Available from Boydell and Brewer
Number of voters:
|23 Apr. 1660||THOMAS ARCHER|
|c. Apr. 1661||SIR ROBERT HOLTE, Bt.|
|SIR HENRY PUCKERING, Bt.|
|27 Feb. 1679||SIR EDWARD BOUGHTON, Bt.||2551|
|Sir Richard Newdigate, Bt.||5001|
|18 Aug. 1679||SIR EDWARD BOUGHTON, Bt.|
|Sir Richard Newdigate, Bt.|
|28 Feb. 1681||SIR RICHARD NEWDIGATE, Bt.|
|23 Mar. 1685||SIR CHARLES HOLTE, Bt.|
|14 Jan. 1689||SIR RICHARD NEWDIGATE, Bt.|
|(SIR) RICHARD VERNEY|
Gentry meetings are mentioned before most of the Warwickshire elections of this period, though they did not always achieve their objective of avoiding the expense and ill-feeling of a poll, and were probably regarded with increasing suspicion by the freeholders. The enclosed and industrialized area north of the Avon predominated in the representation of the county; of the 11 knights of the shire in this period only George Browne, Thomas Mariet and Richard Verney came from the more conservative Fielden in the south. The general election of 1660 was carefully managed in the royalist interest by Sir Henry Puckering, although as a prominent Cavalier he was himself unable to stand under the Long Parliament ordinance. As partner for the inactive royalist Browne he selected the former parliamentarian colonel Thomas Archer, thereby achieving a wide spread of political and geographical interest, whereas ‘neither my Lord Digby nor Sir Edward Boughton have other right but from the well wishes of their next neighbours’. Their joint canvass began well in advance of the receipt of the writ, and by 1 Mar. Puckering (who had the advantage of living in the county town) was able to tell Archer: ‘There is no question of the plurality of voices for you and for George Browne’. Two Protectorate officials, Sir Richard Temple and Richard Lucy, were mentioned as rival candidates; but both found borough seats outside the county, and there was probably no contest. Both Members retired at the dissolution of the Convention, and Puckering was fittingly rewarded with a county seat in the Cavalier Parliament. His colleague was Sir Robert Holte, whose family had suffered particularly severely during the Civil War at the hands of their parliamentarian neighbours from Birmingham.2
Holte spent most of the later recesses of the Cavalier Parliament in a debtors’ prison, and Puckering stepped down to the borough seat in 1679. Two gentry meetings failed to agree, except in opposition to John Stratford of Coventry, a colliery owner who was standing with the support of the Presbyterians and fanatics. Ominously enough Mariet, another country candidate, failed to attend either meeting, and Archer’s compromise proposal to nominate him jointly with Simon Digby found no support. The Guards officer, Sir Francis Compton, displaced at Warwick by Puckering, was also unacceptable. Eventually Boughton and Robert Burdett emerged as court candidates, while the opposition vote was divided between Stratford, Mariet, and Sir Richard Newdigate. On the view the sheriff declared Boughton and Burdett elected, but the other candidates demanded a poll. Each hundred was visited in turn, starting at Warwick and moving on to Kineton, Southam, Henley-in-Arden and Coleshill. Even so, Stratford claimed that proxy votes had been accepted for his opponents, and that his agents were denied access to the poll books. According to Sir William Dugdale, Newdigate received only 300 votes, though he was not without gentry support, but he was ‘allowed’ 500 by the sheriff. The result was a clear victory for the court candidates. The return, by ‘the greater part of the whole county’, is dated 3 Feb., the day after the receipt of the writ, but in fact polling continued for three weeks in the different venues. Some of Stratford’s supporters complained of ‘undue practices and illegal proceedings’ on the part of the sheriff and under-sheriff. Their petition was first ordered to be heard at the bar of the House and then referred to the elections committee, which agreed that the sitting Members were duly elected, but never reported. Although Boughton was absent from the division on the exclusion bill, he was re-adopted with Burdett at a gentry meeting before the August election. Stratford transferred to Coventry, but Mariet and Newdigate stood again as country candidates. The lord lieutenant, the Earl of Denbigh, tried to disrupt their campaign by summoning Mariet before the Privy Council, but he ignored the order. The court candidates were again successful, but Newdigate claimed that some of his voters had been left unpolled, and brought them to the sheriff’s chambers in the evening. He was threatened with a prosecution for riot, and removed from local office. It was alleged that the fanatics were ‘the only strength’ of his party, but he claimed that most of them had voted for Mariet, with their second votes (if any) going to Burdett, and he offered to stake £1,000 that he could out-poll both the successful candidates with churchmen alone. Boughton died before the next election, and Burdett does not seem to have stood. Holte’s son, Sir Charles, was unanimously approved as gentry candidate for the Woodland, but refused the nomination. Mariet was informed that ‘the generality of the gentlemen ... will not appear at the election, nor take it ill that you do so’, and he was unanimously returned with Newdigate to the Oxford Parliament.3
Sunderland, the new lord lieutenant of Warwickshire, was commanded to take care of the elections there in 1685. On 17 Feb. he wrote to his deputies, desiring them ‘to use your utmost endeavours for preventing intrigues and disorders ... and to employ all your interests that persons of approved loyalty and affection to the Government be chosen’. A gentry meeting was summoned by the sheriff, Sir Andrew Hacket, on 2 Mar., who reported the outcome on the following day:
I recommended the contents of your letter in an extempore fervent harangue, which seemed necessary because of 20 or 30 freeholders introduced (me nolente) into the room by Sir Richard Newdigate, and by him made to believe that I had a writ of summons privately in my pocket and did design to return knights for this shire presently upon the alone votes of these gentlemen. Sir Richard Newdigate treated your letter with a great deal of impertinency, but, though he made this congress to look like a council of war, all there (save Lord Leigh and Mr [Thomas] Coventry for Sir Richard Newdigate) agreed to assist Mr Verney and Sir Charles Holte at the election for this county.
Mariet’s affairs were now seriously embroiled, and it is not known whether Newdigate stood. The Tories Holte and Verney were returned to James II’s Parliament. Holte never stood again after the Revolution, and was replaced in the Convention by the Whig Newdigate.4
Author: A. M. Mimardière
- 1. Dugdale Life ed. Hamper, 142.
- 2. Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Hewell mss, Puckering to Archer, 1 Mar. 1660.
- 3. Add. 34730, ff. 34-37, 40-42, 66-75; Dugdale Life, 421; Warwick Castle mss, freeholders’ petition, 28 Mar. 1679; CJ, ix. 578-9, 598; R. Morrice, Entering Bk. 1, p. 173; CSP Dom. 1679-80, pp. 224-5, 395; Jones, First Whigs, 96.
- 4. CSP Dom. 1685, pp. 21, 62, 72.