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 and freeholders paying scot and lot

Number of voters:

about 75


5 Dec. 1664THOMAS DALMAHOY vice Sir Richard Onslow, deceased   
1 Mar. 1679RICHARD ONSLOW   
 Algernon Sidney   
2 Oct. 1679RICHARD ONSLOW   
28 Feb. 1681RICHARD ONSLOW   
30 Mar. 1685RICHARD ONSLOW  94
 Morgan Randyll  87
 John Wight  36
15 Jan. 1689FOOT ONSLOW1901 143
 JOHN WESTON1482150105
 Morgan Randyll118318893

Main Article

The ‘approved men’ or corporation of Guildford, from whom the mayor was elected, consisted of eight aldermen and up to 20 ‘bailiffs’, or common councilmen. The franchise was not determined until the end of the period, and the electors are variously described; but the dominant Onslow interest was never shaken. In 1660 Sir Richard Onslow and his son Arthur were declared elected by the mayor, aldermen, and other ‘burgesses’, 37 in number, the poll having been apparently postponed as an insurance policy against defeat in the county election. They were re-elected in 1661 by the mayor, approved men, ‘burgesses’, and commonalty, but in spite of the apparant enlargement of the electorate there are only 16 signatures on the indenture. In 1662 the commissioners of corporations removed the mayor and five of the magistrates for refusing the oaths, and several of the common council were also dismissed. Sir Richard Onslow participated in the purge, ‘and did thereby hinder his enemies from ruining his interest in that town’. Nevertheless on his death two years later he was succeeded, apparently with his son’s consent, by a court candidate, in whose interests the Duke of York himself visited the town. The new Member, Thomas Dalmahoy, though a Scotsman by birth, lived in Guildford, and was described as a genteel and generous person. This time the return was made in the name of the freemen, other ‘burgesses’, and commons.4

At the first general election of 1679 Dalmahoy, who had become Lauderdale’s principal apologist in the Commons, was opposed by the republican Col. Algernon Sidney, a younger son of the celebrated Kentish family. Arthur Onslow, whose return as knight of the shire was not in doubt, put up his eldest son, but remained aloof from the contest for the other seat, for, as Speaker Onslow later wrote, ‘we have ever found that the family have succeeded best in all elections when their interest has been kept independent of any other person’. Sidney was actively supported by William Penn, the Quaker, who after a canvass claimed 140 promises from electors. The mayor, however, told Sidney that ‘it was the custom of the borough for the electors to vote for the candidate nominated by the mayor and corporation’, and refused to admit him as a freeman. Some soldiers, it was alleged, had been sworn only three weeks before, and, ‘by the way they went, we may guess for Dalmahoy’s sake’. When Penn attended the hustings, John Wight, the recorder, ordered him to take the oaths, and on his refusal he was ignominiously turned out as a Jesuit. ‘Several of those that would have polled for the colonel were laughed at and affronted because they did not pronounce the colonel’s name right’, no very difficult task for the most indifferent elocutionist. Dalmahoy was elected, and Sidney’s petition, submitted on Penn’s advice, was never reported. However, Dalmahoy apparently did not stand again, and in the second and third Exclusion Parliaments the junior seat was taken by a local exclusionist, Morgan Randyll, probably without a contest. The indentures at these elections mention the corporation only. The King can scarcely have been gratified by the coolness of the address which the corporation ‘and eight of the town’ sent him in response to his declaration of his reasons for dissolving these Parliaments. Though their later abhorrence of the ‘Association’ was unexceptionable, and they promised after the Rye House Plot to elect only Members ‘clear of all suspicion’, their charter was declared forfeit.5

The corporation had petitioned for a regrant of their charter on 8 Dec. 1684, but it did not pass the seals for nearly 18 months. At the general election of 1685 the Whigs, Onslow and Randyll, were opposed by Wight and Heneage Finch, the solicitor-general, who had acquired the nearby estate of Albury. Contrary to precedent, or so it was alleged, the magistrates, who voted solidly for Onslow and Finch, would only admit to the poll those freemen who paid scot and lot. Onslow was returned as usual for the senior seat, and Wight finished a bad last. Finch defeated Randyll by only two votes in what even Sunderland admitted was a ‘disputable’ election. However, an unofficial poll put him further ahead, and there was no petition. On 31 Aug. a warrant was issued for a new charter to displace Wight. Presumably Finch protested, for when it was at last issued on 13 Apr. 1686 Wight was renominated. The boundaries of the borough were enlarged to include the neighbouring parish of Stoke, and the usual powers were reserved for displacing officials. Accordingly in March 1688 the mayor, two aldermen and three common councilmen were removed, and they were followed in April by Wight and six others. In September the King’s electoral agents wrote that ‘the place is not yet fully settled, but things are in preparation in order to a good election’. Finch, a national hero after his defence of the Seven Bishops, was returned for Oxford University in 1689, and Richard Onslow in his turn moved up to the county seat. His brother Foot was returned for the borough, the other seat being contested by Randyll and John Weston, a Tory. Onslow and Weston were returned in the name of the corporation ‘according to ancient laws and customs’. Again those who did not pay scot and lot were excluded from the poll. This time Randyll petitioned, but the House upheld the narrower franchise.6

Author: J. S. Crossette


  • 1. First vote: Polls; Second vote: Scrutiny
  • 2. First and second votes: Polls; Third Vote: Scrutiny
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. Manning and Bray, Surr. i. 36-37; HMC 14th Rep. IX, 482, 483.
  • 5. A. C. Ewald, Life and Times of Algernon Sidney, ii. 56-61; HMC 14th Rep. IX, 512; A. Collins, Mems. Sidney Fam. 113-14; CJ, ix. 578; True Prot. Merc. 26 Feb. 1681; London Gazette, 6 June 1681, 19 June 1682, 23 July 1683; CSP Dom. 1684-5, p. 239.
  • 6. Surr. RO (Guildford) 1251/3; CJ, x. 100-1; CSP Dom. 1685, pp.125, 315-16; Manning and Bray, i. 36-37; PC2/72/636, 652; Duckett, Penal Laws (1883), 250.