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 burgage-holders

Number of voters:

102 in 1689


c. Apr. 1660SIR RALPH ASSHETON I, Bt.  
 William Hulton  
 HULTON vice White, on petition, 16 July 1660  
12 Apr. 1661JOHN HEATH  
 Ambrose Pudsay4116
 PUDSAY vice Assheton, on petition, 4 Feb. 1662  
11 May 1675SIR THOMAS STRINGER vice Pudsay, deceased  
 Sir Ralph Assheton I, Bt.  
21 Feb. 1679SIR RALPH ASSHETON I, Bt.  
2 Sept. 1679SIR RALPH ASSHETON I, Bt.  
30 Nov. 1680HENRY MARSDEN vice Assheton, deceased  

Main Article

Clitheroe, a borough by prescription, had an extremely rudimentary municipal organization; its two bailiffs acted as returning officers. During the Civil War the leading townsfolk showed parliamentarian sympathies, and until 1644 Clitheroe Castle was held against the Royalists. These sympathies were reflected in the general election of 1660, when the out-bailiff, ‘a fierce man against the King’s coming in’, returned two former Members of the Long Parliament. Sir Ralph Assheton of Whalley, a Presbyterian who favoured the Restoration, was unopposed, but William White, Independent, Rumper and probably republican, was unseated on petition, in favour of William Hulton, another Presbyterian with a parliamentarian background in the Civil War. Assheton supported White’s claim that all the ‘free inhabitants’ enjoyed the franchise, but the committee of elections accepted Hulton’s contention that it should be limited to the burgage-holders.1

Before the next general election, Assheton had himself become out-bailiff, and admitted seven of his followers to the roll of freemen. His deputy, who conducted the election, allowed the votes of 12 freeholders and 36 freemen as well as 23 in-burgesses and 19 out-burgesses, and returned him with John Heath, a royalist exile who represented the duchy interest, in the name of ‘the major part of all the burgesses and free inhabitants’. The validity of Heath’s election was not disputed, but Ambrose Pudsay, another court supporter, petitioned against Assheton, asserting, among other things, that the bailiff had no power to appoint a deputy; but the decision again turned on the franchise. The House accepted that ‘such freeholders only as had estates for life, or in fee, had the right of election’, and declared Pudsay elected.2

In March 1662 the honour of Clitheroe was granted to the Duke of Albemarle, who succeeded in establishing a strong interest at the expense of the duchy. On Pudsay’s death, the 2nd Duke (Christopher Monck) originally put forward his cousin, Sir Walter Clarges. But Clarges’s father ((Sir) Thomas Clarges) wrote to Assheton that Albemarle

was so far prevailed on by the base insinuations of Sir Thomas Stringer and his friend Kenyon as to write to my son on the ninth instant to entreat him to desist, upon a suggestion that he was informed out of Lancashire that he could not carry it against you.

Probably the real objection to Clarges was that, under the influence of his father, he was likely to support the country party. Albemarle accordingly replaced Clarges by his legal adviser Stringer, who had been recorder since 1669. Although this switch can hardly have strengthened the Albemarle interest, Stringer defeated Assheton at the poll, the return running in the name of bailiffs, aldermen and burgesses. Assheton petitioned, but no decision was reached.3

For the 1679 elections, lists of qualified voters were drawn up—76 in February and 80 in September—by Roger Kenyon, who seems to have been regarded as the indispensable expert in the mysteries of the franchise. But they were not required, for the corporation decided ‘to make a friendship between all the burgesses in the town’ by returning the two rivals unanimously at both elections of 1679 ‘by all the burgesses and freemen then present’. After Assheton’s death Henry Marsden, a former out-bailiff who represented the Pudsay interest, gained the second seat for the Court, on a roll reduced to 24 out-burgesses (of whom three were dead, two absent and two not sworn), 20 in-burgesses and 10 freemen, though the latter are not named in the return. In 1681 the sitting Members were re-elected.4

Under the 1684 charter Albemarle superseded Stringer as recorder. The accession of James II produced the only loyal address of the period. At the subsequent election, Albemarle nominated Stringer, and was also required by the King to find a seat for Colonel Edmund Assheton. But Kenyon, who had hitherto managed the Albemarle interest locally, and was moreover a kinsman of Assheton, had already committed himself to the Earl of Derby, who wanted the seat for his brother, James Stanley. Albemarle was not pleased at this development. He complained to Kenyon:

How I ought to take this from you, let the world judge. When you take so much pains to concern my Lord Derby and such a body of gentlemen against me, who of themselves had never thought of this but for you, I suppose you, who have occasioned this opposition, can be a means to put a stop to it, and prevent the clashing of the King’s friends at a time which requires so much that they should stand together.

Kenyon was apologetic but pointed out that: ‘Your Grace ... never saw me slack in service to you on like occasions, but I never heard Your Grace did insist to nominate both burgesses to be chosen’. Other candidates, Marsden, Edward Warren and Sir Edmund Assheton, brother and heir of the persevering Sir Ralph, were apparently eliminated at a preliminary meeting, and Stringer himself may have been persuaded to withdraw, for Stanley and Colonel Assheton were returned ‘with the full assent and consent of all the burgesses’.5

To the lord lieutenant’s questions on the repeal of the Test Act and Penal Laws the burgage-holders returned a unanimous negative. On Albemarle’s death the honour was granted to the Roman Catholic Viscount Molyneux. Molyneux’s attempt to resist the Revolution temporarily freed the borough from patronage. On 31 Dec. 1688 a jury of inquiry met and produced a definition of the franchise which left Clitheroe with a unique system. The vote could be claimed either by the owners of freehold estates in any of the 102 burgages, or by the tenants of any burgages (at that date 78) not occupied by another voter. Canvassing had already begun. Sir Edmund Assheton showed no inclination to stand, but Pudsay’s son, later to represent the borough as a Whig in several Parliaments, offered himself as a candidate. There is no evidence of a poll, and two Tories, Christopher Wilkinson and Anthony Parker, were returned by the bailiffs, burgesses and ‘others who have the right to vote’. Both Members were lawyers, Wilkinson standing on the corporation interest and Parker on that of his father-in-law, Stringer.6

Author: Irene Cassidy


  • 1. W. S. Weeks, Clitheroe in the 17th Cent. 10, 298; CJ, viii. 90; Wahlstrand thesis, 203.
  • 2. Weeks, 295-300; CJ, viii. 357.
  • 3. CSP Dom. 1661-2, p. 294; Weeks, 235.
  • 4. Weeks, 236-7; Lancs. RO. Clitheroe borough recs. 81; Kent RO, U55E100/112, Clitheroe corp. to Heath, 26 Feb. 1679.
  • 5. London Gazette, 16 Mar. 1685; HMC Kenyon, 178-80; Clitheroe recs. 604, 605, 607.
  • 6. HMC Le Fleming, 206; HMC Kenyon, 211, 214; CSP Dom. 1689-90, p. 335.