Calne

Borough

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the corporation

Number of Qualified Electors:

about 34 in 1690; about 66 in 1705

Number of voters:

15-40 until 1710; thereafter about 65

Elections

DateCandidateVotes
10 Mar. 1690HENRY BAYNTUN  
 HENRY CHIVERS  
31 Oct. 1691WILLIAM WYNDHAM vice Bayntun, deceased14 
 Sir George Hungerford15 
21 Oct. 1695HENRY BLAAKE  
 GEORGE HUNGERFORD  
25 July 1698HENRY CHIVERS  
 HENRY BLAAKE  
6 Jan. 1701WALTER LONG8 
 WALTER HUNGERFORD81 
 Edward Bayntun  
24 Nov. 1701HENRY BLAAKE16 
 EDWARD BAYNTUN8 
 SIR CHARLES HEDGES8 
  Double return of Bayntun and Hedges, both of whose elections declared void, 12 Mar. 1702  
23 Mar. 1702HENRY CHIVERS  
17 July 1702SIR CHARLES HEDGES  
 HENRY CHIVERS  
11 May 1705JAMES JOHNSTON3442
 EDWARD BAYNTUN2625
 GEORGE DUCKETT2528
 John Kyrle Ernle1149
 Sir Charles Hedges82483
5 May 1708JAMES JOHNSTON3442
 EDWARD BAYNTUN  
 GEORGE DUCKETT  
 Sir Charles Hedges  
10 Oct. 1710WILLIAM HEDGES4413
 JAMES JOHNSTON3442
 EDWARD BAYNTUN 18
 GEORGE DUCKETT 175
  Double return. HEDGES and JOHNSTON declared elected, 22 Dec. 1710  
28 Aug. 1713WILLIAM HEDGES45 
 WILLIAM NORTHEY45 
 Richard Chiswell18 
 Edward Jeffreys18 

Main Article

The ‘burgesses’ of Calne (i.e. members of the corporation), about 34 in number at the beginning of this period, were responsible for ‘electing’ new recruits, who were afterwards sworn by the steward of the crown manor of Ogbourne St. George, and also provided from their own ranks the two guild stewards, usually in rotation. These were the returning officers at parliamentary elections, though they were themselves allowed a vote with the other burgesses at the poll. In 1690 one of the outgoing Members, Henry Chivers, and a local gentleman, Henry Bayntun of Spye Park, both Tories, were returned unopposed: a third Tory, Sir George Hungerford*, who had sat for the borough in 1681, entertained ‘designs’ of putting up and for a while contrived to make matters ‘troublesome’ for Chivers and Bayntun, but did not carry through his attempt. His chance came the following year, when Bayntun died, and Hungerford was able to challenge William Wyndham, the nominee of both the Bayntun and Chivers interests. Though the corporation was almost evenly divided, Wyndham enjoyed the support of the guild stewards and was returned despite being worsted at the poll. Furthermore, Hungerford petitioned and a report was made on 29 Dec. when Wyndham was able to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Commons, who rejected the petition by a crushing majority of 400 votes to 3, that several of the votes against him had been illegal. These included one John Goddard, who had been closely involved with the remodelling of the corporation in 1683–5 and who only nine months before this election had been removed as steward and disfranchised following a factional struggle in the corporation. At the next election Wyndham withdrew, probably for health reasons, and the Hungerford family took both seats. Sir George himself switched his attention to the county, but his eldest son George and son-in-law Henry Blaake came in at Calne without opposition. Both were Whigs, however, and Blaake, a local man, had some interest of his own. By the time of the 1698 election George Hungerford had died, and Chivers was returned with Blaake. It was not long before Chivers was trying to undermine his colleague’s standing in the town, sending down from London adverse reports about Blaake’s parliamentary conduct, especially that he had voted for the upkeep of a standing army and in general had become a tool of the Court. Unfortunately for Chivers this smear campaign backfired: the affair was brought before the Commons and he only narrowly escaped censure. His reputation suffered a considerable blow, and either for this reason or because of ill-health he did not put up in January 1701. Neither did Blaake, who had broken entirely with his father-in-law. Sir George Hungerford’s second son Walter, a Tory, was elected by half the 16 burgesses, together with Walter Long. Long’s politics are obscure: the fact that he hailed from Bristol may suggest some connexion with Blaake, who also had interests there; on the other hand, the third candidate, Edward Bayntun, whose petition against Long’s return was never reported, was himself a Whig and a close friend of Blaake.6

