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 resident freemen not receiving alms

Number of Qualified Electors:


Number of voters:

at least 232 in 1690, rising to at least 452 in 1715


28 Feb. 1690JOHN THURBARNE225
 John Michel114
 Francis Gosfright 
22 Oct. 1695JOHN TAYLOR219
 John Thurbarne147
11 Apr. 1698JOHN THURBARNE vice Brent, deceased 
 John Michel 
 John Michel 
7 Apr. 1701JOHN MICHEL vice Furnese, expelled the House 
 David Polhill 
21 Nov. 1701SIR HENRY FURNESE264
 John Michel1581
17 July 1702JOHN MICHEL 
 John Taylor 
 John Michel1152
2 Mar. 1708JOSIAH BURCHETT re-elected after appointment to office 
6 May 1708SIR HENRY FURNESE, Bt.243
 John Michel253
6 Oct. 1710SIR HENRY FURNESE, Bt.237
 John Michel1554
 John Hayward 
17 Apr. 1713JOHN MICHEL vice Furnese, deceased 
 Sir Henry Oxenden, Bt. 
25 Aug. 1713JOHN MICHEL 

Main Article

During this period Sandwich was eclipsed in terms of economic activity by Deal. To Celia Fiennes, Sandwich was ‘a sad old town, all timber building’, whereas Deal had new buildings and ‘looks like a good thriving place’. It was Deal’s prosperity that enabled the port books of Sandwich to show a healthy trade, and which no doubt prompted Deal’s agitation in 1699 for its own charter. Economic stagnation saw Sandwich fall prey to the political influence of outsiders, chiefly that of neighbouring gentry and merchants. Despite the presence of three forts, at Sandwich, Deal and Walmer, designed to protect the navy’s anchorage in the Downs, the Admiralty’s interest was relatively weak for much of the period. More intangible was the influence of Dissent, which some observers saw as crucial, and which may have made up over 20 per cent of the population, including Walloons, in the later 17th century.5

Rather surprisingly the 1690 election saw the withdrawal from Sandwich politics of Sir James Oxenden, 2nd Bt.*, arguably the dominant figure during the election to the Convention. Oxenden’s father-in-law, Hon. Lewis Watson†, who in February 1689 had intimated a desire to stand at the following election, could not step into the breach, having in the meantime succeeded to the barony of Rockingham. This left the other sitting Member, John Thurbarne, in a very strong position at the top of the poll. He was joined by a fellow Whig, Edward Brent, who narrowly defeated John Michel II. A fourth candidate, Francis Gosfright, also stood, but no poll figures survive for him. He belonged to a family with radical Whig and Dissenting antecedents (see FURNESE, Sir Henry). Michel petitioned the Commons, alleging malpractice by Brent. When the committee of elections reported, Brent survived by one vote out of 349 cast. One observer reported that the ‘two parties appeared in their full strength’, attributing Brent’s victory to Sir Edward Seymour, 4th Bt.*, and Viscount Falkland (Anthony Carey*) breaking ranks and siding with the Whigs so that, ‘by the absence of some friends who thought him secure’, Michel had lost it. Thurbarne had supported Brent, fearing that if the House decided in favour of Michel then the poor freemen would lose their right to vote. In fact the Commons negated a resolution declaring the franchise to lie with the inhabitant freemen ‘although they receive alms’, but offered no alternative definition. Ominously, Thurbarne saw the failure to endorse the wider franchise as ‘the fruit of drinking elections’, which he hoped would be avoided in the future.6

The concerns affecting Sandwich were soon made apparent to the port’s MPs. Thurbarne and Brent were asked to use their interest to secure an act levying tolls on grain exported and coal and salt imported into the haven of Sandwich for the purpose of maintaining the harbour mooring posts and bridges. Problems of precedence arose at the Guestling in 1694, Thurbarne, for one, not being happy with the machinations of some of the other representatives of the Cinque Ports. Worse still, by August 1695 Thurbarne seems to have been in conflict with at least part of the corporation. Unsurprisingly Thurbarne lost out in the 1695 election to Brent and John Taylor, a wealthy merchant. Although only 22 votes behind Brent in the poll, it was Taylor who was the main target of Thurbarne’s petition. Evidence suggested that Taylor had boasted of the service he could do the borough if elected and promised to give to the town half of the proceeds of any place he received after his election. Another card played by Taylor was a promise to assist in the economic regeneration of Sandwich, in the same manner as he had stimulated activity in Ramsgate, through his interest in supplying naval goods to the government. The House, however, confirmed the election of Brent and Taylor.7

