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 freemen not receiving alms.

Number of Qualified Electors:

1,448 in 1705.1

Number of voters:

at least 608 in 1690; at least 1,196 in 1713.


3 Mar. 1690Samuel Reynolds415  
 Edward Cary407  
 Isaac Rebow393  
12 Nov. 1692Isaac Rebow vice Cary, deceased   
19 Nov. 1694Sir Thomas Cooke vice Reynolds, deceased   
22 Oct. 1695Sir John Morden, Bt.406407395
 Sir Isaac Rebow   
 Sir Thomas Cooke4084013672
 Dr John Harrison   
22 July 1698Sir Thomas Cooke   
 Sir Isaac Rebow   
6 Jan. 1701Sir Thomas Cooke   
 Sir Isaac Rebow   
24 Nov. 1701Sir Isaac Rebow   
 Sir Thomas Cooke   
7 Aug. 1702Sir Isaac Rebow   
 Sir Thomas Cooke   
 John Potter   
  Rebow’s election declared void, 21 Nov. 1702   
14 Dec. 1702Sir Isaac Rebow   
8 May 1705Sir Isaac Rebow   
 Edward Bullock   
 Sir Thomas Cooke   
18 Dec. 1705Sir Thomas Webster, Bt. vice Bullock, deceased   
 Sir Thomas Cooke   
30 Apr. 1708Sir Isaac Rebow   
 Sir Thomas Webster, Bt.   
6 Oct. 1710Sir Isaac Rebow784  
 Sir Thomas Webster, Bt.693683 
 William Gore685 6733 
  GORE vice Webster, on petition, 27 Jan. 1711   
24 Aug. 1713Sir Thomas Webster, Bt.630  
 Sir Isaac Rebow604  
 William Gore590  
 Nicholas Corsellis567  
  GORE and CORSELLIS vice Webster  and Rebow, on petition, 6 May 1714   

Main Article

Colchester experienced troubled times under the later Stuarts, both politically and economically. The population of the town itself (enough to rank it as one of the ten largest in the country), together with that of its hinterland, was mostly employed in the woollen industry. The area was still in 1720 ‘the most famous place in England for making of bays and says’, but this manufacturing base was in a state of gradual decline, and vulnerable to crises from the mid-1690s through to the disruption to its main market caused by the Spanish war in Anne’s reign. The corporation’s own financial difficulties exacerbated a long-running political dispute about the lucrative, but politically sensitive, admission of foreigners, and over the period the number of freemen, and consequently the borough’s electorate, doubled. Candidates and factions vied for support among this relatively large body of voters, with the result that seven parliamentary elections were contested during the period. As much bitterness was caused by a struggle to control the influential local offices, especially the all-important post of mayor, which carried a contested ability, if not right, to admit freemen. Further unsettling factors were the large number of resident Dissenters, over 400 of whom were eligible to vote, the flow of soldiers through the area destined for the Continent, and the uncertain legal status of the borough’s charter.4

