Newport I.o.W.


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 corporation

Number of voters:

25 in 1660-1; 24 in 1670-81, 1689; 15 in 1685


8 Nov. 1670(SIR) ROBERT DILLINGTON vice Oglander, deceased
11 Jan. 1689SIR ROBERT DILLINGTON, 3rd Bt.
25 June 1689EDWARD DILLINGTON vice Dillington, deceased

Main Article

The corporation of Newport alias Medina, consisting under the charter of 1608 of a mayor and 24 ‘capital burgesses’, many of them substantial men, succeeded in retaining one seat, and sometimes two, for the Isle of Wight gentry. The Dillingtons, a parliamentarian family, represented the borough in every Parliament except that of James II. At the general election of 1660 Robert Dillington, the heir to the Mottistone estate, was returned with William Oglander of Nunwell, whose eligibility must have been dubious under the Long Parliament ordinance, since his father had been repeatedly punished for his royalist sentiments. The 2nd Earl of Portland resumed his governorship of the island for the general election of 1661, and recommended his kinsman William Glascock, a minor official. The corporation ‘freely and indifferently elected’ Glascock and Oglander. A new charter in December reduced the corporation to 24, consisting of the mayor, 11 aldermen and 12 capital burgesses. After Dillington succeeded to the baronetcy he replaced Oglander at a by-election in 1670. With the advent of Sir Robert Holmes as governor, government pressure was intensified. However, at Newport he was content to divide the borough with Dillington for the first Exclusion Parliament, and in the second and third gave way to a local exclusionist, John Leigh of Northcourt. The corporation, nevertheless, sent a loyal address approving the dissolution in 1681, and in the following year under Holmes’s guidance they abhorred the ‘Association’ and promised to elect loyal men to the next Parliament. Nevertheless they were obliged to surrender their charter in 1683, and under its replacement their numbers were reduced to 15 (nine aldermen and six capital burgesses), reserving to the crown the usual power of dismissal.1

The sitting Members did not contest the 1685 election, and Holmes was able to regain his seat. The other seat he designed for Sir William Stephens, a local Tory. But he was asked by Sunderland to reserve it for the solicitor-general, Heneage Finch, who was faced with a hot contest at Guildford. On 15 Mar. he replied:

Since you spoke to me by the King’s commands to take care that Mr Solicitor should be brought into the House of Commons, I have not heard one word of him, only that he has been heard to say that he would not concern himself about his election, but leave it to his Majesty. If you think him so useful a man, I hope I perform my part in recommending him to a corporation that will choose him on my account, and am not expected to be at the charge of his election. I begin to think that he is otherwise provided, or else does not care for the place, so that I desire to be set at liberty to send to Parliament one of those honest gentlemen that I was forced to lay aside for Mr Solicitor. ... If I do not hear from you I will conclude that Mr Solicitor is provided for, and will send another in his room who will give his vote as heartily for the King and his concerns, though it may be his tongue is not so well hung.

Sunderland replied that ‘his Majesty will positively have Mr Solicitor recommended by you’, and promised that the expenses would be reimbursed. But the election was only two days later; Stephens was returned with Holmes, and Sunderland could only comment that ‘his Majesty was surprised to find ... that Mr Solicitor was not chosen’. Fortunately, perhaps, for Holmes, Finch’s return for Guildford was not challenged.2

In September 1688 the royal electoral agents reported: ‘Newport is undertaken by Sir Robert Holmes, and so not visited by our agents. Sir Robert Holmes is proposed, and one other whom your Majesty shall name’. The other court candidate was probably William Netterville, an Irish Protestant who had just been commissioned in Lord Mountjoy’s Foot. A Jacobite conspirator after the Revolution, he seems to have been a friend of Robert Brent, ‘the Popish solicitor’, and his house in Lincoln’s Inn Fields was suspected after the Revolution to be a centre of Jacobite conspiracy. At the general election of 1689 Stephens was reelected, but Holmes transferred to Yarmouth, and Dillington’s son, who had succeeded to the baronetcy in 1687, took his seat as a Whig. He died a few months later, shortly after Leigh, and was replaced by his great-uncle Edward, the youngest son of the first baronet.3

Author: Paula Watson


  • 1. HMC Astley, 77; VCH Hants, v. 237; C. F. A. Oglander, Nunwell Symphony, 122; London Gazette, 27 June 1681, 4 May 1682; CSP Dom. 1683-4, pp. 131, 166.
  • 2. CSP Dom. 1685, pp. 97, 100, 118, 125.
  • 3. Duckett, Penal Laws (1882), 432; CSP Dom. 1687-9, pp. 205, 276; 1690-1, p. 96; 1691-2, p. 195.