Available from Boydell and Brewer
Right of Election:
in the corporation 1690; in the resident burgesses after 1691; in the freemen at large after 1698
Number of Qualified Electors:
37 in 1690; about 100 after 1691; about 500 after 16981
Number of voters:
at least 93 in 1691; at least 286 in January 1701; at least 366 in 1713
|11 Mar. 1690||WILLIAM GOWER|
|Hon. Fitton Gerard|
|Francis Lloyd Election declared void, 22 Dec. 1690|
|14 Jan. 1691||FRANCIS LLOYD||57||32|
|1 Nov. 1695||CHARLES BALDWYN|
|HON. THOMAS NEWPORT|
|30 July 1698||WILLIAM GOWER||89|
|Hon. Thomas Newport||82|
|NEWPORT vice Gower, on petition, 1 Mar. 1699|
|8 Jan. 1701||SIR THOMAS POWYS||209|
|1 Dec. 1701||FRANCIS HERBERT|
|SIR THOMAS POWYS|
|22 July 1702||FRANCIS HERBERT|
|SIR THOMAS POWYS|
|16 May 1705||SIR THOMAS POWYS||244|
|11 May 1708||SIR THOMAS POWYS||271|
|6 Oct. 1710||SIR THOMAS POWYS||213|
|2 Sept. 1713||HUMPHREY WALCOT||287|
James II’s reversal in 1688 of his earlier policy towards the boroughs gave rise to confusion in Ludlow, and by 1690 there were two rival bodies each claiming to be the legal corporation, one holding by the ancient charter which had been surrendered in 1684 and the other by a new charter granted by King James in the following year in order to establish a Tory-controlled corporation. Members of the old corporation, Whigs for the most part, insisted that the surrender of the charter had been invalid, and furthermore that the new corporation had itself been dissolved in December 1688 when the lord president of the council in the marches of Wales, the Duke of Beaufort (Henry Somerset†), in obedience to an order from King James, had dismissed all the corporation’s officers. It is likely that the election to the Convention was held under the old charter, but the new corporation continued to govern the borough.8
In the 1690 election the mayor of the new corporation, Francis Charlton†, whose father (Sir Job Charlton, 1st Bt.†), was the then leader of the Tory faction in Ludlow, acted as the returning officer, having contrived that the precept be directed to him, allegedly with the connivance of the county sheriff. Under the 1685 charter the mayor was the returning officer and the right of election was confined to the aldermen and common councilmen, though on this occasion some recently admitted ‘burgesses’ (probably members of the corporation) were also allowed to poll. Charlton returned two Tories, his brother-in-law Thomas Hanmer I and William Gower, a member of the new corporation. On the same day the bailiffs of the old corporation held an election and returned two Whigs, one of them, Hon. Fitton Gerard*, being the son of the Earl of Macclesfield, who as lord lieutenant of North and South Wales and a former lord president of the council in the marches had himself some interest at Ludlow. The bailiffs were the returning officers under the ancient charter, by which the right of election was taken as being in the resident ‘burgesses’. However, the sheriff would only accept the return of Hanmer and Gower.9
The Whig candidates petitioned against this return, while at the same time members of the old corporation petitioned the master of the rolls to vacate the deed of surrender of their charter. No action was taken over the charter, nor was the election petition heard until after it had been re-introduced at the beginning of the second session. However, on 22 Dec. it was upheld by the House and the election of Hanmer and Gower was declared void. Almost immediately afterwards, seizing on this decision, which endorsed their claim to be the legal corporation and which was widely interpreted as having in fact ‘restored’ them to power, a majority of the surviving members of the pre-1685 body resumed the government of the borough, reconstituted themselves as a corporation by electing eight new officers to supply vacancies and admitted about 40 new ‘burgesses’; or, as some of their enemies put it,
took it upon themselves riotously to break open the town house, where the Chamber meets, on the pretence of restoring the old government . . . The next day, more joining them, they took it upon themselves to dispose of the affairs of the town, excluded the bailiffs and some of the . . . members of the lawful Chamber, and other lawful officers, and filling the vacancies with their own friends.
