Westbury

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 burgage-holders

Population:

22 in 1678

Elections

DateCandidateVotes
2 Apr. 1660RICHARD LEWIS  
 WILLIAM BROUNCKER  
8 Apr. 1661RICHARD LEWIS  
 THOMAS WANCKLYN  
 Sir William Wheeler, Bt.  
18 Feb. 1678HON. HENRY BERTIE vice Wancklyn, expelled the House 13
 William Trenchard219
13 Feb. 1679RICHARD LEWIS  
 WILLIAM TRENCHARD  
 Hon. Henry Bertie  
28 Aug. 1679RICHARD LEWIS  
 HON. HENRY BERTIE  
 Edward Norton  
 William Trenchard  
  NORTON and TRENCHARD vice Lewis and Bertie, on petition, 26 Nov. 1680  
9 Mar. 1681WILLIAM TRENCHARD  
 JOHN ASHE  
23 Mar. 1685RICHARD LEWIS  
 JAMES HERBERT  
14 Jan. 1689RICHARD LEWIS  
 HON. PEREGRINE BERTIE I  

Main Article

Westbury, a borough by prescription, came to possess a mayor, who acted as returning officer, a recorder, who conducted the borough court, and 13 ‘capital burgesses’ or aldermen. There were at least ten manors in the parish, all with burgage tenements, that conveyed the franchise; but the lord of the ‘capital manor’ possessed the controlling interest. In 1640 this was sold to the Danvers family by the 3rd Earl of Marlborough; but Heywood, one of the sub-manors, was out in jointure to his mother, who used her interest to bring in her second husband, Thomas Wancklyn, in 1661. On the death of Sir John Danvers in 1655 his estate was divided among coheirs, and the interest remained ineffective until his granddaughter married Lord Norreys, one of the Bertie clan, in 1672. The electorate showed a strong preference for local men, most notably for Richard Lewis of Edington Priory, ‘a very near man’ (in both senses of the epithet) who would ‘spend little or nothing’ on electioneering, yet was returned at every general election except one until the end of the century.1

At the general election of 1660 one moiety of the Danvers interest was in the hands of Lady Rochester as guardian of her infant granddaughter. Her servants were instructed that the success at Westbury of her Buckinghamshire friend and trustee, Sir Ralph Verney, was second in importance only to the election of her son Sir Francis Henry Lee at Malmesbury. ‘Fair promises’ were obtained from the ‘perfidious’ electorate; but several days before the election it was clear that the outsider had been laid aside in favour of two local squires, Lewis and William Brouncker. After the dissolution of the Convention, the Presbyterian financier Sir William Wheeler, who had represented the borough in the Long Parliament, wrote to the sheriff of Wiltshire, Sir James Thynne: ‘I make my suit to you that you will recommend with some seriousness my election at Westbury, my old borough. I know your interest, both of estate and goodwill, is considerable in that place.’ Thynne did not complete the purchase of Bratton manor till 1669, but Wheeler himself must have controlled some burgages as lord of Westbury Leighs and tenant under Westminster Abbey of the Priory manor. However, he did not reside on the estate, and the borough preferred Lewis and Wancklyn, a Cavalier officer of humble origin.2

Wancklyn lost his wife and his interest in 1670, when Heywood passed to the Ashe family, and his seat on 1 Feb. 1678, when he was expelled for abuse of privilege. Lord Norreys put up his half-brother Henry Bertie as court candidate, but there was opposition from a local squire, William Trenchard, a great patron of the Anabaptists. Complaints were made in the House that the writ was delayed by ‘some of the lord treasurer’s people’. The mayor, who himself voted for Trenchard, declared Bertie elected, but later sealed another return for his rival, who claimed a majority of 21 votes to 13. Twelve of these votes, however, were questionable. Trenchard’s petition was rejected on 6 May on the recommendation of Sir Thomas Meres from the elections committee; but the Opposition immediately produced further charges that Bertie’s return had been procured by threats and menaces, and the case was ordered to be heard at the bar of the House. The hearing was in progress a week later when Black Rod appeared. Trenchard’s petition was revived in the next session, but Meres again reported adversely, and the House accepted his recommendation by 167 votes to 106, Lady Rochester’s brother, Sir Walter St. John, telling for the minority. At the first election of 1679 Trenchard defeated Bertie and represented Westbury with Lewis in the first Exclusion Parliament. The two Members voted in opposite lobbies on the bill, and for the autumn election Trenchard was joined by his brother-in-law Edward Norton as a second exclusionist candidate. They were defeated by Lewis and Bertie, but petitioned. On 26 Nov. 1680 Sir John Trevor reported in their favour; the court candidates were unseated, and the mayor who had returned them was ordered up for his great misdemeanours. He was not discharged, despite repeated petitions, until he had remained in custody for a fortnight. The punishment was effective, and it is probable that no court candidates stood in 1681. Norton, who was a stranger, made way for another opponent of the Court, John Ashe of Heywood. But by the end of the year Norreys (who became Earl of Abingdon in 1682) had succeeded in buying out the other Danvers coheir, and under his influence the corporation produced loyal addresses approving the dissolution of Parliament, and abhorring the ‘Association’ and the Rye House Plot, and promising to elect opponents of exclusion to the next Parliament.3

Westbury congratulated James II on his ‘just succession’ to the throne, and redeemed its pledge by electing two Tories, Lewis and Lord Abingdon’s nephew, James Herbert. When Lord Yarmouth (William Paston) took over as joint lord lieutenant in March 1688 he reported that at Westbury:

My Lord Abingdon and Col. Lewis have the chief interest; but there is one Mr Trenchard that lives just by may give an opposition, if joined with some person that would spend monies, which will go a great way in the little boroughs. Col. Lewis is a very near man, and will spend little or nothing.

The royal electoral agents wrote:

Westbury is a borough that chooseth by burgess tenements. This town is under the influence of the Earl of Abingdon, who we know not how yet to engage; unless he will only propose Col. Lewis, who may be inclined to be right; and then the town may be made for Mr Trenchard, who is undoubtedly right and hath so declared himself.

It is not known whether Trenchard stood in 1689. Henry Bertie was returned for Oxford, and Westbury was represented in the Convention by two Tories, his half-brother Peregrine and the perennial Lewis.4

Author: Basil Duke Henning

Notes