Political turbulence was immediately apparent at the general election in 1690. The two Members who had sat in the Convention, Samuel Reynolds and Isaac Rebow, were challenged by Edward Cary*, whose wife was the daughter of the 2nd Lord Lucas, lord of the manor at Lexden, within the borough. Three separate polls were taken but, as the report of the Commons elections committee showed, their totals differed: each gave Rebow a majority with Reynolds in second place, but one recorded a tie between Reynolds and Cary. The mayor took advantage of the discrepancy to call for a scrutiny, which Rebow refused to attend, with the result that some of his votes were discounted and his majority overturned. Rebow petitioned on 24 Mar., and again on 6 Oct. 1690, but on 11 Nov. the House resolved against him. This result began a feud that was to last well into Anne’s reign between Rebow and the mayor, John Potter, even though the latter had worked in the shop of one of Rebow’s allies, the Nonconformist and future mayor, Ralph Creffield. The undercurrent of animosity can be felt in the dispute which arose after Rebow had been elected in November 1692 to fill the vacancy caused by Cary’s death. In December 1692 and January 1693 the corporation, seeking an end to the administrative chaos caused by James ii’s charter, under which several office-holders had refused to act, ordered its MPs to petition the King for a new one. Rebow took an active part in its procurement, spending £377 on expenses. Yet early in 1693 Nathaniel Lawrence, who had held office as mayor at the time of the 1684 surrender and who was an occasional conformist, claimed to have been sent a copy of a petition for a new charter, ‘whereby the freemen of the said town should have been excluded from having any votes in elections either of Parliament men or magistracy’. The document was allegedly signed by John Potter and five other aldermen, and Lawrence spread the information in order to lessen their credit with the freemen ‘to carry the election of mayor’ that was imminent. Lawrence had certainly created a false alarm, for partly as a result of the advice of Sir John Somers*, the charter, which Rebow (now Sir Isaac) carried down to the thankful borough in August 1693, in fact restored freemen’s privileges held under the 1663 issue, and did not restrict the franchise in any way. Indeed, when the Council had debated whether the choice of recorder was to be with the King or freemen, the Earl of Oxford, the borough’s high steward, had intervened to ‘warrant with his life that the town would be quiet if left at their liberty’, thereby winning some further measure of popular participation in the town’s affairs. But Potter and his allies had responded to Lawrence’s actions by prosecuting him for libel, forcing him to seek the aid of the Privy Council to stop the proceedings. Secretary of State Trenchard (Sir John*) replied that Lawrence would be discharged from the prosecution if he did his best to heal the ‘great heats and animosities’ that he had caused among the freemen, which he did by entering a penitent declaration into the borough’s assembly book. The new charter did not, however, resolve the right of election of freemen, and hence failed to end animosities. The death of Reynolds necessitated a by-election in November 1694. Four days beforehand Sir Thomas Cooke* and his fellow East Indiaman, Sir John Fleet*, had been made free by the new mayor, William Moore. Cooke had no direct interest of his own, but his candidature seems to have been supported by the 3rd Lord Lucas, who engaged £450 for the election, and as governor of the East India Company Cooke may well have been seen as a welcome defender of the corporation’s commerce; in any case he was elected unopposed. The Tories drove home their victory by passing a vote on 3 Jan. 1695 to disfranchise Samuel Mott, the mayor in 1693–4, for misdemeanours that included having admitted freemen on his sole authority.5

The corporation managed a short-lived unanimity to produce an address of condolence in January 1695 on Mary’s death, but it was not long before factionalism was once again to the fore. Cooke was apparently invited to continue representing Colchester, ‘having been a benefactor there’, but after the revelations in Parliament of his bribery to obtain a new charter for the East India Company, and his subsequent imprisonment in the Tower, the way lay open for three new challengers to present themselves. The first was Philip Savage, the chancellor of the exchequer in Ireland. ‘A great creature of Mr Wharton’s [Hon. Thomas*]’, Savage had consistently opposed the policies of the Irish lord deputy Lord Capell (Hon. Sir Henry Capel*), who therefore opposed his intention to stand in England. A plea to the Earl of Oxford and Earl Rivers (Richard Savage*), who had an interest in nearby Tendring hundred, not to support Savage was evidently heard sympathetically, since he did not press his candidature at the polls. The second new contender was a Dr John Harrison, a local man whose lease of houses in St. Leonard’s parish had been debated by the borough in 1693. The third, and only successful, newcomer was the Whig merchant Sir John Morden, 1st Bt.* Rebow may have been responsible for his admission as freeman, together with Morden’s brother-in-law (Sir) John Bennett*, who was present at the election. Although Morden stood with Rebow, Cooke tried from his prison cell to neuter opposition by paying one Major Haines to try to ‘dissuade Morden from standing and engage Sir Isaac Rebow for him’. Haines had also offered to persuade Morden to join with Cooke or set up Sir Thomas alone on the Lucas interest. These measures failed. The polls were closed late at night and once again failed to tally, allowing the mayor to return Rebow and Morden. A petition in favour of Cooke was submitted to the Commons on 29 Nov. 1695 by several freemen, including Rebow’s enemy, John Potter, who had drawn up a list of all the qualified freemen, and the case was heard on 28 Mar. 1696. Rebow’s own return seems to have been accepted by both sides, but it emerged that, although the town clerk’s poll had given Cooke a majority of two, the figure handed to the mayor had recorded a six-vote victory for Morden. Since the polls taken by the candidates failed to offer any more accurate statistics, the mayor had ‘refused to declare the numbers, saying that he would not return Sir Thomas Cooke, but he had his remedy in Parliament’. The implication that the mayor had used his influence in favour of the Whigs was backed by the claim that a number of Morden’s voters were not really freemen, and that 58 more had been made free at, or just before, the issue of the election writ. Morden, in turn, called Rebow’s servant John Wheely to give evidence against a number of Cooke’s voters, and later published a defence, in which he justified the refusal of a scrutiny of the poll,

because two friends on each side, having in their hands alphabetical extracts out of the town books of all the freemen’s names, made their objections during the whole poll upon every voter they thought fit . . . which objections were debated and determined at the time they were made.

