Available from Boydell and Brewer
Right of Election:
in the corporation
Number of Qualified Electors:
Number of voters:
|25 Feb. 1690||Francis Gwyn|
|4 Nov. 1695||Edward Hyde, Visct. Cornbury|
|23 July 1698||Edward Hyde, Visct. Cornbury|
|9 Jan. 1701||Edward Hyde, Visct. Cornbury|
|29 Nov. 1701||William Ettrick|
|23 July 1702||William Ettrick|
|12 May 1705||Francis Gwyn|
|6 May 1708||Francis Gwyn|
|9 Oct. 1710||William Ettrick|
|28 Oct. 1713||Sir Peter Mews|
The right of election at Christchurch had never been determined, but it was usually exercised by the corporation, consisting of the mayor, who acted as returning officer, and 24 freemen. Occasionally this exclusive right was challenged by the inhabitants at large. The strongest interest belonged to the lord of the manor, at the beginning of this period the 2nd Earl of Clarendon (Henry Hyde†), who traditionally had the right to nominate one and often both Members.2
In 1690 Clarendon’s two candidates were Francis Gwyn of Forde Abbey, Dorset, an associate of Clarendon’s brother, Lord Rochester (Laurence Hyde†), and William Ettrick, a Tory lawyer seated in Dorset and at this time a follower of the Earl of Danby (Sir Thomas Osborne†). The election was contested. Clarendon wrote in his diary on 14 Feb. 1690:
I sent Tom Apreece to Christchurch to look after my concerns at the election there; where I find my Lord Marquess of Winchester [Charles Powlett†] will give me trouble, he having recommended Dore of Lymington and Thomas Hooper; and sets up a pretence of recommending as being lord lieutenant of the county.
Winchester, who had been created Duke of Bolton, had put up two strong Whigs: Thomas Dore* had been active in local politics at Lymington, and Thomas Hooper, a member of a local family seated at Heron Court, near Christchurch, had contested the seat in 1681. After their defeat, they petitioned on 28 Mar. 1690, claiming that they had the majority of qualified votes. This petition was renewed on 15 Oct. 1690 and 2 Nov. 1691, but was eventually withdrawn on 9 Nov. 1691. Despite the strength of the Hyde interest, Gwyn obviously felt the borough could not be neglected. On 17 Sept. 1694 he wrote to Robert Harley*, ‘I came home from visiting my borough of Christchurch, which I usually do once a year’ and in the following year on 7 Sept., ‘I must go this morning to Christchurch upon the election of a mayor, for fear they should play me any trick, for nothing else can hurt me there’. Gwyn’s anxiety was needless, as at the next election he transferred to Callington to make way for Clarendon’s son, Viscount Cornbury. The decision for Cornbury to stand appears to have been taken by 22 Oct., the date John Freke reported to Harley that Cornbury and Ettrick would be returned at Christchurch. However, the change may not have been generally known, as it had been reported the day before that Gwyn was ‘safe at Christchurch’ and on 2 Nov., two days before the election, it was said that Gwyn had been ‘unexpectedly defeated’ at Christchurch by Cornbury. Other reports of Gwyn’s ‘defeat’ also circulated. Cornbury was returned with Ettrick, and these two continued to hold the seats in the next two elections. By the second election of 1701, Hyde had been made governor of New York and his place was taken by Gwyn. Gwyn and Ettrick were returned unchallenged to the next three Parliaments.3
By 1707 the Hyde family, pressed by financial difficulties, put their heavily mortgaged Christchurch estates up for sale. On 3 Jan. 1708 Robert Pitt* wrote to his father, Governor Thomas Pitt I* in India:
The most desirable property now for sale, perhaps in all England, is Clarendon Park and the manor of Christchurch. The income from both is about £1,750 and they may be purchased for £34,000. The property is mortgaged to the estimated value for three years to Lady Bathurst, and will be sold, unless redeemed by Lord Clarendon, and whoever gives him £1,000 more may have it. The proprietor controls the election for the borough of Christchurch.
Thomas Pitt did not take up the matter until February 1709, when he wrote, ‘If Clarendon Park with the manor of Christchurch be as you represent, it would be a good purchase. I remember old cousin George Pitt* was about it and . . . found flaws in the title.’ By this time the opportunity had already passed, as in 1708 the property had been bought by Peter Mews, nephew and heir of Peter Mews, bishop of Winchester. The sale came too late to affect the 1708 election, when Gwyn and Ettrick were returned as usual, but in 1710 Mews took the seat traditionally reserved for the lord of the manor while Ettrick, who by now had clearly established an interest of his own and as a fellow Tory probably enjoyed Mews’s support, held the second seat. The election had been contested by Peter Gery, who stood on the popular vote, but no action was taken on his subsequent petition against Mews, presented to the House on 2 Dec. 1710, in which he claimed that the mayor had refused to poll his voters. Mews and Ettrick continued to hold the seats for the rest of the period.4
Author: Paula Watson
- 1. VCH Hants, v. 87.
- 2. Ibid.
- 3. Clarendon Corresp. ed. Singer, ii. 305; HMC Portland, iii. 556, 567; Add. 70018, ff. 94–95; 46525, f. 60; 28889, f. 67; BL, Althorp mss, Halifax pprs. box 10, Visct. Weymouth (Thomas Thynne†) to Mq. of Halifax (William Savile*), 21 Oct., 2 Nov. 1695.
- 4. HMC Fortescue, i. 34, 42; VCH Hants, 93; Brit. Mercury, 13–16 Oct. 1710.