The second election of 1701 saw the irruption into Calne elections of Sir Charles Hedges, who had purchased an estate some two miles away and was setting out to build up his influence in the borough. After early canvassing by supporters of Chivers, Hedges stepped in, took over Chivers’ interest, and stood against the second of the two Whig candidates, Edward Bayntun. For the first time the corporation seemed to be split on party lines. All the burgesses voted for Blaake, whom Hedges had not opposed, but they divided equally between the other two. Five of Bayntun’s supporters had been among the new burgesses sworn in April 1685 to vote against the Court candidates in that election, as compared to only one of Hedges’. Later Hedges was to describe his opponents as ‘not all of the best inhabitants, some being alehouse-keepers and the like’. The senior steward, John ‘Potter’ Haskins (probably a relation of Joseph Haskins Stiles*), an innkeeper and a prominent figure in the borough, was one of the leaders of Bayntun’s party, and made a return of Bayntun and Blaake; the junior steward, Richard Seager, who had previously voted for Bayntun in the January election, now polled for Hedges, and returned Hedges and Blaake. Hedges and Bayntun presented petitions against the double return. At the committee, Bayntun was accused of bribery, as much as £50 worth of debts being paid off in one case, it was claimed, and Haskins was alleged to have abused his authority to have one of Hedges’ voters arrested. Because the votes were equal, and because both stewards would have had to sign a return to validate it, the House ordered a new election for the second seat, though not before each side had tested its strength in divisions. Prior to the by-election two of Hedges’ former voters were appointed guild stewards. Hedges having already chosen to sit for another borough, Chivers was returned to the vacancy, and in the general election in July 1702 Hedges joined him: in neither case was there any Whig opposition.7