Morden’s vindication also noted that the town clerk had not added up accurately, the poll in fact being equal at 407 each, and moreover that only 12 of his own voters had been disqualified, as opposed to 40 of Cooke’s. Thus the true result was, he suggested, ‘a clear majority’ for him of ‘twenty eight voices’ (395 votes to 367). All this was not quite so clear to the elections committee which, having sat for three days on the case, resolved that Morden had not been elected. The accusations of bribery against Cooke were, however, perhaps too credible in the light of the East India affair, and the House backed Morden’s return.6

The repercussions of this contested election were long-lasting. At the end of July 1696 John Beacon, the mayor involved in the dispute, died whilst in office, and the borough’s factions became locked in a struggle over his replacement. The senior alderman, William Moore, a High Churchman who had presided over Cooke’s 1694 by-election victory, took over as acting mayor, but refused to allow the snap nomination of Rebow’s allies Nathaniel Lawrence and John Seabrooke at a common hall held on 27 July. Rebow immediately petitioned the Privy Council, justifying the nominations under the terms of the 1693 charter, and complaining that Moore’s actions had raised ‘great heats and animosities’ among the freemen, which endangered the peace of the town. Moore countered that insufficient notice of the nominations had been given, and suggested that the borough’s peace had not ‘been broken or anyways in danger but by the former non-conforming petitioners and their abettors’, who included the rector of All Saints, Edmund Hickeringill. Although Moore had his way in matters of procedure, since notice was formally issued on 15 Aug. of the impending election, Seabrooke, with whom Rebow had acted over the charter issue, was elected at the assembly meeting three days later.7

For the next five years the town’s economic difficulties forced a temporary cessation, or at least a moderation, of hostilities between the factions. The corporation sought to boost local trade by improving Colchester’s sea channel, and on 4 May 1697 Rebow presented a bill for its cleansing. Over the next few years he, Cooke, Sir Thomas Webster, 1st Bt.*, and Sir Francis Masham, 3rd Bt.*, together fostered the project’s progress. The corporation also tried to alleviate the effects of the crisis. On 2 Mar. 1698 it approved a petition to Parliament complaining that the poor of the town were ‘very numerous and do daily multiply, and idleness and disorders amongst the meaner sort of people there for want of workhouses to employ them do daily increase’. Rebow and Morden were granted leave on 28 Mar. 1697 to introduce a bill to erect hospitals and workhouses in the town, and both this and the channel bill received the Royal Assent on 16 May. Their effectiveness may be doubted, however, since on 23 Jan. 1700 the miseries of the poor were again said in a parliamentary petition to be great, and further petitions were presented on 27 Jan. 1700, 26 May 1701 and 4 Feb. 1702 about the decay of trade. The need for unity during these testing times perhaps explains the uncontested returns of Rebow and Cooke in the 1698 and 1701 elections, though the compromise between the factions was uneasy. The issue of freeman admissions was evidently still a running sore, since on 3 Apr. 1701 the borough ordered its chamberlain to draw up an alphabetical list of all free burgesses, and decreed the registration of all future admissions. Nevertheless, the disturbing factor in the November 1701 election came from outside, rather than from within the borough. Sir Thomas Abney*, a leading London figure, wrote a letter

in which he vilified Sir Thomas Cooke, alleging that he opposed the London address [against Louis xiv’s recognition of the Pretender], which was like to have put him by his election, but Sir Thomas Cooke procuring the letter, brought it up and laid it before the court of aldermen who highly resented it, but to mend the matter Sir Thomas Abney sent down a second letter which was worse than the former.

