Available from Boydell and Brewer
Right of Election:
in burgage holders
Number of Qualified Electors:
Number of voters:
at least 80 in 1708
|3 Mar. 1690||Henry Wallop|
|Hon. James Russell|
|11 Jan. 1692||Christopher Stokes vice Wallop, deceased|
|28 Oct. 1695||Lord James Russell|
|29 Mar. 1698||Wollaston vice Stokes, deceased|
|22 July 1698||Lord James Russell|
|7 Mar. 1699||Wollaston re-elected after having been expelled the House|
|6 Jan. 1701||Lord James Russell|
|25 Nov. 1701||Richard Wollaston|
|18 July 1702||Richard Wollaston||46|
|10 May 1705||Richard Wollaston|
|17 Jan. 1708||Frederick Tylney vice Shrimpton, deceased||32|
|Wither vice Tylney, on petition, 17 Feb. 1708|
|5 May 1708||Frederick Tylney||44|
|WOLLASTON and BRYDGES vice Tylney and Lewis, on petition, 21 Dec. 1708|
|5 Oct. 1710||Thomas Vernon||46|
|24 Aug. 1713||Frederick Tylney|
|16 Mar. 1714||Vernon re-elected after appointment to office|
Whitchurch was a borough by prescription, and did not have a corporation, though there was ‘a tradition that the town was formerly much larger and had a charter’. Browne Willis* described the right of election as being in ‘all such as have any burgage tenure, [that is] freehold within the limits of the borough either in land or houses of any value’. The office of mayor was titular only, while the dean and chapter of Winchester were the lords of the manor in Whitchurch. During this period there was no controlling interest, though the strongest influence was that of the Wallop family, members of which had held one seat almost continuously since 1660. In 1690 Henry Wallop, the head of the family, who had represented the borough since 1679, was returned with a fellow Whig, Hon. James Russell, a younger son of the Earl of Bedford (Sir William Russell†), who, having acquired an estate near Whitchurch by his first marriage, had held the second seat since 1685. Wallop died unmarried in 1691, and was succeeded by his brother, John, who did not stand and died three years later, leaving two sons, both under age. For a time, therefore, the Wallop interest was in abeyance. At the by-election Christopher Stokes, who had acquired the lease of the rectory at Whitchurch through his second marriage, was returned.4
Prior to the 1695 election a correspondent of Robert Harley* wrote that Russell and Stokes would stand again, but that a contest was ensured by the candidature of Richard Wollaston, a Whig. The writer did not know what interest or support Wollaston had secured. After his defeat Wollaston petitioned against the return of Russell on 30 Nov., but on 13 Mar. 1696 he was given permission to withdraw his petition. However, the death of Stokes in early 1698 necessitated a by-election, at which Wollaston was returned unopposed. At the general election later that year Wollaston and Russell were returned unopposed, but in February 1699 Wollaston was expelled from the House on account of his office as tax receiver for Hertfordshire. He was returned at the subsequent by-election and then allowed to take his seat without question. Wollaston and Russell were again returned unopposed at the first 1701 election. Russell did not stand in December 1701, having moved to Northamptonshire, leaving Wollaston to bring in himself and Brigadier John Shrimpton, much of whose time was spent on campaigns in Flanders and Spain.5
In the first election of Anne’s reign Wollaston and Shrimpton were assured of a contest by the candidature of another army officer, Colonel Daniel Parke, the son of a Virginia planter, and a Mr Deane from a neighbouring Wiltshire family. Although Deane was certainly a candidate at some stage, he may have withdrawn before the poll. In the report from the elections committee on 10 Nov. (following Parke’s petition) it was stated that several witnesses had mentioned that Deane had stood, and testified that they had cast votes for him, but his name did not appear in the copy of the poll produced for the committee. At the hearing it was agreed by both sides that the right of election lay in those who had a burgage house or one acre of burgage land for life, either in their own right or in right of their wives. Parke’s counsel claimed that five of the voters for the sitting Members were unqualified, four were bribed and the sitting Members voted for themselves. The petitioner’s counsel replied with similar charges. The committee resolved in favour of Wollaston and Shrimpton, to which the House agreed. On 7 Sept. 1704 the borough celebrated Blenheim
