feb. 1679HON. EDWARD RUSSELL
 SIR FRANCIS DRAKE, 3rd Bt.
19 Aug. 1679HON. EDWARD RUSSELL
 SIR FRANCIS DRAKE, 3rd Bt.
19 Feb. 1681HON. EDWARD RUSSELL
 SIR FRANCIS DRAKE, 3rd Bt.
23 Mar. 1685SIR JAMES BUTLER
 JOHN BEARE
 Hon. Edward Russell
14 Jan. 1689HON. ROBERT RUSSELL
 SIR FRANCIS DRAKE, 3rd Bt.

Main Article

At the dissolution of the monasteries ‘the burgh and town of Tavistock and all the burgages thereof’ passed into the hands of the Russells, and throughout the period one seat was held by the family except for the opening session of the Cavalier Parliament and in 1685. The other seat was occupied until his death by George Howard of Fitzford, just outside the town, and afterwards by Sir Francis Drake of Buckland Abbey, a local magnate whose political attitudes made him a natural ally of the Russells. At the general election of 1660 there was no opposition to William Russell, but Howard was involved in a double return with Elizeus Crymes, who had sat for the borough as a recruiter until Pride’s Purge. Howard’s indenture was signed and sealed by the portreeve of Tavistock, and he was allowed to take his seat on 27 Apr. on the merits of the return. Crymes claimed that the franchise should be restricted to the freeholders, but, on 23 May, Edward Turnor recommended from the elections committee that it should be extended to the ‘inhabitants at large’ and the House resolved accordingly.1

The Russell interest was shaken by the widening of the franchise. At the general election of 1661 Sir John Davie replaced Crymes as the Presbyterian candidate, and was returned for the junior seat on two indentures. Job Charlton reported to the House on 16 May that one of them, signed by ‘the mayor and burgesses’, also returned Howard, while the other declared Davie and Russell elected ‘by the portreeve alone, and ... the borough is not therein mentioned’. Presumably this is the surviving return in the name of 81 ‘free burgesses and freeholders’, while Howard’s indenture describes the electors only as ‘portreeve and burgesses’. The House voted Russell’s return void, but he petitioned against Davie. On 17 Dec. Charlton recommended the House to reverse its predecessor’s decision by declaring the franchise to be in the freeholders ‘of inheritance’ only, and not in the freeholders ‘generally’. The House divided on the issue, Lord Buckhurst (Charles Sackville) and Francis Aungier, Lord Aungier acting as tellers for the narrower franchise and Sir Ralph Assheton I and Edward Seymour for rejecting the report. These names, like those of the three candidates involved, do not suggest a partisan vote. By 108 to 85 it was resolved to agree with the committee, and Russell took his seat.2

Howard died in September 1671, and a new writ was ordered as soon as Parliament met again in February 1673. But there appears to have been a lapse either on the part of the Chancery or the Speaker, for a further order was required on 13 Mar. 1673. At the by-election Crymes’s nephew, Sir Francis Drake, was returned, probably unopposed. William Russell moved up to a county seat for the Exclusion Parliaments, and his brother Edward shared the representation of Tavistock with Drake. In February 1679 they were returned on separate indentures by the portreeve and ‘burgesses ... according to ancient usage and custom’, while in 1681 the joint indenture stressed that the electors were ‘residing in the aforesaid borough and not elsewhere’. Whig control of the borough was successfully challenged in 1682 by Sir James Butler, a protégé of Ormonde who had acquired an independent interest by marrying an heiress. In March the ‘burgesses and inhabitants’ petitioned for a charter. The warrant was issued in April, and, despite objections from the Earl of Bedford, in particular to the nomination of Butler as recorder, the charter passed the seal on 29 July. The new corporation produced loyal addresses abhorring the ‘Association’ and the Rye House Plot, and con gratulating James II on his accession. At the general election of 1685 B