The newswriter who reported the incident added that the matter had ‘created ill blood, though I believe it will occasion the spilling of none’, and it may have been the reason why Rebow moved into the first place on the return.8

A ‘more than usual concourse of people appearing with public demonstrations of joy’ celebrated Anne’s coronation with bonfires and bell-ringing, as well as conduits that ran with claret. Rebow also gave ‘several hundreds of the inhabitants to the quantity of three pipes of canary to drink her Majesty’s health’. But despite this appearance of unity, and an address to the Queen that was presented by both Rebow and Cooke, the new reign saw a return to bitter factional politics. Perhaps hoping to benefit from the national swing to the Tories, John Potter, whom Sir Edward Turnor* described as a tradesman with £400 p.a., refused being made mayor for a third time in order to stand with Cooke at the general election in August 1702. The latter may have been trying to distance himself from the corporation’s internal squabbles, since his agent’s advice to his supporters to plump may have helped to defeat Potter, who narrowly ‘lost it but by 20 in 1,200 voices and opposed because he stood against Sir Isaac Rebow’. The narrowness of Rebow’s victory gave Potter grounds to petition the House on 4 Nov. 1702, and the freemen were involved in the partisan struggle, with some backing Potter on a separate petition, and others complaining that Cooke’s agents had used ‘bribes, threats, treats and other undue means’ to win votes. The conflicting claims were reported on 21 Nov. MPs heard that Rebow’s agents, including John Wheely, whom they subsequently imprisoned, had gone ‘from house to house’ soliciting votes, and resolved that Rebow had been guilty of corrupting the electorate. On the other side, Nathaniel Lawrence gave evidence that Cooke’s agents, both of whom had been listed with Potter as the supposed authors of the 1692 petition about the charter, had themselves offered free entertainment, and attempted bribery and coercion. The Commons was nevertheless far more sympathetic to Cooke’s methods than the 1695 Parliament had been, and specifically refuted Rebow’s accusation of bribery as false and groundless. A writ for a by-election to replace Rebow was issued on 1 Dec., and it was presumably in order to vote that William Mott and six others who were being held in custody for having petitioned against Cooke unsuccessfully requested on 9 and 10 Dec. to be set free. On 14 Dec. Rebow was nevertheless returned again, apparently without any challenge from Potter, who might have been expected to profit from his enemy’s discomfort.9

The legacy of this dispute can be clearly seen in 1703 in the controversy over the corporation’s election of a new high steward, following the death of Oxford. According to one account, the free burgesses met on 30 Mar. at the moot hall where the recorder told them ‘that he had heard that they intended to elect his Royal Highness Prince George of Denmark their high steward. But he advised them to the contrary, telling them that the Prince would not accept of it.’ Potter queried the impartiality of this advice and the Prince was nominated, though ‘some few Dissenters’, who were said to have been outnumbered six to one, nominated Rebow instead. The mayor, Ralph Creffield, ‘in a great rage took up the mace himself and run away out at the back door’ so as to avoid having to declare the election. Cooke could evidently no longer resist the opportunity to humble Rebow, since he personally waited on Prince George two days later, and

sent a letter down to the electors, acquainting them with the Prince’s declaration [of acceptance], which caused great rejoicing, since which time, to continue a faction within the town of Colchester, Sir Isaac Rebow hath treated divers free burgesses, and told them that Sir Thomas Cooke never attended the Prince . . . and that he would persuade the mayor to come to a new election, often using this expression among the freemen . . . ‘the Prince is but a subject and so am I’.

Rebow was also accused of having placed Nonconformists into the corporation’s offices, including the present mayor, who had duly obliged his patron by calling a new election. At the ensuing meeting William Mott jnr., the son of the recorder and the same Mr Mott who had been in custody for promoting the petition against Cooke’s return the year before, demanded a poll, which gave Rebow 146 supporters. Although 172 had signed a protestation against the new poll, Creffield declared Rebow elected, and on 28 Apr. his victory was entered into the town’s assembly book. Potter and Cooke did not, however, let the matter rest there. The latter secured Prince George’s permission to pursue the issue, and Potter gathered legal opinions, including one from John Shaw, the son of a lawyer of that name who had represented Colchester in the Cavalier Parliament. A mandamus was obtained by John Comyns* from the Queen’s bench directing the mayor to declare the Prince elected, but Creffield prevaricated and ‘sent up Mr Glascock [the town clerk] to advise with Sir Isaac’, who survived the attempts to oust him from his newly acquired post.10