Hedges’ supporters appear to have monopolized the stewardship in 1703 and 1704, but in 1705 two opponents were chosen. This, coupled with the more important fact of the re-awakening of the powerful proprietory interest of the Duckett family, in the person of George Duckett, who came of age in February 1705 and was to stand at Calne as a Whig with Bayntun in that year, provoked Hedges into drastic action to preserve his only recently secured position. Fearful that the small electorate was being won over, he intended to swamp the existing burgesses with new voters. Accordingly, a printed broadsheet was ‘sent down’ and circulated in the borough, drawing attention to the dwindling number of burgesses and the refusal of the corporation to remedy this situation. It pronounced that, according to the opinion of ‘the ablest counsellors in England’, any inhabitant of Calne ‘with a right of common’ was entitled to be sworn a burgess and to vote in parliamentary elections, and it urged these ‘commoners’ to present themselves at the next court day at Ogbourne St. George to be sworn. Hedges, now secretary of state, was alleged to have written to the deputy steward of the court to ‘overawe’ him into swearing the ‘commoners’, after which ‘express after express’ arrived in the town to reassure prospective applicants. Hedges later disclaimed responsibility for all such ‘papers’, but his chief agents, including Chivers and several who had been ‘very active in the reigns of the late King Charles and King James the Second in prosecuting quo warrantos’, organized a mass attendance at Ogbourne of ‘commoners’ with ‘vouchers’ to prove their rights. The opposing faction in the corporation sought to avert the threat by drawing off some of the disgruntled ‘commoners’, whom they offered to elect in the customary way provided they would vote with them and oppose the pretensions of the other ‘commoners’ to be sworn. On the eve of the court day on 27 Apr. 1705, 22 new burgesses were elected at the guildhall; they and about 40 more of the ‘commoners’ were then sworn at the manorial court. The ensuing parliamentary election was tumultuous. The two guild stewards, adherents of Bayntun and Duckett, polled only the old burgesses and the 22 who had been elected and sworn at the last court (all but one of whom voted for Bayntun and Duckett), declared the two Whigs elected, and withdrew; Hedges’ supporters remained behind and, amid rowdy scenes, polled the 40 ‘commoners’, giving an overwhelming majority to Hedges and his partner, neighbouring landowner John Kyrle Ernle, and thus affording them grounds to petition. The petition, though, was never heard, Hedges having made sure of an alternative seat. Within the borough the dispute rumbled on, the Whigs insisting that the 40 ‘commoners’ had no right to act as burgesses: they had not been elected, nor, it was claimed, had they even been sworn as ‘burgesses’, but merely as ‘commoners’. On thus being denied ‘admittance’ as burgesses, a number of the ‘commoners’ began legal proceedings, without success. Then in February 1708 at the election of guild stewards, Seager, now one of Hedges’ foremost allies, was deliberately ‘passed over’ on factional grounds in favour of a Whig, despite its being his ‘turn’. At this, the outgoing senior steward, who was also Hedges’ man, refused to hand over the corporation seal to his elected successor and gave it to Seager instead, who thenceforth acted as steward, among other things admitting 36 of the excluded ‘commoners’ of 1705 as burgesses at a special assembly or ‘hayward’. In many respects the 1708 election was a repeat of 1705, with Hedges standing by himself, polling the 1705 ‘commoner’ burgesses to get his majority, petitioning on this basis and subsequently letting his petition drop when he settled for another seat. But there was one major difference: there was a second return as well as a second poll. Seager made his own return, while the Whig stewards, ordering a new seal to be made to replace the old one in Seager’s possession, made theirs. On this occasion the Tory return was ignored. However, when the same thing happened in 1710, Seager having maintained his right to act as steward until the corporation acknowledged the principle of elections ‘in course’, the sheriff accepted a double return. Two polls had again been taken: the Whig faction in the corporation returned Bayntun and Duckett; Seager, polling the unadmitted ‘commoner’ burgesses as well, produced a large majority for Hedges’ son William and his partner James Johnston, a majority which included some ten former supporters of the Whigs in the established corporation. Although the House looked first at the merits of the return, both sides admitted that the crucial issue was the qualification of burgesses, and a decision was made solely on the merits of the election. The Tories denied that it was necessary for burgesses to be ‘elected’ by the corporation and formally presented to the steward at Ogbourne, and cited the incident in 1685 when Blaake (still active on the Whig side in the borough) and others had brought in 25 new voters to be sworn just before the parliamentary election. Sir George Hungerford, who had acquiesced in that manoeuvre, gave evidence that the 25 had been ‘nominated’ only, not previously elected. In this sense he was contradicted by Blaake, who claimed that the proper processes had indeed been undergone, and was able to produce a signed affidavit from Hungerford to that effect. Another Whig pointed out that, while there were some 400 houses in the town, ‘he never knew the burgesses exceed 30’. Nevertheless, the House decided that the franchise lay in ‘the inhabitants . . . having a right of common, and being sworn at Ogbourne court’, and Hedges and Johnston were seated.8

The decision of the Commons did not settle the differences in the corporation. The Tories continued to press for the ‘admission’ of the ‘commoner’ burgesses of 1705, the restoration of the old seal, and a return to the appointment of stewards ‘in course’, yet they seemed at a loss to know how to employ their favourable parliamentary verdict successfully to this end. A plan to seize ‘the Hall’, admit their own men and expel those who would not co-operate, seems to have been abandoned. They failed narrowly in a more conventional attempt, without resorting to the votes of the excluded burgesses, to secure the election of two Tories as stewards in February 1711, but the following year, the Whigs having brought in new recruits as ‘elected’ burgesses, a similar contest resulted in ignominious defeat. In 1713, with a parliamentary election looming, the Tories brought their ‘commoner’ burgesses to the assembly as well, and elected stewards of their own alongside the Whigs. Using the old corporation seal, still in their possession, these Tory stewards assumed full authority, and ‘interrupted’ the administration of their Whig counterparts, who immediately launched legal proceedings. Further litigation followed when the deputy steward of the Ogbourne court refused to swear some more ‘elected’ Whig burgesses from the corporation. Before the Whig stewards’ case could be heard, the parliamentary writ was issued. Here, despite Calne’s importance as a clothing town, and the strength of feeling over the French commercial treaty, the divisions within the corporation blotted out all other issues. The Tory stewards succeeded in obtaining the precept and returned William Hedges and William Northey, though again there were two polls. The defeated Whig candidates, two Londoners to whom Duckett had given his interest, decided not to petition, ‘despairing of relief from that Parliament’, but the local Whigs continued their cases at Queen’s bench. Though the Tories once more polled the ‘commoner’ burgesses at the next stewards’ election in February 1714, and chose their own stewards in opposition to the Whigs’, they were defeated in court. Their previous stewards lost their case and submitted to a judgment in the spring of 1714 that they had acted illegally in 1713–14, and a similar verdict was inflicted on 19 of the soi-disant ‘burgesses’ who had voted for them. The court declared that a burgess could not be sworn without being first elected. The political changes after Anne’s death confirmed this defeat, and in 1715 the Whigs, bolstered by more new recruits, romped home by a majority of 17 in an electorate now reduced to 37.9

