Available from Boydell and Brewer
Right of Election:
in the corporation
Number of Qualified Electors:
Number of voters:
|19 Feb. 1690||Sir Richard Temple, 3rd Bt.|
|Alexander Denton I|
|Sir Peter Tyrell, Bt.|
|Sir Richard Atkins, Bt.|
|21 Oct. 1695||Sir Richard Temple, 3rd Bt.|
|Alexander Denton I|
|Sir Richard Atkins, Bt.|
|17 Dec. 1697||Sir Richard Temple, 4th Bt. vice Sir Richard Temple, Bt., deceased|
|21 July 1698||Sir Richard Temple, 4th Bt.|
|Alexander Denton I|
|22 Dec. 1698||Edmund Denton vice Alexander Denton, deceased|
|Sir John Verney, Bt.|
|6 Jan. 1701||Sir Richard Temple, 4th Bt.|
|Sir Edmund Denton, Bt.|
|21 Nov. 1701||Sir Richard Temple, 4th Bt.|
|Sir Edmund Denton, Bt.|
|17 July 1702||Sir Edmund Denton, Bt.|
|Sir Richard Temple, 4th Bt.|
|8 May 1705||Sir Richard Temple, 4th Bt.|
|Sir Edmund Denton, Bt.|
|3 Dec. 1705||Browne Willis vice Temple, chose to sit for Buckinghamshire||7|
|6 May 1708||Sir Richard Temple, 4th Bt.|
|Alexander Denton II|
|3 Oct. 1710||Sir Richard Temple, 4th Bt.||13|
|Alexander Denton II||62|
|25 Aug. 1713||John Radcliffe||7|
|Sir Richard Temple, 4th Bt.||6|
|Sir Edmund Denton, Bt.||5|
Buckingham in this period was very much the poor relation of Aylesbury. Defoe noted that the latter was ‘the principal market town . . . though Buckingham, a much inferior place, is called the county town’. However, elections for the county were held at Aylesbury, and Buckingham was forever trying to poach the assizes from its rival. The franchise rested in the corporation of 13, with the Temple family occupying a powerful position by virtue of their ownership of the manor, which it leased to the corporation, and their benefactions to the town. However, in the early 1690s the inhabitants continued to press for a more popular franchise, which they claimed by prescription, and some candidates put themselves forward on this basis.3
In 1690, the veteran MP Sir Richard Temple, 3rd Bt., successfully defended the corporation franchise and brought in Alexander Denton I as his fellow Member. In order to achieve this Denton had managed on the eve of the poll to persuade his relative, Sir Ralph Verney, 1st Bt.†, to desist from standing against him. Verney agreed gracefully, knowing full well that he did not have the votes to defeat Denton. Verney had begun to campaign too late in the day and may have been disadvantaged by rumours concerning his conduct in the Convention. Indeed, several of his correspondents mentioned the appearance of his name on a blacklist (probably of those Members who had voted against the transfer of the crown). Despite Verney’s withdrawal, Temple and Denton were still challenged. Their opponents were Sir Richard Atkins, 2nd Bt.*, and Sir Peter Tyrell, 1st Bt.†, who championed the cause of an inhabitant householder franchise and had the support of Hon. Thomas Wharton*. Indeed, the election was held on the same day as that for the county to ensure that Wharton (and possibly Lord Lovelace [Hon. John Lovelace†]) could not attend. Originally Atkins had been paired with a ‘Mr Blunt’, probably Charles Blount, who had stood unsuccessfully in 1681, but was eventually joined by Tyrell, who had sat in 1679 and been defeated along with Atkins in 1689. The return of Temple and Denton was followed by a petition on 6 Oct. from Atkins, Tyrell and ‘the householders and inhabitants’ of Buckingham, challenging the corporation franchise. Temple ensured that meticulous preparations were made to safeguard his seat and when the committee of elections heard the petition in late October 1690, ‘it went clearly for the select number’. As John Verney* (later Lord Fermanagh) saw it, ‘the populace had no colour for a choice nor one witness that signified anything, nor a record of any validity’. The House concurred with the committee’s resolution in favour of the corporation franchise on 11 Nov., without dividing.4
In June 1693 Temple and Denton made a concerted effort to remove the assizes from Aylesbury to Buckingham, but were rebuffed by the Lord Chief Justice, Sir John Holt†. This failure did not dent their interest and they were returned on the corporation franchise at the 1695 election. At one point, in order to foil renewed opposition, Denton had apparently suggested to Temple that their respective sons stand on the popular franchise. However, Atkins again challenged, this time with James Tyrell (either Sir Peter’s half-brother, his distant relative the historian, James Tyrell of Oakley, or his son and namesake, the candidate of ten years later) and after their defeat they petitioned on 29 Nov., claiming election on the inhabitant franchise. Both sides attempted to retain Robert Dormer* as counsel, although Dormer was ‘not resolved yet which side to be of they being all his neighbours and friends’. In the event, Atkins and Tyrell withdrew their petition on 29 Feb. 1696, following advice from Dormer that ‘otherwise we shall foreclose it for ever by the new made act’ for preventing false and double returns. A further factor was the financial strength of their opponents, ‘for Sir Richard [Temple] and cousin Denton will spare no charge to maintain the cause’.5