There seems to have been a good deal of truth in Shaw’s opinion that the dispute had been ‘fomented by a faction . . . only to put an arbitrary power into the hands of some ambitious men’. After the purchase of the important Lexden interest by one of his supporters in 1701, and having secured the election of a sympathetic recorder and mayor, as well as now holding the corporation’s highest honorary office himself, Rebow had come to dominate the borough’s political life. Thus, although in 1704 he and Cooke joined in presenting an address of thanks for military victories, including those of the Tory Sir George Rooke*, Sir Thomas’ days as MP were numbered. Under the mayoralty of Nathaniel Lawrence jnr., who shared his father’s politics, ‘200 new freeholders of the wrong side’ were created, and although the whole of the East India Company committee was reported to have gone down to Colchester for the general election in May 1705, Cooke was defeated by Edward Bullock*, another East Indiaman, who had been won over by the Whigs. Bullock died shortly afterwards, necessitating a by-election in December 1705, and although Cooke again hurried down to the town to make his interest there, the odds had been unfairly stacked against him by further manipulation of the franchise by the new mayor. Immediately before the election, John Raynham, who had supported Rebow’s bid for election as high steward, and who may have been a Nonconformist since he had served as one of James ii’s 1688 charter appointments, had created over 100 freemen ‘in a most unusual manner, in alehouses, taverns and private places’. A list of 116 names, including some marked as Quakers, was later entered into the assembly books, and can be compared with a poll which has been ‘alphabetted together with a column of all such other free burgesses as were absent or that came not to the poll’. The comparison shows that many, though not all, the new freemen voted for Webster, a Whig clothier to the army. Webster was also supported by Rebow, Masham and Charles, 19th Lord Fitzwalter (who had himself been made a freeman in 1694). Cooke’s voters included John Potter, as well as Alderman Boys and Benjamin Cocks, who had acted as his electoral agents in 1702; but he had been let down by a number of prominent local Tories, including Sir Charles Barrington, 5th Bt.*, Sir Edward Turnor, Sir Charles Tyrrell and even his ally Sir John Fleet, who all failed to vote. On 10 Jan. 1706 Cooke petitioned the House, complaining of Raynham’s bias, and was supported by a petition from some of the freemen, but the case failed to be taken up that session. A second petition from the burgesses was therefore presented on 11 Dec., but the Commons refused to pursue it on the pedantic pretext that since the petitioners’ names were different from those on the first, the petition was not the same in substance, even though its wording was identical.11

Webster’s election confirmed Rebow’s increasingly tight hold on local affairs. On 30 Mar. 1707 an assembly meeting, dominated by his allies, formulated an address to the Queen about the Protestant succession, and soon afterwards his son-in-law, Joseph Thurston, replaced the ageing Mott as recorder. Thurston and Rebow were pre-eminent in the town, encouraging the rebuilding of St. Mary-at-the-Walls, which had been destroyed in the siege of 1648, and were two of the first trustees of the borough’s grammar school, though Potter was also included among its patrons. In July 1707 Sir Isaac’s friend Nathaniel Lawrence was again elected mayor, and in the autumn of 1709 Rebow began attending meetings of the common council. In part this was a response to another economic crisis facing the borough. On 13 Sept. 1709 he warned the government that ‘the poor threaten to rise’, ‘wheat and rye are advanced extravagantly not only by a scanty crop, but forestallers contribute towards it, [so] that the poor can scarce get bread for money; this unhappiness, joined with the dullness of trade, reduces them to great necessities, which justly exhorts some considerations towards their relief’. Two or three days later ‘they were up, to the number of 2 or 300 throwing stones and dirt at a forestaller, and had not the mayor interposed and [told] them what I had done in their behalf, mischief [would] have ensued’. But Rebow’s presence at the corporation meetings may also have been designed to counter Potter’s more assiduous attendance at the assembly, and may have signified an awareness of a possible challenge to his power, which indeed materialized the following year at the general election. Even before the announcement in September 1710 of the dissolution of Parliament, support was being mobilized for William Gore, great-nephew of Henry Compton, bishop of London, under whose ecclesiastical jurisdiction the town lay. At the beginning of August Compton wrote to Robert Harley* that he was unable to get down to Colchester himself ‘to make way’ for his kinsman to oust Webster, but towards the end of the month Francis Stratford* was able to send Paymaster-General Hon. James Brydges* ‘a list of some names who have promised Mr Gore their votes’ if the paymaster-general were to back him. In September Gore was in direct correspondence with Harley, asking for pressure to be exerted on one of Colchester’s leading men. Yet at the poll Gore

demanded a scrutiny, which could not be pursued, he being denied such persons to inspect the scrutiny as were absolutely necessary; and Sir Thomas Webster was declared to have a majority of ten voices, tho’ the town clerk owned he had not cast up the book.

