Available from Boydell and Brewer
Right of Election:
in the burgage owners
Number of Qualified Electors:
273 in 1696; 271 in 17381
Number of voters:
at least 225 in 1713
|25 Feb. 1690||SIR MARK MILBANCKE, Bt.|
|25 Oct. 1695||THOMAS YORKE|
|SIR MARMADUKE WYVILL, Bt.|
|Sir Mark Milbancke, Bt.|
|27 July 1698||THOMAS YORKE|
|9 Jan. 1701||THOMAS YORKE|
|25 Nov. 1701||THOMAS YORKE|
|21 July 1702||THOMAS YORKE|
|14 May 1705||THOMAS YORKE|
|6 Dec. 1705||WILLIAM WALSH vice Dunch, deceased|
|10 May 1708||THOMAS YORKE|
|HON. HARRY MORDAUNT|
|11 Oct. 1710||JOHN YORKE|
|HON. HARRY MORDAUNT|
|3 Sept. 1713||THOMAS YORKE||157|
|HON. HARRY MORDAUNT||135|
Defoe described Richmond, and the surrounding areas, as being full of
clothing [manufacture], and all the people clothiers; here you see all the people, great and small, a knitting; and at Richmond you have a market for woollen or yarn stockings, which they make very coarse and ordinary and they are sold accordingly.
Petitions from the borough to Parliament reflected concern for their chief industry. Another major industry which concerned the Richmond electorate was the neighbouring lead mines at Swaledale, which were developed by the 4th Lord Wharton and his son Hon. Thomas*, and those at Arkengarthdale, belonging to Theodore Bathurst. The main electoral interests in the borough were those of the Wyvills of Constable Burton, the Darcy family, including the earls of Holdernesse, whose seat at Hornby Castle was five miles from Richmond, the Yorkes of Gouthwaite, and the Whartons, who held the nearby manor of Aske. All of them held burgages in the town and increased their interest by further purchases, wherever possible.3
Browne Willis*, writing in the early 18th century, noted that the Richmond corporation consisted of a mayor, who was also returning officer, a recorder, 12 aldermen and 24 common council men. The mayor was elected annually on 13 Jan., by the majority of the 13 companies which were ‘freemen of trade’. There were about 800 houses in the town, of which 271 were ‘borough houses’, in that the holders had the right to vote in parliamentary elections. However, Willis’ estimate of burgages differed from the minimum number evident from an election in 1678, which stood at 293. This would appear eminently possible, as the franchise went through a series of changes in the late 17th century, most notably in 1696, when it was decreased due to the enclosure of a piece of common land, at which time all burgage owners were asked to contribute to the cost, in return for perpetual grazing rights. Those who did not were disfranchised, thus effectively reducing the electorate to 273 cow-keeping burgage owners.4
In 1690 Sir Mark Milbancke, 2nd Bt., was returned unopposed alongside Theodore Bathurst, a fellow Tory. However, in 1695 a correspondent of Robert Harley* reported that there would be a contest at Richmond, as ‘Sir Marmaduke Wyvill [5th Bt.] and Mr [Thomas] Yorke oppose Sir Mark Milbancke and Mr Bathurst; former likely to carry it’. Wyvill, a Tory, and Yorke, a Whig, had electoral interests in the borough which were sufficient to see them returned at the election. In 1698 and January 1701 James Darcy, whose family also owned burgages in the borough, was returned unopposed along with Yorke. In November 1701, however, it was reported that John Hutton, a Whig, ‘turns out of Richmond Mr Darcy’. Darcy did not contest the election, and Hutton was returned unopposed with Yorke. However, at the election in 1702, James Darcy was returned unopposed with Yorke.5
The senior branch of the Darcy family, the Earl of Holderness and his brother Conyers Darcy*, were Whigs, but their kinsman James inclined towards the Tory party. Thus his decision to vote for the Tack in November 1704 caused Thomas, now Lord Wharton, to write that he was ‘always glad of any occasion of showing my service to my Lord Holderness and his brother to whom I have the honour to be related’, but that his goodwill did not extend to James Darcy. Wharton proved to be too formidable an adversary for Darcy, and prior to the 1705 election he spent £1,293 on buying 21 burgages, as well as £675 on treating the voters, in order to secure the return of his relation and protégé, Wharton Dunch, along