Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the 'corporation', i.e. freemen

Number of voters:

24 in 1670


 Thomas Hooper
 John Ayloffe
12 Feb. 1689FRANCIS GWYN

Main Article

The corporation of Christchurchalias Twineham consisted of the mayor, who acted as returning officer, and the freemen. Normally the lord of the manor could be sure of returning at least one candidate, but since 1639 the ownership had been in dispute between the six daughters of the 1st Lord Arundell of Wardour. As they were all Roman Catholics, they could not exercise their rights at the 1660 election, when two local men were returned, John Hildesley, a Presbyterian and former mayor, and his step-son, Henry Tulse of Hinton Admiral. In 1661 Lord Baltimore, who claimed the manor under a trust, wrote on behalf of Humphrey Weld, a nominal Protestant who had married another of the claimants. On 20 Feb. the Privy Council heard a petition from Christchurch, complaining that the corporation was still in the hands of those who

for many years past have shared and divided amongst them all the fines, rents and revenues belonging to the said borough, and for the most part are persons disaffected to regal authority and adhered to the late usurpers, and strengthened themselves by making divers persons disaffected to the established government to be freemen of the said borough.

Sir Humphrey Bennet and Richard Compton were then deputed to inquire, to regulate such abuses by mediation and ‘to notify to his Majesty thereof, that all who are disloyal may be removed and such who for their loyalty have been displaced may be restored’. After a complaint from the mayor and ‘burgesses’, however, Bennet and Compton were ordered on 15 Mar. to interfere no more and ‘to leave them to a free election’. Weld and Tulse were returned. The manor was sold to the 1st Earl of Clarendon shortly before his fall, and the new charter of 1670, limiting the corporation to the mayor and 24 freemen, strengthened his heir’s hold over the borough.1

At the first election of 1679, the 2nd Earl of Clarendon (Henry Hyde) recommended Sir Thomas Clarges, an outsider hitherto identified with the country party, but strongly opposed to exclusion. Tulse was re-elected, but after voting for the bill was replaced in August by a Dorset Tory, George Fulford, who had previously contested Lymington. In 1681 Clarendon’s control over both Christchurch seats was challenged. Clarendon wrote to Sir Leoline Jenkins:

The borough of Christchurch is my own borough, the manor is my own and one or both of the burgesses have been always elected on the recommendation of the lords of the place, but at present Lord Shaftesbury and the Earl of Huntingdon and some other peers of their association have sent their letters to the mayor to exclude those that served in the last Parliament, ... and have named two warm gentlemen of the King’s Head Club, Mr Thomas Hooper, a younger son of a gentleman of a very moderate fortune, and Mr John Ayloffe. ... All this mischief has happened by the Lord Chancellor’s delivery of the writ to Lord Wiltshire [Charles Powlett II] whereby the precept for this place was pretended by the under sheriff to be sent thither 10 days ago, but it is not yet delivered, and God knows when it will be, for the persons above-mentioned speak of delivering it (and I know it is in their power) about 10 days before the meeting of Parliament.

The election campaign was heated, as appears by ascandalum magnatum suit brought against Hooper, who described Clarendon as a Papist, a maintainer and upholder of popery and an enemy to the King and people. In mitigation of damages Hooper proved that Clarendon had called him ‘a jesuited, equivocating Papist and a rascal, and offered to fillip him on the nose’. When the country party found they were making little headway with the electorate, they

brought in a seditious constable, with a rabble as seditious as himself, to disturb it, and claim a right to give votes for the election; though it is manifest that in all elections extant on record since the first time Christchurch elected Members to Parliament, there is not one precedent for a popular election.

Clarges and Fulford, men ‘of good intentions to church and state’, were returned. Hooper’s petition was referred to the elections committee, but the Oxford Parliament was dissolved before it could be reported.2

The corporation made no official response to the publication of the reasons for the dissolution of Parliament or of the ‘Association’. But they expressed their abhorrence of the Rye House Plot and congratulated James II on his accession. Although Clarendon warned the borough that Hooper had the confidence to stand again in 1685, or otherwise to disturb the election, there is no evidence that his candidates, Clarges and another Tory, Anthony Ettrick, were opposed. In April 1688 they were expected to be re-elected, the King’s agents re marking that: ‘Lord Clarendon has so absolute an interest here, it will be impossible to have anybody chosen but such as he shall appoint, or at least approve’. Clarges however decided to stand for Oxford University, and in September it was reported that the corporation intended to replace him with a Whig, James Dewey, whose father had sat for Dorset during the Protectorate. ‘The mayor is right, and an active man [who] will do his utmost to secure a good election.’ But a letter from Clarendon in support of the court candidates was desirable. In 1689 Ettrick’s son William, who had previously sat for Poole, was returned with another of Clarendon’s followers, Francis Gwyn.3

Author: Paula Watson


  • 1. VCH Hants, v. 92-93; Dorset RO, D10/Cl, Baltimore to Mayor of Christchurch, 7 Mar. 1661; EHR, xlv. 239.
  • 2. HMC Ormonde, n.s. iv. 317; CSP Dom. 1680-1, p. 165; Luttrell, i. 198; Clarendon Corresp. i. 182; CJ, ix. 707.
  • 3. London Gazette, 8 Oct. 1683, 4 May 1685; Clarendon Corresp. i. 182; Duckett, Penal Laws (1882), 430, 432-3.