Gore consequently petitioned on 1 Dec. 1710, claiming that the mayor, Nathaniel Lawrence jnr., had again created freemen without the consent of the town’s common hall. Gore was able to show that in July 1697 an order had been entered into the borough’s assembly book that such admissions were illegal, and Webster’s counter-claim that all mayors since then had ignored the order did little to impress the committee of elections, which resolved to replace Webster by Gore, a decision upheld by the House on 27 Jan. 1711.12

Although a temporary truce in the freemen war was declared on 17 July 1711, when it was agreed that all previous admissions were to be allowed but that henceforth the mayor needed the consent of the common hall, the remainder of Anne’s reign witnessed unbridled party strife as the Tories struggled against Rebow’s influence. In September 1711 the town’s clergy refused to let the minister of Lexden preach in any of the parish churches, a snub to Sir Isaac, one of whose supporters owned the manor there. In July of the following year Gore, ‘who had the honour to kiss her Majesty’s hand’, presented the Queen with an address from the corporation thanking her for the peace, and he and Potter offered another a year later. The two factions clashed in September 1712 over the elections to the borough’s minor offices, the polls having to be adjourned overnight because of the unusual contentiousness. This prepared the way for a much more serious conflict over the choice of mayor. According to one Whig report, the Tories, or ‘factious party’ as the author termed them, backed by Gore, had gained control of the administration of the workhouse. Since the right of election lay in freemen not receiving alms, it effectively gave them control over part of the franchise. Despite their having created ‘three score’ voters in this way, a Whig mayor was again elected, a result that so frustrated the Tories that at the swearing in on 29 Sept. their candidate attacked the mayor elect and tried to snatch the mace. The dispute was considered of national significance, and a Whig tract about it was printed, and suppressed. The matter was also taken up by the Tory Post Boy which argued that ever since their domination of the corporation had been under threat, the Whigs had ‘resolved to venture a storm rather than surrender to the Church party, as is very apparent by their opposition and behaviour in the late, as well as former elections of mayors and Members of Parliament’. The Whigs were alleged to have opposed the Tory mayoral candidate William Boys, who was a devout Anglican and had been one of those associated with Potter in 1692 over the charter controversy, with ‘bribes, treats, promises and threats, and all other illegal ways and means imaginable’. One townsman agreed with the paper’s analysis, and told his correspondent that the ‘sober party played the devil beyond belief, and exceeded all that they ever did before’. Not content with private or printed vindications, however, the Tories took the matter to the quarter sessions and ‘into Westminster Hall, from whence a mandamus came’ against both the new and old mayors. The legal suit, which was said to have caused ‘great and grievous disorders and quarrels’ was still alive in August 1713, when a new parliamentary election was held, but the Whigs had prepared their ground carefully. On 4 Aug. two orders had been passed. The first required the mayor to call an assembly of freemen, in order to disfranchise the Tory prosecutors. The second established a committee, dominated by Rebow’s supporters, ostensibly in order to raise money for the penurious corporation and to resolve the ‘unhappy differences’ over the right to freedoms, though in practice in order to create more votes for Sir Isaac. This committee, which effectively controlled the parliamentary franchise, met six times during the next fortnight, so that by 20 Aug., when the mayor received the writ for the election, over 100 new freemen had been created. On 24 Aug. the mayor consequently had it recorded that Rebow and Webster had been ‘freely and indifferently elected’. The two Tories, Gore and Nicholas Corsellis*, a local lawyer, nevertheless complained that the poll had been called only two days after the announcement of the latter’s candidature, ‘so that the gentlemen of the best quality in the country at remote parts, who were free of that corporation, could not have notice time enough to vote’, and that they had only lost by ‘a very inconsiderable number’. Inevitably, they petitioned the House on 3 Mar. 1714, and on 20 Mar. MPs ordered the arrest of Thomas Glascock, the town clerk and one of the members of the controversial freeman committee, who had refused Corsellis access to the town’s public records in order to obstruct Tory preparations for the election case. When evidence was finally submitted to it, the elections committee heard from 30 Tory citizens who recounted the history of the Whigs’ manipulation of the electorate (which they believed consisted ‘of near 1,000 free burgesses’), and resolved that the common hall did have a right to sanction freeman admissions. The Commons duly voted on 6 May that Webster and Rebow had not been elected, and the following day the writ was amended. This by no means marked the end of bitterness at Colchester. Smarting from his defeat, Rebow had himself elected to the borough’s common council on 9 June 1714, and a month later two Tory aldermen were removed from office, including one who had given evidence to the committee of elections. Taking advantage of the accession of George i, which was celebrated in the town with ‘the joyful and universal concurrence of a great multitude of people’, Rebow and Webster obtained their own election as aldermen, thereby regaining their tight hold on the corporation’s affairs. Party strife and flagrant electoral abuses continued unabated, however, ultimately leading to the loss of the borough’s charter in 1742.13