By the time of the by-election in January 1691 the old corporation was back in control. That election took place under the old charter, and two Whigs were chosen, Francis Lloyd, a prominent member of the restored corporation, and Silius Titus, who stood on the interest of Macclesfield, defeating the Tory candidates Hanmer and Gower, who presented a petition and, it not being heard in this session, again on 22 Oct. 1691. In their petition the Tories did not dispute the validity of the election having been held under the ancient charter. However, when the ‘restored’ corporation requested a new charter to confirm its authority the response was a counter-petition from members of the excluded corporation, led by Gower. A Whig wrote from Ludlow on 27 Aug. 1691:
Mr William Gower, who would have been one of the Members for Parliament, hath lately gained a subscription (to a petition) of several of the inhabitants of this town, the most part being some of the late members in King James’ charter, and the rest altogether of the Jacobite party . . . he went from home towards London upon Monday last, very confidently assuring his friends that before [sic] his return he would bring such authority with him that should stop and vacate all our proceedings here . . . and procure a new election of the members of this corporation.
Again, no decision was taken on the question of the charter before the election case was heard, despite strenuous efforts by Robert Harley* and others on behalf of the ‘restored’ corporation. What was at issue in the arguments over the election was simply the extent of the franchise under the ancient charter. Given that they could not have an election by their own corporation, the Tories claimed that the right of election lay in the freemen at large. On the Whig side there was some confusion: the bailiffs had polled the resident burgesses and the resident freemen but Lloyd and Titus, despite having an overwhelming majority among the latter, insisted that the franchise was properly confined to the resident burgesses. This contention seems to have been endorsed by the Commons, who also accepted the Whig reply to the second complaint made by the Tories, that some 20 of the Whig voters had not been entitled to a voice, since they had not been admitted as burgesses until after the teste of the writ. On 8 Dec. 1691 the petition was reported to the House which agreed with the committee and rejected it. Eventually, in December 1692, a new charter was granted to Ludlow, confirming the authority of the pre-1685 corporation, though omitting to define in any way the parliamentary franchise.10
In 1695 Lloyd, now recorder of the borough, was put up for re-election by the 2nd Earl of Macclesfield (Charles Gerard*), supported as before by the Whig faction in the corporation. His initial partner was Colonel Mathews, also a Macclesfield acolyte, but when Mathews withdrew it is possible that Lloyd joined with a second Whig candidate, Hon. Thomas Newport, whose father (the Earl of Bradford, Francis Newport†) and eldest brother (Hon. Richard Newport I*) were the leaders of the Shropshire Whigs. In August 1695 Harley had reported that Bradford had been appointed as keeper of Ludlow Castle. ‘I believe it is but temporary’, added Harley, ‘to countenance his son’s election for the town.’ In this election there was no candidate from among the members of the now defunct Tory corporation of 1685, but Charles Baldwyn, who had sat for Ludlow as a Whig in Charles II’s reign, stood with Tory support. Although a member of the old corporation, Baldwyn had not been involved in the conflicts of 1689–92, nor indeed does he seem to have played much of a part in the affairs of the borough from the time of the surrender of the charter in 1685 until this parliamentary election. He did, however, possess a powerful interest by virtue of property which he owned in the vicinity of Ludlow. Several days before the election Harley reported that ‘the town manage their interest so well it is hard to guess which of the three will be left out; Baldwyn seems the most secure’. Indeed Baldwyn, with the backing of the Tories, was elected. It was later alleged that during the winter of 1695–6 Sir Job Charlton had distributed money to the mob in Ludlow in order to gain popularity; it is not clear whether this had anything to do with the election. Baldwyn was returned with Newport, and Lloyd petitioned but let his petition drop. In the Commons Baldwyn acted more as a Tory than as a Whig, and at the same time the Tories in Ludlow, possibly with his help, made considerable inroads into the Whig dominance in the corporation. In 1696 Gower was elected as a common councilman, and then in 1698 Gower and another recently elected Tory common councilman, Francis Herbert, a local landowner with some influence in the borough, stood with Baldwyn’s backing against Thomas Newport. After a close contest both Tories were returned, but Newport petitioned, and after three divisions in the House on 1 Mar. 1699 was able to unseat Gower. The Commons’ decision on the petition, in accepting Newport’s contention that the sons of freemen had a right to be admitted as freemen themselves, opened the way to voting by non-residents.11