In October 1697 Thurbarne presented Sandwich’s address to the King, rather than either of the two sitting Members. Thurbarne was clearly thinking ahead to the next election when he wrote on 10 Oct. that the freemen should be informed that he was not staying away from them for ‘sinister’ motives. In fact following Brent’s death at the end of March 1697, Thurbarne was able to return to the House in a by-election in April, defeating Michel. At the general election in July Thurbarne and Michel were chosen ‘by the major part in polling’, although no opponent was named. A further hint of a contest was revealed by Thurbarne’s comment on 3 Jan. 1699 that ‘Sandwich is without a petition’. If, as seems likely, Taylor was the defeated candidate, he was fortunate in that he avoided becoming embroiled in Sandwich’s battle to prevent the incorporation of Deal.8

The campaign against the grant of a charter to Deal occupied Thurbarne and Michel from December 1698 until February 1700. In reality Deal had been successful by the end of June 1699 when Thurbarne wrote of ‘the fatal sentence given . . . against poor, decayed and undone Sandwich, which hath not only lost its trade, its honour and its profit, but its reputation’. From July 1699, the main burden of opposition appears to have fallen on Michel, although by October only recourse to the law courts seemed likely to prevent Deal’s charter. By February 1700 a difference of opinion had arisen between Michel and Thurbarne, the latter being unwilling to assist in bringing the matter before Parliament. Michel was also active in trying to add a clause to Sandwich’s advantage to the Dover harbour bill. Possibly owing to the failure to prevent Deal securing its charter, Thurbarne did not contest the January 1701 election. Michel did force a poll, being defeated by Taylor and Sir Henry Furnese, a merchant financier and native of Sandwich. Michel petitioned, alleging electoral malpractice, but also taking advantage of the fact that Furnese was ineligible to sit by virtue of being a trustee for circulating Exchequer bills. Furnese was expelled on 19 Feb. Michel, perhaps hoping to be seated by right, did not withdraw his petition until 29 Mar., thereby allowing a new writ to be issued. Michel then won the by-election held in April, defeating David Polhill*. The latter was interested in contesting many seats in Kent, and as such received illuminating reports on what was necessary to succeed. John Macky had written on 24 Feb. of the need for speed in applying to the corporation at Sandwich because Furnese had already sought to recommend his brother-in-law, Thomas Vernon*, son of Sir Thomas Vernon*. Macky felt obliged to point out that ‘the Dutch and Presbyterian interest are very great in Sandwich, most of the considerable inhabitants being either Dutchmen or of that extraction, and entirely Presbyterian’. While acknowledging Polhill’s credentials to represent that ‘honest party’, he was also concerned upon ‘what bottom’ Polhill sought to stand, believing the mere recommendation by a ‘private gentleman’ would be insufficient. Since Michel defeated Polhill one perhaps might question whether all the freemen were equally exercised by the religious question as opposed to considerations such as ability to look after the town’s interests. Polhill petitioned, accusing Michel of bribery, but no action was taken before the end of the session.9

If Polhill thought his notoriety as a Kentish Petitioner would assist his cause at Sandwich at the November 1701 election, he was mistaken, and after a letter of application in which he referred to his ‘condition and principles’, he left the field to others. However, national issues do seem to have played a part in the election, Taylor thinking it worthwhile in his letter offering himself as a candidate to promise to ‘make good what we promised his Majesty in our late address’, a reference to the Common’s proceedings on 12 June promising to assist the King in any alliances he might make for securing the liberties of Europe. However, Taylor did not contest the poll. Furnese came top by nearly 90 votes, possibly owing to the skilful way he had made a virtue out of a necessity in resigning his trusteeship for circulating Exchequer bills, and no doubt also because of his wealth. Sir James Oxenden, 2nd Bt., narrowly beat Michel to second place. There was no petition from Sandwich, but Tory manoeuvres threatened Furnese’s seat when, on 10 Feb. 1702, it was contended in the House that his involvement in the circulation of Exchequer bills made him ineligible to sit. News that the Commons might unseat Furnese led Oxenden to suggest to the corporation that his brother, Dr George Oxenden*, would be a suitable alternative. Thurbarne was also approached, with the promise that Michel’s friends would support him. However, on 21 Feb. Furnese successfully warded off his accusers so that no by-election was necessary.10