Temple’s death in 1697 caused a flutter of excitement with some thinking that John Verney (who had lately succeeded his father, Sir Ralph, as 2nd baronet) might consider contesting the by-election. But Verney professed himself ‘a mere stranger to the bailiff and all the burgesses’ and left the borough to return Temple’s son. The younger Temple and Denton were re-elected unopposed in 1698, but Denton’s death shortly afterwards precipitated another by-election. Originally rumours suggested that Wharton (now a peer) might procure the seat for a Whig defeated at the previous general election, Hon. Harry Mordaunt* being mentioned by one contemporary, and Dormer may have initially considered entering the fray, but Denton’s son, Edmund, soon came forward as a candidate. Verney also decided to stand, despite fears that by doing so he would jeopardize his own and the Tory chances in the county if the ailing knight of the shire, Hon. Goodwin Wharton*, should die. Unfortunately for the Tories, Roger Price also indicated his candidature, presaging a split in Tory ranks. Verney then fell ill in London, and all attempts to bring Price to an accommodation failed, so that Denton was returned, probably on a minority vote, as a few days before the poll he was reported to have six votes to Verney’s four and three for Price.6
Price, for one, was not deterred by his defeat, continuing to feast the town in 1699, although some felt that Temple and Denton were stronger financially, given that Price had many children to support. In August 1700 Denton was reported to be wooing the corporation, using the occasion of his father’s death and his own wedding. Verney stood for the county in the January 1701 election, but supported Price to the extent of attending the Buckingham election. This availed Price nothing, ‘the other two joining against’ him. The election ten months later was a re-run, with the same result.7
The general election of 1702 saw the same three candidates enter the field. Lady Gardiner remarked that with the corporation’s dependence on Stowe and Hillesden (the residences of Temple and Denton respectively), ‘I wonder Mr Price will persist in what all thinks in vain’. However, on this occasion Price was returned with Denton, although ‘all concluded Temple would have been one had he not gone beyond sea’ on military service. Lady Gardiner’s prediction that Temple ‘will never get it more except his party gets the uppermost’ was proved incorrect for in 1705 he was returned unopposed with Denton, Price not even standing owing to illness.8
The Tories made an impressive comeback at the by-election held later in 1705 to replace Temple, who had opted to sit for the county. Browne Willis felt ‘compelled’ to stand by Lord Wharton’s electoral dominance and began to campaign almost as soon as the shire election was over, writing to Lord Bridgwater before the end of May 1705 to announce his candidature. With backing from Verney, and even the Duke of Leeds (Sir Thomas Osborne†), Willis stole a march on the Whigs. Wharton was handicapped by the failure to find an acceptable candidate, Mr Dives (probably Charles Dives of Bulstrode) being unable to garner enough support and Mr Lister, ‘that lives about Brackley’, evidently also declining it. Election day proved to be an exciting occasion, Willis winning by one vote after
my Lord Wharton and several others of his gang appear’d there, and made interest for one Captain [James] Tyrell† who was prevailed with to leave his regiment in Flanders and come over to stand for this place. He, the said Captain Tyrell (when they came to a poll) had six votes and Mr Willis six, upon which the mob who were concerned to have a representative for the town made diligent inquiry after the 13th person, who was missing, and at length found that he was in prison. After this, he was brought out, and conducted to the market place, where they took the votes, and being asked who he was for, resolutely declar’d he was for Mr Willis.
