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


2 Apr. 1660JOHN RAMSDEN I227
 Edward Barnard113
 William Lister80
 Matthew Alured55
 Francis Thorpe351
1 Apr. 1661ANTHONY GILBY294
 Edward Barnard195
 John Ramsden I1222
25 Nov. 1678WILLIAM RAMSDEN vice Marvell, deceased 
 William Gee 
16 Mar. 1685JOHN RAMSDEN II460
 William Gee127
 Sir Michael Warton323
10 Jan. 1689WILLIAM GEE 

Main Article

By the charter of 1440 Hull was separated from Yorkshire and governed by a corporation, consisting of the mayor, 12 aldermen, two chamberlains, and the sheriff, who acted as returning officer. The office of high steward enabled the borough to acquire a patron at Court. A major commercial centre with an extensive hinterland, it ranked fourth among the outports in volume of trade after the Restoration. The customs house and the large garrison provided the basis for the government interest, usually exercised by the governor. During this period country gentlemen took over the representation of the borough from townsmen. This change is to some extent masked by the continued parliamentary service of the Ramsden family; but whereas John I and William were residents, John II seems to have lived on his estate in the West Riding. He received no parliamentary wages; payments, at the rate of 6s.8d. a day, were last made to William Ramsden in the first Exclusion Parliament.4

The Civil War virtually began before Hull when the garrison refused to admit Charles I and his army, and it remained a parliamentary stronghold. The Rump committed it to the republican Col. Robert Overton on his release from imprisonment by the Protectorate. On the return of the secluded Members General George Monck appointed Charles Fairfax, the uncle of Thomas Fairfax, 3rd Lord Fairfax, as governor. The delicate task of persuading Overton to surrender was entrusted to Matthew Alured, another republican colonel from a local gentry family who had played a leading part in the overthrow of the military regime in London. He was watched over by Jeremiah Smith, a Hull merchant who had become one of Monck’s most trusted officers. Their task was not difficult, as Overton’s morale was already shattered. ‘The town was so generally united against him’, he explained to his political associates, ‘and the soldiery, which were not above six or seven hundred, so divided from him and among themselves that he had no hopes of keeping it.’ Alured, who had sat for Hedon in 1659, now stood as republican candidate for Hull with Francis Thorpe, who had served as recorder until becoming a judge under the Commonwealth. Thorpe’s successor William Lister, who had represented Hull in the first and second Protectorate Parliaments, also stood. A member of the urban patriciate, he was related by marriage to two of the other candidates, Edward Barnard of Gray’s Inn and John Ramsden, the greatest merchant in the town. The sixth candidate was Andrew Marvell, a Protectorate official whose father had been headmaster of the grammar school and lecturer at Holy Trinity church. The result confirmed Overton’s analysis, with the 1659 Members re-elected and the two republicans well in the rear. Ramsden, who had been removed from the corporation for refusing to swear allegiance to the Commonwealth, received almost as many votes as the next two candidates combined. Marvell, in his character as a former tutor in the Fairfax family, was no doubt supported by the governor and defeated the colourless Barnard by 28 votes, while Lister, though no opponent of the Restoration, did little better than Alured and Thorpe.5

At the Restoration the corporation produced a ‘dutiful address’, rather ingeniously claiming that ‘their former rudeness and inhumanity, so fatal in the consequences, could never have happened in a town so obliged and loyal to their princes, had the inhabitants been their own garrison’. Nevertheless the Roman Catholic Lord Belasyse (John Belasyse) was appointed governor in succession to Fairfax. His deputy Anthony Gilby, also a Cavalier, was top of the poll in 1661, with Ramsden, whose attendance record in the Convention had been poor, at the bottom. Barnard was again unsuccessful, but Marvell, who had proved himself by his regular correspondence with the corporation to be a first-rate constituency Member, was re-elected. Despite a quarrel between the two Members, who stood almost at opposite ends of the political spectrum, and the congested government legislative programme, they succeeded in carrying a private bill on behalf of Hull in the first session. A bill to separate Holy Trinity from its mother-church of Hessle was introduced on 17 June, steered through committee by Francis Goodricke, and passed. Gilby waived his wages for the first session, but the corporation presented his wife with a piece of plate, and thereafter both Members were regularly paid in cash and refreshed with barrels of ale. Meanwhile three aldermen and the lecturer, ‘whose doctrine has been abominably seditious and scandalous’, were displaced by the King’s command, and two more were removed by the commissioners for corporations after refusing the oaths. A new charter was granted on 3 Dec., nominating Monck (now Duke of Albemarle) as high steward, but retaining Lister as recorder. An unusual clause vested in the crown all future nominations to these posts and to the town clerkship, and provided that the high steward should always be a Privy Councillor. Belasyse made a clumsy attempt to have Marvell’s seat declared vacant in 1663, on the grounds of his absence in Holland, but nothing came of it.6

Belasyse was driven from office by the Test Act in and the Duke of Monmouth was appointed both governor and high steward. On Marvell’s death he recommended John Shales, later infamous as the ‘Commissary Shales’ whose rotten victuals were held responsible for the failure of the Irish campaign of 1689. Formerly a clerk in the Navy Office, he may have formed some acquaintance in Hull through Smith, who served as comptroller of victualling from 1669 to 1675. But as a southerner he ‘met with those discouragements there that he declined standing’. The corporation were thus left free to choose one of their own number, William Ramsden, who was probably returned unopposed. They were careful to temper this act of defiance, however, by giving the elected Member an honorarium of gold to be delivered in London to Monmouth, who assured the corporation that he had not taken personal offence at their decision. At the following general election the corporation ignored Gilby’s offer to stand, and also strove to resist Monmouth’s recommendation of Lemuel Kingdon, paymaster to the forces. One of the aldermen agreed to stand down in his favour; but two letters from the high steward to the corporation and a third to the wardens of Trinity House were required before the corporation could be induced to reply:

The constitution of our corporation in the election of their burgesses to serve in Parliament is by a promiscuous number [so] that we are not capable to give your grace that measure to express what will be the certain effect thereof.