Newport was the last Whig to sit for Ludlow, and probably the last to stand for the borough, in this period. The election of January 1701 was a contest between three Tories, Gower and Herbert and Sir Thomas Powys. Formerly solicitor- and attorney-general to James II, Powys had a considerable personal interest at Ludlow. He had not stood for Parliament since the Revolution, nor had he been openly involved in the struggle between the rival corporations at Ludlow. He may, however, have been associated in some way with the Whig faction there, or at least with the pre-1685 corporation, and may have given his interest in some elections to Whig candidates, for he had earlier continued loyal to King James after the King had turned against the Tory corporation in Ludlow, and in Queen Anne’s reign his chief agent in the constituency was Edward Smallman, the town clerk, a leading activist among the members of the old corporation in 1688–92 and a prominent supporter of Whig candidates in subsequent elections. Gower bitterly opposed his candidature, accusing him of not being well affected to the government but, having recommenced his political career in earnest, Powys quickly became the most powerful figure in Ludlow. On 2 Jan. 1701 a correspondent of Robert Harley wrote, ‘Sir Thomas Powys I suppose is by this time near chosen without contradiction . . . at Ludlow’, and Powys did indeed top the poll, being returned with Gower. In the following November the report was that ‘Sir Thomas Powys is gone down to Ludlow, where his election is sure’, though he took the precaution of putting up in another constituency as well. In this election the same three candidates stood again, and this time it was Gower who came bottom of the poll. Gower petitioned against the return of Herbert, but the petition was not heard. That the Tory interest was now uppermost in the borough was confirmed by the way in which Anne’s coronation was celebrated there, as the correspondent of the Post Boy recorded, with ‘all . . . demonstrations of joy and loyalty to her Majesty, whereof the like has not been known in this town within the memory of man’.12
At the general election of 1702 Powys and Herbert were returned again for Ludlow, unopposed. Gower had been persuaded not to stand, in the belief that Powys, who was making arrangements to be returned at Truro as well, would subsequently step down in his favour. Harley wrote on 9 Aug.:
I understand there will be great endeavours to prevail with Sir Th[omas] Powys to serve for Truro, by the same persons who prevailed with Mr Gower to make his coming in at Ludlow easy, and it will be urged upon him that it will ever hereafter secure Ludlow to him, Gower giving assurance never more to appear, who otherwise will always find him trouble enough by his friends, and by his activity.
In fact Powys, though elected in both constituencies, chose to sit for Ludlow. At the next election Gower was not to be persuaded to withdraw. He was, however, easily defeated by Powys, who again topped the poll, and by another Tory, Acton Baldwyn, the son of Charles Baldwyn. Gower’s reputation in the borough had not been improved by his having been dismissed the previous year from the keepership of Ludlow Castle, after only a brief tenure of the office. Powys and Baldwyn had little difficulty in retaining their seats in 1708, when they brushed aside the challenge of Humphrey Cornewall, who may also have stood as a Tory. At this time Powys and Baldwyn between them controlled the two strongest proprietorial interests in Ludlow – in 1705 their support had been significantly the stronger among the ‘foreign burgesses’ (out-freemen) – and the head of the other leading family in the locality, Sir Francis Charlton, 2nd Bt.†, was too old and infirm to consider standing. Powys also had a strong influence in the corporation, of which he had been elected recorder in 1707.13
In 1710 the Tory ascendancy in Ludlow was strengthened still further as a result of the popularity there of Dr Sacheverell. When Nicholas Lechmere*, who had acted as one of the managers for the doctor’s impeachment, arrived in the town on circuit in April he met with such a hostile reception that he ‘was forced to scamper over [to] Witley and steal into Mr Kettle’s by the back way’. The corporation made an address to the Queen in favour of Sacheverell, which was presented by Powys in May, and the doctor himself visited the town in July in the course of his triumphal ‘progress’, being greeted by a ‘multitude’ of supporters ‘with trumpets sounding, drums beating and colours flying’, and being afterwards ‘most nobly entertained’. In one other respect, too, matters were going well for Powys in his election preparations: Gower, who had voted against the sitting Members in 1708, now agreed to support him. Robert Price* wrote from Ludlow in September to Harley, who seems to have concerned himself in this election on Powys’ behalf, ‘poor Will Gower is set up by some of his old friends, though with little prospect of success. I have persuaded him into Sir Thomas Powys’ interest and to act as he shall direct him’.14
However, another Tory candidate, and a more formidable one, had already announced his intention to stand: Humphrey Walcot, the nephew of a former Member for Ludlow. The year before, Walcot had purchased from his brother Charles an estate which had previously belonged to his uncle and which, being near Ludlow, carried with it an interest in the borough. He was a cousin of Powys but a protégé of Hon. James Brydges*, and on 21 Apr. 1710 wrote to inform his patron that his brother Charles had ‘walked the street’ in Ludlow
with great zeal to procure me to be a Member of Parl[iament] when there shall be a new election. We have waited on Mr Herbert [Francis] before, who treated us very civilly but according to his wonted reserve would not declare himself. Sir Francis Charlton engaged himself and interest for us very readily, and many of the town so that if Mr Acton Baldwyn does not make any particular interest for somebody else than himself I am in very great hopes of success. However, I am sure I shall occasion trouble and expense to somebody, not Mr Baldwyn for his interest is very secure.