with great rejoicings, ringing of bells, bonfires, firing the guns and great illuminations; several hogsheads of strong beer were given to the people to drink the Queen and my lord Duke of Marlborough’s [John Churchill†] health by Mr Wollaston, one of the representatives in Parliament, who afterwards invited the mayor and burghers to his house to do the like and the whole night was spent with great rejoicing.6
The 1705 election brought another contest between Wollaston and Shrimpton on the one side and Parke on the other. This time Parke did not petition, but a number of inhabitants did on 13 Nov. 1705, claiming that the mayor had refused to accept their votes for Parke, although they were entitled to vote and ‘finding Mr Parke had not petitioned the House for relief, they are apprehensive, that by an acquiescency under such illegal proceedings, they may be deprived of their right of voting at future elections’. The petition was withdrawn on 27 Nov., before it could be considered. The death of Shrimpton at the end of 1707 necessitated a by-election in January 1708, which was contested by two neighbouring landowners, Charles Wither of Oakley Hall, a Whig, who presumably had the support of Wollaston and the Wallops, and Frederick Tylney, a Tory. Initially, the Whig George Brydges*, son of George Rodney Brydges*, had intended to stand but on 17 Jan. James Vernon I* informed the Duke of Shrewsbury that ‘Mr Brydges, by a concert in the country, has given way to one Mr Wither, standing at Whitchurch’. At the poll both candidates had 32 votes, but the mayor returned Tylney, for whom he had himself voted. On 20 Jan. Vernon told Shrewsbury that it was said that Tylney’s victory had been achieved ‘unfairly’, and that Wither would petition. Three days later Wither petitioned the House, and the report on the election was presented on 17 Feb. Wither’s counsel claimed that the mayor had no right to vote unless the numbers were equal, that he had refused two qualified votes for Wither and allowed six unqualified for Tylney. One witness alleged that about ten days before the election the mayor had ‘said he would return him that came most here, pointing with one hand to the other, as if he told money’. Tylney’s counsel insisted that the mayor did have a casting vote and that one vote should be added to his total and four disqualified from Wither’s. On a division, 197 votes to 119, the House agreed with Wither. Vernon reported that the case ‘has gone very smoothly for Mr Wither’, but that George Rodney Brydges ‘believes his son [George Brydges] will be chosen in this borough the next time’.7
At the 1708 general election George Brydges stood with Wollaston. They were opposed by two Tories, Tylney and Thomas Lewis I* (who later represented the county). Tylney and Lewis were returned, but following a petition were unseated by the Whig majority in the House in what was described as a ‘party cause’. Three days later a correspondent of Sir William Trumbull* noted that the proceedings on the petition had shown that there had been ‘a great deal of bribery in the Whitchurch election of all sides, but nobody was ashamed of it otherwise than that it was not better managed’. A similar situation arose in 1710, when Wollaston, this time partnered by Henry Cornish*, a London merchant, tried to retain the borough against Tylney and another Tory, Thomas Vernon, a Turkey merchant, who began buying up burgages and eventually established a strong interest. Wollaston later claimed that Tylney and Vernon had spent over £7,000 to turn him out, which, if true, had the desired effect, as Tylney and Vernon topped the poll. Wollaston petitioned on 1 Dec., but was granted permission to withdraw his petition. Vernon and Tylney held the seats in 1713, and at the by-election in 1714, caused by Vernon’s appointment to office, he was ‘unanimously’ re-elected.8
Authors: Paula Watson / Ivar McGrath
- 1. Bodl. Willis 48, f. 423.
- 2. Daily Courant, 8 May 1708.
- 3. Post Boy, 19–21 Oct. 1710.
- 4. Willis 48, f. 423; Hants RO, 4M51/384; HMC Lords, n.s. iv. 488–9.
- 5. Add. 70018, f. 94; T1/198/5, 253/75.
- 6. DNB (Parke, Daniel); Luttrell, Brief Relation, v. 233; Post Man, 7–9 Sept. 1704.
- 7. Vernon-Shrewsbury Letters, iii. 317; Northants. RO, Montagu (Boughton) mss, 48/179, 190, Vernon to Shrewsbury, 20 Jan., 17 Feb. 1707[–8]; T1/253/75.
- 8. NLW, Penrice and Margam mss L592, William Earle to Michael Richards, 8 May 1708; NLS, ms 1032, Ld. Archibald Hamilton* to Ld. Selkirk, 23 Dec. 1708; BL, Trumbull Misc. mss 53, James Johnston* to Trumbull, 24 Dec. 1708; Post Boy, 11–13 Mar. 1714.