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 freemen

Number of voters:

about 450 in 16791


2 Apr. 1660JOHN DALTON
13 Apr. 1661JOHN DALTON
16 Feb. 1665HON. ANCHITELL GREY vice Allestry, deceased
 Sir John Gell, Bt.
 John Coke II
10 Mar. 1685JOHN COKE II

Main Article

Although Derby was the only parliamentary borough in its county, it was able to resist pressure from the gentry and return townsmen to both seats in 1660 and 1661. The senior Member, John Dalton, had served as alderman under every regime since 1645, and his social position was not less remarkable than his politics; no other provincial shopkeeper was returned at the general election of 1661. His colleague, Roger Allestry, had also held local office under the Protectorate, though his appointment as town clerk dated only to the overthrow of the military regime, and as a cousin of a royalist conspirator he may have been more acceptable to the Cavaliers. A government informant blamed the two borough Members for the continuance of Sir John Gell and other Presbyterians on the commission of the peace, with whom several loyalist justices refused to act.2

Nothing is known about the actions of the commissioners for corporations in Derby in 1662-3, but Allestry’s illness and death enabled the gentry to re-enter the borough. The son of a Presbyterian peer, Anchitell Grey had been involved in Booth’s rising, and was presumably acceptable to both factions in the corporation. As a matter of courtesy he obtained a letter of recommendation from the Earl of Devonshire, but he was in no sense a dependant of the Cavendish interest, for ‘the business in effect was concluded some days before’, and well ahead of Allestry’s death. ‘While it pleases God to continue him I can make no further progress than give the corporation their fill of sack and tobacco.’3

Dalton did not stand for re-election in 1679, dying before the year was out. There was no opposition to Grey, ‘a very angry man’ against the Court; but for the second seat Gell was defeated by George Vernon, probably standing on the Cavendish interest. Vernon appears to have expected a petition, collecting evidence of questionable activities by Gell’s agents, none of it very culpable; but he was not disturbed in his seat. John Coke and Sir Henry Every, ‘a very loyal person’, prepared to contest the borough in the summer, but the sitting Members, who had both voted for exclusion, were returned unopposed. Vernon gave the mayor £200 on behalf of the corporation in August 1680, and was rewarded by moving to the top of the poll in 1681. The figures have not been preserved, but Grey is said to have defeated Coke by over 30 votes.4

Derby sent a loyal address abhorring the ‘Association’, and surrendered its charter through Coke on 13 Sept. 1682, well ahead of quo warranto proceedings. The corporation hoped to exclude the ‘common burgesses’ from the franchise, which they alleged had only been extended ‘in the times of confusion’, promising that ‘then this corporation will be in an undoubted capacity to serve the King by sending loyal and faithful men to Parliament’. But the new charter, obtained at the cost of nearly £400, contained no specific provision to this effect. Further addresses followed abhorring the Rye House Plot and congratulating James II on his accession. In 1685 Sir Simon Degge, the high Tory recorder, reported that a meeting of the Derbyshire gentry had nominated Coke and Allestry’s son William as candidates for the borough:

The fanatics would have set up Mr Willimot against Mr Allestry, but, when he understood it was not by a general consent, he declined it. We had designed to have had Sir Henry Every, who had all the common council for him, but we found he would not take with the common burgesses, so we resolved on Mr Allestry, who we know would take, though he neither expected the employment nor willingly accepted it, and such men I like best.

Degge expected an uncontested election, and there is no evidence to the contrary.5

In January 1688 the lord lieutenant, the Earl of Huntingdon, reported:

I found the corporation new regulated, but none amongst them proper to stand for burgesses, for quality, fortune, or interest, especially in a county where there are so [omission] for elections.

He recommended as court candidates Vernon, a Whig collaborator like himself, and Grey. But the latter proved intractable, and Sunderland recommended the recorder in his stead. The King’s electoral agents, however, reported that Degge had no interest in the borough, and proposed the Tory Coke, who, they asserted hopefully, ‘is under the influence of the queen dowager as holding another place or pension from her’. Coke had distinguished himself in Opposition in 1685, and took an equally active part in the Revolution. Vernon, however, had to live down a toast to the Prince of Wales, and his interest was in eclipse in 1689. Coke and Grey probably agreed to divide the borough, sharing election expenses of £35 2s.6d.6

Author: E. R. Edwards


  • 1. Vernon mss 18/102.
  • 2. The Reliquary, n.s. vi. 112.
  • 3. HMC 15th Rep. VII, 174.
  • 4. Add. 6705, f. 101; Vernon mss 18/43, 96, 102-3.
  • 5. London Gazette, 3 Apr. 1682, 13 Aug. 1683, 5 Mar. 1685, CSP Dom. 1682, pp. 229-30, 315; HMC Rutland, ii. 86-87.
  • 6. Duckett, Penal Laws (1882), 168, 440; CSP Dom. 1687-9, p. 273; HMC Hastings, ii. 187; HMC Cowper, iii. 157.