Powys was alarmed. He wrote in July to his kinsman Henry Mitton, ‘Mr Humphrey Walcot, without so much as acquainting me, or any of our family, with his intentions, is an open candidate, and Mr Herbert and Mr Baldwyn are so reserved, that I know not where I am, nor who and who are together’. It would appear that Herbert’s aim was to persuade Walcot and Baldwyn to join, and to ditch Powys, but Baldwyn’s campaign was going well: he had increased his popularity by publicly dining with Sacheverell in July, and evidently felt no need of joining with either candidate. His brother Charles wrote on 25 Aug. that he had been at Ludlow where ‘both parties desirous to join us and have promised not to join one another’. It was clear by September, as the election approached, that Walcot was causing ‘trouble and expense’ to his cousin: ‘I find the election is like to be contested to the utmost’, wrote Powys, ‘and my reputation is at stake . . . more than ordinary.’ In fact, Walcot had spent most (£1,000), buying several votes for over £20 each, but Powys had also spent £400 and Baldwyn £200. At this point Brydges, apparently at the suggestion of ‘some persons above who have been kind enough to concern themselves for the old Members’, intervened, advising his protégé not to force a contest. ‘I was rejoiced’, he had written on 2 Sept.,
to find by the account you sent me in how fair a way you were of succeeding in Ludlow; but I must confess what has since happened has pretty much damped my spirits, and should you carry it in the country, if a petition followed you to the House I fear it would go very hard with you, since the Tories will be all for Sir Thomas Powys . . . and the Whigs will be neuter, except you declared yourself one of them, which would draw a greater inconvenience to you, and I hope is no more agreeable to your principles than it is to mine, especially if they can prove giving of money, which I am informed from very good hands they can, both in town and country.
Walcot took the advice and duly made Powys an ‘offer [of] . . . desisting’, only to be rebuffed. This turn of events filled Baldwyn with anxiety, not for his own position, which seems to have been safe, but for that of the Tory candidates for the shire, there being a strong rumour, later to be denied by Walcot, that Charles Walcot, who as high sheriff had ‘a considerable interest’, had vowed to oppose the Tories in the county election ‘if the gentlemen of the county who had most of them votes at Ludlow should poll against his brother, which the gentlemen of one party [the Tories] are resolved to do’. Baldwyn suggested to Harley, via Salwey Winnington*, that the only way to prevent ‘this inconvenience’ would be to prevail on Brydges to persuade Walcot to withdraw. This was done, though not in time to stop a handful of Walcot’s supporters from polling for him. Two days before the election a disappointed Walcot gave his patron an account of what had happened after Powys had accepted his second offer:
I desired nothing more of him than that he would interpose with one Smallman a tyrannical town clerk and his agent here that the poor people who are burgesses and would have voted for me might not suffer on that account. I designing for London this day, if possible, invited some burgesses to sup with me last night, expecting about a dozen, but they exceeded one hundred, notwithstanding they were much incensed at my desisting when I was so very likely to carry my election, even first in the return. However, if what I have done be agreeable to your sentiments I am satisfied, and have laid a good foundation for a future interest.
When Herbert heard the news a rumour spread that he would stand, whereupon Powys brought in at least 50 new freemen. Herbert did not in fact put up, but there was a third candidate, a Mr Whitney. He received hardly any more votes than were registered for Walcot, and Powys and Baldwyn were elected by an immense majority.15
Ludlow did not become any the less Tory-dominated after 1710. The corporation made an address to the Queen in 1712 in support of the peace negotiations, and another in the following year, even more deeply partisan, congratulating her on the peace itself; and in March 1713 the church bells were rung in Ludlow to celebrate the expiry of Dr Sacheverell’s sentence of suspension from preaching. The three candidates in the 1713 election were all Tories: Acton Baldwyn, Humphrey Walcot and Francis Herbert. For a time it was suspected that Powys, newly raised to the bench, intended to put up his son. Indeed, Herbert, who had earlier offered his interest to Lord Harley (Edward*), only to find that Harley preferred to stand elsewhere, gave as his reason for eventually deciding to stand himself his own determination
to oppose Sir Thomas Powys’ son . . . lest they might consider it hereditary in the family. The father has long since called Ludlow his corporation and if his son comes into the House of Commons as representative of that place it will be a justification of his title, and he may devise it by will to his heir.
