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 130 in 1681


12 Apr. 1660HENRY MILDMAY 
  Double return of Mildmay and Herrys. MILDMAY seated, 27 Apr. 1660 
12 June 1660EDWARD HERRYS vice Mildmay, election declared void 
10 Apr. 1661SIR JOHN TYRELL 
26 Feb. 1677SIR WILLIAM WISEMAN, Bt. vice Tyrell, deceased 
3 Mar. 1679SIR WILLIAM WISEMAN, Bt.104
 John Lamotte Honeywood931
 (Sir) John Bramston 
7 Mar. 1681SIR WILLIAM WISEMAN, Bt.126
 Sir William Wiseman,  Bt. 
 Samuel Wiseman 
17 Jan. 1689SIR THOMAS DARCY,  Bt. 
 Sir John Bramston 
 Moundeford Bramston 

Main Article

Under the charter of 1554 the corporation of Maldon, which controlled the roll of freemen, consisted of two bailiffs, who acted as returning officers, six aldermen, and 18 capital burgesses. At the elections ‘the town clerk calls every freeman by his name, the bailiffs, aldermen, etc. and all the town dwellers... and then the gentlemen of the country, clergymen, and others’. No townsman presumed to stand in this period, and the electorate displayed a marked penchant for lawyers from the Essex gentry families. Politically the dominant interests were held by (Sir) John Bramston, a court supporter, and Henry Mildmay of the country party, supported respectively by Sir Richard Wiseman and his brother-in-law and distant cousin, Sir William. Five of the elections are known to have been contested. Of the three candidates who stood in 1660, Tristram Conyers and Edward Herrys were both lawyers. The former, who was returned unopposed, had held local office during the Interregnum, but Herrys, a Royalist and an Anglican, was involved in a double return with Mildmay, who was seated on the merits of the return. On 14 May the election as to Mildmay and Herrys was declared void. The by-election was not held until after the Restoration, and Herrys was successful. On the forfeiture of Mildmay’s cousin, Sir Henry, Mildmay of Wanstead Bramston became high steward. In 1661 he was elected for the county, but doubtless supported the royalist Sir John Tyrell in the borough. The other successful candidate was Sir Richard Wise-man, who was recommended by the Duke of York. In 1662 the commissioners for corporations, including Wiseman’s distant cousin Sir William Wiseman, nominated five aldermen and 13 ‘head burgesses’. There was no by-election until 1677, but when Tyrell died Sir William Wiseman took his place with his cousin’s support.3

In 1679 the Duke of Albemarle (Christopher Monck) was commanded by the King to support the son of the lord chief justice, William Scroggs of South Weald, but nothing further is heard of this candidature. Sir Richard Wiseman, notorious as Danby’s chief party manager in the Commons, retired; but in exchange for support in the county election Sir William Wiseman secured the Mildmay interest for himself and his son-in-law, John Lamotte Honeywood. They were opposed by Bramston for the Court.

Before the poll [was] cast up, the bailiff, aldermen and capital burgesses adjourned the court out of the Moot Hall into the next room, and there the bailiffs proposed the freedom of Mr Honeywood, and there being only one alderman Sir William Wiseman and four capital burgesses for granting it to him, all the rest were against it, so that being denied they came back into the Moot Hall and told Mr Honeywood his freedom was denied, and so he was not capable to be chosen.

Although Honeywood was narrowly ahead of Bramston on the poll, he was not returned and his petition was never reported. Before the next election Albemarle was told that the country party had 30 new freemen, and were about to create ‘hundreds’ more. Bramston was defeated by Sir Thomas Darcy, ‘Puritan bred and born’, who had recently taken up residence in the neighbourhood, and the sitting Members were unanimously re-elected in 1681. According to a contemporary account, they were to have been presented with an address urging them to preserve the King and Protestantism, and to extirpate Popery, ‘but by a mistake it was stifled’, and Darcy at least seems to have opposed exclusion. The borough sent a loyal address in September 1682 abhorring the ‘Association’, and in August 1684 surrendered its charter.4

Darcy’s interest had been effectively overthrown, and no new charter was granted before the general election of 1685. Albemarle prevailed on Bramston, who had refused the county seat, to stand again for the borough, with the assurance of the full support of the corporation. He hoped that his son or his nephew might be chosen with him, but Albemarle insisted on Darcy, whose support was required for the Tory candidates for the county. Sir William Wiseman

gave out that he would not stand; yet underhand he made what voices he could and came once or twice to the town and caressed the freemen; but he appearing, I foresaw a charge which I was troubled at. The Duke said he would bear a third, and in truth he had reason; nay, Sir Thomas and his grace ought to have borne three parts of four. Fifty-five gave single votes for me; others voted, some for me and Sir Thomas, some for Sir William and me, and a very few for Sir William and [his cousin] Samuel. When all were called over, I had the majority of Sir William by 35 voices, but Sir Thomas was short a great many.