Ramsden was re-elected, and Kingdon defeated a country gentleman, William Gee. The two Members may have paired for the division on the exclusion bill. Ramsden retired before the autumn election, and the corporation refused an offer from Kingdon to stand again. In the second Exclusion Parliament Hull was represented by two local gentlemen of the country party, Gee and Sir Michael Warton, and in 1681 they were re-elected, unopposed, in their absence. Nevertheless the corporation produced addresses approving the dissolution of Parliament and abhorring the Rye House Plot.7

In September 1684 the Hull corporation surrendered their charter, but its replacement had not been received when the next general election was held. Judge Jeffreys urged the borough to choose Members of ‘unspotted loyalty to the kingdom [and] unquestioned zeal and affection for the Church of England [who] passed through the late times and disorders untainted’. The election was managed for the Government by Lord Plymouth, who had succeeded Monmouth as high steward. On 15 Feb. 1685 he informed Lord Halifax (Sir George Savile) that the corporation had fixed on Ramsden’s son John, and were willing to accept Halifax’s dissolute and rebellious eldest son for the other seat. Apparently the offer was rejected, for Ramsden was eventually partnered by Plymouth’s cousin, Sir Willoughby Hickman. The high steward extracted a loyal address from the corporation abhorring the ‘late vote for exclusion’ and promising to elect loyal Members, and at the general election the court candidates swamped Gee and Warton. The new charter, received in July, appointed Plymouth as recorder, ejected three aldermen, and contained the usual clause reserving to the crown the right to displace officials. Plymouth died on 3 Nov. 1687 and was succeeded as governor and high steward by two Roman Catholic peers, Lord Langdale and Lord Dover. The corporation thanked the King for ‘the blessings given to tender consciences’ by the first Declaration of Indulgence, but, to Langdale’s fury, unanimously agreed to re-elect the sitting Members, who opposed James II’s ecclesiastical policy. He proposed to them Sir John Bradshaw of Risby, who had been detained during Monmouth’s rebellion and was now presumably a Whig collaborator. The corporation refused to pledge themselves, and were dissolved. The new charter, issued in September 1688, replaced all but two of the aldermen and nominated Langdale as recorder. The royal electoral agents reported of Hull:

They will choose Sir James Bradshaw, but have not pitched. They make some objection against Mr Popple, and intend to persuade Sir John Boynton to stand. If he decline, they will set up some other moderate, fit man.

William Popple was Marvell’s favourite nephew, whose candidature was open to the objection that he had turned Roman Catholic in Bordeaux in 1685 to escape persecution. Presumably his conversion was not genuine, for he served as secretary of the board of trade after the Revolution. Boynton, the King’s serjeant, who had married into the Barnard family, had not gone quite so far; but he had joined with the Popish justices in the West Riding to thank the King for the second Declaration of Indulgence. The old corporation resumed office in the following month, and during the Revolution the bewildered Langdale and the other Roman Catholic officers in the garrison were seized, disarmed and expelled. At the general election of 1689 the Tory Ramsden and the Whig Gee were ‘freely and unanimously elected’ to the Convention.8

Authors: Paula Watson / Virginia C.D. Moseley


  • 1. Huntingdon Lib. Q. xv. 224.
  • 2. VCH E. Riding i. 113.
  • 3. Ibid. 114.
  • 4. T. Gent, Hull, 99; Marvell ed. Margoliouth, ii. 106; Northern Hist. 76, 91-92; EHR, lxvi. 38-39; VCH E. Riding, i. 113.
  • 5. Voyce from the Watch Tower, 95-96; J. Tickell, Hull, 511-13; DNB (Smith, Jeremiah); Mariner’s Mirror, xii. 258-9, Fam. Min. Gent. (Harl. Soc. xxxix), 936; Hull corp. letters, 669; bench bk. 6, p. 303; VCH E. Riding, i. 107.
  • 6. Tickell, 516-19, 525; VCH E. Riding, i. 113; Marvell, ii. 334; Hull corp. bench bk. 6, pp. 355, 503; letters 669; EHR, lxvi. 39; CJ, viii. 304; J. R. Boyle, Hull Charters, 165-9.
  • 7. J. J. Sheahan, Hull, 264-5; CSP Dom. 1678, pp. 375, 379, 561; Pepys Further Corresp. 334; Hull corp. letters, 893, 894, 899, 900; bench bk. 7, pp. 594, 598, 607, 608; Marvell, ii. 342-3; VCH E. Riding, i. 113-14; Northern Hist. iii. 78; Prot. Dom. Intell. 22 Feb. 1681; London Gazette, 1 Dec. 1681, 16 Aug. 1683
  • 8. VCH E. Riding, i. 114, 119-20; CSP Dom. 1685, pp. 14, 23, 228; Hull corp. letters, 1053, 1067; Spencer mss, Plymouth to Halifax, 15 Feb. 1685; London Gazette, 5 Mar. 1685, 10 Nov. 1687; Boyle, 196, 207, 219-22; Tickell, 577-83, 585; EHR, lv. 52; PC2/72/720, Duckett, Penal Laws (1882), 102; HMC Downshire, i. 46; DNB; Dugdale’s Vis. Yorks. ed. Clay, ii. 154; Reresby Mems. 494.