Author: M.J.K


  • 1. Essex RO (Colchester), Colchester bor. recs. index of free burgesses and poll of 1705. In 1696 a list of office-holders, freemen and inhabitants totalled 2,328 names (Colchester bor. recs. assembly bk. 6, ff. 73–87).
  • 2. Sir John Morden’s Case, (n.d.).
  • 3. Post Boy, 7–10 Oct. 1710.
  • 4. Jnl. Interdisciplinary Hist. xv. 686; VCH Essex, ii. 399; CSP Dom. 1696, pp. 201, 205; Colchester bor. recs. assembly bk. 6, ff. 117, 128, 438; Journeys of Celia Fiennes, 142; Defoe, Tour ed. Cole, 58; T. Glines, ‘Pol. in Bor. of Colchester 1660–93’ (Univ. Wisconsin Ph.D. thesis, 1974), 27, 260–1.
  • 5. Glines thesis, 142; CSP Dom. 1689–90, p. 225; 1693, pp. 186, 296, 344; Stowe 835, ff. 57–59; Colchester bor. recs. assembly bk. 5, ff. 360, 364–5; assembly bk. 6, ff. 9, 11, 36; Essex RO, Winterton (Turnor) mss D/Dkw/01/38; Add. 34350, f. 8; Oath Bk . . . of Colchester ed. Benham, 248.
  • 6. London Gazette, 24–28 Jan. 1695; Surr. RO (Guildford), Midleton mss 1248/1, f. 274; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Portland (Bentinck) mss PWA 247, Capel to Portland, 1 Oct. 1695; Colchester bor. recs. assembly bk. 6, f. 1; Sir John Morden’s Case.
  • 7. Glines thesis, 202; Sloane 2717, ff. 112–16; Colchester bor. recs. assembly bk. 6, ff. 92–93.
  • 8. Colchester bor. recs. assembly bk. 6, ff. 140–2, 237, 342; London Post, 6–8 Jan. 1701; Add. 70075, Dyer’s newsletter 27 Nov. 1701.
  • 9. Post Man, 21–24 Mar. 1702; Colchester bor. recs. assembly bk. 6, f. 253; London Gazette, 6–9 Apr. 1702; Winterton (Turnor) mss, D/Dkw/01/38.
  • 10. Bodl. Rawl. C.441, ff. 1–16; Colchester bor. recs. assembly bk. 6, f. 275.
  • 11. Essex Review, vi. 176; Rawl. C.441, f. 6; Colchester bor. recs. assembly bk. 6, ff. 296, 319–22; London Gazette, 9–12 Oct. 1704; Univ. Kansas, Spencer Research Lib. Moore mss 143cc, James Craggs* to Arthur Moore*, 5 May 1705; Folger Shakespeare Lib. Newdigate newsletters 8 Dec. 1705; CSP Dom. 1687–9, p. 259; Oath Bk . . . of Colchester, 234.
  • 12. Colchester bor. recs. assembly bk. 6, ff. 365, 377, 394–6; Trans. Essex. Arch. Soc. xxiii. 312; G.H. Martin, Hist. of Colchester G.S. 23; Morant, Essex, i. 81; Add. 70219, Compton to Harley, 6 Aug. 1710; 70198, Gore to Harley, 14 Sept. 1710; Huntington Lib. Stowe mss 58(6), p. 189; Post Boy, 7–10 Oct. 1710; Verney Letters 18th Cent. i. 307.
  • 13. Colchester bor. recs. assembly bk. 6, ff. 9, 423, 433; bk.7, ff. 3, 5, 9v-10v, 12v, 20–22v, 24; Post Boy, 5–8 July 1712, 30 Oct.-1 Nov. 1712, 8–10 Sept. 1713; London Gazette, 16–20 June 1713; Flying Post, 7–9 Oct. 1712; Bodl. Ballard 23, ff. 55–56.