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

Background Information

Number of voters:

c.1,200 in 1702


 Sir George Fletcher, Bt.
 Sir William Huddleston
18 Jan. 1665SIR JOHN LOWTHER II, 2nd Bt. vice Curwen, deceased
 Sir William Dalston
19 Feb. 1679SIR JOHN LOWTHER II, 2nd Bt.
 Ferdinando Huddleston
27 Aug. 1679EDWARD HOWARD, Lord Morpeth
 Ferdinando Huddleston
2 Apr. 1685RICHARD GRAHME, Visct. Preston

Main Article

Throughout the period the Howards of Naworth and Sir George Fletcher of Hutton played a major role in the county, but from 1665 Sir John Lowther of Whitehaven, despite the handicaps of constant ill health and long absences in London, steadily improved his interest, eclipsing the older families like the Curwens, Huddlestons and Dalstons, till by 1689 he had acquired a secure if tactful dominance. At the general election of 1660 the senior seat went to Charles Howard, a prominent figure at the Protector’s Court, but now a scarcely concealed Royalist. The junior seat was disputed between Fletcher and Sir Wilfred Lawson, who had commanded the parliamentary forces in the county during the Civil War, but had also gone over to the Stuarts. Although Fletcher’s father had been killed in action in the Cavalier army, he himself had held local office like his rivals during the Interregnum, and was accordingly beyond the scope of the Long Parliament ordinance. It was suggested that Lawson and Fletcher ‘should cast lots for the county, and that the loser should have the place for Cockermouth’; but it seems that the contest went to the poll, in which Fletcher was defeated.1

In the coronation honours Howard was raised to the peerage as Earl of Carlisle. At the general election of 1661 Lawson retreated to Cockermouth, and Fletcher joined forces with Sir Patricius Curwen, who had represented the county in all Charles I’s Parliaments. His royalism during the Civil War, though bringing him substantial losses, had been lukewarm, and Sir William Huddleston of Millom Castle stood as candidate of the ultra-royalist party. This opposition, however, was reckoned as nothing by Curwen’s supporters, and so it proved. Curwen’s death led to another contest. This time Sir William Dalston of Dalston was the candidate of the backwoodsmen, but his kinsman Fletcher cast his interest behind Lowther. He was returned as knight of the shire at the early age of 22, and held the seat without a break for the next 35 years.2

Fletcher, never prominent in the House, stood down at the general election, probably in consequence of a bitter dispute with the acting lord lieutenant, Lord Morpeth (Edward Howard). Accordingly Lowther agreed to stand jointly with Morpeth and share expenses, no opposition being expected. But at the preliminary gentry meeting another ‘little difference’ arose between Fletcher’s step-son, Sir Richard Grahme, the rising star of Cumbrian politics, and Morpeth, and the latter decided to stand instead for re-election in the borough from which he derived his courtesy title. His withdrawal caused much talk, and (Sir) Christopher Musgrave found ‘great endeavours to choose men of warmth’. One of these was Huddleston’s son Ferdinando, who somewhat belatedly began a canvass, and the other Lowther’s brother-in-law Richard Lamplugh, of opposing political views. Lamplugh’s status was hardly equal to a county seat in normal circumstances; but the sheriff, Wilfred Lawson, transferred the poll from its customary venue at Cockermouth to Baggrow, and Lowther and Lamplugh were elected. Cumberland’s knights voted in opposite lobbies on the first exclusion bill, and on 22 July 1679 Lowther wrote to his brother-in-law:

Mr Huddleston is again like to make a great disturbance. I wish, if you do not stand again, that there be no irresolution in my Lord Morpeth as the former time, which may discourage his party.

Lamplugh accepted the delicate hint, and worked loyally for his brother-in-law’s re-election. Huddleston’s campaign was again slow in getting under way. At the hustings he vainly undertook to offer

my life and fortune in defence of his Majesty and our Church as it is now established against all opposers, knowing the old fallacy, to profess one thing and act another, as in the late usurpation, to set cobblers in the place of kings and tinkers in the place of princes.

He was so soundly defeated that he had much difficulty in finding an MP to present his petition, ‘and it was a great good fortune to him that it came not to a hearing’. It was expected that the sitting Members would stand again in 1681, and on 22 Jan. Lowther requested Sir Daniel Fleming to

write to your friends on Millom side that Mr Huddleston may no more have the honour of a petition, for he may safely do it when there is no hopes of a Parliament sitting so long as to have it tried .... My Lord Morpeth, who stands also, expects other opposition.

Morpeth had good grounds for his fears, since in the previous summer he had exacerbated his dispute with Fletcher by depriving him of county office, and thus provoked him into re-entering parliamentary politics. Meanwhile Huddleston let it be known that he intended to stand for Ripon, where he enjoyed sufficient interest to frighten Christopher Wandesford; but his funds were so low that he was soon to be driven to fell every scrap of timber in his park, and he probably desisted in both constituencies. Nevertheless Lowther wrote three days later that Morpeth ‘had a design of not coming in at all anywhere, but his father will have him stand for Cumberland, and is coming down to back him, ... and talks of being a countryman again, and living at Carlisle or Naworth’. Once on the spot, however, Lord Carlisle realized that Fletcher could not be ousted from the county seat, and sought to break the deadlock by offering Lowther his interest at Carlisle. Although tempted, Lowther stood firm to his obligation to Fletcher. On 21 Feb. a reconciliation was patched up between Fletcher and Morpeth by Lord and Lady Carlisle. Morpeth took himself off to Carlisle, where his uncle (Sir) Philip Howard made way for him, and two days later Fletcher and Lowther were returned for the county unopposed.3

In 1685 Fletcher stood down in favour of his step-son, now Lord Preston, and Huddleston was persuaded to desist by his own family. Lowther and Preston were elected unopposed. In August 1688 Preston returned the compliment by quitting the county to Fletcher, with whom Lowther resumed his partnership, and they were ‘quietly elected’ to the Convention.4

Authors: Gillian Hampson / Eveline Cruickshanks


  • 1. HMC Le Fleming, 24, 515; CSP Dom. 1659-60, p. 415.
  • 2. CSP Dom. 1660-1, pp. 515, 551, 568; Cal. Comm. Comp. 1699; HMC Lonsdale, 93; Nicolson and Burn, Westmld. and Cumb. ii. 317.
  • 3. CSP Dom. 1677-8, p. 414; 1678, p. 192; Trans. Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. Soc. n.s. xxi. 124; HMC Le Fleming, 155, 178; Westmld. RO, D/Ry 2126, 2370, 2435, Lowther to Fleming, 28 Jan. 1679, 25 Jan., 26 July 1681; 2372, Fletcher to Fleming, 27 Jan. 1681; 2375, 2400, Musgrave to Fleming, 29 Jan., 22 Feb. 1681; Cumb. RO, Lonsdale mss.
  • 4. Westmld. RO, D/Ry 2847, Musgrave to Fleming, 10 Feb. 1685; 2865, Fletcher to Fleming, 16 Feb. 1685; 3250, 3253, Lowther to Fleming, 25 Aug., 11 Sept. 1688; 3419a Fleming to Lowther, 12 Jan. 1689; Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Huddleston, 11 Apr. 1685; CSP Dom. 1687-9, p. 273.