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 'select burgesses', i.e. freemen

Number of voters:

over 50


 [Thomas] Grove 26
31 Jan. 1673SIR JOHN ELWES vice Seymour, called to the Upper House  
  Election declared void, 6 Feb. 1673  
10 Feb. 1673SIR JOHN ELWES  
7 Feb. 1679THOMAS BENNET  
 Sir John Elwes  
28 Aug. 1679THOMAS BRUCE, Lord Bruce3426
 Sir James Hayes1211
 John Wildman I1211
4 Feb. 1681THOMAS BRUCE, Lord Bruce  
25 Mar. 1685(SIR) JOHN ERNLE  
16 Jan. 1689(SIR) JOHN ERNLE 46
 John Wildman I 1
 Sir James Hayes  0

Main Article

‘As to Marlborough’, wrote a local clergyman, ‘I know not a more seditious, schismatical people in England.’ But these political and religious preferences were not reflected in their representatives. Efforts to extend the franchise failed, and the ‘select burgesses’ were usually prepared to accept one nomination from the Seymours and their successors, the Bruces. With this interest in abeyance in 1660, two local gentlemen, Henry Hungerford and Jeffrey Daniel, who had held office during the Interregnum, were elected. Although Hungerford was returned as senior Member in recognition of his family, he had been successful by only four votes, with four more given to ‘castaways’. The identity of the third candidate is unknown, but he may have been Thomas Grove or the recorder, James Hayes, who had represented the borough in Richard Cromwell’s Parliament. Hungerford, a Presbyterian, did not stand in 1661, but Daniel seems to have been acceptable to all parties, and Lord John Seymour was nominated by his mother, the dowager duchess of Somerset, and his uncle, Lord Seymour of Trowbridge. Nine of the freemen, however, including a leading Baptist, declared themselves pre-engaged to Grove, ‘a discreet, moderate and pious gentleman’. Isaac Burgess, the brother of a prominent Presbyterian divine, who was managing the Seymour interest, pronounced himself helpless, and could only recommend the nomination of a compromise candidate, Col. Edward Cooke, formerly a parliamentarian officer, but a zealous Anglican and higher in favour at Court. Amos Walrond was more successful, detaching three votes from Grove and procuring the return of Seymour by the narrowest margin possible. ‘I blush to express how guilty they have made themselves’, wrote Burgess, adding that most, if not all, of Grove’s supporters were tenants of the Seymours. It is hardly surprising that the corporation was ruthlessly purged in 1662, 11 of the councilmen and 21 of the ‘burgesses’ being removed. The effects of the purge were still in operation in 1673 when Sir John Elwes was returned unopposed on the Seymour interest, though he had to submit to a second election when the lord chancellor’s writs were declared invalid.1

By 1679 control of the Seymour interest had passed to Lord Bruce, but he did not exercise it in the first general election of the year. Elwes was defeated, and two local exclusionists were returned, Thomas Bennet and Edward Goddard. Both were brothers-in-law of John Smith. But Goddard died in June, and the corporation accepted the loyal Bruce as his replacement for the second Exclusion Parliament. John Wildman I and Hayes, who had acquired a position in national politics as secretary to Prince Rupert, could only secure a single vote apiece from the qualified electors. After the mayor had declared the poll closed, Wildman took over the town hall and persuaded the constables to poll the inhabitants, ‘a party of alehouse-keepers, poor and indigent persons, who paid no taxes in the town’, though they included a physician, two lawyers and two nonconformist ministers. Wildman and Hayes petitioned, but George Treby eventually had to report that Bruce and Bennet were duly elected. They were again returned in 1681 without ‘any further trouble or charge’. Bruce’s interest was probably strengthened by the admission of 32 new freemen, which almost doubled the electorate. The corporation apparently sent up a loyal address on the dissolution of the Oxford Parliament, but de spite Bruce’s importunity it was not printed in the Gazette. On 10 Nov. the corporation reported to the chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir John Ernle, that they had convicted several conventiclers. Loyal addresses followed, abhorring the ‘Association’ and the Rye House Plot, and Bruce was able to secure the withdrawal of a proposal for quo warranto proceedings. In 1685 Ernle, who had married the widow of Charles Seymour, and George Willoughby, a Tory merchant who had recently inherited a Wiltshire estate, were returned unopposed. The lord lieutenant considered in 1688 that Ernle and a nonconformist attorney named Rider, who had married Goddard’s widow, would be returned. Lobb, the most prominent Independent minister to collaborate with James II, urged the reduction of the electorate to 18 in order to destroy the Bruce and Seymour interests. In April the King’s electoral agents reported that ‘there is a quo warranto issued against their charter, and persons agreed upon to be named in a new one. They have consented to choose such as your Majesty or Dr Cox shall recommend unto them.’ Under the new charter Nathaniel Bayly, a Baptist, was appointed mayor, and two obscure court candidates, Moses and Deane, were approved. But neither stood in 1689, when Ernle and Willoughby were re-elected. One vote was cast for Wildman, and none for Hayes. Bayly proferred a petition in favour of a scot and lot franchise, which was rejected by the House.2

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. CSP Dom. 1680-1, p. 563; A. R. Stedman, Marlborough and the Upper Kennet Country, 155-6; Add. 32324, ff. 53, 75; HMC 15th Rep. VII, 162.
  • 2. Ailesbury Mems. 33; Mexborough mss, Reresby corresp. 1/50; J. Waylen, Marlborough, 333-7; Stedman, 158-9; Dom. Intell. 5 Sept. 1679; CJ, ix. 638, 693; x. 10, 70; Savernake mss, Bayly to Bruce, 27 Jan. 1681; CSP Dom. 1680-1, pp. 271, 570; 1687-9, pp. 206, 262-3, 273; PCC 159 Dyke; Duckett, Penal Laws (1882), 211, 227.