Author: D. W. Hayton

Notes

  • 1. Wilts. RO, Calne bor. recs. G18/1/1, guild stewards’ bk. f. 109.
  • 2. Sitting Members’ poll: Yale Univ. Beinecke Lib. Osborn coll. ‘The Case of Mr Bayntun and Mr Duckett’.
  • 3. Petitioners’ poll: Calne bor. recs. G18/1/11/1, copy of petition.
  • 4. Hedges’ and Johnston’s poll.
  • 5. Bayntun’s and Duckett’s poll.
  • 6. Calne bor. recs. G18/1/1, guild stewards’ bk. ff. 146, 148, 151, 154, 483, 488; A. E. W. Marsh, Hist. Calne, 38, 361; Bath mss at Longleat House, Thynne pprs. 24, f. 164; Wilts. Arch. Mag. xlvi. 73–74, 80.
  • 7. CSP Dom. 1702–3, p. 173; Post Man, 27–29 Nov. 1701; Calne bor. recs. G18/1/1, guild stewards’ bk. ff. 109, 171; G18/1/11/1, copy of petition of Ernle and Hedges; Cocks Diary, 231–2; Cumbria RO (Carlisle), Lonsdale mss D/Lons/W2/2/5, James* to Sir John Lowther, 2nd Bt. II*, 3 Mar. 1701[–2].
  • 8. Calne bor. recs. G18/1/1, guild stewards’ bk. ff. 171–6, 182–3, 187, 193; G18/1/3, poll for Hedges and Johnston; G18/1/11/1, copy of petition of Ernle and Hedges, copy of petition of Bayntun and Duckett [1710]; G18/1/11/2, A Seasonable Admonition to the Inhabitants of the Bor. of Calne . . . [1705]; G18/1/11/3, ‘The Case of Calne’, [1722]; G18/1/11/4, affidavit of Walter Dolman and John James, ‘A List of those that were sworn at Ogbourne court . . .’, ‘Mr Seager’s admission of the new burgesses’, 17 Apr. 1708, ‘Mr Troughton’s instructions’, 14 July 1713, memoranda regarding the election case, [1710], ‘The Case of Calne’; G18/1/11/6, Reasons against Swearing the Commoners of Calne at Ogborn Court . . . [1722], ‘The names of the commoners . . .’, 1705, affidavit of Richard Seager, [1710], ‘Case of Calne’; Osborn coll. ‘The Case of Mr Bayntun and Mr Duckett’; Wilts. Arch. Mag. xxiv. 190, 217; Bodl. Ballard 10, ff. 123–4.
  • 9. Calne bor. recs. G18/1/1, guild stewards’ bk. ff. 193, 197–8, 201–5, 207; G18/1/11/3, ‘Affidavit of making void the election of Rogers . . .’ [c.1711]; G18/1/11/4, voting lists of burgesses, 2 Feb., 25 Apr. 1713, 2 Feb., 16 Apr. 1714, copy of corp.’s letter to the steward of Ogbourne court [c.Apr. 1713], affidavit of Humphrey Townshend and John Haskins, 3 Feb. 1714, ‘Instructions how to proceed at Candlemas’, ‘Mr Troughton’s instructions’, 14 July 1713, ‘Order made 2 Feb. 1710[–11]’, 1715 election poll; G18/1/11/5, affidavit of John Landrick et al., voting lists of burgesses, 2 Feb. 1711, 1712, 1714, ‘The Case of Calne’; Defoe, Tour ed. Cole, 260; Letters of Thomas Burnett to George Duckett e