In 1708, however, Temple and Alexander Denton II, brother of Edmund and a protégé of Wharton, were returned unopposed.9
In 1710 Temple and Denton were challenged by Thomas Chapman, a Tory friend of Lord Cheyne (William*), and a longstanding opponent of Wharton in Buckinghamshire elections. Chapman wrote to Lord Fermanagh (formerly Verney) in September, ‘I hope your Lordship will do me the honour to meet some of your friends and acquaintance, your lordship knows very well how the corporation is influenced by the appearance of gentlemen’. Temple was the unanimous choice of the corporation, Chapman just shading out Denton by a single vote, although apparently he was ‘at no more expense but treating which was not great’. Chapman then presented to the Queen in June 1712 an address from the corporation rejoicing at the prospect of
a happy peace, honourable to your Majesty, advantageous to your kingdom, and just to all your allies; a peace that may much more properly be said to retrieve the honour of the British nation, than all the successes of a tedious, bloody and expensive war.10
The 1713 election was fiercely fought between the parties, following a split in the corporation. Removals from the corporation consequent upon the Occasional Conformity Act led to disputes over their replacements, a crucial matter in a corporation borough. Chapman needed a partner, preferably one able to stand the financial strain of supporting the Tory side in the corporation dispute. This deterred Lord Fermanagh from allowing his son Ralph† to stand, and in the end Chapman stood with Dr John Radcliffe. Temple and Denton were again the Whig candidates. The election was fought with many legal suits pending and after each side had elected their own bailiff. Chapman and Radcliffe were returned, with their opponents petitioning on 3 Mar. 1714 on the grounds that the bailiff, as returning officer, had refused the votes of four supposedly unqualified burgesses (three of them having been removed for not having received the sacrament according to the provisions of the Corporations Act), and had proceeded to poll the votes of the four new burgesses chosen in their stead, so that the true result should have been: Temple nine votes, Denton eight, Chapman four, and Radcliffe three. On 27 Apr. 1714 the Tory Commons voted Chapman and Radcliffe duly elected on the bailiff’s poll, confirming the committee’s vote of 132 to 101 in their favour.11
Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Stuart Handley
- 1. Hearne Colls. i. 117.
- 2. Post Boy, 3–5 Oct. 1710.
- 3. Defoe, Tour ed. Cole, 394; Verney Letters 18th Cent. i. 88.
- 4. BL, Verney mss mic. 636/44, Sir Ralph to Edmund Verney, 16, 21 Feb. 1689[–90], John to Sir Ralph Verney, 18 Feb. 1689[–90], 5 Nov. 1690, William Coleman and [?John Churchill] to same, 10 Feb. 1689[–90], Denton to same, 2 Nov. 1690; Huntington Lib. Stowe mss ST 477, 479, W[illiam] C[haplyn] to Temple, 9, 11 Feb. 1689[–90]; STT 482, William Lawley to same, 15 Mar. 1689[–90].
- 5. Verney mss mic. 636/48, John to Sir Ralph Verney, 25 Sept., 9 Nov. 1695, Sir Ralph to John Verney, 11 Nov. 1695; Bodl. Carte 103, f. 256 (Horwitz trans.).
- 6. Verney Letters 18th Cent. 154, 309 (misdated); Post Boy, 23–26 July 1698; Northants. RO, Montagu (Boughton) mss 47/104, James Vernon I* to Shrewsbury, 27 Oct. 1698; Verney mss mic. 636/50, Verney to Cheyne, n.d. [13 Nov. 1698], Cheyne to Verney, 19 Nov. 1698, Elizabeth Verney to Coleman, [post mk. 20 Dec. 1698].
- 7. Verney Letters 18th Cent. 156, 163; Verney mss mic. 636/51, Lady Gardiner to Verney, 5, 9 Aug. 1700, Price to same, 30 Dec. 1700.
- 8. Verney mss mic. 636/51, Lady Gardiner to Verney, 31 Mar., 16, 31 July 1702.
- 9. Ibid. 636/52, Willis to Fermanagh, 26, 29 May, 1 Dec. 1705, Fermanagh to Willis, 29 May, 25 Nov. 1705; Huntington Lib. Ellesmere mss EL 9993, Willis to Ld. Bridgwater, 29 May 1705; Bodl. Tanner 20, ff. 56–57; Daily Courant, 5 May 1708.
- 10. Verney Letters 18th Cent. 300–1; London Gazette, 21–24 June 1712; Add. 29599, f. 119.
- 11. Verney mss mic. 636/55, Fermanagh to Ralph Verney, 4, 11 June 1713; Case of Borough of Buckingham (1713); Case for Sitting Members (1713); Post Boy, 11–13 May 1713; HMC Portland, v. 415.