Bramston, however, was equal to this emergency, and persuaded the bailiffs to adjourn for half an hour before casting up the poll. In that time he called together those who had plumped for him and emphasized that the final issue was in their hands.

I told them I was clearly chosen, unless they would give their other vote to Sir William, then I might lose it; but if they gave the other voice to Sir Thomas, possibly he might carry it too against Sir William, and thereby they might gratify his grace too very much.

Having been ‘caressed’ and wined by Albemarle, they then trooped back to cast their remaining votes for Darcy, who finished with a lead of 19 over Wiseman. Mildmay complained of ‘pure management’, and Bramston commented sourly that ‘it cost me by accident as much as if I had been knight of the shire’.5

Maldon was granted its new charter in December 1686, under which the mayor replaced the two bailiffs as returning officer, and seven aldermen and 18 capital burgesses were named. Bramston was reappointed high steward, with Moundeford Bramston, his nephew and son-in-law, as recorder. As usual, provision was made for the removal of officials by order-in-council, but the test was retained. In 1688 the management of Maldon was committed to John Rotherham, a local lawyer who was made a judge in July. Anthony Wood called Rotherham a dissenter, and Bramston referred to him as a fanatic. Rotherham had no light task, for between January and April the corporation was purged four times. According to Bramston the King

was pleased by order-in-council to remove the mayor and five aldermen in Maldon, by another order several capital burgesses and the recorder; and by a third order myself from the office of high steward ... which I had held ever since the return of Charles II. In my place, he first by order of Council named William Atwood; but he had designed the recorder’s place for himself, and judging it a trick put upon him by John Rotherham the elder, who had procured an order for his son to be recorder, intending himself to be recorder of Colchester, Atwood procured the order to be altered, and Sir William Wiseman constituted high steward, young Rotherham removed and himself [Atwood] made recorder.

In their first assessment of the constituency the King’s agents reported that its management had been entrusted to the elder Rotherham, who became a judge in July. The electors had settled on Sir Gobert Barrington of the leading Essex puritan family and Sir Richard Wiseman’s brother-in-law, for the first place and either Darcy or Atwood for the second. After a further purge the corporation undertook to endeavour the return of candidates pledged to the repeal of the Test Act and Penal Laws. On the death of Sir William Wiseman, the elder Rotherham was nominated high steward. In September the King was informed:

The dissenters are numerous and influence the town. They propose to choose (Sir) John Shaw and Mr Atwood, both right men. If Sir John Shaw be chosen at Colchester, they will choose another right man in his room.

The restoration of the old charter and the Revolution overthrew these calculations. Darcy recovered his interest, and the Earl of Oxford wrote to the corporation on behalf of the brilliant young Whig politician, Charles Montagu. Mildmay joined actively in Montagu’s canvass, and also supported Darcy. In contrast Bramston’s campaign was lethargic and disjointed:

The bailiffs at Maldon had against New Year’s Day sent me their ordinary present of oysters and wild fowls, and in their letter writ they intended me for one of their representatives, and would in order thereto give me notice of the day when the letter was come, in hopes I would appear at the election. I gave them thanks for their present and invitation; but said I was old, at a great distance and the weather very sharp, so that I feared I should not be able to come to them. But I did not say I would accept or serve if chosen, resolving myself to be passive in that affair. At the day of the election my son [-in-law] came thither; four of my nephews came thither the night before. The out-dwelling gentleman and clergy freemen came thither, but complained they had no notice from me nor my son.

Thus Darcy and Montagu, the only outsider of the period, were successful, and Maldon was rep resented in the Convention by two Whigs.6

Authors: Gillian Hampson / Geoffrey Jaggar


  • 1. Essex RO, DB3/12/3.
  • 2. Prot. Dom. Intell. 11 Mar. 1681.
  • 3. Bramston Autobiog. (Cam. Soc. xxxii), 174; CJ, viii. 3, 25; Adm. 1745, f. 32; Essex RO, DB3/459/6.
  • 4. CSP Dom. 1679-80, p. 58; 1684-5, p. 110; Essex RO, DB3/12/3; CJ, ix. 569, Bramston, 14, 173, Jones, First Whigs, 105-6; HMC 14th Rep. IX, 274; Prot. Dom. Intell. 11 Mar. 1681; London Gazette, 14 Sept. 1682.
  • 5. Bramston, 163-4, 172-4.
  • 6. CSP Dom. 1686-7, p. 325, PC2/72, ff. 571, 581, 613, 632, 653, 693; Duckett, Penal Laws (1882), 410; London Gazette, 18 June 1688; A. Wood, Fasti, ii. 170; Bramston, 303-4, 311, 345.