with Yorke in a contested election. Darcy petitioned, saying he had had the majority of legal votes, but, by splitting burgages (contrary to the 1696 Act regulating elections), and ‘meddling’ directly in the election (which as a peer of the realm he was not supposed to do), Wharton had procured the return of Dunch. Darcy withdrew his petition when Dunch died later that year, though Wharton was able to secure the unopposed return of the Whig William Walsh at the ensuing by-election. During the following years Wharton and Yorke appear to have entered into some form of electoral alliance, which ensured the unopposed return of the Whigs Hon. Harry Mordaunt and Yorke in 1708, and Mordaunt and Yorke’s son, John, in 1710. However, although there was no contest in 1710, it would appear that there had been friction within the constituency. On 19 Dec. 1710 Wharton was informed by Matthew Smalls that Sir Ralph Milbancke, 3rd Bt., who, as the son of Sir Mark, retained an electoral interest in the borough, wanted to know what was the meaning of
parliamenteering so early at Richmond, and said he hopes your Lordship’s friends would take care that town might not be lost . . . and added that he had a friend who has some votes and interests in Richmond which he would undertake should be at your Lordship’s service, and that for Mr [Charles] Bathurst [son of Theodore] he would not forgive his unmannerly treatment towards him in seducing his neighbouring freeholds under the pretence of his authority against the last election . . . I take Sir Ralph’s friend of whom he spoke to be Lord Holderness, and he in effect declared it was so. His interest joined to your Lordship’s would do very well.
Smalls appears to have been monitoring Richmond on Wharton’s behalf, as he also informed Wharton that ‘there has lately been two burgages purchased for your Lordship’, but added that there ‘has been no great care taken in the setting or management of your Lordship’s houses in Richmond, which if there were, should considerably advance the interest with others as well as the number of votes for the purchased burgages’. Wharton continued purchasing burgages and even obtained an army commission for the son of a local resident who promised to sell his burgages. Wharton also looked to gain control of the corporation as a means to influence elections. In January 1713 it was reported that the election for town mayor had been between a Mr Allen and a Mr Nicholls, ‘the former a tenant of the Earl of Strafford’s, the latter supported by my Lord Wharton’s money and interest and seems to have it, right or wrong, they refused Mr Allen several votes, which is in dispute they being to be chosen by the majority of the 13 companies’.6
Prior to the general election of 1713 ‘Mr Wyvill offered his service’ to the Richmond corporation to serve as Member of Parliament. However, Wharton put up Mordaunt and supported Thomas Yorke. It was reported that all the gentlemen for ten miles around came to the election, and that Milbancke and Holderness mustered all the votes they could against Yorke and Mordaunt and in favour of Marmaduke Wyvill, son of the Member between 1695 and 1698, and Charles Bathurst (with whom Milbancke had obviously become reconciled), but the mayor, who had been elected on Wharton’s interest, returned the former. Wyvill petitioned, on the ground of the partiality of the mayor and bribery on the part of Yorke’s and Mordaunt’s agents. The petition further claimed that only the real owners of burgage houses were entitled to vote but that many votes had been allowed from tenants and from split burgages. No action was taken by the House and the two Whigs retained their seats. By 1714 Richmond was described, in electoral terms, as a town that ‘miserably wanted’ the type of ‘friendship and good neighbourhood’ supposedly apparent in nearby Ripon.7
Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Ivar McGrath
- 1. Fieldhouse and Jennings, Hist. Richmond and Swaledale, 411–12; Bodl. Willis 15, f. 130.
- 2. Flying Post, 10–12 Sept. 1713.
- 3. Defoe, Tour ed. Cole, 629–30; Quinn thesis, 121; L.P. Wenham, Richmond Burgage Houses (N. Yorks. RO publ. no. 16), 3; Fieldhouse and Jennings, 413; Yorks. Arch. Jnl. xliv. 208–9.