Baldwyn’s brother assisted his campaign as usual and claimed that Baldwyn had spent no money on the election although the other two candidates had, and that Walcot had brought down some 50 voters from London. In fact it was Herbert and Baldwyn who seem to have enjoyed greater support among the ‘foreign burgesses’ (out-freemen) in this election, but Walcot was assisted by Brydges and had by now strengthened his own interest in the corporation, and he and Baldwyn were returned after a hard-fought contest.16
Author: D. W. Hayton
- 1. Staffs. RO, Aqualate mss, list of voters, 7 Apr. 1705
- 2. Petitioners' poll.
- 3. Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. ser. 4, iii. pp. iii–iv.
- 4. Flying Post, 19–21 May 1705.
- 5. Aqualate mss, poll 1708; VCH Salop, iii. 287.
- 6. Aqualate mss, poll 1710.
- 7. Bean’s notebks.
- 8. Salop RO, Ludlow bor. recs. min. bk. 1684–90.
- 9. Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. ser. 1, i. 249–50.
- 10. Add. 42592, f. 24; 70015, f. 167; Egerton 2882, f. 276; Ludlow bor. recs. min. bk. 1690–1712; PRO NI, De Ros mss D638/13/9, John Pulteney* to Thomas Coningsby*, 13 Jan. 1690[–1]; HMC Portland, iii. 470, 474; ix. 407; CSP Dom. 1690–1, p. 260; Harl. 6806, ff. 255–8; Copies of Charters and Grants to the Town of Ludlow, 195–212.
- 11. VCH Salop, 286; HMC Portland, iii. 565, 574; Surr. RO (Kingston), Somers mss 371/14/A3, Harley to Sir John Somers*, 29 Oct. 1695; W. Bohun, Coll. of Debates, 203; Ludlow bor. recs. min. bk. 1690–1712.
- 12. Salop RO, Bishop mss, Sir Littleton Powys to Henry Mitton, 26 Dec. 1700; Harl. 6806, ff. 255–8; HMC Portland, iv. 11; CSP Dom. 1700–2, pp. 452–3; Post Boy, 28–30 Apr. 1702.
- 13. Bishop mss, Sir Littleton Powys to Mitton, [c.July 1702]; Add. 28055, ff. 3–4; 70217, Sir Francis Charlton to [Robert Harley], 23 Nov. 1705; Aqualate mss, poll of ‘foreign burgesses’ 1705.
- 14. HMC Portland, iv. 539, 592; Coll. of Addresses Which Have Been Presented to the Queen, since the Impeachment of the Rev. Dr Henry Sacheverell, i. 23; Boyer, Anne Annals, ix. 204; Aqualate mss, poll 1708.
- 15. Huntington Lib. Stowe mss 57(4), p. 133; 58(5), pp. 218–19; 58(6), pp. 254–5; Bishop mss, Sir Thomas Powys to Mitton, 29 July, 12 Sept. 1710; NLW, Ottley mss 2567, 2578, Acton Baldwyn to [Adam Ottley], [12 July 1710], Sept. 1710; 2570, 2573, 2574, 2587, Charles Baldwyn to same, 28 July, 11 Aug. 25 Aug. 10 Oct. 1710; VCH Salop, 287; Add. 70263, Winnington to Harley, 25 Sept. 1710; HMC Portland, iv. 592.
- 16. London Gazette, 24–26 June 1712, 12–16 May 1713; Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. ser. 2, v. 96; HMC Portland, v. 313; Lincs. AO, Massingberd Mundy mss 2M.M/B/19, Charles Baldwyn to Burrell Massingberd, recd. 7 Sept. 1713; Aqualate mss, list of ‘foreign burgesses’ 1713; Stowe mss 57(9), p. 171; Ludlow bor. recs. min. bk. 1690–1712.