The hidden influence of the Admiralty may have been at work in 1702 in ensuring that the Tory Michel joined with Furnese at the expense of Taylor. The new deputy warden of the Cinque Ports, the Earl of Winchilsea, certainly thought that Michel ‘has a very sure game’, while Furnese and Taylor were on level pegging. Problems continued to beset Sandwich in relation to the harbour, the improvement thereof being the key to any economic revival of the port. Letters survive for 1702–4 which show both Michel and Furnese attentive to the needs of the corporation. In response to one burst of activity, Josiah Burchett wrote to Furnese early in 1704 explaining that the Admiralty could not offer relief to the town and that an Act of Parliament would be necessary. This was the first open contact between the secretary of the Admiralty and his native corporation. However, relations obviously became closer for by the 1705 election Burchett was thought likely to join with Furnese at the expense of Michel. It seems clear that the town invited Burchett to stand and rewarded his compliance by voting him top of the poll. Looking back 50 years, Sir George Oxenden, 5th Bt.†, recorded that at this time ‘the town was one half sailors’, giving the Admiralty a popular appeal, especially as the threat of the press hung over recalcitrant voters. Michel was forced to ask for single votes, although in April he had sought to persuade Thurbarne to join with him. Thurbarne, having again been in conflict with the town in 1704, declined to get involved.11

Barely two months before the 1708 election Burchett was re-elected unanimously by the corporation following his appointment to office, and he was returned, with Furnese, at the general election, Michel again being the defeated candidate. So strong was the interest built up by Furnese and Burchett that it survived the ministerial revolution of 1710, even though they faced a challenge from Michel and John Hayward, the current mayor.12

The death of Furnese at the end of November 1712, saw a number of men interested in succeeding him. His son, Robert*, already an MP, sought to procure the seat for Sir Henry Oxenden, 4th Bt.*, and Edward Harvey* made an inquiry on behalf of his son, Michael†. However, when the by-election took place in April 1713, Michel was on hand to take up the vacancy, defeating Oxenden. At the general election in August 1713, Burchett was unavailable, a victim of the legislation requiring £300 p.a. in land for all borough Members. He made numerous attempts to circumvent this provision, only admitting defeat ten days before the poll and thus leaving the corporation no time to find a Tory alternative to join with Michel. Thus, although ‘there was room for another churchman at Sandwich, . . . none offered himself, so . . . Oxenden was chosen, but ’tis said it will cost him a good sum to purchase reconciliations with the leading men of that place’. The triumph of the Whigs in 1715 was sufficient to entrench the Oxendens in the parliamentary representation of Sandwich at the expense of Michel, whose numerous attempts to regain his seat met with increasingly heavy defeats.13

Author: Stuart Handley


  • 1. Bean’s notebks.
  • 2. Post Man, 10–12 May 1705.
  • 3. Bean’s notebks.
  • 4. Post Man, 7–10 Oct. 1710.
  • 5. Journeys of Celia Fiennes ed. Morris, 128–9; Newman thesis, 195, 343; Compton Census ed. Whiteman, 7, 21.
  • 6. Add. 33512, ff. 114, 121; Morrice ent’ring bk. 3, 218; Trinity, Dublin, Clarke mss 749/3/284, William Rooke to George Clarke*, 11 Nov. 1690.
  • 7. Centre Kentish Stud. Sandwich bor. recs. Sa/Ac8, p. 279; Add. 33512, ff. 132–4, 144–6.
  • 8. Add. 33512, ff. 151, 172; Sa/Ac8, p. 311.
  • 9. Add. 33512, ff. 155–174; Sevenoaks Pub. Lib. Polhill-Drabble mss U1007/C13/4, Macky to [–], 24 Feb. 1701.
  • 10. Add. 33512, ff. 177–82; H. Horwitz, Parl. and Pol. Wm. III, 291; Cocks Diary, 10.
  • 11. Add. 33512, ff. 183–9; 29588, f. 93; 70334, Robert Harley’s* notes, 14 Feb. 1704–5; 69378, Arthur Charlett to Thurbarne, 24 Apr., 29 Dec. 1704; Sa/ZB2/156–8, Michel to corporation, 20 Nov., 22, 24 Dec. 1702; ZB2/160–2, Furnese to same, 21 Apr., 10 Aug., 27 Dec. 1704; Newman thesis, 343.
  • 12. Herts. RO Panshanger mss D/EP/F173, f. 57, Burchett to Cowper, 23 Mar. 1705–6; Sa/ZB2/165, Burchett to corporation, 18 Jan. 1705–6; Sa/Ac8, ff. 352, 354, 362.
  • 13. Add. 33512, ff. 194–8; Sa/ZB2/170, Harvey to corporation, 9 Jan. 1712 [–13]; 70310–11, Burchett to Ld. Oxford (Robert Harley), 10 Oct. 1712, 30 May, 8 Aug. 1713; 70203, Michel to same, 27 June 1713; Bodl. Ballard 15, f. 107.